York Factory Express - Transport

Transport

An inland boat, the York boat, was used to carry furs, trade goods along inland waterways in Rupert's Land and the Columbia District. The express brigades also used these boats, although they did not carry bulk cargo. The boats were named after their destination: York Factory headquarters of the HBC, and were modeled after Orkney Islands fishing boats (themselves a descendant of the Viking long boat). York Boats were preferable to the canoes, used by North West Company Voyageurs as a cargo carriers, because of its larger size, greater capacity, and improved stability in rough water. The boat's heavy wood construction also gave it an advantage in travelling through rocks or ice; it was more resistant to tears and punctures. That advantage became a disadvantage, though, when portaging was necessary. The boat was far too heavy to carry, and it was necessary instead to cut a path through the brush, lay poplar rollers, and laboriously drag the boat overland. The mountainous terrain of the Pacific Northwest necessitated the regular use of pack horses over significant portions of the fur brigade routes.

A style of boat slightly different from the York boat was made specifically for use in the Columbia District and constructed on the Columbia River. In 1811 the American Pacific Fur Company introduced the use of bateaux on the Columbia River, heavy boats made of split or sawn cedar. After the NWC took over the PFC the practice of using bateaux was quickly adopted, birch bark canoes having proved too dangerous on the rivers of the Pacific Northwest. In the 1820 Joe McKay of the HBC described the Columbia District bateaux as "made from quarter-inch pine board, and are thirty-two feet long, and six and a half feet wide in midships, with both ends sharp, and without a keel—worked, according to the circumstances of the navigation, with paddles, or with oars."

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