For 36 years The Canadian Princess has been creating the kind of memories that never leave you.
Long before the tourists swarmed to the rugged shores of BC’s westernmost coast and the resort towns of Ucluelet and Tofino began to grow, The Canadian Princess was hosting visitors from around the world.
The year was 1980 and the dream was to provide affordable fishing excursions that would make the sport accessible to everyone. Unlike other more exclusive lodges, the idea of attracting people to fish from boats that held 14 and 22 passengers was relatively untried, and somewhat risky.
But it worked.
The custom-made covered Delta boats were comfortable, affordable, and perfect for the west coast. The local skippers and deckhands who grew up on the surrounding waters were expert guides, and the fish were abundant. Word quickly spread that fishing together with your family or a group of friends was an incredibly memorable and unique bonding experience. When someone shouted “Fish On!” everybody celebrated.
They flew in from Vancouver and beyond by the thousands each season, spending their days on the water and their nights trading fish stories or lamenting the one that got away. Year after year previous guests returned and new ones came aboard. They fished. They watched the mighty migration of twenty thousand grey whales each spring. They dined, and after a night’s rest, they woke before the sun each day, excited to do it all over again.
Imagine a place like that over three decades ago. The wildest scenery on the coast. The friendliest people. The experienced Captains, Deckhands and Guides with legendary local knowledge and tales to tell.
Imagine it now.
The same rich tradition, but even better.
The Canadian Princess, previously named 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, renamed, and refurbished by the Oak Bay Marine Group of Victoria. She was then towed to Ucluelet harbour where she is permanently moored and used for dining and meeting space in an historic nautical setting at the Canadian Princess Fishing Lodge.