Princess Margurite underway on the Strait of Juan de Fuca. Photo: Dave Wilkie

Princess Margurite underway on the Strait of Juan de Fuca. Photo: Dave Wilkie

Two large new steamships were constructed by the Fairfield Company, Glasgow at the cost of about $4,000,000 each for the B.C. Coast Service of the Canadian Pacific. Princess Marguerite II and her sister Princess Patricia II were of 5911 tons with dimensions of 373.10 x 56.1 x 15.8. Both were powered by twin-screw steam turbo-electric drive. Four oil-fired water tube boilers working at 320 pounds pressure provided steam. They were capable of 23-knots. Designed for day service, including the Seattle-Victoria-Vancouver international triangle run during the summer months, each were fitted to accommodate 2,000 day passengers though equipped with limited stateroom facilities. The space thus gained made possible extremely spacious and comfortable public rooms.

The Princess who became a Queen

The first of these handsome two funnel liners, Princess Marguerite II (named for the older CPR steamer torpedoed during world War I) arrived at Esquimalt on April 16, 1949 after her 9,500-mile voyage from Scotland. Upon her arrival, the new Princess liner, commanded by Captain George A Thomson, was boarded off the William Head quarantine station by a delegation of British Columbia dignitaries, CPR officials, journalists, and photographers. (?) The party steamed down the Strait of Juan de Fuca aboard the tug Island Navigator as guests of HB Elworthy, president of Island Tug & Barge Co. Captain Oliver J Williams, manager of the railway company’s BC Coast Service, returned on the Marguerite, having accepted her for the company at Glasgow. (?)

She entered on the Triangle Route passenger trade in April 1949, a route she faithfully served for 25 consecutive years. Princesses Marguerite II and her sister Patricia II maintained a three hour and 50 minute schedule between Seattle and Victoria.

In September, at the close of the 1974 season Canadian Pacific Steamships announced summer sailings of the handsome turbine steamship “Maggie” as Princess Marguerite II was fondly known, would not be resumed in 1975. The company cited accrued losses of about $300,000 over the previous three years, and the highly inflated cost of bunker fuel as reasons for laying her up. Immediate and eventually successful efforts were launched to have the vessel purchased by the provincial government for continued service on her traditional route.

Princess Marguerite II, her Victoria terminal, and 8.7 acres of Victoria Inner Harbour property were acquired for $2.47 million. An additional $500,000 was expended on extensive renovations to the vessel at Burrard Dry Dock. She emerged as trim and as pleasing to the eye as at any time in her career. Her hull was painted sparkling white down to the lower rubbing strake; then black to the waterline, the black and white being separated by a bronze band. Her upper works were bronze and her two black-capped funnels were distinctively painted in Union Jack livery. Even more striking was her new interior. Her second car deck was converted to a handsomely appointed lounge to comfortably accommodate 200 passengers. The dining salon was completely refurbished with indirect lighting complementing the white linen-covered tables and deep maroon chairs. Other niceties included a specially designed babies’ changing room. To the delight of “Maggie’s” many fans, tourists and Victoria merchants, Princess Marguerite returned to her Seattle-Victoria summer run for her 26th season in early June of 1975.

She carried Premier Dave Barrett of British Columbia, Governor Dan Evans of Washington State, and 1,000 passengers. It was reported at the end of the season that she had made an operating profit of about $100,000, compared to the accrued loss of $272,000 reported by Canadian Pacific over the previous three years, although the question of profit or loss appears to depend on whose bookkeeping figures one accepts as accurate.

Four years later, in 1979 Princess Marguerite II was officially retired. In the summer of 1980 the BC Ferries MV Queen of Prince Rupert was renamed Victoria Princess and, echoing the Union Jack livery attempted to sail in Maggie’s wake. o “Maggie’s” loyal public’s response to this more utilitarian vessel, saw her returned to BC Ferries and “Maggie” was once again refurbished and returned to service for the 1981 summer season.

In 1987 Stena had purchased from BC Ferries the Vancouver Island Princess, formerly the CPR’s Princess of Vancouver, and ran her in tandem with Princess Marguerite. In 1988 BCSC was sold for $6 million to the B.C. Stena Line, a subsidiary of the Swedish ferry operator Stena.

In 1987 the B.C. Stena Line, a subsidiary of the Swedish ferry operator Stena purchased Vancouver Island Princess, formerly the CPR’s Princess of Vancouver, from BC Ferries and ran her in tandem with Princess Marguerite II. In 1988 BCSC was to the B.C. Stena Line sold for $6 million.

In 1989 the Princess Marguerite, the last, and certainly the best loved of the long line of coastal steamers that served the BC coast for over a century was withdrawn from service. In 1990 BC Stena Line went out of business. In 1990 the British Columbia government gave approval for the sale of Princess Marguerite II to the My Kris Hotels Group of Bristol, England, pending the court release of a claim by the Canadian Merchant Service Guild for unpaid severance pay for former ship’s officers. Upon settlement, the vessel was transported to Singapore where UK-based Sea Containers purchased her. In 1992 she was converted to a Singapore-based gambling ship. In 1997, after a long and colourful life, she was scrapped at Alang, India.