The Roch is back!
When I visited the Vancouver Maritime Museum last September, workers were replacing skylights and windows, etc., and its main attraction, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police’s St. Roch, was about to be closed temporarily. I was allowed on this historic ship but only for brief periods. I checked several times over the past half-year to see if St. Roch was again boardable, and yesterday I learned that it is.
St. Roch was a record smasher. Sailing from Vancouver, BC to Halifax, NS and back in 1940, The Roch took 28 months and spent 2 winters frozen in ice. Taking a more northerly route, it returned to Eastern Canada in 1944 and added a couple of new records to its accomplishments including first ship to use the “true” Northwest Passage. In 1950 it became the 1st ship to completely circumnavigate North America. Retired in 1954 and berthed at the Vancouver Maritime Museum, it became a National Historic Site in 1962. Four years later a shelter was built around it.
Unique among ocean-going ships, the oval-shaped St. Roch was equipped with both sails and an engine. The sails stabilized rather than propelled it. Its shape made it better suited for use on the Arctic Ocean. It carried a spare rudder. Made of Douglas fir covered with Australian eucalyptus, it could better withstand Arctic ice. An extra layer of metal protected its bow. If you’ve boarded The Fram in Oslo, Norway, and loved the experience, you’ll like St. Roch.
Even if you’re not especially fond of maritime museums like me, you’ll enjoy the Vancouver MM and complain later about how much more time it took to see than you budgeted. Maritime museums, in my opinion, tend to display too many model ships, focus on long-ago, local shipwrecks, and fill case after case with ship hardware of interest only to dedicated mariners. VMM has a master model builder on the premises making new ship models and restoring old ones. It offers mostly offbeat permanent displays like Pirate’s Cove.
VMM puts together notable temporary exhibits. Parts of the one on sailors’ tattoos that closed in October, 2013, were definitely, uh, raw, as in, well, adults-only. Temporaries now include the tale of the Komagata Maru and a pencil and ink chart from Captain Cook’s ship Resolution dated August, 1778. It shows the shoreline of the Bering Strait leading into the Arctic Ocean that was charted by this ship. Vancouver Maritime Museum’s next big show has not been announced.
In Vanier Park at 1905 Ogden Avenue, VMM receives a 44% very good to excellent rating from TripAdvisor contributors. Comments tend to call it small but interesting. Roadsrus’ overall rating is 4 Compass.