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Blake Williams' Tribute to BCA

Blake Williams

Sea Fever
Pacific Seacraft Flicka 20
July 23rd, 2018

This year marks the 40th anniversary of the founding of the Bluewater Cruising Association. The Vancouver Chapter celebrated this significant milestone in June at a special Club Night, held at the Vancouver Maritime Museum. Blake Williams, Past Commodore for the association, addressed the membership in this compelling speech: 


Thank you. It is a genuine pleasure to be here tonight with fellow Dreamers, Doers, and Doners.  Sailors are adventurers and the best folks to be around especially at parties!  It seems just a few sleeps ago that we were celebrating our 25th anniversary.  How to try to capture 40 years in a few minutes?  I will do my best to hit highlights of  early beginnings in Bluewater and later,  key undertakings  to establish a seaworthy, credible Bluewater Crusing Association (BCA) community.  I will move quickly as I stand between eager dancers and one of my favourite local bands, Tillers’ Folly!

Early Days

Shortly after the founding meeting, I learned about the plans to form the Association and attended the early club nights in 1978. I joined in 1979 as a new member. I was amazed at the experience in the room. The late Liv Kennedy had completed a circumnavigation, the Sydneysmith’s had cruised with their family in the Caribbean, and so many others. Cruising families with children had them schooled at sea with Ministry of Education mailings. The focus was not so much on racing round the buoys, but on the skill sets a local weekend sailor needed  to successfully cruise the oceans of the world.

The riddle was “What’s the difference between a racer and a Bluewater cruiser? “ Answer: “A Bluewater Cruiser doesn’t adjust the sails until another mast comes over the horizon.”

Vancouver was a young city and served as a petri dish for boating . We were signing petitions to save the old  WW2  building at Jericho Beach to create a local sailing centre, and  to help create the Spruce Harbour Co-Op liveaboard marina. Both accomplished!

Raising the Sails

Members were hungry for knowledge on how to actually do ‘offshore’, so BCA created speaker events within the membership for club nights and hosted periodic guest speakers, with proven offshore experience, who gave presentations at the Queen Elizabeth (theatre)  and John Oliver High School to BCA members and the general public.

Many of the Honourary Members listed on page 17 of the (2018) Membership Directory  were international and from this list. In addition, Susan and Eric Hiscock, Chay Blyth, Dr. David Lewis, Robin Lee Graham (then the youngest single-handed sailor to circumnavigate, on the Dove) and others shared their fears, strategies and wisdom. To promote these events, we had to take speakers to radio and TV stations (CJOR and CBC radio, BCTV, etc.) to build public awareness and sell more tickets. The Internet and BCA website has since changed everything.

To communicate with members, Currents was born and consider the evolution from early days!  We learned about customs changes and immigration, health, and safety warnings from our offshore members.  Snail-mail letters from offshore members, with expensive postage was common then, where now polished-fit-for-editing articles with amazing photos arrive by email!

Club meetings were at the Billy Bishop Legion on Kits Point, later moved to Granville Island, and then after exploring ideas about buying the McDonalds barge left over after Expo ’86, we moved sensibly to the Scottish Cultural Centre Auditorium, where we have remained since.

Cruising the Credible, Durable BCA

More thirst for offshore knowledge drove the need for more education; so navigation, provisioning, and other classes were offered.  Consider the wealth of professional courses that BCA offers today in Weather, Diesel Mechanics, etc.

Over time the Vancouver Island Cruising Experience (VICE) for Dreamers and the Fleets for those planning to go offshore arrived, as did Bluewater Unofficial Rendezvous Places (BURPS) and Mid Island Sail Training (MIST).  Now we are the source of incredible decades of experience and expertise that we can share with others.  Our members like Liza Copeland published books on the cruising life and shared them with the world. Patrick Hill, Glenora Doherty, and other authors we see at the Vancouver Boat Show share their knowledge with us. Does anyone remember the BCA cookbook based on members’ favourite recipes prepared at sea? Is it time to create another?

Awards were created and evolved… some serious  (999 and Offshore , Ted Long, Cape Horn, Circumnavigation, and others listed on pages 21-22 of the Directory) and some tongue in cheek (Hill-Padwick Bent Mast Award and Antares High Finders Award).

The evolution of the governance and Board of Directors with Association-wide member positions to support the three chapters Calgary, Vancouver, and Vancouver Island, was another significant move.

I sincerely want to recognize and thank the 19 Commodores, the legion of Watchkeepers, members  and volunteers who so generously contributed their time, efforts, and  creative ideas to maintain and improve the Goode Shippe Bluewater Cruising and without whom we would not be gathered here tonight in celebration of 40 years!  BCA is a unique gathering of amazing people.

T.S. Eliot wrote:

“We shall not cease from exploration, and the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time.“

To that we might add “and to know ourselves and our vessels for the first time”!

In perfect hindsight, the Dreamers, Doers and Doners model for BCA adopted early on, has served us very well.

As long as winds blow, as long as  seas and oceans beckon, as long as Dreamers dream, Doers do, and Doners come back and share their experiences, the successful spirit of BCA will continue.  Thank you to the organizers tonight and I look forward to seeing you at the 50th birthday party!

Fair winds, following seas, and many great adventures!

I raise a glass to BCA!

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  1. Paul says:

    Great tribute Blake. Just (1130) passing Point Roberts en route to Cabbage Fri 10th. See you over there?

  2. Yvonne Harwood says:

    That was a great speech, Blake. Thank you.