Canadian Pacific Navigation Company Ltd. poster
Captain William Moore ran a ferry service under contract with the Hudson’s Bay Company (HBC) across the Strait of Georgia between Victoria and New Westminster. In response to Moore’s 1882 bankruptcy, John Irving and R.P. Rithet joined with Alexandro Munro, HBC’s chief factor, and other prominent businessmen to incorporate the Canadian Pacific Navigation Company (CPN) in 1883. The HBC contributed three of its vessels to the CPN fleet including the Princess Louise while Irving contributed four, including the stern wheeler R.P. Rithet.
The company, headquartered in Victoria, operated side wheel, stern wheel, and later screw driven steamboats. The company operated a total of 26 steamboats over its lifespan with a maximum fleet of 14 ships serving 72 ports with scheduled service on seven routes:
- daily between Victoria and Vancouver;
- three trips a week between Victoria and Westminster;
- three trips a month between Victoria and West Coast;
- three trips a month between Victoria, Vancouver and northern BC ports;
- two trips a month between Victoria, Vancouver and Alaska.
There were also daily trips between New Westminster, Ladner and Stevenston with three trips weekly between New Westminster and Chilliwack.
In 1901 the Canadian Pacific Railway (CPR) purchased controlling interest in CPN and it became the British Columbia Coast Steamship service, a division of the CPR.
Vessels are numbered in sequence of acquisition for service. Bracketed name indicates the second or third vessel with that name. Square brackets indicate a re-name.
1 Otter 1852
The first propeller-driven steamer on the North Pacific. Wooden screw steamboat. 291 tons gross. 125’ x 22’ x 12’. two direct-acting condensing engines 18” x 26”. Built by Green, Wigrams, and Green at Blackwall, England for HBC. Purchased by CPN in 1883. Converted to a barge in 1885, sold and broken up in 1890.
2. Enterprise 1861
Wooden side-wheel steamboat. 380 tons gross. 142.25’ x 27.2’ x 6.9’ Walking beam engine 30” x 26” Built at San Francisco. Purchased by HBC in 1862. Sold to CPN in 1883. Sunk in collision with the R.P. Rithet near Cadboro Point July 1885
3. Princess Louise 1869 ex-Olympia
Wooden side-wheel steamboat. 932 tons gross 180’ x s0’ x 13’ Walking beam engine, 350 hp Built at New York. Purchased by HBC in 1878. Renamed Princess Louise in 1879. Purchased by CPN in 1883. Registered in the name of the CPN March 23, 1903. Sold 1906 and converted into a barge. Sunk at Port Alice in 1919.
4. Reliance 1876
Wooden stern wheel 16” x 54” 110 hp steamboat, 219 tons, 122 x 23 x 4.8 feet, built at Victoria for Captain William Irving. Dismantled in 1895.
5. William Irving 1880
Wooden stern wheel 18” x 72” steamboat 737 tons gross, 166.3 x 34.5 x 4.4 feet. Built at Moodyville, Burrard Inlet for John Irving. Wrecked 1894.
6. R.P. Rithet 1882
Wooden stern wheel 20” x 60” steamboat, 817 tons gross. 177.0 x 33.6 x 8.5 feet. Built at Victoria for Captain John Irving. Purchased by Canadian Pacific Navigation Company 1909. Converted into a barge in 1917
7. Western Slope 1879
Wooden stern wheel 20” x 60” steamboat, 831 tons gross. 156.0 x 26.5 x 8.0 feet. Built at Victoria for Captain William Moore. Purchased by CPN 1883 Converted into a barge 1891 Broken up in 1895
8. Maude 1872
Wooden steamboat, 175 tons gross. 113.5 x 21.0 x 9.0 feet. Built for Captain Joseph Spratt. Hull launched on San Juan Island, towed to Victoria and fitted out. Originally a side-wheeler, converted into a barge in 1884 Fitted with a compound engine 9” – 18” – 20” in 1885 Sold to BC Salvage Company and converted into a salvage vessel in 1903 Broken up in 1914
9. Wilson G. Hunt 1848
See Pioneer Line
10. Gertrude 1875
Wooden stern wheel 16” x 54” steamboat of 301 tons gross. 120.0 x 21.0 x 5.0 feet. Built at Victoria for Captain William Moore, Purchased by CPN in 1883 and laid up. Registry closed in 1887
11. Yosemite 1862
Wooden side-wheel 16” x 54” walking beam steamboat of 1525 tons gross. 282.3 x 34.9 x 13.2 feet. Maximum speed 17 knots. Built at Portero near San Francisco for the Sacramento River trade. Purchased by CPN in 1883 Registered in the name Canadian Pacific in 1903 Sold to American purchasers in 1906 Wrecked near Bremerton in 1909
12. Charmer ex-Premier 1887
Steel single screw 1,300 ihp triple expansion steamboat with a service speed of 13 knots, Built at San Francisco. Re-named Charmer in 1894 Registered with CPN in 1903 Sold to H.B. Elworthy in 1935 Broken in 1935
13. Sardonyx 1869
Iron single screw compound engine steamboat, 561 tons gross. 170.0 x 24.4 x 13.8 feet. Built at Greenock, Scotland. Brought to the BC coast in 1882 Purchased by CPN in 1887. Wrecked on uncharted reef between Skidegate Harbour and Rose Spit 1890
14. Islander 1888
Steel twin-screw triple expansion 3,600 ihp steamboat. 1,495 tons gross. 240.0 x 42.0 x 14.0 Maximum speed 15 knots, Built at Glasgow, Scotland for CPN. Foundered off Douglas Island, Alaska 1901 after striking a reef or an iceberg
Wooden side-wheel 36” x 72” walking beam steamboat. 430 tons gross, 150.0 x 26.0 x 8.5 feet. Built at San Francisco for Sacramento River trade. Purchased by CPN in 1890 Laid up until she was broken in 1895.
16. Rainbow ex-Teaser [Eva Marie] 1884
Wooden single-screw compound steamboat. 152 tons gross 83.0 17.8 x 7.2 feet. Built at Victoria for Captain William Moore. Lengthened and renamed Rainbow in 1887 with new dimensions 108.0 x 18.4 x 6.7 feet, 207 tons. Purchased by CPN in 1890. Dismantled in 1890 with engine going to Otter (2) Sold in 1903 to Captain Victor Jacobsen and converted into a sealing schooner renamed Eva Marie. Wrecked on Green Island 1910
17.Danube [Salvor] 1869
Iron single screw compound steamboat, 887 tons Gross 215.6 x 27.7 x 20.7 feet. Built at Glasgow, Scotland. Purchased by CPN in 1890. Registered by CPN in 1903. Sold in 1905 to BC Salvage Company and converted into a salvage vessel named Salvor. Sold in 1918 and existed under various owners until 1936
18. Transfer 1893
Wooden stern wheel 12” x 60” steamboat, 264 tons gross, 122.0 x 24.5 x 5.6 feet. Built for CPN at New Westminster. Registered by CPN in 1903 Sold in 1909 Ended as a power plant for a Rodonda Bay cannery
19. St. Pierre 1884
Wooden single screw steamboat 496 tons gross. 153.7 x 27.6 x 17.2 feet. Built at Yarmouuth, Nova Scotia. Purchased by CPN in 1896. Foundered at sea in 1896 while en route from Halifax to Victoria
20. Tees 1893 [Salvage Queen] [Island Queen]
Steel single-screw triple-expansion 469 ihp steamboat. 679 tons gross. 165.0 x 26.0 x 10.8 feet. Maximum speed of 10 knots. Built at Stockton, England. Purchased by CPN in 1896. Registered by CPN in 1903. Chartered to Pacific Salvage Company in 1918 and sold to them in 1925, renamed Salvage Queen. Acquired by Island Tug and Barge Company in 1933, renamed Island Queen. Broken in 1937
21. Willapa 1882 ex-General Miles
Wooden single-screw compound steamboat 100.0 x 22.0 x 10.0 feet. Built at Astoria. Oregon. Lengthened in 1889 to 136.0 x 22.0 x 10.0 feet at 373 tons gross. Stranded on Regatta Reef near Bella Coola 1896. Salvaged and bought by CPN in 1897.Sold to American purchasers and re-named Bellingham in 1902. Burned in Seattle Harbour as an event of Seafair in 1950
22. Queen City
Wooden single-screw compound steamer, 391 tons gross, 116.0 x 27.0 x 10.0 feet. Speed 8.5 knots. Built at False Creek , Vancouver, BC as a sailing ship. Purchased by CPN in 1897 and refitted as a steamer. Registered by CPN in 1903. Damaged by fire in 1916 and sold that year
23. Beaver (2)
Steel stern wheel 14” x 72” steamboat. 545 tons gross. Maximum speed 14 knots.140.0 x 28.0 x 5.1 feet. Built for CPN at Victoria. Registered by CPN 1903. Laid up in 1913. Sold to the Government of BC in 1918 and converted into a ferry. Registry closed in 1930
24. Yukoner 1898
Wooden stern wheel 14’ x 72” steamboat. 781 tons gross. 140.0 x 28.0 x 5.1 feet. Built at St. Michael, Alaska for CPN. Sold in 1898 to Patrick Galvin. Later a unit of the British Yukon Navigation Company fleet and ran for many years on the Yukon River. Retired and hauled up on the river bank at Whitehorse. Sold in 1937 and broken up for firewood by WA Wengryn
25. Amur 1890 [Famous]
Steel single-screw triple-expansion 850 ihp steamboat, 907 tons gross. 216.0 x 32.0 x 11.2 feet. Maximum speed of 12 knots. Built at Sunderland, England and brought to the BC Coast in 1898. Purchased by CPN in 1899. Registered by CPN in 1903. Sold to Coastwise Steamship and Barge Company in 1912. Changed hands in 1924 and re-named Famous.. Wrecked in Skeena River in 1926. Salvaged and laid up in 1928. Dismantled then scuttled in the North Arm of Burrard Inlet in 1930
26. Otter (2) 1900
Wooden single-screw compound steamboat. 366 tons gross. 128.0 x 24.5 x 11.00 feet. Engine formerly in Rainbow. Speed 8 knots. Built for CPN at Victoria. Registered by CPN in 1903. Sold in 1931 to WF Gibson and Sons who installed a diesel engine and removed most of her upper works, reducing her tonnage to 229. Destroyed by fire at Malksope Inlet in 1937.
Much is owed to the scholarship of Norman R. Hacking and W. Kaye Lamb for the comprehensiveness of the following list. Their book, The Princess Story, A century and a Half of West Coast Shipping is the definitive work on shipping along British Columbia’s coast from 1827 to 1974.