SS Princess Helene

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Career Canadian Red Ensign
Name: Princess Helene
Owner: Canadian Pacific Railway
Builder: William Deny Co.
Launched: 1930
Renamed: Helene 1963, Carina 1963, Carina II 1967
Fate: Sold to Greek owners in 1963
Status: Scrapped Perama 1977
General characteristics
Tonnage: 4505 Gross Tons
Length: 320 ft.
Beam: 51 ft.
Height: 27 ft.
Propulsion: Steam
Speed: 19 knots

SS Princess Helene was a historic Canadian passenger and freight ferry operated by the Canadian Pacific Railway (CPR).

The Princess of Helene was built in 1930 at Dumbarton, Scotland and was custom designed for CPR’s Bay of Fundy service connecting the CPR's eastern mainline railway terminus at Saint John, New Brunswick with the port of Digby, Nova Scotia, which was served by a CPR subsidiary, the Dominion Atlantic Railway.

Replacing the older and smaller DAR steamer SS Empress, the SS Princess Helene could carry 500 passengers and 50 automobiles as well as large amounts of freight. Special side-loading doors moved vehicles and freight to large wharf elevators at Digby and Saint John to cope with the tidal range in the Bay of Fundy. Princess Helene was part of a chain of CPR's transportation system that “spanned the world” and as such she was outfitted in the style of the company's "Duchess" ocean liners. She had 43 state rooms complemented by beautiful interior fittings that exceeded the usual standards of Canada's regional ferries. Crew uniforms were modeled on the Royal Canadian Navy and each time she passed the DAR's Digby Pines Hotel, bellboys would dip the hotel's flag and salute.[1]

Nicknamed the "Digby Boat", the SS Princess Helene made her crossings without fail across the turbulent and foggy Bay of Fundy and through the dangerous waters of Digby Gut. She steamed 168,400 miles during 33 years of service, including precarious crossings during World War II where she was often escorted by Royal Canadian Navy warships and Royal Canadian Air Force aircraft because of the danger of attack by German U Boats. Princess Helene was replaced April 27, 1963 by the MV Princess of Acadia, formerly the CPR’s British Columbia ferry MV Princess of Nanaimo. The new ship had greater capacity for automobile and truck traffic but lacked her predecessor's grand ocean liner charm and would be replaced by another newly-built vessel carrying the same name MV Princess of Acadia within 7 years.

Princess Helene was sold to a company in Greece and renamed Carina. A large builder’s model of Princess Helene is preserved today at the Canada Science and Technology Museum in Ottawa.


  1. Donald Scott, "My Interest in the Canadian Pacific", CP Tracks, page 30.
  • Gary Ness, Canadian Pacific's Dominion Atlantic Railway’’ Volume 1, page 10.
  • Marguerite Woodworth, History of the Dominion Atlantic Railway’’, page 149.
  • George Musk, Canadian Pacific: Story of the Famous Shipping Line, 1981, page 261.

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