Merriwake Interpretative Centre
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 Classic Boat Festival, Bob Farrell who entered her into the Victoria Vintage Wooden 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.