John Jennkins

Continuing a marine history

Boatyard passes to new hands, legacy remains intact

For more than 50 years Sooke Marine Industries has been a fixture along Kaltasin Road. The huge steel floats at the end of the driveway now show signs of rust and age. The many buildings are still sturdy enough but it is the marina in the basin and the shipyard that holds the value for new owner Jenkins Marine.

One could say the welding the torch has been passed onto the new owners by Maywell Wickheim, the man who built the business up over five decades.

Maywell Wickheim has been a teacher, mentor and holder of knowledge in Sooke for probably most of his 89 years.

“I never had a better boss or mentor,” said former employee Kerry Fea. “He allowed me to challenge myself without fear of failure.” Fea was an employee of Wickheim’s more than 50 years ago and had stopped by to say hello on a blustery spring day. Fea said Wickheim told him to ‘go ahead and when you come to a problem you can’t figure out  — come to me.’”

Wickheim is not one to look for kudos or pats on the back. He does what he does without a thought of looking for gratitude. He has spent his life in Sooke volunteering for so many projects, organizations and events it is impossible to even begin to name them. He gives where he can and expects nothing in return, except perhaps a thank you.

Wickheim was down at the boatyard and has formed a solid relationship with John Jenkins from Jenkins Marine. Both of these old salts have been in business “since the beginning of time,” said Jenkins.

Jenkins bought the Kaltasin boatyard at the beginning of the year and took over operations at the end of February.

“We’ll carry on with the same kind of business as before,”said Jenkins.

Jenkins Marine works on commercial ships and boats of all kinds, small boats, pleasure boats out of fiberglass, steel, aluminum and wood. They have built Thunderbird sailboats, SeaWest sports fishing boats, tugs, barges, you name it. Jenkins Marine is one of the largest and most stable boat repair companies on Vancouver Island. They have been in business since 1964. They can do just about anything from custom modifications to engine replacements, repairs, refits, joinery, haul outs, electrical and custom fiberglass.

Jenkins Marine will be bringing all of their operations to Sooke and are now slowly phasing out their operations in View Royal.

They purchased Sooke Marine Industries because of what it had to offer. The basin for moorage, the huge work sheds and buildings, the boatyard and all of the equipment specific to metal work and boat repairs/building.

“There was no where else to go,” said Jenkins. “No other available places, it would take until I was dead to go through all the environmental hoopla. This was an existing situation and I’ve known Maywell for years.”

Refurbishing the boatyards and marina is an ongoing process and a new cradle for boats has been built. The new floats for the marina are being built and the whole enterprise is springing to life.

Welder/fabricator Brad Kellington is in one of the buildings making the frame for Carey Newman’s project, The Witness Blanket. Angie Bailey, long time employee of Wickheim’s is being kept on as a Jill-of-all-trades and will be managing the marina as one of her jobs.

Jenkins Marine employs five people at the Kaltasin site and employs about 30 in their other operations.

“I just want to continue what is already going on,” said Jenkins of the boatyard. “We are continuing the marine history that Maywell left here.”