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

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 classicboatfestival.ca.

 

 

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

A female prisoner sent Langford police officers a thank-you card after she spent days in their custody. (Twitter/West Shore RCMP)
Woman gives Victoria-area jail 4.5-star review in handwritten card to police after arrest

‘We don’t often get thank you cards from people who stay with us, but this was sure nice to see’: RCMP

Staff and volunteers at the Shaw Centre for the Salish Sea were disappointed by the theft of an educational porpoise skull likely taken on Jan. 8. (Courtesy of Tina Kelly)
Well-loved porpoise skull stolen from Sidney aquarium

Skull had been used for youth and visitor education and outreach for years

The Starbucks in Langford’s Westshore Town Centre is one of almost 300 storefronts that the U.S. coffee giant will be shutting across Canada by the end of March. (Google Maps)
Langford’s Westshore Town Centre Starbucks to close permanently

Popular coffee chain to close 300 storefronts across Canada by end of March

An Oak Bay Police officer handed out five tickets for “fail to obey stop sign” and two tickets for using a cell phone while driving, all within two hours at King George Terrace on Jan. 11. (Oak Bay Police Twitter)
Man confronts unmasked group at Oak Bay Marina

Oak Bay police issue plenty of tickets in short King George Terrace visit

A 45-metre tall call tower is proposed for Westhills Stadium. (Black Press Media file photo)
New cell tower proposed for Westhills Stadium in Langford

Tower will increase capacity in congested network: staff report

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry prepares a daily update on the coronavirus pandemic, April 21, 2020. (B.C. Government)
B.C. adjusts COVID-19 vaccine rollout for delivery slowdown

Daily cases decline over weekend, 31 more deaths

An elk got his antlers caught up in a zip line in Youbou over the weekend. (Conservation Officer Service Photo)
Elk rescued from zip line in Youbou on Vancouver Island

Officials urge people to manage items on their property that can hurt animals

A Trail man has a lucky tin for a keepsake after it saved him from a stabbing last week. File photo
Small tin in Kootenay man’s jacket pocket saved him from stabbing: RCMP

The man was uninjured thanks to a tin in his jacket

Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation Chantel Moore, 26, was fatally shot by a police officer during a wellness check in the early morning of June 4, 2020, in Edmundston, N.B. (Facebook)
Frustrated family denied access to B.C. Indigenous woman’s police shooting report

Independent investigation into B.C. woman’s fatal shooting in New Brunswick filed to Crown

Delta Police Constable Jason Martens and Dezi, a nine-year-old German Shepherd that recently retired after 10 years with Delta Police. (Photo submitted)
Dezi, a Delta police dog, retires on a high note after decade of service

Nine-year-old German Shepherd now fights over toys instead of chasing down bad guys

Nurses collect samples from a patient in a COVID suspect room in the COVID-19 intensive care unit at St. Paul’s hospital in downtown Vancouver, Tuesday, April 21, 2020. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward)
5 British Columbians under 20 years old battled COVID-19 in ICU in recent weeks

Overall hospitalizations have fallen but young people battling the virus in hospital has increased

Canada released proposed regulations Jan. 2 for the fisheries minister to maintain Canada’s major fish stocks at sustainable levels and recover those at risk. (File photo)
New laws would cement DFO accountability to depleted fish stocks

Three B.C. salmon stocks first in line for priority attention under proposed regulations

Trees destroyed a Shoreacres home during a wind storm Jan. 13, 2021. Photo: Submitted
Kootenay woman flees just before tree crushes house

Pamala DeRosa is thankful to be alive

Gin, one of the Kantymirs’ two sheep. (Martha Wickett-Salmon Arm Observer)
Sheep start up ATV, sit in cars and go for walks in Salmon Arm

Until they bought two sheep, Ken and Karleen Kantymir didin’t realize just how social the animals are

Most Read