Lighted boat parade brings in the season

Community sail past tradition continues

Brian Shorter decorates his boat Pampero with lights at the Royal Victoria Yacht Club as he prepares for the annual Sea of Lights Parade.

As always, it’s the boats that are the signature attraction of the annual Sea of Lights parade.

Thirty or so brightly decorated boats will twinkle their way along a parade route that sails past Cattle Point to arrive at Willows Beach at about 7:15 p.m. on the evening of Dec. 7. They then glide past Gyro Park before returning to the Royal Victoria Yacht Club. The boats are led by the Oriole, the oldest and longest-serving commissioned ship in the Canadian Navy. It’s a spectacular sight and a perennial favourite for all of Victoria.

The whole thing is the initiative of the Royal Victoria Yacht Club.

Yacht Club organizers stress that the Sea of Lights is a multi-faceted community event that owes its success, not just to Yacht Club members, but to a larger community partnership.

The cause behind the event is important, parade coordinator Tibbie Adams said. “For me, I’m doing this for the Salvation Army and the Oak Bay Kiwanis. They’re both great organizations.”

Both charitable organizations collect cash donations and the Salvation Army also accepts blankets and non-perishable food items at the three most popular viewing locations.

“It’s wonderful to give the people of Victoria a free, family event that everyone loves,” Adams said.

Oak Bay Kiwanis Club director Brian Beckett agrees. “Willows Beach is the best place to view the parade,” he said.

The Kiwanis ensure viewing crowds at Willows Beach are treated to free hot chocolate and cookies. To further warm the spirit, it also lines up a group of talented carollers to set Christmas spirits ablaze as the community gathers around the giant beach bonfire, set and supervised by the Oak Bay Fire Department.

They’re joined by the Oak Bay police to ensure that everyone has a safe celebration. Less apparent, but equally important are the Public Works department workers who are on site to ensure that the beach is left in its pre-event pristine condition at night’s end.

“It’s a family event that tells us that Christmas isn’t far off,” said Mayor Nils Jensen. He’ll be helping to judge the boats to determine who will win this year’s prizes.

“We (the municipality) are happy to assist, but the real thanks has to go to the people who take the time to decorate their boats and participate in the parade. Some of those boats are spectacular.”

That decorating can take months to execute. Take Don Craigmyle’s boat, Pegasus. An engineer by training, Craigmyle has computerized his display and has, in past, included animated, prancing reindeer as part of his decorations.

“He spends a long time preparing,” Adams said. “But even the less elaborate displays will take a day or two to put up.”

Adams said that it’s still possible for boats to join in the parade. “They can go to rvyc.bc.ca to register and get instructions and registration is free.”

She’s excited that this year’s event may even include a group of sea kayaks. “You don’t have to be a Yacht  Club member to participate,” she said.

After the parade, all the participants are invited to a dinner at the Yacht Club where prizes for the best decorations are awarded.

Brian Shorter, parade organizer, is expecting record crowds, and emphasized that the event is only cancelled if winds exceed 30 kilometres an hour.

“Even then they are invited to see the boats at the Yacht Club,” he said.

Further information on the Sea of Lights and other activities of the Royal Victoria Yacht Club can be found at rvyc.bc.ca.

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