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VIDEO: Victoria captains weave personal tales, history into waterway tours

Halfway through a water tour of Victoria, the ship’s captain stops the boat and points out a handful of houses.

We’re on a border, one house is in Victoria, the neighbour is in Esquimalt, and across the waterway is Saanich, Christopher Causton tells the tourists attempting to describe the 13 municipalities that make up the Capital Regional District.

Causton is a captain and goodwill ambassador with Victoria Harbour Ferries for 11 years now since stepping down as mayor of Oak Bay. He figures the 24 years on council in that community (15 as mayor) gives him a leg up on regional storytelling for guests who take the tours.

“I think because I was mayor and because I was involved in regional government I probably have an advantage…,” he says.

Victoria Harbour Tours offers guests several tours, in addition to taxiing locals and visitors around the city via water.

This one traverses the Inner Harbour, Upper Harbour and Gorge Waterway, nearly as far as the Tillicum Road bridge where the water becomes too shallow to pass.

“I love meeting people from all around the world, I love sharing stories with them and I love working in the outdoors with a bunch of really good guys,” Causton said. “People love this city and love the things we love about it.”

“I love meeting people from all around the world, I love sharing stories with them and I love working in the outdoors with a bunch of really good guys,” says Victoria Harbour Ferry captain Christopher Causton, a former local mayor. Christine van Reeuwyk photo

Each captain is afforded the freedom to share their local secrets and personal memories. Causton takes the tour on a ride through history right to modern day.

As the electric boat slips silently closer to the Point Ellice Bridge, he recounts the tragic tale of May 26, 1896 when the bridge collapsed, dropping a streetcar into the Gorge Waterway, with beams crashing down on top of it.

In total, 55 men, women and children were killed.

Beyond the bridge, he notes a handful of local swimming holes – swearing that Banfield Park is the best in the city. On the way back to the Inner Harbour, he showcases the large vessels at Point Hope Maritime and shares tidbits about them – the massive Anwa, a couple Hullo ferries destined to travel the waters between Nanaimo and Vancouver, and a bright yellow wind turbine buoy used by University of Victoria to gather wind data.

After passing myriad paddlers, swimmers and one floating hot tub, the tour winds back down to the docks at the foot of the historic Empress building – with a final quiz on how many buildings actually make up the Fairmont hotel.

Apparently it’s five.

– With files from Ella Matte

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Christine van Reeuwyk

About the Author: Christine van Reeuwyk

I'm dedicated to serving the community of Oak Bay as a senior journalist with the Greater Victoria news team.
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