Voyageur canoe fleet to paddle round Saanich Peninsula

30th anniversary of canoe club’s Paddle for the Kids

Victoria Canoe and Kayak Club members Irena Jaswinski

Victoria Canoe and Kayak Club members Irena Jaswinski

If you’re planning a visit to a beach in Sidney, Saanich, Oak Bay or Victoria on Saturday, keep your eyes peeled for a passing fleet of voyageur canoes.

Tomorrow is the Victoria Canoe and Kayak Club’s 30th Paddle for the Kids.

For the first 28 years of the annual fundraiser, club members traversed the open waters of Juan de Fuca Strait to Port Angeles and back.

“The first crossing was done in 1982, in one 26-foot (7.9 metre) voyageur canoe with two crews of six paddlers,” said the club’s voyageur program head Alan Thompson, who made his first such trip in 1989. “One crew paddled to Port Angeles, the other paddled back.”

Back then, the club raised money for the B.C. Lions Society’s Timmy’s Telethon, which is no longer running.

“Now we give to the Lions’ Easter Seal Camp at Lake Shawnigan. Altogether we’ve raised over $200,000 for the Lions Society,” Thompson said.

The route has also changed, he said, as the Port Angeles run was last made in 2009. “We used to receive support from the Canadian Navy, but they pulled out. Without their support boat, it’s not a safe enough trip.

“Mind you, the voyageurs are a sizable, stable canoe, the ones the fur traders used.”

The group of 39 paddlers, in three boats, will make a 10-hour trip, covering 40 nautical miles (74 kilometres) from Brentwood Bay, around the Saanich Peninsula and ending in the Gorge.

The launch happens at 7 a.m. Saturday morning from the Tsartlip First Nation boat ramp in Central Saanich.

“We’ll take shifts along the way. The crews have completed seven practice sessions since Feb. 5 and all have experience paddling other boats,” Thompson said.

Anyone can donate money to Camp Shawnigan. The funds help children with disabilities attend camp and experience outdoor sports and activities – including paddling – in a safe environment.

The website is www.lionsbc.ca, click donate, then “send a kid to camp.”