The Sea Lion is British Columbia's oldest tugboat and like most things that have survived a long time, there are some black marks on her history.

Like the time in 1914 when the Sea Lion was hired to escort the Komagata Maru out of Burrard Inlet, sending 376 East Indian Migrants back to an uncertain future.

As recently as two years ago, it looked like the Sea Lion's link to the Komagata Maru would be its saviour.

The Komagata Maru Heritage Foundation agreed to purchase the Sea Lion.

However that arrangement has since fallen apart and the Sea Lion is once again up for sale.

A public auction has been scheduled for May 22, meaning the tugboat will likely be sold to the highest bidder,said Alyn Edwards, a spokesman for the Sea Lion's current owners.

He said the boat could go for anywhere between $1,000 and $500,000.

For a piece of floating history like the Sea Lion, an unreserved auction is very risky proposition.

There's a real possibility she could be purchased for a song and then broken up and sold for scrap. That would be a pity.

In the last eight years the current owner has spent $500,000 on upgrades to the ship.

The conversion from a work boat to a luxurious pleasure cruiser has been done with skill and attention to detail.

The Sea Lion is currently moored at the Vancouver Maritime Museum, an organization that would seem like the natural guardians of this historic vessel.

But the future of the museum is as uncertain as the boat. "To my knowledge, the owner has not heard from the provincial government,'' said Edwards.

"I don't think people know this vessel has a very questionable future if it's got a future at all,'' he said.

What will probably happen is nothing until it's too late, leaving British Columbians wringing their collective hands, mourning the loss of a piece of valuable history, and lamenting the fact that we didn't do anything to save the Sea Lion when we had the chance.