The Best Loved Boat: The Princess Maquinna

The Best Loved Boat: The Princess Maquinna

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The Best Loved Boat: The Princess Maquinna

By Ian Kennedy

About the Book

Built in 1913, the Canadian Pacific Railway's ship Princess Maquinna steamed up and down the rugged west coast of Vancouver Island in summer and winter, calm weather and storms, for over forty years, and has become one of the most beloved boats in BC’s maritime history.

Princess Maquinna, sometimes referred to as the “Ugly Princess” but most often “Old Faithful,” transported Indigenous people, settlers, missionaries, loggers, cannery workers, prospectors and travellers of all kinds up and down Vancouver Island’s rugged and dangerous west coast, stopping at up to forty ports of call on her seven-day run. The Princess Maquinna faithfully served as the lifeline for all those who lived on the west coast of Vancouver Island before it became accessible by roads. Because of this strong connection she became the “Best Loved Boat” in BC’s maritime history. Kennedy recounts battles through eighty-knot gales along the exposed coastline sailors called “The Graveyard of the Pacific,” and reveals the bigotry that forced Indigenous and Chinese passengers to remain on the foredeck of the ship while other passengers sheltered from the elements inside. He brings the history of this beloved ship to life with rich detail, recalling a time when this remote part of British Columbia was alive with mines, canneries and now-forgotten settlements.

Prize(s): Short-listed Roderick Haig-Brown Regional Book Prize (2024) 

“Ian Kennedy’s ode to the beloved Princess Maquinna takes readers on a fascinating voyage along Vancouver Island’s rugged west coast in the 1920s. Before roads and airplanes, she travelled year-round, day and night, the skipper navigating with rudimentary charts and nothing but a whistle for echolocation and a weight tied to a rope for a depth sounder. Life on the coast revolved around regular “Boat Days” when the ship’s arrival with mail, cargo and passengers created a hubbub of excited activity. As extreme weather events threaten road access to our beautiful coastal communities, this book is a timely reminder that marine transport remains a viable option. Kyuquot’s Uchuck lll and Bamfield’s Frances Barkley are still as warmly welcomed on their “Boat Days,” as the Maquinna was in her glory days.”

–Judith Phillips, author of Our Whole Bamfield Saga: Pioneer Life on Vancouver Island’s West Coast, Winner of the BCHF Community History Award, 2015

“A wonderful account of Maquinna and the voyages she made on the “saltwater main street” off Vancouver Island's west coast, providing goods and transportation for the residents of remote communities there. Ian Kennedy takes the reader on a typical run for the ship from Victoria to Holberg in Quatsino Sound and introduces numerous salty characters; white knuckle situations; troubling racism, and humorous anecdotes all while relating the histories of the ports that the vessel stopped at. In this well researched study, the author paints a vivid picture of life at sea aboard the famous ship as well as the hardships and joys of those that she both carried and met along her route.”

–R. Bruce Macdonald, author of Never Say P*G: The Book of Sailor’s Superstitions and Sisters of the Ice

“Ian Kennedy’s The Best Loved Boat is not just a wonderfully written story of a ship, but also a fascinating history of the west coast of Vancouver Island. A pleasure from cover to cover”

–S. Thomas Russell, author of Under Enemy Colours