Sunday, June 16, 2013

I Like Big Boats and I CAN-NOT Lie...

I saw THEM before anything else. Well, what do you expect when they are 61 meters tall?

I was ambling along Courtney Street in downtown Victoria, BC, minding my own business as I usually always do. I made my way towards Wharf Street, anxious to get to the harbour – the water always calls me.

Usually along Wharf Street, I sidestep tourists and tip-toe around horse droppings. The smell of the waterfront fish ‘n chip restaurants often tempt me to dine while watching the harbour planes take off and land.

And yes, the smell of fish ‘n chips can still be alluring despite being downwind from passing horse carriages.

But one day as I came out of the shadows of the old customs building on the corner of Courtney and Wharf, I gasped – and not from the smell of fresh horse droppings stewing in the sun. All the usual distractions instantly disappeared because before me was something that overwhelmed everything and everyone else around the harbour.

Three tall masts stood out like sore thumbs – but in a good way. Sure there had been the famous Tall Ships visiting in the past (think the ship from Pirates of the Caribbean). And sure the docks had only JUST been over-run by Swiftsure, the international yacht race held every year. And sure many naval ships had graced the docks before attracting attention from far and wide.

But that day ‘Athena’ was in port, and nothing else mattered.

Victoria’s harbour seemed like a baby’s bathtub what with the 295 foot long sailing ship moored at its docks. The folks at the Victoria Harbour Authority must have been having a fit, what with the boat able to displace 1000 tons of water.

As I would later read online, the ship is classed as one of the largest sailing ships in the world. But was it a yacht? What sailing ship has a movie theatre, a library, and room to carry a crew of 18 and 12 guests?

Everyone else on the sidewalks were exclaiming at the sight of the big boat. I had to get closer – and I had my camera.

As I made my way down, part of the deck of the big boat lifted up as though two interlocking flaps on the top of a box of crackers. Out came an arm-like crane carrying a boat - another boat INSIDE the boat! Crew skittered around, cleaning this, tying that. The sun glinted off the perfectly shined railings, the dark wood decor, inside and out, made my dining room set look like a grimy fast food restaurant.

Folks on the docks were mesmerized. Cameras were out, people joked about the size and extravagance of it all. A camera guy from the local news was there, and of course I sidled up to him, aching to see what kind of info I could get. He, too, was itching to know more. He had just done a segment on the boat, and was hoping to get on board for a closer look. Maybe I could follow him as his ‘assistant,’ I thought. But I knew that wasn’t going to happen.

Plus I was on my lunch break from work.

Oh right – work.

So I snuck down to some lower docks as best I could to get as many photos as I could – short of being arrested. I leaned, twisted and turned to get the coolest photos I could. I am not a ‘boat’ enthusiast, per se, and despite having lived around water much of my life, I know nothing about them. They are nice and pretty, and can be fun to ride on when they don’t sink. But that’s all I know.

I was leaning over the railings, trying to get THE BEST SHOT EVER, when I was hit! Splattered on! Pummeled by something wet! Others around me exclaimed! Seagulls!! We’re being attacked!

I couldn’t believe it! I had to go back to work – like this! I ran my hand over my head, knowing I was covered in white you-know-what. I couldn’t go back to work like this! I was sure everyone around me, those not covered in the gooey white mess, that is, were laughing at the stupid girl covered in seagull missiles. The seagulls, too, I was sure, were having a great laugh.

I pulled my hand away, and nothing. Just white, foamy...bubbles. It was soap!

I looked up, and way up in the sky a guy was tethered to one of the masts. Droplets kept coming down from his perch, denser than rain, and the smell of cleaner filled the air. He with his bird’s eye view was simply cleaning the masts. The masts! As if they needed cleaning! What about ME! Look at me!

Oh well, at least I was clean – and getting great photos to show for it.

But why clean the masts? They are ONLY masts. No one can even SEE up there. I get the whole ‘keeping a boat in ship-shape’ and all that, but I guess, as I would later learn, a boat up for sale for a cool $95 million needs to be clean.

Yes, rumors were swirling around the city surrounding the tiny harbour. Word on the cobblestone streets of Victoria were that the big boat had been sold and was here for a cleaning before heading up to its new owner in Alaska. Now don’t quote me on that. Rumors are just that – rumors.

Every day after that, I kept going down to the harbour anxious to get more photos before it left. A daily peek from my fifth-floor office window told me it was still there. I could see the masts high above the rooftops.

As I steered clear of any seagulls or mast-cleaning crew, I made my way to the opposite side of the harbour, keen on getting more photos (to what I would do with all these photos, I didn’t know). And as if karma, or whatever, was making up for me being hit with cleaning fluid, I happened to be there at the right time. An old sailing ship happened to come into port. Cousins of the sailing world all rallied together in the water that could tell stories to feed the gossiping locals. The ‘Athena,’ a yacht, a water taxi and the old sailing ship all bobbed in the historic waters of the harbour. I sometimes forget to admire the other boats around the harbour. I see them all the time, but I never really LOOK at them. I guess I sometimes take what is around me for granted

As I walked away, likely the last time I might ever see such a boat, I had the cliché running through my head - good things come in all sizes, big or small, tall or short. Everything has it's place in this world - enjoy everything for what it is. Even the greatest things come in small packages.

(For more pictures of the 'Athena,' please visit my 'photo gallery')


  1. Lisa you are so incredibly lucky to live in a place that for most of us is only a travel destination. Thanks for the photos - it cheered up a rather grey day on the prairies.

    1. Thank you, Ryshia - Yes, I know I am very, very lucky to live here. I sometimes still feel like a tourist, myself, with all there is to explore and see. Glad I could cheer up a rather grey day over there! Happy writing! Lisa