The History of Vancouver’s Second-Most Famous Barge: McBarge

We’ve all been there: enjoying a family pack of chicken nuggets after a hard day at the office (get it, girl!), elbow deep in sweet-and-sour dipping sauce, wondering why, in this day and age, are we not able to have this sort of fulfilling fast-food experience…at sea?!

It’s frustrating, because though today we’re forced to consume our all-beef patties, land-locked like idiots, McDonald’s was once on the forefront of ocean-burger technology. During Expo 86, the fast-food giant opened up a state-of-the-art floating bistro in Vancouver: at 187 feet long, the grand dame McBarge—a.k.a. the Friendship 500—proudly hosted 12,000 people a day, none of whom were me, thanks to a cruel twist of fate in which I was not alive yet. Staff allegedly described the food experience as “performance art,” which is not the kind of pride I see today from the stoned teens messing up my hangover-breakfast order. (I said a McMuffin with a hashbrown instead of sausage and then two more hashbrowns instead of the English muffin! I don’t see what’s so hard about this!)

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After Expo, the restaurant was towed to Burrard Inlet, where it languished for decades, to the disappointment of sea-legged McDLT fans but to the delight of mischievous rowboat owners. Suggestions for repurposing this waterlogged architectural wonder have bubbled to the surface throughout the years—maybe it could be a homeless shelter, or a new Capilano campus, or a house for me and all my friends on a reality show called Boat Buds: Ocean Commotion—but the McBarge’s future lies with its current owner, maverick businessman Howard Meakin. In 2015, he towed it to Maple Ridge, and now he is currently attempting to raise $4.5 million to convert it into a Deep Sea Discovery Centre, a museum celebrating Canada’s advancements in undersea technology. Want to support this sadly-non-nugget-themed endeavour? Contribute to Meakin’s crowdfunding campaign and receive rewards like “McBarge mementos,” which presumably are just calcified Filet-O-Fish sandwiches: a little piece of Vancouver history to call your own.

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Originally published April 2018