A popular late fall tradition returns to the beaches of Saanich and Oak Bay after a year of hiatus.
Until the first week of November, members of the Royal Victoria Yacht Club were convinced that the annual Sea of Lights would not restart in 2021. With unexpected approval for the community bonfire at Willows Beach, Andrew McBride put his years of experience take this particular event to the next level.
During Sea of Lights, a tradition dating back to 2006, decorated and lighted boats parade past Cattle Point, Willows Beach and Gyro Park before returning to the Oak Bay Club. With six RVYC members enrolled upfront, organizers hope to hit 15 or 20 warship-led boats – depending on tradition.
“We hope to see a great turnout this year. Having spectators on the beaches will also allow great social distancing. We always encourage masks if social distancing isn’t possible, ”McBride said.
A community bonfire in Willows, overseen by the Oak Bay Fire Department, includes a donation of hot chocolate, courtesy of the Oak Bay Kiwanis. The festivities will also fill Gyro Park in Saanich, with the Salvation Army receiving donations in exchange for cocoa.
“For us as a yacht club it’s an opportunity to do something that creates an opportunity for other charitable groups in the community, and Christmas is a good time to do it,” said McBride.
Many of the area’s waterfront residents are using this colorful event to kick off their Christmas social calendar.
Rescue teams from local Coast Guard Auxiliary units ensure safety by marking and patrolling the route. Judges at both beaches mark ships for their showmanship, with awards – donated by local businesses – given at a dinner party later that evening.
The annual Sea of Lights Ship Parade takes place on Friday, December 3. The fleet leaves RVYC at 6:45 p.m. passing Cattle Point at around 7 p.m., then Willows Beach at around 7:15 p.m. The fleet marches past the beach at Gyro Park in Cadboro Bay around 7:45 p.m.