Century old Providence gets a new mast

The old Province ship has an impressive history, including serving the Royal Danish Navy before finding a new home in Comox. - Scott Stanfield/Midweek
The old Province ship has an impressive history, including serving the Royal Danish Navy before finding a new home in Comox.
— image credit: Scott Stanfield/Midweek

Before finding a home in Comox Harbour, the good ship Providence had been around the block and then some in her 100-plus years of existence.

Her story begins in 1903 when launched as the fishing vessel Valkirien, guided by two masts and powered by a two-stroke, single-cylinder 35-horsepower diesel engine.

She was chartered in 1939 by the Royal Danish Navy for patrol duties in domestic waters before being taken over by the Germans in 1943.

The following year, the vessel was sold to the Danish government, represented by the Ministry of Defence in Copenhagen.

In the 1950s, Valkirien was re-named Y 340 when used exclusively for defence purposes and later MHV 55 when she was transferred to the Danish Maritime Home Guard.

The vessel was sold by way of public auction in 1976 to Per Montage, a Danish civilian who in 1978 sold Providence to Courtenay resident Peter-Thor Watson.

She arrived in Victoria in 1979 after an 11-month voyage from Denmark. Providence has since worked as a scuba diving charter boat, a commercial fish packer and as a passenger vessel during EXPO ‘86.

“She’s been around awhile,” said Watson, who is in the process of carving a new mast for the 64-foot ship. “Hopefully she’ll be around a little bit more, as long as I’m around anyway.

“I’ve had her chartering, fishing, cargo, you name it. I’ve tried to earn a living with her, which has been fairly successful.”

Watson felled a second growth Douglas Fir tree — itself close to 100 years old — from a farmer’s property in Courtenay. He did so about a year ago because he could foresee the need for a new mast, which he hopes to install by early-June.

Call it tender loving care for his pet. After all, she’s more than a century old.

“She’s a bit of a mystery to me, like a woman,” said Watson, a married man who calls it a “love-hate relationship” with Providence. “Sometimes I go down there and I’m just ready to walk away, and sometimes I just don’t want to leave.”

Following is a timeline since Watson purchased Providence:

• May 1979: began working as a scuba diving charter boat.

• November 1985: completion of an extensive rebuilding and rerigging as a Gaff Ketch.

• July 1986: chartered as participant in EXPO 86 in Vancouver; carried passengers on five-day excursions from Sidney, B.C. to Vancouver.

• November 1986: depart for Jamaica West Indies to enter the charter/cargo trade.

• May 1988: returned to Victoria; a fish hold was installed and the vessel began a career as a commercial fish packer on the B.C. coast.

• August 2003: Providence turns 100 years old.

• September 2004: fish hold removed and the beginning of a new interior starts.

Over the years since she became a centenarian, Providence has undergone yet another transformation. She is now fitted with accommodations for eight people in four staterooms, and berthing for four crew members.

The ship also contains a salon, full galley and wheelhouse with navigational equipment.

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