Ucluelet residents lined the shore to bid goodbye to the Canadian Princess as it was towed away to be dismantled on the mainland.
“It was really exciting, sad, fun. A mixture of feelings, for sure,” Mayor Dianne St. Jacques said Monday.
“It changed the face of tourism at the time when it came in.”
Hundreds of people waved goodbye to the ship late Friday morning. The vessel had been brought to Ucluelet in 1979, at a time when that community’s economy relied on fishing and forestry.
Oak Bay Marine Group founder Bob Wright, who died in 2013, made a wise bet that the community on Vancouver Island’s west coast was ripe for tourism.
He bought the 1932 William J. Stewart, once used to collect data for coastal charts. In 1944, it hit Ripple Rock near Campbell River and was seriously damaged.
Wright had the ship refurbished and opened it as a floating resort with staterooms, a restaurant and fishing charters.
“Bob Wright came in with the Canadian Princess and a real focus was put on visitors — and it was sport fishing, of course,” St. Jacques said.
“Certainly, we have grown since then and expanded on many different fronts. But in the Eighties, it really made a change to the community.”
The resort provided work to many local families along with college and university students, St. Jacques said.
The mayor first worked on the ship as a server in the restaurant in the early 1980s. “It was so much fun.”
Later, she returned to the company and became general manager of the resort.
Brook Castelsky, Oak Bay Marine Group’s chief operating officer, said the Canadian Princess resort was set up to make fishing affordable for everyone. Guests in groups of 15 to 20 would go out fishing in 50-foot vessels.
Later, the Canadian Princess Lodge was developed on land with 40-plus rooms.
The Oak Bay Marine Group has decided to focus on its marinas, restaurants and attractions in Oregon, and put its three resorts up for sale this year.
All have sold. The Canadian Princess Lodge was purchased by the Se family of Nanaimo. The sale did not include the ship.
When the vessel was towed away from Ucluelet, “it was bittersweet,” Castelsky said.
The company has arranged for the ship to be dismantled by professionals, he said.
But some pieces of the vessel remain in Ucluelet.
Items were donated by Oak Bay Marine Group to the Ucluelet Historical Society, which is hoping to have a permanent exhibit in the former house of the Amphitrite Point lighthouse keeper.
“They were pretty generous,” said Pieter Timmermans, a historical society director.
Donations include ship log books, a wooden plaque with brass instrument gauges, a photograph of the ship as the William J. Stewart, and a binnacle (a stand for navigation instruments) with a compass.