The Maquinna Princess

The ‘Maquinna’ plied local waters

Elida Peers writes stories about the history of the Sooke region

My only memory of the Maquinna, the legendary “good ship Princess Maquinna” that served as a lifeline for Vancouver Island’s west coast, was in 1950, when I waved to friends on board as the vessel sailed from the CPR dock in Victoria. Engines throbbing, the ship set off in the darkness to serve the logging camps and canneries of the coast.

The ship sailed at 11 p.m., heading for Port Renfrew, the first of its many stops at small ports on its journey northward to Port Alice. Carrying passengers and cargo, the ship’s arrival at each stop brought out the villagers in greeting, as they looked forward to news from the outside world. Records tell us that the ship made three trips a month, and in the busier summer season, it’s workload was aided by the Princess Norah.

The ship was part of the Canadian Pacific Railway’s “Princess fleet,” pocket liners that provided many of the amenities of ocean liners but on a lesser scale. With their white linen tablecloths and gleaming silver, these steamships introduced just a touch of luxury to many whose lives were restricted to the limited comforts of camp life.

Captain Edward Gillam was master of the vessel for many years.  His skill at navigating through dense fog, bringing the sturdy double-bottomed vessel safely through the gales of the storm-lashed shores, “the graveyard of the Pacific,” has earned him a special place in the annals of the west coast of Vancouver Island.

Named for the daughter of famous Chief Maquinna, the vessel was part of a fleet of more than a dozen Princess liners. Built in 1913 at BC Marine Railway Company’s yard in Esquimalt (later to become Yarrows Ltd.) the vessel brought a welcome beacon to the west coast until 1952.  By that time logging roads and rail connections had networked access to remote villages on the island, reducing the need for marine routes.

Among those onboard to enjoy the last sailing of the Maquinna were Fred and Elsie Thornber, a Sooke business family. Jim and Elsie Arden, who were running a logging outfit based at the settlement of Nahmint, recall waving to them as the ship sailed by.  As a glorious part of our island history ended, it is a bit sad to note that the good ship was converted in 1953 to serve as the barge Taku.

Elida Peers,

Historian

Sooke Region Museum

Just Posted

Autism support dog helps Langford boy hold his head high

Family shares story for Autism Awareness Month

Give your immunity a boost for National Immunization Awareness Week

Immunize Canada calls on Canadians to stay up to date with their immunizations

Bear sightings historically rare in Langford: City staff

51 bear complaints or sightings in last year

Families hop over to Easter celebrations at Millstream Village

Annual Easter Eggstravaganza had lineups before 11 a.m.

Parishioners bear the weight of a large wooden cross on Good Friday

Good Friday Passion Procession winds through streets of Victoria

Victoria church bells toll in solidarity with Notre Dame Cathedral after devastating fire

Churches around the globe ring bells to honour iconic Paris cathedral

B.C. RCMP receive application for Police Cat Services

RCMP announced the launch of the Police Cat Services unit as an April fools joke

Kirkland Signature veggie burgers recalled due to possible metal fragments

Recalled products came in 1.7 kg packages with a best before date of Apr. 23, 2019

Parents of 13 who tortured children get life after hearing victims

One of their daughters fled their home and pleaded for help to a 911 operator

Flooding, climate change force Quebecers to rethink relationship with water

Compensation for victims of recurring floods limit to 50% of a home’s value, or a maximum of $100,000

Storms blast South, where tornadoes threaten several states

9.7 million people in the Carolinas and Virginia at a moderate risk of severe weather

Private cargo ship brings Easter feast to the space station

There are three Americans two Russians and one Canadian living on the space station

Notre Dame rector: “Computer glitch” possible fire culprit

The fire burned through the lattice of oak beams supporting the monument’s vaulted stone ceiling

B.C. senior sentenced for sexually abusing special-needs granddaughter

73-year-old Cortes Island man will go to jail for three years

Most Read