Stephen Hodges-Whittaker with the YAG 320

Stephen Hodges-Whittaker with the YAG 320

Sooke man keeps his word and takes his ship home

Former navy reservist buys and fixing up ship he served on

  • Aug. 11, 2016 4:00 p.m.

By Adam Marsh

For Stephen Hodges-Whittaker, it is impossible to be lost at sea. It is where he says he is most found.

Hodges-Whittaker, 62, sailed on the navy ship YAG 320 for the first time in 1970, and spent the next 32 years training recruits on board the ship.

He knew within moments of stepping aboard the 23-metre vessel he wanted to take the ship home with him.

More than 40 years later, he fulfilled his dream.

“I had just fallen in love with boats,” he recalls, sitting in the galley of YAG 320 sipping Hawaiian coffee. “I said, ‘I could live on this boat.”

In 2011, he bought the ship at a federal government surplus sale, and quickly made it his retirement project.

But repairing and renovating the vessel has been no easy feat, Hodges-Whittaker says.

“The navy’s wiring was old and standards and requirements have changed,” he says. “Because they used normal steel nails, we’re pulling up all the deck boards and either treating the steel, or replacing it with stainless.”

Hodges-Whittaker says the steel is treated by changing the rust into iron phosphate, which is done by putting phosphoric acid on the steel.

“We pour that stuff over the steel; it changes the rust, and seals the steel where it is.”

He says the phosphate incases the steel and essentially acts like a shield against spreading rust. But he doesn’t mind the hard, occasionally tedious work.

“It’s a feeling of that’s where I belong,” he says. “Every time I pull out a rusty nail or a broken screw, it feels to me like I’m pulling a splinter out of somebody’s finger.”

Hodges-Whittaker says it comes down to treating the boat how she deserves to be treated.

“The boat, to me, has a personality. It’s an entity.”

Cam Ward, who works at Rush Adventures in Cooper’s Cove, where the boat is anchored, says he sees Hodges-Whittaker put his zodiac in the water regularly and motor into the cove to work.

“From what I’ve heard, he’s trying to refurbish it back up. It’s a nice little conversation piece. It’s always fun to see those guys go back and forth in their little dinghy,” says Ward.

Hodges-Whittaker’s wife, Susanna Joy Hodges-Ransom, says she is looking forward to getting the construction of the boat done.

“It’s been a construction zone, but we’ve been able to still stay on it while they did the plumbing or took out the electrical.”

But Hodges-Ransom says things changed when the deck work began.

“Since it’s been having more and more construction, I’ve been staying on it less and less, because when I get there, instead of enjoying being on the boat, I’m now cleaning and organizing and helping.”

Hodges-Whittaker says it is not the kind of project with a definite end date. He links his experience on the water to that of an addiction.

“As soon as I got out to sea, I was sick as a dog, but it was like an addiction. I can’t stay away. There’s something about feeling the deck move, that’s a lot of it. Just feeling it move under my feet as I’m walking, I’m moving with it and it’s just the way I want to be.”

 

 

 

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

Just Posted

Thousands protested in Victoria following the death of George Floyd in the U.S. (Black Press Media file photo)
B.C. is not exempt: New report documents 150 years of racism and the fight against it

Booklet marks province’s 150th anniversary with call for transparency, change

Aerial view of the Capital Regional District residuals treatment facility at Hartland Landfill where residual solids are turned into Class A biosolids. (Photo courtesy CRD)
Plant closure sends more biosolids to Hartland Landfill

Saanich residents are concerned they were never consulted

Sgt. Sandrine Perry in the Oak Bay Police Department interview room that has been softened with household features to better accommodate survivors of domestic abuse and sexual assault. (Travis Paterson/News Staff)
Oak Bay police interview room gets a makeover

Room made less daunting for victims of trauma

Paul Lewis is the Goldstream Gazette’s 2021 Local Hero as Arts Advocate of the Year. (Don Denton/Black Press Media)
West Shore driftwood sculptor inspired by Esquimalt Lagoon

Paul Lewis is the 2021 Arts Advocate of the Year

Langley resident Carrie MacKay shared a video showing how stairs are a challenge after spending weeks in hospital battling COVID-19 (Special to Langley Advance Times)
VIDEO: Stairs a challenge for B.C. woman who chronicled COVID-19 battle

‘I can now walk for six (to) 10 minutes a day’

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry updates B.C.’s coronavirus situation, May 8, 2020. (B.C. government photo)
B.C.’s weekend COVID-19 cases: 532 Saturday, 508 Sunday, 438 Monday

Fraser Health still has most, eight more coronavirus deaths

B.C. Attorney General David Eby speaks in the legislature, Dec. 7, 2020. Eby was given responsibility for housing after the October 2020 provincial election. (Hansard TV)
B.C. extends COVID-19 rent freeze again, to the end of 2021

‘Renoviction’ rules tightened, rent capped to inflation in 2022

Face mask hangs from a rear-view mirror. (Black Press image)
B.C. CDC unveils guide on how to carpool during the pandemic

Wearing masks, keeping windows open key to slowing the spread of COVID-19

Churches, including Langley’s Riverside Calvary Church, are challenging the regulations barring them from holding in-person worship services during COVID-19. (Langley Advance Times file)
Det. Sgt. Jim Callender. (Hamilton Police Service screenshot)
B.C. man dead, woman seriously injured after shooting in Hamilton, Ont.

The man was in the process of moving to the greater Toronto area, police say

Police have identified the vehicle involved in the Feb. 14 hit-and-run in Chemainus and are continuing to investigate. (Black Press Media files)
Police seize and identify suspect vehicle in hit-and-run

Investigation into death expected to be lengthy and involved

(Black Press file photo)
Child in critical condition, homicide investigators probe incident near Agassiz

The child was transported to hospital but is not expected to survive

Sewage plant in Lower Mainland, operated by Metro Vancouver. (Metro Vancouver screenshot)
‘Poop tracker’ launches as researchers test Lower Mainland sewage water for COVID-19

‘Studying the virus in wastewater allows researchers to look at an entire population…’

Most Read