From Tugs to Tour Boats

Bob Jordan runs two vintage tugs that follow the fish and his clients’ whims along the British Columbia coast.

Westwind Tugboat Adventures owns and operates two restored wooden tugs, the Union Jack and the Parry, both built in 1941 and both retired from year-round tug work. They now cruise the Inside Passage or fish the waters around Vancouver and Prince Rupert from May to October.

Jordan didn’t set out to be in the tourism industry. He was originally a commercial fisherman, but he left that business in his early 20s because it wasn’t really the kind of life he wanted. 

But he wanted to stay on the water, so he decided to buy another kind of boat and chase other work — everything from harbor cruises to government surveys.

Jordon chose the used wooden tugs because they had lots of bunks and were quite cozy. “Because they were low to the water and very stable, I just saw something there,” he said. His timing was good, too, because tug operators were switching from wood to steel and adding more power.

Five years into his new venture, his first boat was lost in a fire. He then found the Union Jack, and he and his wife, Kathleen, decided to rebuild and refurbish it for them to live aboard and make a living from it. After it was finished a year later, they got a big contract for a gas pipeline survey.

In the early 1980s, Jordan started offering guided fishing trips. In the late ‘80s, he bought another tug, the Parry.

The 79’ Union Jack has a 400-hp Union diesel and the 85’ Parry has a 1941 Vivian diesel. Both cruise at 8.5 knots. The Union Jack carries eight passengers and four crew, and the Parry has room for 12 passengers and five crew. Guest packages include two-berth cabins, gourmet food and wine, fishing licenses, bait and tackle, 18’ skiffs for fishing and exploring, onboard freezing and packaging, and toiletries. 

“It’s a good life for us,’’ Jordan said. “Our vessels have a natural attraction with people — nostalgia, romance. We’ve dedicated ourselves to finding these very remote anchorages. And we stop and smell the roses wherever we go.”

(For more information, go to: www.tugboatcruise.com.) 

  —D. DuPont 

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