Full Circle: History of the Kipawo
Researched by Robert R. Bennett, written by Patrick Prosper
The Downhomer, August 1995

Often in the annals of seafaring lore we read or hear of vessels that have a unique history or a special place in the memory or those who she served.

The MV Kipawo is such a vessel and many of your readers may recall her contribution to the war effort in the second great conflict.

Launched on December 5, 1924 at St. John, NB, the Kipawo began her illustrious career as a passenger and freight carrier in the Minas Basin of Nova Scotia. The Kipawo was the last in a series of 33 vessels that carried people and material between Kingsport, Parrsboro and Wolfville, for more than 200 years. The first two letters of each town comprise the name.

In the early 1940's the Kipawo was sent to Conception Bay to undertake duties of tending anti-submarine nets. At the time German U-Boats were exacting a heavy toll on the iron-ore carriers, disrupting the supplies or ore vital to the allied war effort. Several large ore-laden ships had already been torpedoed prior to the Kipawo being commissioned in the Royal Navy and being dispatched to commence duty.

At the end of the war the Kipawo was used as a car car ferry...It was rumored that Newfoundland Government wired Ottawa stating that the Ferry was condemned, yet it continued ferry service between Bell Island and Portugal Cove until the early 1970's.

The Kipowa, or Kip, as she was affectionately known by the people of Conception Bay, was sold sold to another concern and operated as a tour boat in Terra Nova National Park. On a voyage from the Park to St. John's she was forced by bad weather to take shelter in Bonavista Harbour. While moored at Bonavista she broke loose and ran aground where she remained for several years, her condition deteriorating. 

In 1981 the Kipawo was bought by the Kipawo Heritage Society of Wolfville and the task of bringing her home began. By 1982 she was back in the Minas Basin where her career began 78 years before. The Kipawo is one of three WWII Royal Canadian Navy vessels still in existence.

The Kipawo is now the property of the Town of Parrsboro and lies high and dry at the water front, where she is used as a theatre by a troupe called, appropriately enough, The Ship's Company. In the summer season the ship and theatre group receive thousands of visitors who are attracted by the entertainment or the nostalgia of visiting the old kip one more time. 

The Kipawo Today

For More Information on the Ships' Company