The Sea Roamer has had a long and complex history of service in coastal British Columbia. Essentially a self-propelled landing craft, it began its days as the steel auto-ferry Catherine Graham in 1954, running between Buckley Bay and Denman Island. It continued in that service until it was retired as a ferry in 1973.
Ultimately acquired by Rivtow, it was renamed the Free Enterprise II. It bore that name until Bill Hadley purchased it in 1976, for Hadley Bay Marine Services. At that point the now owners stretched the old ferry from its 64-foot length to 79 feet, and ultimately in 1980 constructed an enlarged deckhouse.
In 1988 Stolt Sea Farms, operating out of Campbell River purchased the Sea Roamer from Hadley Bay and the craft worked steadily around Stolt operations in the Broughton Archipelago, Nodales Channel and Quatsino Sound. It was at this point that Lloyd Muckle entered his association with the Sea Roamer. He’d completed mariculture courses at Malaspina College in the mid 1980s, and had set up a commercial diving business, servicing fish farms, predominantly working as a salmon net washer. He began working on the Sea Roamer in 1995 as a relief skipper, and then continued as full-time skipper. Finally, in 2002 he acquired the craft as his own and created Sea Roamer Marine Service, and carried on his work with Marine Harvest (created following the merger with Stolt in 2004.)
One of the first tasks Lloyd undertook after buying the Sea Roamer was to rebuild the bow of the former ferry, to render it more suitable to their purposes. That was done in 2003. Then there was a total replacement of the hydraulic system in 2005. At the same time, he knew it was essential to upgrade the power potential, while at the same time seeking a source of power that was more efficient, more economical and more environmentally friendly.
The answer to those concerns came in December 2006 with his replacement of the two Hadley installed 235 horsepower GM 6V-71s, with a pair of John Deere 6081 AFM75 M2 diesels of 300 horsepower each. The repower was completed in Port McNeill by Progressive Diesel Ltd. along with the Sea Roamer Marine Services crews. Fuel consumption with the new power units is remarkably reduced, Lloyd says, probably to the tune of 30 percent.
Today, the venerable Sea Roamer, in conjunction with the tugs and crane-barges, are fully capable of carrying out the multifaceted tasks within Sea Roamer Marine Services’ mandate in an ever-changing and growing scenario in coastal British Columbia.