HISTORY: Fun-filled days out on the water

They clearly were having a good time, this longboat crew shown in the mid-1990s at Goodridge Peninsula.

Boats moored at Sunny Shores Marina are seen behind the longboaters, and in the western background you can see the waterfront off Kaltasin Road.

The two longboats built at Edward Milne Community School in 1989 and 1990 were christened the T’Sou-ke and the Dona Rosa.

A lot of exciting things happened in that time period as the west coast of North America was celebrating the bicentennial of European exploration to our part of the world. At the instigation of Sooke’s Electoral Area director Bob Clark, the Sooke Festival Society was formed to co-ordinate the events.

It was another organization, the Manuel Quimper Society, though, which initiated the building of the longboats, which was overseen at EMCS by Phoebe Dunbar shepherding the project through the community school.

These two boats, designed by shipwright Greg Foster, and built by volunteers, were larger sized than usual, a full 27 feet in length with a seven-foot beam, and carried a larger crew.

Ever since the first King of Spain’s Cup longboat competition in the harbour in its inaugural year, 1990, crews of Sooke young folk trained to take part in the annual summer competitions organized by the festival society. An international circuit of competitions evolved, with our Sooke crews going to coastal locations in Washington State and Oregon each year as well, participating in the Pacific Challenge. Port Townsend was a favourite location, with the Wooden Boat Foundation in that town hosting many groups from Sooke.

The 11 crew members shown are David Parsons, Joan O’Donnell, (unknown), Janet Evans, Sandy Pedneault, Wendy Campbell, Joan Titus, Francois Gething, Phoebe Dunbar, Gary White, and Bob Dunbar.

The competitions took place for a decade, but in recent years longboat activity has been more recreational rather than competitive.

The King of Spain’s Cup, a BiCentennial gift brought here from Spain by Spanish Ambassador Antonio Fournier, rests now in a Sooke showcase.

The longboats are currently managed by the Sooke Classical Boating Society.

Those who handled the oars, even though their muscles might have been aching, look back happily on those fun-filled days out on the water.

•••

Elida Peers is the historian of the Sooke Region Museum.

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