Merriwake Interpretative Centre

Our Society has been restoring the Merriwake, a Japanese-Canadian fishing boat, for display on Main Street in the Village of Slocan.

Merriwake c.1957 (photo courtesy of the Mathews family)
Merriwake 1967 (photo courtesy of Brian Williams)
Merriwake c.1997 (photo courtesy of Bob Farrell)
Merriwake c.1999 (photo courtesy of Bob Farrell)
Merriwake c.1999 (photo courtesy of Bob Farrell)
Merriwake 2003 (photo courtesy of Ted Fitzgerald)
Merriwake at Campbell Bay (photo courtesy of Ted Fitzgerald)
Merriwake sunk at the Kaslo dock c.2017 (photo courtesy of James Shaw)
2018 Merriwake arrived at the Copper Nail Boat Shop in Bonnington, for restoration (photo courtesy of Eric Chevalier)

The Merriwake History

The Merriwake is one of the oldest surviving Japanese Canadian boatworks boats and one of the oldest surviving BC built wooden fishing boats. Wooden boats are Golden Agers when 60ish years old. This boat contains many relevant and typical touches of the Japanese Canadian boatbuilding culture of the era, and is in excellent condition for its age. It is a 31-foot gillnetter built in 1929 on BC’s North Coast by Japanese Canadian boatbuilders, most probably Matsumoto Boatworks in the Prince Rupert area.

Along with all Japanese owned fishing boats this craft was impounded by authorities during WWII and later sold to BC Packers.

Matthews Family Memories: Randle Mathews purchased the Merriwake in 1951 and for the next 16 years provided “a scow service to the Gulf Islands hauling anything from septic tanks to sheep and cattle, plus fishing charters and the general water taxi service” – Connie Hayden (Mathews). “During this time Dad took out Mr Diefenbaker the Canadian Prime Minister on a fishing trip!” – Merridy Mathews-Lloyd. “The 1st Mate was a Dog – A male black spaniel named “Skipper” was my father’s beloved companion on the boat, and everywhere else. He was called Skippy for short.” – Barry Mathews.

Mr. Brian Williams, a Victoria marine engineer owned the boat from 1967 to 1991. It went through a series of private owners including James Webb who entered her in the Victoria Real Estate Classic Boat Festival and Bob Farrell who, after a two year rebuild, entered her again into the Victoria Real Estate Classic Boat Festival where she won “Best Pocket Cruiser” in 1999. Bob remembers “being at the right place at the right time” with the Merriwake, to rescue a little boy and his father after a boating accident. In 2010, then owner Jaime Coy entered her once again in the Victoria Classic Boat Festival. Purchased by Ted Fitzgerald in 2011, he brought the boat to Kaslo from the coast hoping to provide Kootenay Lake tours to Japanese Canadian and other visitors.