86 Years Ago: Launching a Canadian Icon
On June 19, 1928, St. Roch was officially accepted into the RCMP service. After launching on May 7 at high tide, the vessel completed trials in Vancouver's English Bay and achieved a maximum speed of eight knots, which was considered sufficient.
In the Vancouver Daily Province, St. Roch was reported as "fully equipped and modern in every respect." Captained by William Hugh Gillen, a former whaler and sealing captain, the crew was said to be "experienced ice men [who] know Arctic conditions thoroughly."
However, according to original crew member Jack Foster, only two of the ten men had been north prior to the voyage. This was not necessarily a disadvantage: Constable Henry A. Larsen later said that he was glad
...that we had not hired professional sailors, because I was sure that such men never would have worked out on a ship like this one. I am sure that the cramped bunks, the spartan food, and the ship as a whole would never have received the approval of real sailors. Our policemen were quite differend, they were used to taking orders, and above all, they were all imbued with an esprit de corps and were particularly proud of the fact that they had been picked for Arctic duuty, which always carried some extra prestige in the RCMP.