The Campbell River Salmon Foundation is auctioning off this nearly 100-year-old Tyee boat built by Ned Painter. Photo by Martin Buchanan

Historic Campbell River-built Tyee rowboat up for auction

Campbell River Salmon Foundation acquires boat unique to local Tyee fishing

A unique piece of Campbell River fishing history is up for auction this Saturday.

A beautifully-restored Tyee rowboat originally built by Ned Painter in the late 1920’s has been acquired by the Campbell River Salmon Foundation (CRSF) and is up for auction at the foundation’s annual fundraising banquet, March 14 at the Campbell River Community Centre.

“It’s probably 90 years, plus (old),” said Martin Buchanan, president of the CRSF. But “it looks pretty new.”

The Campbell River Salmon Foundation provides funding for salmon enhancement projects in the Campbell River area from the Oyster River north to the Salmon River estuary. Its board of directors is made up of volunteers and administration functions are donated, meaning the CRSF raises all of its funds locally and 100 per cent of it goes to salmon projects in this area.

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The CRSF has been very successful in raising money and initiating projects. In 2019 alone, the CRSF raised $97,000 which was used to leverage more than $360,000 in funding through 14 different projects for local salmon enhancement.

Their annual fundraising banquet raises the bulk of the funds and it is always a sold-out affair. That will make it difficult for anyone who doesn’t have a ticket to this weekend’s banquet to bid on the Tyee rowboat, though. You’ll have to get someone to act as a proxy for you.

Tyee rowboats were the workhorse of the world-famous Tyee salmon fishery off the Tyee Spit. They were designed and built by Ned Painter between the years of 1923 and 1934. He had a team of fishing guides who would build them in the winter and then they would be rented out in the summer.

They were a basic cedar lapstrake rowboat that was adapted for Tyee fishing off the mouth of the Campbell River. A Tyee salmon is a chinook salmon weighing more than 30 pounds.

The Tyee fishery involved catching Tyee in a human-powered boat on traditional tackle. Every year people come to Campbell River to catch one of these Tyees under the prescribed methods and in doing so, become a member of the pretigious Tyee Club of British Columbia.

According to the CRSF, the Tyee rowboats differed from traditional rowboats. The Tyee (or Painter) rowboat gunwales (sides) have been lowered to reduce the effects of the wind and to make pulling in a 30-plus pound salmon slightly less cumbersome than if the sides were higher. The high bow, rounded cross section and clinker-style planing make the boat easier to row in waves and wind. The boats were generally about 14 feet long.

The boat up for auction on Saturday was bought by former Campbell Riverite Ken Poskitt in the 1970s and was moved to Sydney Island near Victoria. There it underwent restoration work but the hull is original with new ribs and gunwales, Buchanan said.

Poskitt wanted the boat to go back to Campbell River and sold it to the CRFS for auction in hopes it will be kept and used in Campbell River or displayed appropriately for posterity.

According to the CRSF, “Whether you are a fisherperson, a historian, a culture buff, or simply appreciative of the art of craftmanship, this original Tyee Rowboat includeds hundreds of hours of meticulous restoration work to make it both a piece of art and a seaworthy vessel with almost 100 years of stories wove into its character.”

To learn more about the Campbell River Salmon Foundation and the work it does, visit