Cana­dian clas­sics

For the cit­i­zens of Vic­to­ria, Bri­tish Columbia’s cap­i­tal city, Labour Day has been syn­ony­mous with the Clas­sic Boat Fes­ti­val since 1978. This year’s event was more fes­tive than ever.

Boating NZ - - Contents - BY BRUNO CIANCI

The Cana­di­ans cel­e­brate their wooden boat her­itage in inim­itable style.

Set like a pre­cious gem in the south­west­ern part of Van­cou­ver Is­land, Vic­to­ria is a beau­ti­ful city built on a hu­man scale. Its res­i­dent pop­u­la­tion num­bers just 83,000. The Bri­tish her­itage and colo­nial past is dis­tinctly re­flected in its parks, mu­se­ums, the city squares and mon­u­ments – and par­tic­u­larly in its English-style pubs.

Two build­ings that cer­tainly fit into this cat­e­gory have been the ar­chi­tec­tural back­drop for the Clas­sic Boat Fes­ti­val: the Fair­mont Em­press ho­tel with its cas­tle-like shape and steeply slop­ing roofs, and the Par­lia­ment of Bri­tish Columbia.

This year’s event drew sev­eral thou­sand vis­i­tors and 85 craft (both sail and power) from var­i­ous Amer­i­can states (mainly Wash­ing­ton and Ore­gon for ob­vi­ous geo­graph­i­cal rea­sons) and the prov­ince of Bri­tish Columbia.

Boats that en­livened the port with their white-painted plank­ing and hulls, ma­hogany deck­houses, shiny tran­soms and en­signs, burgees and the colour­ful flags of their dress­ing lines aflut­ter in the breeze.

On board the ves­sels were the own­ers them­selves, su­per-pas­sion­ate and al­ways ready to wel­come vis­i­tors with many sto­ries. Were it not for

the next vis­i­tor wait­ing his turn at the dock, most would quite hap­pily talk for hours about the tini­est de­tails of their float­ing homes – the helm’s bronze hub, the spe­cific shade of the dinette’s up­hol­stery, the hand-oiled teak in­te­rior.

The boats – all beau­ti­ful and well-as­sorted – ranged in length from the 16-foot Small Fry, fit­ted with an in­board Easthope four-stroke en­gine, to the 88-foot of Gyr­fal­con (a former ship of the US Na­tional Geode­tic Sur­vey), the largest power boat on show. The largest sail­ing ves­sel, at 105-feet, was the schooner Pa­cific Grace.

Built in 1999, Pa­cific Grace is owned by the Sail and Life Train­ing So­ci­ety (SALTS), a non-profit or­ga­ni­za­tion com­mit­ted to of­fer­ing an­nual sail­ing cour­ses for some 1,700 young­sters be­tween her and her smaller sis­ter, Pa­cific

Swift (77 feet). Next to the SALTS ves­sels was Katahdin (1899), the old­est boat on show and al­legedly, ac­cord­ing to her

On board the ves­sels were the own­ers them­selves, su­per-pas­sion­ate and al­ways ready to wel­come vis­i­tors with many sto­ries.

charis­matic owner, the Alaska-res­i­dent Doug Leen, “the old­est tug­boat still op­er­ated in the North Pa­cific re­gion”.

As al­ways with such events, a di­ver­sity of ac­tiv­i­ties were staged on the side­lines. These in­cluded mar­itime trivia, lec­tures on scrimshaw, vis­ual sig­nal­ing at sea, pro­tec­tion of wa­ters and the role of Bri­tish Columbia dur­ing WWII, as well ship­build­ing (in­clud­ing tra­di­tional Songhees ca­noes built from local red cedar), and street artists and mu­si­cians, like one-man-band Dave Har­ris.

Also at­tend­ing the fes­ti­val was Ron Hol­land who’s lived in Van­cou­ver for a num­ber of years. He used the event to present his re­cently-pub­lished mem­oirs All the Oceans. De­sign­ing by the Seat of My Pants. Nu­mer­ous plaques were awarded. They

The boats – all beau­ti­ful and well-as­sorted – ranged in length...

in­cluded Mid­night Sun (the Hospi­tal­ity Award and a shout-out for the best en­gine room), Merry Chase (Peo­ple’s Choice and Best Con­ver­sion piece), Suellen (Best over­all power­boat and men­tion for the best en­gine room), Sir Isaac (Best mod­ern-clas­sic and best lam­i­nate con­struc­tion), the afore­men­tioned Gyr­fal­con (Most im­proved and a men­tion for best re­stored power boat) and Fly­ing Ea­gle (Best cos­tume and a men­tion for hospi­tal­ity).

Fly­ing Ea­gle is a won­der­ful, 1963-built Down East Maine lob­ster boat owned by Rick Strollo, and was the 2017 re­cip­i­ent of the Best Re­stored Power plaque. It was awarded fol­low­ing a three-year restora­tion process that in­volved a deep his­tor­i­cal re­search, much work, money and two ship­yards.

And now the next ap­point­ment for these in­vet­er­ate en­thu­si­asts, pos­si­bly in even greater num­bers, is 2019, in the days that pre­cede Labour Day in North Amer­ica: just the way it’s al­ways been for 41 con­sec­u­tive years, with­out in­ter­rup­tion.

CLOCK­WISE, FROM ABOVE Bunt­ings, rat­lines, be­lay­ing pins, spoked wheels, brass tele­graphs – this might be tech­nol­ogy from a by­gone era, but it’s very much alive and kick­ing at the an­nual Clas­sic Boat Fes­ti­val in Vic­to­ria, Van­cou­ver Is­land. Now in its for­ti­eth year, the Fes­ti­val has be­come one of the most colour­ful, sig­na­ture events on Canada’s boat­ing cal­en­dar.

RIGHT & BE­LOW Each ves­sel is lov­ingly main­tained and its own­ers more than ea­gar to tell about its his­tory. FAR RIGHT Scores of boats and en­thu­si­as­tic crowds make for a vi­brant Fes­ti­val. BOT­TOM Pa­cific Grace is used in a youth train­ing pro­gramme.

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