In April, 1984, S.A.L.T.S. received a donation of a partially completed hull and undertook to complete the vessel’s construction. Symbolic of ships sailed by our forefathers, the new vessel was rigged as a brigantine (with four square sails on the foremast), as was the historic Cadboro, the first such rig to enter Victoria Harbour in 1837 under the command of Captain Brotchie.
The hull design was based on a Gloucester fishing sloop, with lines taken off and recorded by Howard Chapelle. Alex Spiller, formerly of Dodge Cove near Prince Rupert, had already lofted the vessel and prepared the moulds at his shop in Dodge Cove, when it was decided to transport them and many of his shipyard tools to Chemainus.
The construction of the hull was supervised by Spiller aided by shipwrights Paul McLennan, John Leekie, John Knowles, Wayne Loiselle, Andrew Remple, Grant Urton, Tom Ellis, Don Corfield and Tom Spiller. The second phase, fitting out of her interior, was undertaken by Bob Down, assisted by David Keeble, John Homer, George Weeks, Barry Coombs and Bill McAnn.
The Spirit of Chemainus was launched on the 14th September 1985. She was built entirely of wood, primarily mahogany and Douglas fir planking on steamed oak frames and yellow cedar beams. Deck houses, hatches, bulwark caps, transom and trim of mahogany and gumwood.
Her sparred length:- 92’ (28m), length on deck:- 65′ (20m), beam:- 18′ (5.5m), and draught:- 9′ 6″ (3m). The sail plan was by Robert Lally and Associates, after typical 19th century practice, with sails by Shay and Greg Foster of Whaler Bay Boatyard.
After launching, the hull was delivered to Victoria for final fitting out and rigging. This last phase was supervised by then S.A.L.T.S. executive director, Martyn Clark and involved Gerry Fossum, Spirit of Chemainus’ first skipper, Tony Anderson, Mark Wallace, Ron Polmear, Chris Maloney, Lars Junker, Harry Leeder, Fred Rempel, Bert Haupt, Gerry Boy and others. The sail plan was by Robert R. Lally and Associates after typical 19th century practice with sails by Shay and Greg Foster of Whaler Bay Boatyard.
The Chemainus represented her birthplace, the Chemainus Valley, as the official “Tall Ship of Vancouver Island” in 1986. She then served as a sail training vessel for young people for several years before being sold.
She was sold for several reasons, the primary one being that she could not accommodate enough trainees to pay for her maintenance and crew as a sail training vessel. Nevertheless, she proved an excellent training ship for S.A.L.T.S. crews to learn the skills of handling of a square-rigged vessel and was instrumental in Expo officials inviting S.A.L.T.S. to build the Pacific Swift at the Expo ‘86 world’s fair in Vancouver.