A Grand old Lady Retires

By Margaret Growcott

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The Lady Rose was featured in Senior Living magazine's premiere issue over six years ago. As she retires and sets sail for a new adventure, Senior Living’s staff bids her farewell with fond memories of their own launch.

The M.V. Lady Rose officially retired last year after faithfully serving the outlying communities of the Alberni Inlet for 60 years.

Designed for the coastal waters of British Columbia, this stocky little vessel was built in Glasgow in 1937 and originally named “Lady Sylvia.” She could carry up to 100 passengers and 25 tons of cargo. After her maiden journey across the Atlantic to Vancouver in May 1937, she was renamed “Lady Rose” and made her debut on the West Howe Sound run from Vancouver to the Sunshine Coast.

Wartime saw the hardworking Lady Rose in service for the Royal Canadian Army Service Corps when she carried army and air force personnel, as well as freight, between Port Alberni and Ucluelet. In 1946, she returned to the Union Steamship Company and the Howe Sound services.

Then came a stint when the Lady Rose was chartered by Coast Ferries Ltd. and operated between the Gulf Islands and Steveston on the Fraser River. After being sent to the north end of Vancouver Island, she finally made it back to Port Alberni under lease to Alberni Marine Transportation Ltd in 1960. In 1982, Alberni Marine Transportation Ltd. became known as Lady Rose Marine Services.

The Lady Rose continued maritime history by servicing the Alberni Inlet and Barkley Sound, carrying cargo, mail and passengers on her day trips just as she did when she began serving the B.C. coast.

In winter months, the Lady Rose worked the Alberni Inlet every Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday to Bamfield and during the summer months on Monday, Wednesday and Friday to Ucluelet and Broken Group Islands. The M.V. Frances Barkley joined her in 1990 and the two vessels shared the workload.

First stop on the Bamfield route was at the floating Kildonan Post Office, a former fish cannery, where some enterprising West Coast residents have built their homes and businesses. Hikers of the famous West Coast Trail disembarked at Bamfield.

On the sailing to Ucluelet, a stop was made at Sechart Lodge (a former whaling station) where many passengers disembark with canoes, kayaks and camping gear for the Broken Group Islands.

A working packet freighter, the Lady Rose transported building supplies, groceries, fuel, equipment and mail for residents and businesses such as logging camps, tree planters, prawn fishermen, fishing guides, lodges and the Native community.

Mike Surrell, current owner of Lady Rose Marine Services, says the Lady Rose has not been in service for four years owing to her deteriorating condition. Too expensive to refurbish, the vessel was put up for sale two years ago during which time offers came in from other countries. These were declined because Mike wanted to keep the Lady Rose in the area. He was pleased when Jamie’s Whaling Station in Tofino purchased the ship.

Mike says the main function of the Lady Rose, and now the Frances Barkley, is summer tourism and, in the winter, tours and freight giving service to the Alberni Inlet and all the outlying communities towards the ocean. Without the Lady Rose Marine Service, it would be difficult for these communities to function.

En route, the skipper gives commentary on landmarks down the inlet, points of interest and wildlife. Common sights are various whales, including orca, grey and humpback, sea lions and seals, sea otters, bears, bald eagles and many other coastal birds.

Most of the employees, particularly the skippers and engineers, are semi-retired; some previously worked for B.C. Ferries.

At the time of publication, The Lady Rose could still be seen at the harbour in Port Alberni awaiting her new home in Tofino. Her next job will be as The Lady Rose but this time as a '30s-style floating restaurant.

For further information, call 250-723-8313 or visit www.ladyrosemarine.com



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Showing 1 to 2 of 2 comments.

We lived at sarita river in 1963. The lady Rose brought our mail and groceries . It was a great sight to see the ship come into Sarita.

Posted by Larry and Georgie Dockendorff | September 6, 2014 Report Violation

Is the Lady Rose now a floating restaurant, we had read it would be, but in Port Alberni. Would you mind sending the restaurant hours and days open for business. We would love to come for lunch or dinner. I noticed the date on this publication is 2010. If there is any information you could e-mail us we would appreciate it very much.

Posted by Grace Gordon | March 27, 2013 Report Violation

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