The Pender Harbour spirit was alive last Saturday when hundreds of people came out to watch the skilled carpenters in their midst build boats with minimal supplies - and to see if the boats would sink. Not only did they float, the wooden boats raced through the harbour at incredible speed, fuelled only by the sheer strength of their human paddlers.
The rain stopped in Seafarer Millennium Park just in time for the 11 a.m. kickoff to the fifth annual April Tools wooden boat challenge. The event is a fundraiser for the Maritime Heritage Centre, put on by the Pender Harbour Living Heritage Society.
Among the competing four-person teams were Coast Guard auxiliaries from Pender Harbour, Halfmoon Bay and Delta. There was a friendly competition going on within the Pender Harbour Volunteer Fire Department between the Madeira Park and Garden Bay firehalls over whose boat would be the winner. For the fourth consecutive year, the Garden Bay firefighters' team, the Fireflies, were the reigning champions. They took home a $700 prize, proving that volunteering really does pay off.
In second place in the race were the Cheap Oars from the B.C. Institute of Technology, winning $400. The R&C team won $250 for third place, along with the spiffy skiffy prize. The Delta Coast Guard auxiliary's Ox 8 boat won the broken paddle award. Also competing were a Sunshine Coast family team called Team Nervous Wreck and a Madeira Park Estates team. Youth teams built their boats in advance and held a separate race at 2 p.m.
Before the big races at 3 p.m., the teams spent three hours constructing their boats with 24 eight-foot one by two's, a half sheet of plywood, one five-foot by 20-foot piece of polyethylene sheeting, one pound of drywall screws, one roll of duct tape and self-supplied staple guns and staples, hand tools and battery-powered screw guns. Along with the support of their spectators, the builders had music from the Pender Harbour Blues Society's table and a barbecued lunch from the Pender Harbour Rotary Club to keep them going.
Bobbi Bennett collected $1,327 for the 50/50 draw, half of which will go to the heritage society for a future maritime museum. She exceeded her target of collecting $1,200 and hopes to raise $1,400 next year.
Kids were kept busy throughout the day with mini-boat building, fish prints, the poker walk and scavenger hunt.
The day was just the beginning of the events coming up in the Pender Harbour area, including the Ruby Lake Wood Duck festival, the Blues Festival, Madeira Park's May Day and longboarding races, the Mala-spina Regatta, the Show & Shine and Jazz Festival, just to name a few. There is no place I'd rather be in the summer than on or near the water in Pender.