Two Ships: The Lady Rose and the Modesta Victoria

Aboard the MV Lady Rose in 2004

I have always liked Canada. While we were losing our minds and preparing for a second Civil War, Canada remained itself—calm, reasonable, sane. One of the highlights of my 20014 trip to British Columbia was an all-day cruise from Port Alberni to Bamfield and back. The Alberni Inlet and Barkley Sound extends for many miles of isolated houses and logging camps, many of which were supplied by the packet freighter MV Lady Rose. I understand the ship is no longer being used for that purpose. On the plus side, she is at Tofino awaiting restoration at Jamie’s Whaling Station.

There is something about small ships that intrigues me. In Argentina, I took the Modesta Victoria on Lago Nahuel Huapi to Los Arrayanes National Park. The Modesta Victoria was built around the same time as the MV Lady Rose, though in the Netherlands rather than Glasgow. The Modesta victoria has recently celebrated 75 years of navigation on Lago Nahuel Huapi, which sits in the foothills of the Andes in Argentinian Patagonia.

The Modesta Victoria at Anchor

My day cruises aboard both ships were among the highlights of both vacations. The Alberni Inlet was lovely, abounding in bears and other wildlife. And the Modesta Victoria’s cruise to Los Arrayanes was spectacular. It is said (though probably this is a myth) that the orange trunks of the Arrayanes trees were the inspiration for the forest in Walt Disney’s Bambi.

Falling in Love with a Ship

The Modesta Victoria on Lago Nahuel Huapi

The Modesta Victoria on Lago Nahuel Huapi

On November 15, I took a boat tour to Isla Victoria and Los Arrayanes National Park. In the process, I fell in love with a Dutch ship that was built in 1937, disassembled, shipped to Argentina, and re-assembled in 1938 on the shores of Lago Nahuel Huapi. (YouTube has a charming video depicting the original launch of the Modesta Victoria: It looks as if the whole population of San Carlos de Bariloche showed up to celebrate.)

It was the Modesta Victoria on which I rode across the lake. It was the same ship that carried Che Guevara, his friend Alberto Granado, and their Norton motorcycle across the lake during the trek that Guevara described in The Motorcycle Diaries. Other famous passengers included the Shah of Iran, his empress Farah Diba, and U.S. Presidents Dwight D. Eisenhower and Bill Clinton.

At the Helm of the Modesta Victoria

At the Helm of the Modesta Victoria

I have a love for old steamships, which began when I rode the old MV Lady Rose in Canada between Port Alberni and Bamfield. That was back in 2003. Today, the Lady Rose, which was built in the same year as the Modesta Victoria is being fitted out to serve as a restaurant in Tofino on Vancouver Island, which I suppose is marginally better than gracing a ship graveyard.

My hope is for the Modesta Victoria to keep sailing until I have a chance to take it again … some day.