BURCHELL’S YACHT – THE ALOMA

 

 

Aloma – When owned by George Burchell

Before we get too far removed from the snapper boats, sailing vessels, skiffs and boats in general that appeared in a previous post that sailed out of Bras d’Or I thought it prudent to mention a somewhat famous yacht which was well travelled and ended up being owned by a resident of Bras d’Or and then to Saint John, NB and finally to Florida. This was the Yacht Aloma owned at one time by the coal baron Dave Burchell. The Aloma was even a member of the Royal Canadian Air Force and assigned to service off the Nova Scotia and Newfoundland Coasts during WWII as the HMC HSL pennan #M580/B134 where she did coastal patrol duty looking out for and reporting on German U-Boat sightings as well as support to the Royal Canadian Air Force.

But first let’s go back to Saint John, NB where I came upon the Aloma when I worked as General Manager of the Jeux Canada Games 1985. Richard H. (Dick) Oland was the president of our game’s board of directors and executive committee and introduced me to the Aloma and casually mentioned one day it used to be owned by a chap in Cape Breton. I followed up on this and found out the chap from Cape Breton was George Burchell and later his son Dave. Now can you imagine to my surprise that this is the very same yacht that Willie R. Fraser worked on and looked after for many, many years for Burchell. Uncle Willie  was ably assisted from time to time by his son Russell who had diesel in his veins. In fact I had been aboard of her on a number of occasions as a youngster with Uncle Willie.

Dick Oland, he of the Moosehead Oland’s from Rothesay, NB with breweries in Saint John and Dartmouth is a sailing enthusiast and one who today has graduated to competitive sailing world wide. He and I had several connections with the 1986 Jeux Winter Games in Cape Breton. We entertained several meetings of the Cape Breton Winter Game’s executive committee both in Saint John and again came to Sydney to assist their executive committee in preparations and met with many of the members including Bucky Buchanan and Russ MacNeil. I too after the Summer Games and while on vacation in Cape Breton met with a number of committee members on my own and provided guidance and answered their questions as they prepared for the big event. Dick is shown below racing his ocean going racing yacht.

 So now let’s get back to our story about the Aloma  the famous yacht mentioned in the introductory paragraph.

Vela Veloce  Tacking – All Hands to Starboard

The Aloma was built on or about 1910 by Walter Pinaud in his first yard at Sydney, Nova Scotia. Walter Pinaud earned a reputation for being one of Nova Scotia’s top builders. His talents were discovered by Alexander Graham Bell and from 1913 into the 1920’s Walter Pinaud’s yard was located at Bell Labs in Baddeck. Rothesay’s Wallace Rupert Turnbull shared in the Bell/Pinaud experiments with hydrofoils and the effort of this work could be seen with Mr. Turnbull’s hydrofoil tests on the Kennebecasis River off Rothesay. 

 

Aloma underway after being Refitted and Lengthened

Originally the Aloma was a 45-foot long single screw canoe stern motor sailor. Its first owner was George Burchell. Mr. Burchell was the owner of the Bras d’Or Coal Company. He and his family motored the Aloma all over the Bras d’or Lakes region of Cape Breton. Mr. Burchell enjoyed the Aloma very much, but he wanted a bigger boat and knew just where to get one. In 1923 he sent the Aloma back to Walter Pinaud who was now based in Baddeck. Mr. Pinuad was commissioned to extend the length of the boat, build a mahogany wheelhouse (thus moving the helm forward up from the stern) and install twin-engine diesels. This extension was done by removing the canoe stern portion of the boat, adding 15 feet of new hull length and then placing the original stern back on. As a result of this transformation, the Aloma became Aloma II. The Burchell family continued to enjoy the boat for years to come. But with the War starting in 1939 the boat was needed for service. Before we get too far removed from the snapper boats, sailing vessels, skiffs and boats in general that appeared in a previous post that sailed out of Bras d’Or I thought it prudent to mention a somewhat famous yacht which was well travelled and ended up being owned by a resident of Bras d’Or and then to Saint John, NB and finally to Florida. This was the Yacht Aloma owned at one time by the coal baron Dave Burchell. The Aloma was even a member of the prestigious Royal Canadian Air Force having served off the Nova Scotia and Newfoundland Coasts during WWII as the HMC HSL pennan #M580/B134 where she did coastal patrol duty looking out for and reporting on German U-Boat sightings as well as support to the Royal Canadian Air Force.

War Assets – 1946- Now owned by Olands

But first let’s go back to Saint John, NB where I came upon the Aloma when I worked as General Manager of the Jeux Canada Games 1985. Richard H. (Dick) Oland was the president of our game’s board of directors and executive committee and introduced me to the Aloma and casually mentioned one day it used to be owned by a chap in Cape Breton. I followed up on this and found out the chap from Cape Breton was George Burchell. Now can you imagine to my surprise that this is the very same yacht that Willie R. Fraser worked on and looked after for many, many years for Burchell. Uncle Willie  was ably assisted from time to time by his son Russell who had diesel in his veins. In fact I had been aboard of her on a number of occasions as a youngster with Uncle Willie.

Dick Oland, he of the Moosehead Oland’s from Rothesay, NB with breweries in Saint John and Dartmouth is a sailing enthusiast and one who today has graduated to competitive sailing world wide. He and I had several connections with the 1986 Jeux Winter Games in Cape Breton. We entertained several meetings of the Cape Breton Winter Game’s executive committee both in Saint John and again came to Sydney to assist their executive committee in preparations and met with many of the members including Bucky Buchanan and Russ MacNeil. I too after the Summer Games and while on vacation in Cape Breton met with a number of committee members on my own and provided guidance and answered their questions as they prepared for the big event.

 

So now let’s get back to our story about the Aloma  the famous yacht mentioned in the introductory paragraph.

The Aloma was built on or about 1910 by Walter Pinaud in his first yard at Sydney, Nova Scotia. Walter Pinaud earned a reputation for being one of Nova Scotia’s top builders. His talents were discovered by Alexander Graham Bell and from 1913 into the 1920’s Walter Pinaud’s yard was located at Bell Labs in Baddeck. Rothesay’s Wallace Rupert Turnbull shared in the Bell/Pinaud experiments with hydrofoils and the effort of this work could be seen with Mr. Turnbull’s hydrofoil tests on the Kennebecasis River off Rothesay. 

 Originally the Aloma was a 45-foot long single screw canoe stern motor sailor. Its first owner was George Burchell. Mr. Burchell was the owner of the Bras d’Or Coal Company. He and his family motored the Aloma all over the Bras d’or Lakes region of Cape Breton. Mr. Burchell enjoyed the Aloma very much, but he wanted a bigger boat and knew just where to get one. In 1923 he sent the Aloma back to Walter Pinaud who was now based in Baddeck. Mr. Pinuad was commissioned to extend the length of the boat, build a mahogany wheelhouse (thus moving the helm forward up from the stern) and install twin-engine diesels. This extension was done by removing the canoe stern portion of the boat, adding 15 feet of new hull length and then placing the original stern back on. As a result of this transformation, the Aloma became Aloma II. The Burchell family continued to enjoy the boat for years to come. But with the War starting in 1939 the boat was needed for service.

 In 1939 the Aloma II was painted gray and became HMC HSL Cormack with hull pennants # M580/B134 and assigned to the Royal Canadian Air Force. HMC HSL translates to His Majesty’s Canadian High Speed Launch (Type II). Moving first to CFB Shearwater the boat was operated by the RCAF as a supply boat up and down the coast of Nova Scotia. She is said to have been assigned to Eastern Air Command, Newfoundland.

The military documentation for Aloma is this:

RCAF ALOMA/CORMACK HMC HSL

58-foot wooden Range Boat (Type II)

Built in 1932 (?) Obviously an error she was built in Sydney, NS abt 1906

Assigned to Eastern Air Command, Newfoundland

 As one can imagine the Aloma II was in pretty rough shape after the War and was in serious

need of a refit.  

 In the spring of 1946 the Aloma II entered the Saint John River for the first time with her newly painted white hull and headed up to its new mooring at the Rothesay Yacht Club.

Newly Refitted by Richard Oland

In her final years on the River the Aloma II was based out of the RKYC. More and more the boat was used by the brewery for tours and office parties. Enterprise Saint John had access to the boat and many a potential investor to Saint John was wined and dined on board. To this day I still get comments from “new” Saint Johners that it was that trip on the Aloma II that sold them on Saint John.

 In 2000 the Aloma II made an historic journey back to Halifax. The Tall Ships were visiting that summer and there was a great desire to have the Aloma II there for this event. Only a few people had witnessed the Aloma II experience on the open seas and what an experience it could be. The boat was not built for the Ocean so you really had to pick your days right for any such voyage. And roll she did! All who were aboard said they had land sway for a week after they arrived home. But, much to their great comfort, the boat was never in any danger. After rolling to port she always came right back up and was never overextended. Tacking helped of course and this made the trip to Halifax and home more pleasant for all.

 The Aloma II then moved from Georgia down to St. Petersburg, Florida in 2006 and was then placed for sale. The owners enjoyed the boat but having purchased a farm in Georgia were ready to start a new life. And this is where the boat met its end. After leaving the boat that morning an electrical fire started in the galley area of the boat. Fire crews arrived on thescene at 12:30PM and the fire was finally put out four hours later. In the end, the core of theboat was gutted. The galley and wheelhouse are completely gone while the engine room with its firewalls was left intact. The forward berths looks to have suffered less damage.

The condition of the hull is not known, while from the outside it does not appear to bedamaged much at all, the interior likely has serious structural issues now.

 

Aloma II in Florida

 On October 20th, 2006 2 years shy of her 100th birthday the Aloma II was destroyed in an electrical fire at its berth in St. Petersburg, Florida. The disastrous end to a proud Cape Breton Lady.

(Special thanks to Dennis Oland who wrote “The Story of the Aloma”)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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3 responses to this post.

  1. The statement you make that the Aloma was placed for sale in 2006 is totally inaccurate. As the last owners of the MV Aloma II, she was never placed for sale and the fire did not begin in the galley, it began in the master stateroom. We were never prepared for this loss and certainly did not wish to begin a new life without her as you have stated. Please contact us before releasing any further information concerning her demise so that you facts may be verified. Thank you

    Betty Sattler Cory

    Reply

    • Thank you for your comments. Sorry for the delay but I was in hospital and just got home. The story about the Aloma was mine from research and history down to the sentence that starts out: So now let’s get back to our story….. and that came right out of the the story of the Aloma written by Dennis Oland grandson of the Moosehead Brewery owner Mr. Oland and are his words NOT MINE.

      Reply

  2. Posted by Anne Burton on April 8, 2011 at 19:10

    Joey and I really enjoyed the story of the
    Aloma, George. Great Reading!

    Reply

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