David Cobb fears for the future of an iconic piece of British Columbia's maritime history.
Cobb owns Chief Skugaid, a fishing boat that will be celebrating its 100th anniversary in March. The boat's colourful history has included stints as a halibut schooner, a rumrunner vessel during U.S. prohibition and a fish packer for the salmon and herring fleets.
"It's a national treasure," he said. "This boat should be hero of the republic as far as I am concerned."
Cobb, who once worked as an investigative journalist, said the Chief Skugaid was packed with so much herring at one point in the 1970s that it nearly sank off the west coast of Vancouver Island. When the herring was pumped out, the vessel was salvaged.
"This boat has been in harm's way," said Cobb, who bought the vessel about three years ago. "It's in harm's way now."
Cobb was en route to a shipyard in Queensborough in June 2011 when his trip was thwarted by a mishap on the river. A gravel barge crashed into the rail bridge leading from the waterfront to Queensborough, preventing Chief Skugaid from accessing the shipyard.
"I was forced to over at this place," Cobb said about a spot on the waterfront near River Market.
Cobb's original plan was to do a bit of work on the Chief Skugaid at the shipyard, and then carry on and head up the coast, but he's found it challenging to find moorage space for Chief Skugaid.
"I need a dock," he said. "I have been looking for a year - this dock is not ideal. I can't find another dock. I would happily go to another dock."
Time is running out to find a new moorage spot for the boat.
Soon after Chief Skugaid arrived on the waterfront, the property management company looking after the adjacent land asked Cobb to move along. The company stated that Cobb's moorage of the boat at the wharf in the foreshore area constituted trespassing.
Lawyers working on behalf of No. 143 Cathedral Ventures Ltd. filed actions in the Supreme Court of British Columbia seeking to restrain Cobb from trespassing on the property and the foreshore, to move the vessel from the property and foreshore, and to have the right to tow the vessel elsewhere and recover costs from Cobb. Court documents filed on behalf of Cathedral Ventures Ltd. state that Cobb has received a benefit and has been "enriched" by its use and occupation of the property and the foreshore, whereas the land owner has suffered a "detriment in being deprived of the use of its property and the foreshore" and has not been paid for the boat's use and occupant of the plaintiff's property and foreshore.
In a letter to Cobb, lawyers acting for 143 Cathedral Ventures Ltd. state that their client had never granted permission for moorage on the dock or on the foreshore.
The letter also stated that the lease of the foreshore doesn't permit overnight vessel moorage, float homes or live-aboards.
According to the court documents, Cobb originally stated he would moor the vessel at the site for about two weeks until the bridge was repaired and would then proceed to the shipyard, but he remained at the site.
Cobb argued that the site was a historical "common law tie up area" and stayed put as he didn't feel he was illegally moored.
Although Larco did not have a lease for the foreshore when Cobb arrived at the site, it later finalized a lease with the Vancouver Farer Port Authority on Oct.
1, 2012 and again informed Cobb of the requirement to move Chief Skugaid. In documents filed in November 2012, Larco stated that the defendant "continues to occupy the property and intends to continue the trespass unless restrained from doing so."
When Cobb didn't respond to the lawyer's request to vacate the foreshore and dock by Nov. 6, 2012, the company pursued the matter through the courts.
The two sides appeared in B.C. Supreme Court in January, with the judge granting an injunction and giving Cobb 30 days to move Chief Skugaid.
"It's already in effect," he told The Record on Wednesday. "I am on a day-by-day basis."
Finding a dock that can accommodate a boat that's more than 90 feet in length is no small feat. Noting that there's no "marine fairyland" that's magically going to appear and provide a home for Chief Skugaid, Cobb said he's fraught with anxiety about where he's going to move the boat.
"I have been looking for a year," he said. "Where does one put a boat that is 100 years old, 93 feet long?
Nobody wants a boat like that."
If Chief Skugaid were located in many other jurisdictions, Cobb believes Chief Skugaid would be designated as a historical monument. He's been doing what he can to restore the boat and needs a place where he can continue that work.
"I have put $30,000 into this boat, all my money," he said. "It still has a long way to go."
Cobb, who has lived in New Westminster on and off since 1953, wants to find another location in the city for the boat.
"It allows me to continue refurbishment of the oldest working vessel in British Columbia," he said.
"There should be a brass plaque on that boat. This is the oldest working boat, bar none. It's part of historic New West."
Like Chief Skugaid, Cobb said the port of New Westminster is also celebrating its 100th anniversary in 2013. Along with its sister ship Chief Zibassa, Chief Skugaid was commissioned in 1912 and built in a shipyard in Coal Harbour, Vancouver.
"People say, that is the same year as the Titanic," Cobb said of the ship that sank in 1912. "I have to remind them the Titanic went down."
Cobb frets about what will happen if the boat is towed away from its current site, as it's not only Cobb's home but also home for his two dogs.
"I have to continue to be the ship's keeper," said Cobb, whose life on the sea includes fishing in Newfoundland and Ireland. "Under maritime law, a ship that size . has to have somebody aboard."
Anyone with information about potential moorage can email Cobb via www.chiefskugaid.org. email@example.com