Hunkered down for the winter at our Wharf Street marina, Swell is a refurbished tugboat owned and operated by eco-tourism company Maple Leaf Adventures. During high season, Swell takes passengers on tours around Vancouver Island, the Gulf Islands, and Alaska—charming them with her antique character. In the winter, she stays at our docks for maintenance and receives thorough cleaning, repainting, varnishing, and work on the hull. “Any wooden boat has the challenge of continually maintaining the wood,” says Maple Leaf Adventures’ Kayleen Vanderree. “If the wood starts going then the whole integrity of the boat will go with it.”
Swell was built in 1912 as a coal-fired steam tugboat and used for many years by the Victoria Tug Company. In 1954, her engine was converted from steam to diesel and she spent much of her time on the south coast of British Columbia. In the early 1970s, Swell had her claim to fame when she appeared in an episode of the CBC show The Beachcombers. In 2014, Maple Leaf Adventures acquired Swell and introduced the tug to her new role as a passenger vessel. Maple Leaf Adventures has since complemented the refit with eco-friendly improvements, including an upgraded battery system and generator.
“Swell is well known on the coast and it’s neat to be part of her history,” Kayleen says. “People will book tours with us just because they love this tugboat so much. She’s a small ship with a lot of character and our guests help keep her coastal legacy alive.”