THE BIRTH OF THE SQUADRON
Prior to 1969, anyone residing in the Northern part of the Saanich Peninsula who wanted to take CPS courses had to attend those conducted in Victoria by the Victoria Squadron.
A resident of the Peninsula, Jack Simpson, a very active member of the Victoria Squadron, realized that there would soon be a need for a squadron on the Peninsula. During the winter of 1967/68 he conducted an Advanced Piloting course for two members of the Victoria Squadron who resided in the Town. He then found that there were enough applicants from the Peninsula area to warrant conducting a “Piloting” (now called “Boating”) course in Sidney during the next winter of 1968/69. This he did on behalf of the Victoria Squadron for 26 students residing in or near Sidney.
It was a great success and during the course, the idea of forming a new squadron was advanced and discussed by Jack, other members of the Victoria Squadron who were assisting him with the course, who also lived on the Peninsula, and the thirty-odd students taking the course.
In the spring of 1969 things moved rapidly. On March 2, 1969, an organizational meeting at Legion Hall elected:
Commander: Nelson Dewey
Executive Officer: Clifford D. Clive
Secretary: WM. T. Glanfield
Treasurer: Gordon F. McClary
25 Mar 69 – Meeting held at Legion Hall where ” Saanich Peninsula Power Squadron” was selected as the name for the new squadron.
21 Apr 69 – Approval of the formation of “SPPS” was received from the National Board
5 May 69 – Meeting held to appoint:
Training Officer: Ed McLean
Supply Officer: Jack Hubbard Cruise master: Stan Carnell
Safety Officer: Wilfred Gibson and elect:
First Lieutenant: Reece T. C. Adamson.
9 Jun 69 – Inaugural dinner held at the Travelodge, Sidney, when the Squadron Charter was presented by Chief Commander Howard Rees.
A roll of the Squadron at that time lists 51 Charter members including 9 Lady associates and 2 Juniors. Of these, about 20 were members who had transferred from Victoria Squadron (or became members of both squadrons)
The Squadron was off to a good start thanks to Jack Simpson and those who assisted him during what must have been a hectic period requiring many hours of devoted service. Jack was a great leader and an excellent instructor who had a fund of experience which he passed on during his precise “presentations” coloured with dry wit. He would spend hours preparing each of his periods of instruction. Very very rarely did a “bright” or “experienced” student catch him out with a difficult question. In short, his classes were not only instructive but great fun.
Jack’s high standard of instruction given at the start was maintained as during the next two years only one student failed to pass the “piloting” exam of the 54 who sat for it.
THE EARLY YEARS
This part deals with the first half of our 25-year History when the Squadron grew in membership and experience. Ours was the 11th Squadron to be formed in the Vancouver Island District and Victoria Squadron was the only other in this area. Fortunately, at the start, we had several experienced members of the Victoria Squadron with us and this not only kept us from going aground but also permitted us at the start to run Advanced and Elective Courses as well as the Boating Course (or “Piloting”, as it was called in those days).
As now, most of our training was done at the High Schools in Sidney. The Boating Course text for several years was Griffith’s “Boating in Canada”. It was excellent, but sadly it went out-of-print and CPS then produced its own. The Boating Course consisted of 20 training periods, two per night, one night per week. It started in late September and ended in March. Included then were two Student Cruises, the first in November to Genoa Bay and a second in February to Bird’s Eye Cove (Maple Bay). There was also a cruise aboard a BC Ferry to Tsawassen and back when most of the time was spent on the bridge learning to appreciate the problems faced by the ferry skippers, particularly when there were many pleasure boats about.
How times have changed. In those early days, the cost of the Boating Course was $25.00 or $40.00 a couple if your mate shared the textbook. At social gatherings, drink tickets were 5 for $2.00 and beer tickets 3 for a dollar. The price of a chart was $1.00!
Normally over the years, all the teaching for any course class has been given by a single instructor who quite often would call upon someone more qualified to teach subjects such as First Aid. This system worked very well for the Squadron, particularly with the assistance of many dedicated proctors.
By 1975, it was thought, particularly by students who were experienced boaters, that the Boating course was stretched out over too many months. It was therefore decided to try one class, to consist mainly of experienced skippers, on an “Accelerated” course. The course was accelerated by teaching three periods of instruction per night instead of two, with the course ending in December instead of March. Selecting the students for this “Accelerated” course was done by the instructor carefully interviewing each applicant prior to the start of the first session. There were some applicants who were not too happy when the instructor would suggest that perhaps he or she would be more comfortable taking the longer “Regular” course. If an applicant insisted on being accepted, the instructor would agree to it on the understanding that if the student had difficulty keeping up then he/she would transfer to a “Regular” class.
The first “Accelerated” class was very successful and as a consequence one then two “Accelerated” classes were conducted each year (as well as “Regular” classes). Then in 1986, all Boating courses were conducted on the accelerated mode of teaching three periods per night. During the first seven years of conducting “Accelerated” classes, there were only two “Accel-Class” students who failed to pass the exam and both passed at their next sitting.
For the first three training years, the enrolment numbers for the Boating Course averaged 30 students. They quickly rose to an average of over 100 per year during the period 1974 to 1979. Our highest enrolment of 126 students occurred in Sept. 1975. Our highest number of students passing the Boating exam was 93 – in the 1977/78 training year.
By 1977 the membership was approaching 200 and some thought the time was ripe for the formation of another squadron on the Peninsula. First, a committee was struck to study the optimum size of membership and training classes of the Squadron. This committee recommended “That a Squadron of 200 members be considered to be optimum size” and “That steps be taken to promote the formation of another squadron on the Peninsula to ensure that this figure will not be exceeded.” It further recommended that the Squadron’s Boating Classes be restricted to a total of 120 students divided equally into four classes.
The Bridge approved these recommendations and District approved the formation of another squadron. Another committee then set about the method of forming a new squadron. As many of our members resided in the Central Saanich/Brentwood Bay area, somewhere in that area was the logical location for another squadron. After several meetings, the Brentwood Bay Squadron was born in 1978.
In 1979 the Squadron celebrated its 10th Anniversary and it had functioned well. It had introduced Accelerated Boating Course classes with success, had conducted a good number of Advanced and Elective courses, and had given birth to another squadron. It had also published the Beacon almost twelve times every year since the start.
1979 was also the year the Squadron was given the task, by District Bridge, to organize and conduct a “3450 Cruise” for those attending the National Conference to be held in Victoria that year. It was called a “3450 Cruise” as for years Chart #3450 was used for the Boating Course throughout Canada. Applications to take this cruise rolled in in great numbers. Well over 100 boats were required. It was an operation requiring detailed planning and good cooperation of many boat owners in the Greater Victoria area.
On the eve of the cruise, there was a crisis. The waters had been very foggy for a few days and forecasts were not good. Early morning on D-Day the weather watch along Landsend Road reported heavy fog but at 1000 it started to clear and the buses and cars were dispatched to the various marina. The cruise went well with all the “Easterners” happy to see 3450 waters. The moment the last boat returned to its marina, the fog closed in again. The prayers of several had been heard.
Following the “Recession” in late 1981, applications for the Boating course dropped by nearly 50%. This was a letdown in a way but the smaller numbers permitted a smooth handover to a new group of instructors and over the years the number of people wanting to take the Boating course has increased.
THE 1980’S AND EARLY 90’S
During the early 1980s, a new element was added to the Boating Course. The students were taken aboard two or three instructors’ power vessels for a short cruise at night, to make them aware of the problems of cruising during hours of darkness. These night cruises were quite effective as the problems became evident to all very quickly. After three or four years these cruises were discontinued, perhaps because the Ferry Cruises also demonstrated these problems, as most were taken aboard ferries which departed before first light.
A social cruise, which was conducted annually from 1972 to 1984, was a sort of afternoon-tea cruise, with several members of the Sidney “Silver Threads” as guests. They would be taken through the nearby islands aboard our members’ vessels and then to a rendezvous at Bird’s Eye Cove for tea. Until recently though, cruises organized for our members were not well attended – except for one picnic cruise to Otter Bay in 1976, with fun games and races to test the seamanship skills of the young and not-so-young.
In 1983 the Squadron was awarded the District’s “Kurt Kukla Memorial Trophy” for having the highest average marks in the cruise section of the Boating Exam. Instructors of Boating that year were Peter Burchett, Ernie Butcher, Ralph Weston, Ralph Roberts, and Jim Spensley.
Another District trophy, the “Wilf Souther Memorial Award” was presented to us in 1991 for achieving the highest average marks in the Seamanship Exam. The instructors were Terrence Curran and Bernard Shipton.
With a view to reducing what was considered to be still a high number of Christmas-Break student drop-outs of the “long” (September to April) Boating Course, it was decided in 1988 to conduct all Boating classes over the shorter period, i.e. classes from September to December and more from January to April. There was some concern that the “Pass” rate might fall and it did, but only marginally. The drop-out rate became lower and the ‘Snow -Birds” were then able to fly south without missing any training or exams. In the late 1980s training in Radio Voice Procedures was included together with the test to qualify for the Restricted Radio Operators License.
In 1989 the Squadron, once again, was given the task of organizing and conducting a “3450 Cruise” for those members from all parts of Canada attending the CPS National Conference in Victoria. Once more a massive fleet was assembled and the hundreds of guests enjoyed a cruise to Genoa Bay – in ideal weather this time.
As has been mentioned, the numbers taking the Boating Course have slowly risen since the “low” following the 1981 recession. Our membership is now higher than it has ever been yet the number of our members taking part in Squadron management and activities is also high.
One new activity initiated in 1990, concerned the Squadron volunteering to “adopt” D’Arcy Island Provincial Park, to assist with its maintenance and to act as host to visiting boaters.
Over the past 25 years, about 1,350 students have passed our Boating course and our records show 475 passes in Advanced, Elective and Instructor courses conducted over the years. Recently, in addition, Boating Safety Seminars have been run for the public and a “Boat-Wise” course for the young.
The years ahead will be interesting ones as our waters become more crowded with vessels of all types, from the very fast to the very slow. This may well result in changes to rules and restrictions being introduced to improve safety – including the licensing of vessel operators. While the current thought is that persons holding a Boating Course “Pass” certificate will be granted such a license but it may well be wishful thinking. We may all be required to pass a Federal exam and practical test. Power Squadron courses and those of other boating associations will be in great demand and many instructors and assistants will have to be trained and ready should operators licenses be introduced.
Aside from pages of course statistics, lists of names of those who served on each “Bridge” and the names of those who were instructors or proctors, this is where the “History” ends for the present. These statistics and names will become “Appendices” to the History and may be borrowed or purchased (at cost) by those interested. Hopefully, many of you will not hesitate to point out errors or omissions. Some of the material produced was from memory which is not always reliable. Most was produced from Squadron records or the “Beacon.”
Finally, I would like to thank all of those who were patient and of great assistance in putting it all together. The statistics may be interesting to some but the lists of names of all those who have devoted so many hours to our Squadron over the years is impressive.
P/Cdr. Giles Perodeau June 1994