The pleasure boat Alern was built by Ernest Phillips in Prince Rupert during his spare time while he was working on the Skeena Highway during World War Two. In 2010 his daughter Catherine Robertson shared her memories of the Alern. Now I’ve received an update from the Alern’s new owners, who have found a new use for her.
Catherine Robertson, 2010
The MV Alern was built in a boatshed in Cow Bay, Prince Rupert 1943-1945, the year the Alern was commissioned. She was 34.5 feet in length, 10′ beam, built from Ed Monk Sr. plans, which my dad, Ernest A. Phillips, modified, changing her hull from a planing to a semi-displacement hull. She was yellow cedar over oak and my dad ran her ribs a little closer together than the Monk plans. The Alern is named for my parents. “Al” comes from my mother’s nickname, “Algie” and “ern” from Ernest.
The Alern was a very seaworthy vessel and the Dept. of Fisheries offered to buy her from my dad. However, he declined stating he’d built her well for the years of service she’d offer the family. She was powered by a Kermath engine and cruised at only 7.5 knots but could be brought up to 10 if needed.
My dad was called up to Prince Rupert during this period of time as City Engineer. His job was to build a highway between P.R. and Terrace. The mayor of Prince Rupert at that time was Harry Daggett and Mr. & Mrs. Daggett became very close friends of my parents. I was 3 1/2 years old at this time and apparently filled the wharf in the Cow Bay boatshed with pounds and pounds of nails as I learned the “craft” of wood boat building!
My father built his first boat as a young man, a canoe, then later, in either Vancouver or Toronto (where he finished his Civil Engineering degree), he built a sailboat, a Snipe. He had decided that his young family (my brother, Mom and I), should have a powerboat as there was more headroom etc. He loved boats, knew boats and, truly, was one of our real capable, West Coast skippers.
My dad brought the Alern, unfinished in the inside, down to Vancouver in 1945 and she was moored at the Burrard Yacht Club. Mom and Dad had joined the Burrard Yacht Club, Coal Harbour, the floats being those of the Vancouver Rowing Club, and that is where the first Alern was for 18 years. She was then sold to a man called Archie Gardner, then, eventually to a Dr. Swan, Pender Harbour.
Dad built a new and larger Monk cruiser in 1964. She is also a wood boat and is sitting in Port Sidney Marina, Sidney, BC. This boat is 41.5 feet, 12′ beam, and is a full-planing hull. She is now called the Rob Roy.
Now, in the summer of 2013, the Alern has a new lease on life. Seeing her on her last floating days, totally neglected a couple from Gibsons has rescued her. They motored her to the launch ramp in Garden Bay, then had her hauled out and trucked to Gibsons.
“Next, they wrote me, “we dug a place for her in our yard and had a crane lift her into the final and last berth. We will use her as an art studio and guest house. I did not want to see this grand old lady on the bottom or scrap pile like so many others.”
There’s more than one way to save BC’s wooden boats!