The MV Lady Rose made her final voyage down the Alberni Inlet on Sunday, March 27. And for probably the first time in her history, she was late leaving the dock.
While skipper Bruce Adams fixed the radio so he would have communication on the trip to Ucluelet, other engineers employed by new owner Jamie Bray attempted unsuccessfully to turn over the Lady Rose’s engine. In the end, it took the gentle hand of former engineer Henk Holtkamp to start ‘er up for the last time.
Dozens of people crowded the Lady Rose Marine Services wharf as well as the walkways around Harbour Quay to watch the famed passenger vessel leave Port Alberni. She is headed to her final destination of Tofino, where Bray will turn her into a floating restaurant in front of his business, Jamie’s Whaling Station.
On Sunday, however, she took four and a half hours to reach the government dock in Ucluelet for an open house as part of the last day of Whale Fest. Then Bray planned to take her to 52 Steps dock and wait for milder weather for the short hop along the West Coast to Tofino.
The ship likely won’t open as a restaurant this year, Bray said, although he would eventually like to redo the interior and cover the top. “The whole purchase was spur of the moment. I have no money to do anything, really,” he added.
Bray invited 20 friends to make the journey aboard the Lady Rose, including Rory Vincent, who skippered whalewatching boats for Bray at one time. “I’m here for the nostalgia,” said Vincent, recalling many times he toured around on the Lady Rose.
Maritime enthusiast Mike Bonkowski came from Nanaimo for the ride, his first aboard the Lady Rose. “This is the era from the first half of the 20th century, where these boats went up and down the coast,” he said. “This is coastal B.C. history. It’s a chance to go back in time for a day.”
Don Morison of Gibsons recalled seeing the Lady Rose on the mainland, where she worked for the Union Steamship Company before returning to duty in Port Alberni in 1960. He also enjoyed the ride for the history.
Everyone on the dock had a memory of the Lady Rose, who delivered passengers up and down the Inlet to Bamfield and Ucluelet for nearly 50 years. She was taken out of service nearly three years ago.
Marilyn Gibson stopped for a photo before heading to church. “My son, James Gibson, worked on the Lady Rose from 1995-2001 as a deckhand. It was a major part of our lives,” she said.