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History of Argonaut II: The Mission Boat Years, 1937-1966 (Thomas Crosby IV)

Updated on January 31, 2017

In 1937 the Powell River Company sold their company yacht Greta M to the Home Mission Board of the United Church of Canada. The United Church renamed the boat the Thomas Crosby VI . Though renaming a boat is considered bad luck by traditional mariners, it does not seem to have adversely affected the 73 foot yacht which began as the Greta M in 1922, became the Thomas Crosby VI in 1937, and was finally renamed Argonaut II in 1966. Argonaut II has “weathered” the name changes and is still afloat today, 91 years later.

In 1937 the newly christened Thomas Crosby IV was named for the Rev. Thomas Crosby who ministered to the natives of the West Coast from 1864-1914. One of the many native children baptized by Rev. Crosby was Cle-alls, the son of a Haida chief. Cle-alls grew up to be the first Haida to receive formal schooling and the first to be ordained a minister. In 1937 Cle-alls was known as Rev. Peter Kelly and was a recognized leader of the British Columbian natives—often representing his people in Ottawa and Victoria. Rev. Kelly became the first skipper of the Thomas Crosby IV and held the job for 16 years. His life as a seafaring missionary has been immortalized in the book Roar of the Breakers .

Rev.Peter Kelly and his wife Gertrude
Rev.Peter Kelly and his wife Gertrude

Thomas Crosby IV operated between Lowe Inlet in the north and Smith Inlet in the south, with headquarters at Ocean Falls. She called at lighthouses, canneries, logging camps and isolated settlements. In addition to serving as a church and mission, she delivered the mail, served as a library and movie theater, and functioned as a hospital and mortuary. A shovel and mattock were kept in a cupboard ready for any necessary burials. Thomas Crosby IV also carried a portable organ known as a “little Jimmy,” which could be folded up into a suitcase and brought to shore for church services. A visit from the Thomas Crosby IV was considered the highlight of the season for many isolated communities.

Stern view of the Thomas Crosby IV breaking through ice.
Stern view of the Thomas Crosby IV breaking through ice.

The following excerpt illustrates one of their many goods deeds of the Thomas Crosby IV, not strictly related to missionary duties:

About the icebreaking incident. This was in Draney Inlet, in, I think, February of that year. An old Norwegian lady stayed on there after a logging camp moved on, living in a float house. Teredo worms, plus January freshets which diluted the salinity of the water, lowered her house to the point that she was doing housework in hip waders. Jack Spinner, the skipper of Thos. Crosby IV had graduated as a civil engineer in Edmonton, but subsequently entered the ministry.

He heard of the old ladies’ plight and organized a work party to put new logs under her house. We went in a day earlier (the inlet is entered through a narrow gut and has a ferocious tide, so one has to go in on slack tide), and had to fetch an A-frame about 8 miles in the inlet. There was a 4 inch ice cover on the inlet: it was a good job the boat was double planked (with teak, I believe) but it did get a beating.

Everyone worked hard all day but by next slack tide the house was floating high again and everyone dispersed home.

An excerpt from Throwbacks from a Golden Age of Northwest Boats

The Thomas Crosby IV was retired by the United Church of Canada in 1966 and sold to a marine firm in Canada. The church requested that the name Thomas Crosby IV be removed from the boat now that it was no longer in the service of the United Church missionaries.She was sold at least one more time between 1966 and 1970, used as a dive charter, and then left lying idle for several years. At some point during these years the name of the boat was changed to Argonaut II . Apparently an owner during the 60s was particularly fond of the television program Sea Hunt .

In 1970 the Argonaut II was purchased by Julian Matson.

Sources compiled by Julian Matson

Resolution (a Maritime Museum of British Columbia publication), Autumn 2001

The Town Crier( a Powell River, BC newspaper), "Greta M is sold to Missions," December 15th, 1937

Letter written to Julian Matson by Stan Cummings, June 30, 1979

Donaldson, Morris. Pacific Yachting, "Argonaut II," July 1990

The Westcoast Mariner, "Grand old lady of Boat Harbor," March 1989

Southern, Karen. The Westcoast Mariner, "The Argonaut II: A Coastal Classic," March 1989

The Westcoast Mariner, "Christmas on the Thomas Crosby IV," December 1996

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