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History of Argonaut II: Powell River Company Yacht, 1922-1937 (Greta M)
In May of 2006 my husband Jerry and I purchased an old wooden boat, referred to in the Pacific Northwest as a classic yacht . Our plans were to live aboard and cruise. We knew that boats require a lot of work, as we had owned another wooden boat ten years previously. We had no idea that we were purchasing a piece of history—that we didn’t “own” the Argonaut II at all. In fact, in the words of a previous owner, she owned us!
It was love at first sight for Jerry. It took me a little longer.
Just for kicks, we attended our first Classic Yacht Association gathering in Edmonds, WA, just a few weeks after buying the boat. We were overwhelmed by the number of people who wanted to come on board, who had stories to tell us about the boat and previous owners, and who just loved the boat. It was the same in June, a few weeks later, at another gathering at the Bell Harbor marina in downtown Seattle. I really started to warm up to the old girl at this point.
I began working on the varnish and, after some trepidation, discovered it was something I could do to improve the boat, something I was actually good at. Jerry has mechanical skills, but, up until that point, I didn’t really seem to have a role on the boat. Passers by started to compliment my work, and I felt even more positive about Argonaut II .
In July, we cruised to Port Townsend, WA, a wooden boat center, and had the boat lifted out of the water into the boatyard. We spent 50 days living on board in the yard to reef out, recaulk, and refasten the entire hull below the waterline. We also sanded and painted the hull above the waterline and refreshed the bottom paint. Though we hired an expert to do the caulking, we did the other work ourselves. It was brutal, filthy, and sometimes painful work. When I take a shower at the end of the day, and the water that runs down the drain is grey, I know I’ve earned my keep. Perhaps because she made me suffer, I was now in love with that old boat.
Because of my own and other people’s enthusiasm and curiosity about Argonaut II , I started to look into her history. Fortunately, the previous owners had collected and passed along to us quite a bit of information. I found it fascinating reading, and I hope you will too.
Powell River Company Yacht: 1922-1937
In 1922 Argonaut II was launched as the Greta M in the Menchion’s shipyard of Vancouver, B.C. She was designed by Edison B. Schook. The original rigging card of the Greta M states that the LOA is 73’, the beam is 14’7”, the hull is composed of Port Orford cedar, the decks are of fir, and the deck house is teak. In addition, the hull has an iron bark ice sheathing. The transom is properly referred to as a canoe stern.
The Powell River Company commissioned the Greta M as a company yacht. In 1928 the Powell River Company Digester issued a statement saying, “The Motorboat ‘Greta M’ is used by the Logging Department for making trips to the various camps and inspecting logs that we buy. This is a very efficient boat and is as comfortable a boat as one could wish for.” However, as contemporaries report that the Greta M had a professional chef on board and that company executives and their families took cruises aboard, it would appear that the Greta M was not used solely for business.
The Greta M had a brief encounter with near disaster during her company yacht days. On the morning of November 25, 1925, as she returned from an exploratory cruise around Theodosia Arm, the Greta M ran up on an uncharted rock. Passengers and crew were forced to take to the dinghy as the boat careened over at a dangerous angle. Help was sent and the Greta M was towed to Vancouver for an overhauling. The area on the keel where new planks were scarfed in can be seen today.
After serving as a company yacht for the logging department of the Powell River Company for fifteen years, the Greta M was sold to the Home Mission Board of the United Church of Canada. .
Sources were compiled by Julian Matson, previous owner of Argonaut II
Powell River Digester, December 1925
Powell River Digester, March 1928
The Town Crier, Powell River, BC, December 15, 1937
Donaldson, Morris. Pacific Yachting, "Argonaut II," July 1990
The Westcoast Mariner, "Grand old lady of Boat Harbor," March 1989
McClure, Ron. Classic Wooden Boats of the Northwest