In 1920, pioneer logging contractor JR Morgan hired John and his son Charlie, age 17, to build float camps on the lake above Surf Inlet on Princess Royal Island. Next year they went back to tow logs down the lake, drive them over a chute into the saltchuck and boom them up for Ocean Falls.
It was at Surf Inlet that the Curries bought the Ruby Mae, a gas launch with a 15 HP engine, from a couple of hand loggers. “She wasn’t really a work boat,” Charlie recalled, “more of a pleasure boat. I don’t know how old that boat was. The people around Port Simpson said she was built in what they call Sawmill Bay, actually Wrosfold Bay.”
Messrs J. & C. Currie are rebuilding the Ruby Mae at the N. M. McLean boathouse, Cow Bay. She is 40 ft long by 9 ft. 6 in. beam and will be fitted with a 14 h.p. Frispy [sic] engine, and upon completion will be used for logging purposes. It is expected the work will be completed in about a week’s time. Upon her first trip it is the intention of the owners to go on a little hunting and cruising trip. (Prince Rupert Daily News Oct 22, 1921)
In rough weather, according to Charlie, she was shallow and she pounded too hard, despite the refit. Still, she got them around and they began to bid on Public Works projects. The whole coast was booming, and the Curries were busy along its length, from Stewart to Rivers Inlet. They put in pilings and dolphins at canneries, floats at what was to become Dawson’s Landing (1924) and wharves at Bella Coola (1924) and Bella Bella (1928). They built Boat Bluff lightstation in 1931.
The Ruby Mae barely managed to tow their steam pile driver, as long as there was no wind. Otherwise, someone else did the towing. In 1928, John decided it was time to build a new boat. “We were working out at Lucy Island there,” said Charlie, “and we had a little trouble with the old boat. She sprung a leak, and I think it scared my dad a little bit!” So in 1929 they had the Prince Rupert Drydock build their long-lived tug, CRC. They sold the Ruby Mae to Power Corporation of Canada who were building a hydro-electric project at Big Falls on the Ecstall River.
The well known local power tug Ruby Mae has been purchased by the Power Corporation of Canada from John Currie & Son and was delivered at the first of this week to Falls River where it will be used by the company. The Ruby Mae is a 41-foot vessel, equipped with a 16 h.p. Sterling gas engine. John Currie & Son has a new boat built last year to replace the Ruby Mae in service.
For more about the Ruby Mae, the CRC and Capt Charlie Currie, read Charlie’s Tugboat Tales by Bruce Wishart. (This Week Books, Prince Rupert 1997.)