Lifelong mariner Bill Noon lives by the adage “boats own you, you don’t own boats” as evidenced by his 20-year restoration project.
The Greater Victoria resident owns Messenger III, a wood vessel designated vintage in 1991 by the Maritime Museum of British Columbia.
Those who own wood boats generally love the work and the problem-solving, Noon said. It requires skills in many trades, from electrical to woodwork. The beauty is you can replace and repair one piece at a time because they’re quality-built and then people put their hearts into maintaining them – continuously.
“It really keeps the brain going because … the day they launch they start to deteriorate and you spend your life chasing that,” Noon said.
Messenger III was owned by Shanteymen’s Christian Association of North America from 1946 to 1961. The Shantymen were the first to build hospital boats that took kids to camp and helped get healthcare to fishermen, camps and Indigenous communities up and down the West Coast, Noon explained. “It was a big part of the coastal culture.”
There was a shift in health-care provision in the 1960s moving away from boat delivery as more roads came in and the business model changed. Many of the working vessels went up for sale, with a traditional West Coast design they’re deemed economical and reliable for those willing to put the work in, Noon said.
While he’s spent the summer cruising locally this summer, the mariner will ensure his labour of love, is among the century-old wooden boats that will be on display during the Victoria Classic Boat Festival on the Labour Day weekend. Messenger is known as a mainstay of the festival, having been to 40 of the 44 shows. Noon never misses the chance to socialize with fellow boat owners – who tend to love showing off their vessels – and show off his own.
“People are proud of their boats and it’s part of their identity. Every boat is completely different and unique … so many of them are one-offs or completely independently built,” Noon said. “It changes every year, there’s a new mix of boats and that’s one of the reasons it’s interesting.”
The 44th Victoria Classic Boat Festival also includes marine-related exhibitions and family-friendly programs from Sept. 1 to 3 at the Inner Harbour. The festival officially kicks off the Friday at noon with the arrival of the Honorary Commodore Flynn Gardener – on board the Maritime Museum of B.C. salute vessel Midnight Sun.
The weekend includes a Sunday afternoon sailpast visible from Dallas Road with vessels leaving the Inner Harbour, around Ogden Point to Clover Point then making the return trip.
Admission is by donation (suggested $5) to support the Maritime Museum of B.C.