Stewart's death while still in harness was keenly felt at
, and the next ship to be built, and first in almost twenty
years, was named after him. Canadian Government Ship Wm. J. Stewart was built in
Collingwood, Ontario at a cost of $1 million. The Willie J. as she was more
affectionately called, was 228 feet (69.5 m) long, 35 feet (10.6 m) beam and was
1295 tons gross. Her size was close to the maximum allowable to pass through the
canals and locks along the St. Lawrence River. She was designed for oilfired
boilers which were changed to coal to satisfy local coal mining interests on the
BC coast but the boilers were converted to oil firing in 1958 after the mines
closed. The steam ran triple expansion engines connected to twin-screws. After
commissioning, she travelled by way of the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence River,
and the Panama Canal to arrive at Victoria, British Columbia in July 1932. She
proved not to be an outstanding sea-boat, and many a seaman travelled by the
rail in a quartering sea.
Because she was specifically designed for hydrographic surveying, she
carried a large crew (56) to man four launches and had a large chartroom - the
seagoing office for the ten hydrographers -directly under the bridge. According
to the standards of the 1930s, the hydrographers' cabins were spacious but crews
quarters were only adequate. In 1948, there was a 300% crew turnover in six
months, which may also have been affected by the availability of good paying
jobs ashore. Quarters were improved but were never spacious.
She was not commandeered by the Navy during hostilities as were her
Atlantic Coast sisters, but assisted the Navy by surveying small harbours,
deploying nets and testing equipment. During 1938-40,
tested, using the Stewart, Radio Acoustic Ranging where the
crew of the ship at sea would explode a bomb in the water at a location they
wanted positioned. The acoustic signal was picked up by hydrophones on three
separated buoys moored near shore and relayed back to the ship by radio. From
the travel-times the position could be computed. The
tests were not successful,
although the tests done by the Americans, apparently, were.
The project got abandoned due to the war, the loss of the US-trained operator to
the war effort, but the final death-knell was the post-war use of radio signals
such as Decca and Loran-A for positioning.
The Stewart came close to an untimely end on
June 11, 19
44 when she hit the notorious Ripple Rock in Seymour Narrows,
at the narrowest constriction of the waters between Vancouver Island and the
mainland. [See Ritchie, As it Was, Hydro International, Vol. XX, No. YY] While
the stokers rushed to put out the boiler fires, the Captain and mates piloted
the ship aground three miles away in Plumper Bay. She was salvaged and towed to
Victoria for repairs. She was ready again for the 1945 field season. She lasted
through the 1975 field season then was mothballed for four years looking for a
buyer. She is now the Canadian Princess, a floating hotel and fishing resort at
Ucluelet, British Columbia - Canada's mini-version of the Queen Mary at Long
The ship has been remembered in geographic names along the Canada's
Pacific Coast. To cite a few examples: - Weinberg Inlet (Jake -, the chief
officer), Anderson Passage (John -, quartermaster), Langthorne Island (William
-, oiler), Rutley Islands (John -, hydrographer), and Stewart Passage after the
Gray, David H., Geographical Naming
Practices of William J. Stewart, Canoma, Vol. 14, No. 2, December 1988.
Reprinted in Lighthouse, Edition 40, Fall 1989. Miller, Al, Surveying with Radio
and Acoustics, Lighthouse, Edition 43, Spring 1991. Meehan, O.M. The History of
the Canadian Hydrographic Service from the Time of its Inception in 1883 to the
End of the Second World War, Unpublished Manuscript, Marine Science Branch,
, Ottawa, 1967.
Sandilands, R.W., Charlie Golf
Foxtrot Quebec, Lighthouse, Edition 20, November 1979.
Sandilands, R.W., The Canadian
Princess, Lighthouse, Edition 22, November 1980.
accessed 15 July 2003.