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Historic Slipways Restoration at Britannia Shipyards

White, red and blue boat, the MV Burnaby on display inside the wooden Britannia Shipyard building

There’s something new on display inside the Britannia Shipyard building – and it was no easy task make it happen. Over the past months a small team could be seen hard at work on the slipways inside the historic shipyard building. In January, two giant boat cradles were floated into the building, from its large south-facing opening, and installed at the top of the slipways – a sloping track on which ships may be pulled up onto dry land for repair, and then launched back into the water.

Led by local restoration expert Dave Sharp, the project to restore the historic slipways has taken months of detailed work and calculation to be able to bring vessels into the building for repair and display, just as it was done when the shipyard was active for over sixty years, before it closed its doors in 1980. The funding for this restoration project is supported by the Province of British Columbia, with a “Unique Heritage Infrastructure” grant awarded to the site’s community partner, the Britannia Shipyards National Historic Site Society.

On a beautiful Friday evening in May 2023, perfectly timed with the rising tide, Dave’s team was able to successfully navigate the historic tugboat MV Burnaby onto the west slipway. And now, visitors can see the vessel on its boat cradle, and imagine what it was like when the shipyard was humming with activity with the skilled workers and craftsmen repairing the vessels that worked for the fishing and canning industries on the Fraser River, over a hundred years ago.

To learn more about this project, visit the site during Doors Open Richmond on June 3 & 4, see the displays about the restoration work, and maybe even speak to Dave himself! For more details about Doors Open, visit our event page here.