York Boats

Replica of a York boat afloat on the Bigstone River at Cumberland House, August 1993.
Greg Marchildon and Sid Robinson photo

York boats were first made at York Factory by the Hudson’s Bay Company (HBC) for use in the fur trade. They were later made at inland HBC trading posts, and had a competitive advantage over canoes for transporting furs and supplies along the river systems and particularly on large lakes. By the 1790s they were used extensively. York boats were about 12 m long and almost 3 m across, and could carry over 2,500 kg; the crew consisted of up to ten people. A sail was used when wind conditions were favourable on the lakes. York boats were heavy, required log-rolling portages, and had a short life span due to the rough conditions on the rivers. The HBC hired Orkney Island boat builders to work in the posts where these boats were made. York boats were no longer in use after the early 1920s.

Bob Ivanochko