Travel Story - A tale of two ships 

The Frances Barkley and the Karey M keep B.C.’s maritime heritage alive in Barkley Sound

Ever since men first ventured out onto the ocean they have named their craft after the women they admire – Queens, wives, goddesses, lovers – the special women worthy of having their names inscribed on the bow of a ship. And so it is today with the Frances Barkley and the Karey M, the two ships that took us and our kayaks from Port Alberni to Sechart and finally out to the western fringes of the continent.

The Frances Barkley, a 128-foot coaster owned and operated by Captain Brook George of Lady Rose Marine Services, bears the name of Frances Hornby Barkley, the first European woman to see the northwest coast. Born Frances Trevor in 1769 this adventurous lady, at the age of 17, married captain William Barkley in Ostend, Belgium and set sail for the West Coast of North America to buy furs from the natives. They arrived in Nootka Sound in 1787 and in the course of their travels named several west coast features including Barkley Sound, where the ship that bears her name now provides year round freight, mail, and passenger service.

The Karey M, a 42-foot blunt-ended aluminum skiff based at Sechart, is named after Karey Monrufet and operated by her husband Henk. Unlike Frances, who came from "away", Karey grew up on the West Coast. Her dad once owned the Lady Rose and ever since she was a child she has lived on or near the sea. Today she manages Sechart Lodge for Lady Rose Marine Services and the ship that bears her name ranges over the Barkley Sound area from Bamfield to Ucluelet. Never more than a cell phone call away, Henk and the Karey M are available to pick up and deliver everything from trucks and explosives to kayaks and groceries to and from almost anywhere in the Barkley Sound area. And if you get into trouble it will most likely be the Karey M that gets you out of it.

We dropped off our kayaks and gear at Argyle Pier in Port Alberni, left the car in a nearby parking lot, and boarded the Francis Barkley for the three hour trip to Sechart Lodge. While chief engineer Bill Put and crew slung the gear aboard we slipped down to the galley, grabbed a cup of coffee from the self-serve pot and tied into a big breakfast. By the time we were finished the ship was well on her way down Alberni Canal and we climbed up to the wheel house for a visit with captain George and engineer Put, the two guys who brought the Frances Barkley from her birthplace in Norway to the West Coast of B.C.

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