HM Gunboat Sparrowhawk was stationed at the Esquimalt Naval Base, a member of the North Pacific Squadron under the command of Edwin Augustus Porcher (1821–1878) from the spring of 1865 through 1868. During the summers of 1866, 1867, then twice in the summer of 1868 she made four exploratory voyages along British Columbia‘s North Coast.
Porcher Island in Hecate Strait near the mouth of the Skeena River southwest of the port city of Prince Rupert is named after Sparrowhawk’s captain.
HM Gunboat Sparrowhawk after her conversion to three masts in Esquimalt harbour
HM Gunboat Sparrowhawk was a Vigilant-class wooden dispatch / gun vessel built by Young, Magnay & Co. She was launched on 9 February 1856 at Limehouse, England. With a compliment of 80, the class had been designed for shallow-water operations in the Baltic and Black Seas during the Crimean War though Sparrowhawk was launched too late to take part in that conflict.
She displaced 860 tonnes, with a keel length of 160 ft 7.5 in (49.0 m) and a gundeck length of 180 ft 0 in (54.9 m). She had a beam of 28 ft 4 in (8.6 m), and a draught of 8 ft 0 in (2.4 m).
Vigilent class vessels were all two-masted barque-rigged with a two-cylinder horizontal single-expansion Humphrys, Tennant and Dykes steam engine that provided 726 indicated horsepower (541 kW) through a single screw. Her a top speed was about 11 knots. Upon her arrival at the Esquimalt station in the spring of 1865, her sail plan was converted to a three-masted barque configuration.
The class were equipped with a pair of 68-pounder Lancaster muzzle-loading rifles, one 7-inch (180 mm)/110-pound (50 kg) Armstrong breech-loading gun, one 68-pound (31 kg) Lancaster muzzle-loading rifled gun, and two 20-pounder breech loaders.
HM Gunboat Sparrowhawk served her 16 year commission then, in 1872 she was sold to Chinese Imperial Customs. She was lost in a typhoon.