The iconic MV Lady Rose, a former Union Steamship Company cargo and passenger vessel that gained popularity plying the waters of the Alberni Inlet, has been sold again.
An ownership group from Sechelt has purchased the ship and will move it from its present mooring in Tofino on Vancouver Island’s west coast, across Georgia Strait to the Sechelt Inlet.
“It has been purchased,” said Dick Clayton of Sechelt. “(The Lady Rose) is the last floating Union Steamship vessel. We didn’t want the last one to disappear.”
Originally christened “Lady Sylvia,” the MV Lady Rose was built in Scotland and first launched in 1937 by the Union Steamship Company of British Columbia. She was the first single-propeller diesel vessel ever to traverse the Atlantic under her own power. The vessel spent 70 years ferrying passengers and supplies from Port Alberni to Bamfield and Ucluelet, but had her route taken over by the MV Frances Barkley in 2007.
The Clayton family has a long history with Union Steamship Company, having run a general store on the Sunshine Coast for the company since the end of the First World War, then starting their own Clayton’s Grocery store.
“My father worked with them,” Clayton said of Union Steamship Co., which had holdings in Sechelt and Bowen Island. The company was founded in 1889 and offered passenger and cargo service all up and down the B.C. coast, supplying logging and fishing camps and sawmills.
Jamie Bray of Tofino, who owns Jamie’s Whaling Station, purchased the MV Lady Rose in 2010 after previous owner Mike Surrell took her out of service. Bray spent a year making the Lady Rose seaworthy so he could move her to the west coast, where he wanted to convert the ship into a floating restaurant.
The MV Lady Rose left Port Alberni for the final time on March 27, 2011, taking four and a half hours to make the trip to Ucluelet, then to her most recent resting place in Tofino.
For the past eight years the Lady Rose has been moored at a wharf in Tofino; Bray never did turn her into a restaurant.
Bray said via e-mail that he was contacted by a group involved in a Lady Rose restoration and display project in Sechelt.
“I liked what they had to say, so we came up with a deal for them to take the Rose and fix her up.
“I am happy to see her go to this worthwhile project and wish them lots of luck.”
Surrell, who still owns Lady Rose Marine Services operating out of Alberni Inlet, said he is happy to hear someone wants to restore the Lady Rose.
“I hope it works out well for them. I’m really glad something’s happening with it.”
Clayton declined to give details on the sale or how much the new ownership group paid for the vessel.
There are no firm plans for the Lady Rose’s future, although she will be moved from Tofino to Sechelt sometime in the future. “We’re not sure when,” he said. “It’s partly to do with a weather window. It will have to be towed over.”
He said there is some interest in moving the Lady Rose to Bowen Island, where a marina named the Union Steamship Company Marina is located. The next step is to form a society to look after the vessel and its restoration.
“We don’t know what we’re going to do with it. Nothing’s been decided. It’s just been secured so it didn’t disappear.”
Clayton told a Sunshine Coast newspaper that the vessel could either be a land-borne display or perhaps restored to run as a historical vessel for limited water runs.
The ship is not in any condition to run under its own steam right now, said Clayton, who has not seen the ship personally (although others in the membership group have, he added).
“It’s rusty. It needs paint. It needs TLC, there’s no question of that.”