September 17, 2010 | Tips from Travellers >
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My room had a view of the small craft harbour in Ucluelet, BC. I could see the recreational fishing boats, and the commercial ones, sail boats, yachts and in the foreground, shining white in the morning sunshine there was the Canadian Princess.
The Canadian Princess, formerly the William J. Stewart, a hydrographic vessel, was built in 1932 in Collingwood Ontario. The ship was named after the first ever Canadian Hydrographer, William J. Stewart. The vessel worked up and down the entire British Columbia coast out of the port in Victoria, carrying a crew of 55 with 7 officers.
The Royal Canadian Navy gave her top-secret assignments during World War II, placed defence booms and made surroundings for suitable anchorages for other navy ships.
In 1944 she hit Ripple Rock in Seymour Narrows near Campbell River. She was breached in Plumber Bay, 3 miles away, to avoid sinking but the damage was done. With a major rip on the bottom of the ship she lay imbedded on her side in the mud until salvagers could restore her. When they finally got her to float, over a month later, she returned to work as a surveyor until 1975. Her last assignment was in Barkley Sound, outside of Ucluelet.
She stayed moored in Victoria until 1979 when she was purchased by Oak Bay Marine Group. The William J. Stewart was refurbished, towed to the Ucluelet Inner Boat Basin and transformed into floating hotel accommodation, a restaurant and lounge, and a sport fishing resort – renamed The Canadian Princess.
I had a tour of the inside of the Canadian Princess. I followed the pipes along the ceiling, ducking through doorways to have a look at the bunk-style rooms. The rooms were clean and cozy, loaded with natural character with neatly made beds and porthole windows looking into Ucluelet’s harbour. Guests were comfortable there, just as a crew would have been almost 70 years ago!
The bathrooms in the ship are shared, separate for men and women. Some had large bathtubs standing on bear claws, most likely the originals.
Guests can stay in the old Captains Quarters, located behind the Bridge of the ship. Inside is a small bedroom, a living area with kitchenette and a separate bathroom complete with what I would consider a historic bathtub!
Inside the Canadian Princess is a full service restaurant: The Stewart Room. That offers west coast cuisine for breakfast, lunch and dinner, including an incredibly early fisherman’s buffet breakfast that starts at 4:30AM for the guests departing on fishing charters each morning at 6:00AM.
Upstairs is the Chart Room, a bar and lounge with patio seating on the deck of the ship with a great view of the working harbour. From the deck I could see the Canadian Princess fishing charters lined up for the evening on the dock that surrounds the ship. The resort itself owns 10 cabin cruisers, each take out a morning fishing charter for salmon and halibut, and if the weather is cooperative, an afternoon and evening trip as well.
I stayed in an on-shore room. The Canadian Princess Resort has three hotel-style buildings, with most rooms offering a water view, and all with a walk out deck or patio.
During the summer season the ship is open for anyone to come and have a look. The staff will share the history of this iconic ship, and to give you a tour onboard. Next time you’re in Ucluelet look to the boat basin for the Canadian Princess, you can’t miss it.
The picture is the view from my onshore room.