Cowichan Bay Christmas Sailpast

Lighted sailpasts for the Christmas Season have been a tradition with boaters for years. I would imagine that before we had electric lights and generators to power them they were still an excuse for hardy boaters to brave cold sometimes miserable nights on the water.

Cowichan Bay is no exception. In fact the Maple Bay Sailing Club owes its existence to Cowichan Bay, the original site of the club. And where there were boaters there was a pretty good chance that there were sailpasts. We lost the club to Maple Bay as they needed a space for the club and Maple Bay offered the location.

Our sailpast has been a sort of “on again, off again” event. Over the years a number of folk and their boats tried to maintain the tradition. Often with only one or two boats showing up. In later memories us boaters remember John Mac with his big black boat. Whenever John was involved in the sailpast we knew a party was going to break out. One of my memorable occasions was probably the longest sailpast we had. We all assembled in The Bay and headed off following John. After a trip around and past the dock we all headed for Cherry Point. Suddenly a few of us noted we were dead last and John was no where to be found. Sure enough, we found him on the way back. He and the sailpast were all in the middle of The Bay. The chili was bubbling, crabs were ready and the party was in full swing. We all “rafted up”. For you non boaters, we just tied our boats together in a bunch. To get from boat to boat you just hopped from one to another. That party probably went till dawn.

Another year was fog. We had Lyle from the Coast Guard lead us off. He had the radar, we just had to keep his lights in sight and follow. That year we all looped through Genoa Bay. A great show for those folk there, but a bit of a white knuckle trip for some not used to night sailing.

I organized the sailpast for a few years. We were careful to pick the time so as not to conflict with other clubs in the area. The local rental shops gave us generators, but they had to be back early Sunday morning as they were usually promised to Maple Bay for their sailpast on Sunday. It was great fun for all, both on the boats and on the shore.

Of late the Wooden Boat Society has organized the affair and except for one time the weather was really foul boaters always managed to show up.

Thomas Wagner

Cowichan Bay, 2011

Captain of the sailboat “Peace and Harmony”