Ucluelet locals gathered around the inner boat basin on Sept. 30 to watch the iconic 70-metre hydrographic vessel turned resort Canadian Princess tugged out of town. The Princess had proudly sat in Ucluelet’s harbour since 1980 and served as a launching pad for Ucluelet’s tourist boom and a steady source of local employment.

Behest of the West: For those about to fish, we salute her

The Canadian Princess was tugged out of town in front of a somber crowd that gathered around Ucluelet's harbour on Sept. 30.

She did not arrive in 1979.

The Canadian Princess was tugged out of town in front of a somber crowd at Ucluelet’s harbour on Sept. 30. Locals were warned she was leaving months prior but that didn’t dull the pain of watching her go.

The Oak Bay Marine Group held a poorly advertised ceremony on Sept. 20 that would have drawn a much larger crowd had more people known it was happening. Several key players spoke, including OBMG brass, Ucluelet’s mayor and the new resort’s general manager.

The resort seems to be in good hands and its owners have assured they are committed to the property. But, the ship is gone now and the inner boat basin, and drive into town, will never look the same.

It’s unclear why all the media and promotional materials about her confidently state she arrived here in 1979 but, thanks to this newspaper’s archives, we know she actually settled here on May 27, 1980. This newspaper—then dubbed the Westcoaster—had the scoop. She was tugged in by Andy Garcia whose deft maneuvering earned the headline ‘Princess winkled in slickly.’

“There were no mishaps as the big ship was eased around the corner of the sandbar and into her mooring at high tide Tuesday morning,” the unidentified reporter wrote adding the ship had arrived “at the mouth of Ucluelet Inlet at dawn on Monday.”

A crew reportedly spent Monday removing her ballast and lightening her load for the final stretch.

“It was tricky business faced with a 9.5 foot high tide, barely enough to float her in through the relatively narrow channel,” the reporter reported. “Residents of Ucluelet stood or sat on the shore watching to see whether the two small tugs could handle her. At about 9:30 a.m., stern first, the Princess inched in. Soon she was tied to her eternal resting place.”

Our archives are blank from then until May 6, 1981, when the weekly Wednesday newspaper reported the local Recreational Baseball Association was trying to send Ukee Days “the way of Clayoquot Days in Tofino” because of the damage the festival was doing to the ball field. That move was evaded and we’d obviously never consider moving Ukee Days away from its home nowadays. If you recently moved here, that quip sailed past your perview but, suffice to say, this town’s history repeats itself.

An interesting tidbit within the Princess piece is that the reporter marked a somber mood at her arrival.

“The Canadian Princess was taken out of Victoria about noon Sunday being hauled ignominiously by a big tug,” it reads. “It was a ghostly and sad last trip for her through Barclay Sound and the Broken Islands as in her proud years she had chartered these very waters”

The spots Ucluelet gathered to watch the princess ignominiously  hauled away last week were the same spots they had gathered to watch her arrive. It was a ghostly and sad trip for her out of our inlet as, in her proud years, she had been the jewel that brought popularity to our waters.

This newspaper hasn’t been able to nail down exactly where she’s going but local rumours suggest she’s set to become someone’s home in a different community. If that’s the case, a reporter is about to write about a unique new residence being tugged into her eternal resting place. Here’s hoping she winkles in slickly.

She has been heralded as the mother of our tourist season. The first major resort to put Ucluelet on the map. It seems ironic enough to note that she was pulled away from us a week before Ucluelet hosted Tourism Vancouver Island’s annual conference. We’re a key player in the game now; thanks to her. Let’s raise our glasses and thank her for the future she sailed us towards.

Andrew Bailey is the editor of the Westerly News.