With the need for a hardworking and sturdy boat, the British Columbia Police Force commissioned a 50-foot double-ender designed by Robert Allan to be built at Menchions Shipyard in Coal Harbor, Vancouver. Launched in 1948, originally named PML 17 and then changed to MP 78, the boat was stationed at Ocean Falls, British Columbia from 1948 to 1960. 

In 1903 the Bella Coola Pulp and Paper Company surveyed the area that is Ocean Falls and realized its potential for a hydro-powered mill. By 1912, a school, hospital, sawmill, and dam were built and the mill began operating, the largest in British Columbia for many years. By 1950 the little company town that MP 78 had just started patrolling had grown to 3,500 people. By the ’70s the mill had started to fall by the wayside and Crown Zellerbach eventually sold the mill and town to the government. 

As the population in Ocean Falls began to dwindle, MP 78 was transferred to the British Columbia Fish and Game for three years and renamed OTTER. With a 6’6” draft and a unique stabilization method, OTTER would be well equipped to venture into the nooks and crannies of the miles of British Columbia and all the rivers. This boat has the eye-catching “batwing” style stabilizers – in essence, an L shaped piece of metal on each side of the boat right at midships. On this boat the vertical sides are ⅝” bolted to ¾” wings. While not a common sight, it was seen most frequently along the coast of British Columbia, especially on boats serving rivers and log mills. 

In 1964, shortly after being transferred to the British Columbia Forest Service at Prince Rupert and renamed POPLAR III, the original Vivian 6 cylinder diesel, at 105 brake horsepower, was replaced with a Detroit Diesel 8V71 paired with an Allison 2:5:1 reduction gear ratio. 

The thick 1½” planking – douglas fir below the waterline and yellow cedar above – is further protected from ice and logs with durable Ironwood sheathing 12” above the waterline and 24” below, in addition to the anchor guard. 

After 50 years of diligent service to the people and land of British Columbia, POPLAR III enters private ownership in 1998. This next phase of life is again filled with great adventures as her family explores extensively along the Pacific Northwest Coast. One trip between Pelican and Yakutat, Alaska is remembered in this “crankie” – a loooong piece of paper with drawings wrapped around two scrolls and slowly cranked past a light with music or storytelling. 

Over the years with us, POPLAR III has had a variety of work done to stay in great shape. A few items include:  

– Comprehensive electrical review

– Electrical system code compliance and performance refit

– Electrolysis review and refit

– Shaft service, cutlass bearing, and shaft log refit

– Major rebuild of side decks and foredeck

– Hull plank replacement

– Complete seam re-caulk below the waterline 

Give them a wave if you POPLAR III out and about!