A thing has as much soul as is poured into it. Both its crafting and the life it leads creates a storied depth of many leagues. In the case of the fishing vessel, the HI-YU, which, is currently bobbing like a cork at the pilings in front of Jenkins Marine, the soul of this boat has netted plenty of other souls along the way.
Self-styled captain and owner of the boat, Peter Mouck, is now a part of the rich tapestry of this boat’s history. He acquired the vessel from “a French Tesla” who once lived aboard at the former Sooke Marine Industries. His earnest desire to save his sinking ship has led him on a quest to discover the richness of the boat’s legacy and the possible spirited resting place of one of the former owners, Andy Planes, brother of Chief Gordie of T’Sou-ke nation.
“This is a unique boat whose story needs to be told. My only chance to save her is if I can get the word out to the community at large,” Mouck implored.
Dialing back the time machine to the early 1930’s, the HI-YU was built between 1932-1936 by Hilmar T. Wingen at Wingen shipyards in Tofino. Designed partly as a fishing vessel with her sister ship, the SHILO, she was also secretly designed to be a decoy vessel used to conceal submarines during the war. The subs would attach themselves to the bottom of the keel and run past any sonar detection under the pretense of fishing. The boats were used after the Estevan lighthouse was fired upon by enemy submarines. It’s the only one left because the government tried with difficulty to destroy any evidence of the subs’ existence from destroying documents to torpedoing the vessels. HI-YU is apparently not even its real name, as her registry was changed to avoid persecution.
The 40-foot, yellow cedar, double wood hull A-frame fishing vessels made the journey from Tofino to Nanoose Bay and back to Sooke Harbour and beyond, fishing, crabbing and concealing along the way. After years of fishing and passing hands to different owners, the boats both went out together on an extended fishing trip, but only one returned after tempestuous seas hit in 1973. The HI-YU returned home, with the SHILO being lost at sea, or so it is believed, with some sailor speculation that she may still be out there, plying the waters.
The ownership passed hands from local fisherman, George Wilson to the Planes family till the early 1980’s where it was used for trolling and netting until it was abandoned at the government wharf and found listing on it’s port side. Another local, Steve Saunders, then took control of the vessel and restored it to active duty all along the West Coast from Alaska to Sooke.
In 1986 the HI-YU was netting when a massive catch was made. Loaded to capacity with boiling nets, and almost out of fuel, the boat turned into nearby Port Angeles to refuel and sell the fish at a premium. The timing was impeccable because of the fishing slump in the U.S.. The HI-YU crew proceeded to disembark and celebrate the spoils of the catch at local pubs. By two in the morning, the pickled crew was ushered back to the boat, with the dock master using a fire axe to cut the lines of the HI-YU, sending her swiftly on her way.
On another misadventure near the U.S. border, the vessel, which had been fitted with smuggling rails, was caught with a illicit load of contraband from the far away lands of South America.
In early 2000, the boat returned to the government wharf where Andy and Joe Planes decided to reclaim the HI-YU and spent many years on it. Andy’s love of the boat was great and he spent some of his last days living aboard. His spirit is said to reside on the ship, and a ghostly image of his face has been seen on a photograph of current owner, Capt. Mouck’s knee.
“That changed everything,” Mouck added. After passing hands from Andy to Jean, the ‘French Tesla’ to Mouck, the boat was being restored by her current captain and was looking a “world better.” On October 26, 2014, another tempest hit Sooke with 90 km/h winds and a 13.6 tide. The boat was dragged off the 11 fathom shelf into the deeps of the Sooke Basin. It was then tossed around due to its current load ending up full of water on her starboard side against the break water logs of Sunny Shores.
Paddling through a lucky rainbow where the HI-YU had been anchored the night before, Mouck made double time across the Basin in his skiff where it was being grabbed from the anchor winch by rope and dragged to “help” the boat and her captain. The assistance ended up damaging the boat further, gouging the outer hull. This is the reason why the boat remains skunked at present.
Mouck continued to work on the vessel with friends for the following weeks and righted the boat when another 80 km storm blew in. He attempted to skiff the HI-YU back to the marina which was like “moving a freight train with a tricycle” he recounted. He devised a new plan to use a small sail and skiff to tow her back when he was spotted by crab fishermen at Jenkins Marine. After several failed attempts, they managed to place the HI-YU onto the waiting pilings that have been there since the early 1900’s.
Mouck’s animated storytelling and passion for the boat have led to a concerted effort to save the historic vessel. Having lost most of his tools and equipment aboard the boat, he continues to diligently resurrect the storied ship, with an unsinkable spirit. He considered suggested plans to turn the boat into a terrestrial restaurant akin to “torturing of a soul”.
“I am going to light her up for the holidays and people will be able to see her from the road or along the spit. She deserves all the attention she can get,” Mouck chuckled.
The HI-YU is now dry-docked at Jenkins Marine and will be lovingly restored until she is sea-worthy again.
If you wish to float his boat, and are able to assist in any way, or have any stories about this historical ship please contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
With files from Peter Mouck