Historic Loon returns to roost at yacht club

Refurbished wood vessel Loon aims for the Victoria Classic Boat Festival Sept. 2 to 4.

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A Loon out of water likely raised eyebrows at the Royal Victoria Yacht Club recently.

Historic wood vessel Loon passed her survey and got a few fresh coats of paint on dry land at the hand of her owner Ben Lavigne and a few of his friends.

“I grew up sailing,” said Lavigne. Lake sailing in Montreal was a large part of his youth and Lavigne had built a St. Pierre dory but hankered for something larger after moving to B.C.

He bought the Loon in 2001 in a cash and skilled labour tradeoff with a friend; with two kids the original price was a little out of reach.

“It takes a specific type of person to buy a wooden boat. He wanted to make sure it was in a safe place,” said Lavigne, who as a woodworker is able to do a lot of the upkeep himself.

Don Reksten, archivist with the curatorial committee at the Royal Victoria Yacht Club, was inspired to find Loon while writing for the club’s First World War roll of honour, featuring a biography of Arthur Crease.

According the club history, Crease had the 20-foot sloop built in 1922 by Jones’ boatyard in Victoria. He sailed Loon at opening day on June 16, 1923. Crease sailed her until 1952, was an active club member from 1895 to 1968 and an honorary life member.

“I found out the Loon was still being sailed,” Reksten said. “It’s always been in local waters, which is neat.”

Reksten enjoyed seeking the history of the wood vessel, finding and talking to former owners, and seeking out unusual little stories.

One former owner on Salt Spring removed the aging inboard motor, replaced it with an outboard and eked enough space to create a small cabin for his three children. The family sailed it up Desolation Sound, “sailing camping,” Reksten said.

“It’s a wood boat so it’s amazing that it’s still afloat and used,” Reksten said. “It was fortunately used by people who liked the idea of a wooden boat.”

He pinned down Lavigne, a shipwright by trade who has done work at RVYC and Oak Bay Marina, and the club invited Loon to visit for a haulout.

With a fresh coat of paint and a full check-up, Lavigne hopes to share the passion for wood vessels by placing Loon in the Victoria Classic Boat Festival in the Inner Harbour Sept. 2 to 4.

“There’s something about a wooden boat when the waves hit it, the noise, the creaks they make,” he said. “There’s something nostalgic about them.”