The History of a
Canadian Fishing Icon
The Canadian Princess, previously the William J. Stewart, was considered one of the finest coastal crafts in Canada and made an important contribution to the safety of mariners in her 43 years of service (1932-1975) as a hydrographic survey ship.
She was built in Collingwood, Ontario in 1932 to replace the hydrographic vessel "Lilooet" of 1908. In her early days, the Stewart had a cruising range of 3,600 miles (15 days) and her cruising speed was 10 knots with an 11 knot top speed. The vessel was named to honour William J. Stewart, the first Canadian Chief Hydrographer who served in that position (with great integrity and skill) from 1904 to 1925. The ship normally operated in the field from mid-April to mid-October (due to winter’s temperament) working the entire British Columbia coast out of her home port in Victoria. She carried a crew of 55 and 7 officers.
During World War II, she was given top-secret assignments for the Royal Canadian Navy. She also placed defence booms and made surroundings for suitable anchorages for navy ships.
In 1944, she struck Ripple Rock as she was passing through Seymour Narrows near Campbell River. After striking the rock, she was rushed to nearby Plumper Bay (3 miles) where she was breached to avoid sinking. She was given a 40 degree list by the tide and lay imbedded on her side in the mud necessitating that she be put on an even keel before any attempt could be made to re-float her. Damage included a major rip in the bottom of the ship and extensive damage to the ship’s interior due to the beaching. The re-floating operation took almost a month and was one of the most difficult undertaken by marine salvagers.
Her last job was at Ucluelet in Barkley Sound in 1975, but the survey was terminated due to lack of funds. The ship arrived back in Victoria on September 20, 1975 and has not sailed since.
In 1979, the William J. Stewart was purchased by the Oak Bay Marine Group of Victoria, renamed the Canadian Princess and refurbished. She was then towed to Ucluelet harbour where she now operates as a floating salmon fishing resort.