S.C. [Stephanie Castle] Heal fonds [graphic materials, textual records, architectural drawings] / Sydney [Stephanie] C. Heal

Supplied title note
Title based on the name of the creator of the records.
Fonds number
Physical description
  • 53 cm of textual records
  • 43 photographs : b&w and 1 col. print
  • ca. 50 vessel plans
Administrative history / Biographical sketch

Stephanie Castle Heal (1925-2017) — also known as Sydney, Syd, and S.C. — was born in Hoylake, England. At the age of 16 she left school and joined the Thames and Mersey Marine Insurance Co. One year later, she joined the Royal Navy as a general seaman. After serving through the World War she was demobilized to the Royal Navy Reserve in 1947 with the rank of Lieutenant. After working odd jobs and earning professional qualification as an Associate of the Chartered Insurance Institute, she immigrated to Vancouver, BC in 1952. Once in Vancouver, she began working for Parsons, Brown Ltd as a marine manager for multiple marine insurance companies that Parsons, Brown represented as their Canadian Agents. Only a few years later, in 1957 she joined Vancouver Holdings and soon after bought the business when the owner passed away.

It was in 1962 that Heal performed her first act of marine heritage preservation by buying the steam tug, Master, and saving it from being scrapped. She sold her interest in Vancouver Holdings and for the next decade worked at various marine insurance companies while working many of her own small shipping ventures. Eventually she moved towards the real estate business, specializing in coastal properties for nearly 17 years. This led her to the aquaculture business, where she started an oyster farming business along with her son. She played a prominent role in the Sunshine Coast Aquaculture Association during these years.

In 1990, Heal 'retired' only to start her own publishing company, Cordillera Books, the next year. Cordillera, as of 2016, was still in operation and specialized in maritime focused books. The company has published around 60 books, of which she wrote 24, under the name S.C. Heal. In addition, she was a contributing writer for multiple marine and fish farming journals and wrote for B.C. Shipping News.

Heal was a transgender woman who wrote several books on transgender issues and founded the Zenith Foundation, a transgender advocacy organization, in 1992. She was a leader in the transgender community and served as an advocate for transgender people in human rights cases, government issues, and hospital boards. She was primarily referred to as Sydney Heal with he/him pronouns in her maritime life. In a conversation with her biographer, Margot Wilson, in 2014, she stated, “I generally tell people, ‘Look, if it is anything to do with my trans life, just call me Stephanie. If it has to do with my maritime life, call me Syd.’ That saves a lot of confusion.” Based on this quote, we have elected to retain Heal's dead name in the descriptions, while incorporating her chosen name and honouring her preferred pronouns. Heal passed away on May 8th, 2017.

Works Cited: MacFarlane, John M. (2014) Syd C. Heal – Nautical Historian, Interpreter and Publisher. Nauticapedia.ca 2014. http://nauticapedia.ca/Gallery/Heal_SydC.php
Wilson, Margot E. (2018) Girl in the Dream: Stephanie (Sydney) Castle Heal, A Transgender Life. TransGender Publishing.

Scope & content

This fonds consists of 45 files of vessel plans, prospectuses and catalogues, building specifications, and some business correspondence gathered by S.C. Heal from 1964-1974 as part of a few of her shipping ventures, mostly under the names of Nordic Shipping Ltd. and Continental Ocean Carriers Ltd., between 1964-1974.


The contents were kept in their original order and original file names were maintained. The files are roughly in alphabetical order, as arranged by the creator.

Related materials
Materials related to Stephanie Castle's work as a transgender rights advocate are housed at the Transgender Archives at the University of Victoria's Special Collections. https://www.uvic.ca/transgenderarchives/collections/stephanie-castle/index.php