“Mabel Brown” Auxiliary Schooners
Mabel Brown, first of her class. Courtesy of Vancouver City Archives
BC Shipyards mushroomed, flourished and were dismantled with dramatic swiftness in the latter part of World War I and in the years following. Of the 135 vessels brought into existence along the coast, 12 were five-masted “Mabel Brown” auxiliary schooners. Six of those were built in Victoria by Cameron-Genoa Mills Shipbuilders Ltd. All were built in 1917 at a cost of about $150,000 each.
The “Mabel Brown” configuration was named after the first of her type, built at the Wallace Shipyards in North Vancouver. The six built by Cameron-Genoa were the Margaret Haney, Jean Steadman, Laurel Whalen, Esquimalt, Malahat, and Beatrice Castle. Four named after women in the families of their owners and builders.
The first four of the Cameron-Genoa vessels were 240’ x 44’ x 19’ of approximately 1,470 tons with a lumber carrying capacity of 1,500,000 board feet. The final two were enlarged to 246’ x 44’ x 21’ of 1,577 tons. Each was fitted with a Bollinder oil-fired engine driving twin screws.
Canadian West Coast Navigation Company
The Canadian West Coast Navigation Company was organized to invest in, and to build these wooden schooners. The program was made possible by the Aid to Shipping Act of 1916 passed by the Dominion Government as an emergency measure to meet the demand for Allied tonnage cased by war losses and the high cost of European ship construction costs. There was also a great demand for new hulls to carry BC lumber abroad. The first ten vessels were financed by floating a bond issue on the security of a 1916 British Columbia law guaranteeing investors’ earnings.
Ruth Green Bailey, Harbour & Shipping, December, 1978. Courtesy: MMBC Archives