Ucluelet’s Canadian Princess has been shut down and will be towed out of town.
“Obviously it’s sad to see the Canadian Princess go, she’s been here since 1979. I spent many years myself working there,” Ucluelet mayor Dianne St. Jacques told the Westerly News. “It’s sad but change is something that’s a constant for all of us and we have to embrace it and move forward.”
The 70-metre Ontario-built vessel was originally dubbed the William J. Stewart and served as a hydrographic survey ship from 1932-1975. She was purchased by Bob Wright of the Oak Bay Marine Group (OBMG) in 1979 and towed from Victoria to Ucluelet where she was transformed into a resort, restaurant and lounge.
“The investment that Bob Wright made in those days was big in the tourism side and really kicked off the tourism activity in the region,” St. Jacques said adding business has slowed since the resort’s heyday.
“The number of people that they employed in the past was probably close to 150 during the [tourist] season, when they had the Wick Restaurant as well, but last year they were down to around 50 people and a lot of those were folks that came in from out of town so it had changed as time progressed here,” St. Jacques said.
She said OBMG’s chief operating officer visited Ucluelet to bring local leaders up to speed on the company’s plans to remove the vessel and sell the resort’s onshore accommodation.
“They are going to be closing down their marine operations and their food and beverage [services] and their plan is to remove the Canadian Princess from our inner harbour,” she said.
“She’s an old ship, she’s an environmental liability and they are obligated to take care of that; they can’t just leave it.”
She said the Princess’ onshore accommodation, which features 46 units, would continue to operate and OBMG has found a buyer to take it on.
“I think it’s terrific that a new buyer is coming along, somebody with some funds to put some capital into those buildings because they are old now and they need some love,” she said.
“It will be fun to see what kind of positive changes are made over there and we look forward to meeting with them and we’ll certainly welcome them to the community.”
OBMG has put all three of its Vancouver Island resorts on the market as it looks to get out of the accommodation game.
“They’re getting out of all the accommodation resort type activities on Vancouver Island and they’re going to focus on marinas, which they have a number of,” St. Jacques said.
“I thank them very much for all the years that they have participated in Ucluelet and in our economy. It’s been a great ride with them for sure but we respect that they’re making a change and a shift with their business.”
She said an event would be scheduled prior to the Princess’ departure to give the vessel a proper sendoff and locals a chance to say goodbye.
“It will be a sad day when she leaves the harbour, there’s no question about it, she has been a little beacon down there and we’re used to seeing her there,” she said.
“She was a big milestone when she came in and it will be a big milestone when she pulls out. We certainly feel sad about it but we’ve got to turn that page and keep on trucking.”
She assured tourists will continue to flock to the community and the Princess’ departure will create opportunities for smaller companies to lure in fishers, shoppers and diners.
“There will be an impact but at the same time I think it provides opportunities,” she said.
“People are going to be looking at where to go out in a boat and where to go shopping so, I think, for the established people that are here that business will get deflected to them…There’s opportunities for new businesses to step in and pick up that slack.”