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Beaver replaces Dominion as Cowichan Bay's new freeloader

Replica paddlewheeler Beaver sits in Cowichan Bay after recent departure of derelict ship Dominion, believed hauled for scrap. Lack of federal laws allow derelict-vessel dumping in Canadian waters. - Peter W. Rusland
Replica paddlewheeler Beaver sits in Cowichan Bay after recent departure of derelict ship Dominion, believed hauled for scrap. Lack of federal laws allow derelict-vessel dumping in Canadian waters.
— image credit: Peter W. Rusland

Hello Beaver, goodbye Dominion.

Cowichan Bay folks say the day derelict Dominion was hauled away — June 23 — faux-paddlewheeler Beaver was left in its wake. Ridding the bay of wooden, black-and-white Beaver may prove as difficult as disposing of the fuel-filled Dominion — she sat in the bay for five years before apparently being towed two weeks ago to Mexico for scrapping.

It was unknown if Beaver has fuel aboard, Kato Gallacher of the Fisherman’s Wharf government facility explained.

“It’s tied to a ball-mooring buoy. The day the Dominion left, it was on the hook.”

Beaver was not posing a navigational hazard, she noted. That danger would spark action from federal Transport Canada agents.

But without derelict-boat legislation from Ottawa — as proposed by Cowichan MP Jean Crowder — ship owners can simply dump vessels wherever they want in Canadian waters.

That legally reckless approach worried bay Director Lori Iannidinardo and resident Thomas Wagner.

“It’s just ‘Bring it to the Cowichan Valley; no one will bother you,’” Iannidinardo said, noting Beaver arrived in the bay about four months ago as another knot in a string of derelicts dumped there.

She reckoned American Robert Van Riter carried out his March 2012 plan to buy Dominion from Oregonian Robert Hall, then hauled Beaver to the bay, tied them together but “didn’t get the right documents to take the Beaver away.”

Riter’s whereabouts were unknown at press time.

“We may have another (parked) Dominion-type of vessel,” Iannidinardo said of the replica of the original 1835 paddlewheeler that sunk in 1888 off Stanley Park.

“Called the Beaver, it may look like a nice, interesting old paddlewheel boat, but it’s an ill-fated replica of the real boat,” Wagner wrote the News Leader Pictorial.

“The only claim to fame it ever had was as a party boat during Expo ‘86; it has been dock-hanging in Victoria ever since.”

There’s far more history to 137-foot, diesel-powered Beaver: she was built by the Canadian Navy in 1966; refitted in Esquimalt in 1971; later sold to Vancouver buyers, and eventually used for charter cruises during the 2010 Vancouver Olympics.

“I don’t think it has an engine either. When the tug took the Dominion away, it brought us another derelict to take its place,” Wagner said, questioning feckless federal wisdom.

“How do we wind up with all the junk that floats our way?

“Next time you look in the bay, remember the Dominion and how long it was a hazard here. What’s next; the Gorge Waterway Navy they have to clean up in Victoria?”

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