MS Peter Nemeth

HMCS Oriole seas the way in annual sail past

HMCS Oriole will sail between Cattle Point and Gyro beach and will be lit up in festive lights, making it very easy to spot

The Royal Canadian Navy’s oldest and longest serving commissioned ship will lead the way during Oak Bay’s annual Sea of Lights parade on Friday, Dec. 6.

HMCS Oriole will sail between Cattle Point and Gyro beach park and will be lit up in festive lights, making it very easy to spot from the shore, said Lt. Cmdr Jeff Kibble, captain of the 92-year-old vessel.

“It’s easy to locate the ship because it’s the biggest, making it easy to see,” Kibble said. “It looks fantastic from ashore. A lot of people honk their horns and flash their lights at us.”

The sail boat was launched in 1921, but didn’t become a navy ship until 1952. The ship acts as an ambassador for the navy, showcased at various events within Canada and internationally. Oriole also serves as a training vessel for junior officers and is used to promote what the navy does and has become a regular fixture at the parade.

“We’ve been doing it for as long as I can remember,” Kibble said. “It’s a pretty exciting event that fundraises for (charities).”

The nighttime event is a fundraiser for the Salvation Army Christmas Fund and Oak Bay Kiwanis, attracting almost 2,000 spectators to watch more than 30 decorated boats. The largest community gathering will be at Willows beach, where a bonfire should keep spectators toasty.

“It’s a party,” said Sea Of Lights organizer Brian Shorter, about the main event at Willows beach. “It’s very large bonfire. This kind of fire you can almost feel the heat from on the boats.

“It’s a social and community event for Oak Bay and Cadboro Bay. The ethic of it is to work toward (supporting) the charities as much as possible.”

Best viewing times are 7 p.m. at Cattle Point, 7:15 p.m. at Willows beach, where the bonfire will be, and 7:45 p.m. at Gyro park beach.

Kiwanis members will serve hot chocolate and cookies by donation at Willows beach and the 12th Garry Oak Sea Scouts will serve the same goodies at Gyro Park beach. Non-perishable food items and cash donations will be collected at both locations, and at the Royal Victoria Yacht Club.

Prizes for best-lit boat will be presented at 8 p.m. at the yacht club. Boat participants are encouraged to register no later than Dec. 3.

To register your boat and for information on how to light-up your boat, visit rvyc.bc.ca.