–by G.K. Sydney (photos and column)
Looking for a good time, lady? Want some exercise, mister? Would you like some friendship, fresh air, beautiful surroundings, and excitement? Well, we have just the thing for you. Join the Sooke Classical Boating Society.
Yep, that’s right, recreational rowing in Sooke. A lot of fun with a very big name. Who knew? And as a newcomer, I have had the privilege of joining the great group of people that participate in this amazing activity. Read on to discover what a typical day on the water is like.
Every Monday morning when the weather and wind cooperate, a tenacious group of women (and sometimes very brave men and out-of-town visitors) gathers at Jenkin’s Marine facility on Kaltasin Road to get the boats out onto the water. Now that sounds simple, but these boats are not your garden variety rowboat. Oh no. The T’Sou-Ke and the Dona Rosa are “ship’s longboats,” replicas of those carried on the ships of Spanish explorers in the late 18th century. These 27-foot, 2300 pound boats were built, under the direction of master shipwrights, by students of the Edward Milne Community School in the year 1990 and then taken over by the Sooke Classical Boating Society in 2010.
And so, in light of this good fortune, we row. We bring the gear down to the boats, clean off the dew and the little presents left by the otters, decide on seating and positions and shove off. One of the coolest parts of the whole venture is the process – our leader (or coxswain, in sailor talk) takes charge and us workers (sailors) get ready to do our jobs. Commands such as “ship your oars,” backpaddle” (huh?), and “give way together” are given and we dutifully attempt to perform them. Out of the harbour we go and onto the wide-open Sooke Basin.
After a vigorous half-hour or so of honest-to-goodness rowing, during which we are often followed by at least one curious seal, the coxswain usually says something like, “Ok, time for a wardrobe adjustment.” Spanish sailor talk? Hah, got you there. It’s actually woman-code which tells these intrepid sailors to stop rowing, move their oars to one side, sit back, relax, look around and socialize. And maybe take off that hot sweatshirt. And then there we are, a group of fun-loving people, relaxing after a bit of exercise in the middle of the Sooke Basin and enjoying the fabulous views, the wildlife and each other’s company. Really, what could be better?
Soon we are off again. Another paddle (oops, row) around Dead Man’s Island or over to the oyster farm or even, once or twice a year, all the way to Stickleback Restaurant for lunch. We all pull together, the coxswain watches the wind and the tide while managing the tiller and the day unfolds. On very special days, we even hoist the sails, me hardies, and then we fly across the Basin like the seagulls above us. Now that’s a thrill.
After a couple of hours, we gradually make our way back towards the marina. A graceful approach to the dock, a jump with the rope, a slow slide into resting position and we are done. Coffee and more socializing is next on the agenda and then our Monday adventure is complete. Just another day in paradise.
Note: There is also a mixed weekend group on Saturday mornings in the summer. More information is available at sookelongboats.ca
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