The Otter was the first propeller-driven steamer and the second steamship to operate in the North American Pacific, following its sister ship the much more famous side wheeler Beaver. She was a wooden-hulled vessel of 291 tons gross. 125’ x 22’ x 12’ she was powered by two 18” x 26” direct-acting condensing engines. Commissioned in 1852 by the Hudson’s Bay Company (HBC) and built by Green, Wigrams, and Green in Blackwall, England, HBC used her to service their trading posts between Puget Sound and Alaska. Like its sister the Beaver became pressed into service during the Fraser Gold Rush on the Lower Fraser River from 1858.
Nanaimo Waterfront; SS Otter In The Foreground. BC Archives Item B-02499
During the American Indian War on Puget Sound she was chartered by the United Stated Government for $300 per day. She created considerable surprise among the Indians, who could not understand what drove her through the water.
Harry Glide (1835 – ?) began his apprenticeship aboard the HBC bark Prince of Wales and transferred to the steamer Otter in December, 1852 for her delivery to Victoria in August 04, 1853. The voyage from Blackwall, England unfolded under an intoxicated captain and proved so long that all aboard but Glide were down with scurvy. Glide was left to handle the ship somewhat single handed. Upon entering the Strait of Juan de Fuca the Otter was caught by a strong tide and swept through between Tatoosh Island and the mainland. Glide remained in the service of the HBC and was issued the first Pilot’s Certificate in British Columbia in July, 1858 under the hand of Sir James Douglas and Captain Prevost of HMS Plumper.