The Victoria Classic Boat Festival takes place Sept. 2 to 4 in the Inner Harbour.

Classic boats take centre stage at festival

Sailing on a 40-foot-long wooden boat along B.C.'s coast is when John West feels most free.

Sailing on a 40-foot-long wooden boat along B.C.’s coast is when John West feels most free.

The wind in his hair, the smell of salt water filling his nose and the gentle lapping of water against the boat is a feeling West will never get tired of.

The 67-year-old Greater Victoria resident has been sailing boats for almost his entire life, after he received his first dingy from a neighbour when he was five years old. Three years later, West’s father built him a slightly larger wooden boat so he would be more safe on the water.

Since then, West’s love of sailing has grown immensely. West has owned a number of wooden classic boats ranging in size from 40 to 50 feet long. He’s sailed around south east Asia, the Philippines and east Africa, often heading out for weeks at a time with his wife, usually in the summer and winter months.

Despite the international waters that he has sailed in throughout his life, West said the B.C. coast has some of the best cruising grounds in the world and offers a climate where one can sail year-round.

“We’ve got 30,000 miles of coastline here, when you go around all the little islands. You can really spend your entire life here and never get bored with it,” West said.

“(Other places) don’t have the variety and the on-going sense of exploring. I’ve had boats for 60 years and I’m still going to places that I’ve never been before on this coast. It’s a pretty remarkable place.”

In one particular adventure, West remembers sailing from Port Hardy at the north end of Vancouver Island to Hornby Island. It was dusk when he and his wife decided to tie up the boat for the evening and they came across a First Nations man fishing with his grandson. The duo rafted up alongside the two fisherman, who cooked salmon for them for dinner.

“Here’s this lovely old guy, fishing with his grandson, really nice young kid, and just kind of chatting. Him telling stories of his life in terms of growing up on the coast, and we’ve been on the water our entire lives,” West said. “That kind of meeting — calm, watching the sunset and just sharing our appreciation of the coast — that was pretty magical.”

Earlier this week, West decided to sell his boat, but continues to be active in the local classic boat community. He also helps organize the Victoria Classic Boat Festival on this weekend.

As part of the 39th annual event, roughly 80 to 150 classic boats (powerboats built before 1942 and sail boats built before 1957) from around the world will dock in the Inner Harbour for spectators to marvel at. Last year, there were roughly 30,000 people who attended the event over a three-day period.

West hopes people will walk away with an appreciation for craftsmanship and the beauty of classic boats.

“It’s a way of keeping in touch with our history. A lot of these boats were integral in terms of the development of the B.C. coast, prior to aircraft and helicopters,” West said. “Similar to buildings, it’s important that we know how we evolved as a people to know where we’re at now. Boats are certainly a large part of that and continue to be.”

The Victoria Classic Boat Festival takes place from Saturday, Sept. 2 to 4 in the Inner Harbour. For more information visit



Just Posted

Giants draw first blood in WHL playoff series vs. Victoria

Home ice advantage non-existent for Royals against arch-rival Vancouver

Large Kinder Morgan pipeline protest at Victoria MP office

Dozens gathered out front of Murray Rankin’s constituency office Friday to protest Trans Mountain pipeline

5 must-do things this weekend in Greater Victoria

Soccer playoffs, hockey playoffs, Dunahee run, art show and Lego

WANTED: Christopher Elliot may pose danger to the public say VicPD

Victoria man wanted on breach of conditions related to criminal harrassment case

Capital Region regular gas prices highest since 2008

Greater Victoria prices roughly 10 cents above the B.C. average

Vancouver Island’s Best Videos of the Week

A look at some of the best video stories from the past week ending March 23, 2018

27th anniversary for the disappearance of Michael Dunahee

Parents hosting annual fun run on March 25

Canucks sing the Blues as they fall to St. Louis 4-1

Berglund nets two, including the game-winner, to lift St. Louis over Vancouver

Calving season brings hope for Cariboo ranchers

Still a lot of work ahead to recover from the wildfires

Canada’s Kaetlyn Osmond wins figure skating world title

The 22-year-old fwon the women’s singles crown with her Black Swan routine

Vancouver Island pooches celebrate National Puppy Day

Check out some of the submissions we received from around the region

MLA Report: Lowering the voting age to 16 in BC

By Andrew Weaver On March 13, I introduced for a third time… Continue reading

Alberta tells B.C. to stop opposing pipelines if it doesn’t like gas prices

John Horgan said he would like to see the federal government step in to deal with high gas prices.

Comox Valley hospital operating above patient capacity

The new healthcare facility averaged a 110 per cent patient volume between October and February

Most Read