On any given day, being the Harbour Master for the Port of Vancouver (POV) can bring a variety of unique situations and challenges.
But throw fireworks, nightfall, and around 1,000 boats into the mix and things can really get interesting.
Such is the case for POV Harbour Master, Chris Wellstood.
Wellstood told Daily Hive that the POV’s mandate is to “facilitate Canada’s trades goods” within its jurisdiction (which stretches to the US border near Delta, encompasses the Indian Arm up to Port Moody, and includes the Fraser River almost as far as Langley and Pitt Lake) and to “ensure that is done in a safe, efficient. and environmentally friendly manner.”
And while large, deep sea vessels regularly share the waters with pleasure craft on a day-to-day basis, the Honda Celebration of Light, which continues tonight, adds another element to that mandate.
“What happens is that all of a sudden you multiply the number of recreational vessels that are out there and they all congregate on English Bay,” Wellstood said. “They all want to have a good spot, and they all want to be on the outside right close to the exclusion area, around the barge.”
As a result, “we can see up to 1,000 vessels in the area.”
And these boats come from all over the POV’s jurisdiction,”even all the way from Bowen Island,” he noted.
However, boaters aren’t always properly prepared for the trip home. “They all leave their homes during the day when the weather is nice and sunny.”
The main message to recreational boaters, Wellstood said, “is that when you leave, prepare for the trip ahead, and that you’re properly prepared in case the weather changes; understand that you’re leaving by day, but will be coming back by night time.”
Wellstood said that on numerous occasions, officials have witnessed unprepared boaters arriving at at event.
“They don’t use their boat that often, don’t use it that often at night, they don’t check their navigation lighting, they go out, they watch the fireworks, the show ends, and now there’s 1,000 boats parked around,” he said.
Add to that the fact that “a fair number of them don’t have the proper navigation lights, and now they need to navigate their way home in the dark, without the proper navigation equipment in close quarters with other boats.”
In the meantime, “there’s still deep sea vessels moving in the area.”
Wellstood said there are a number of ways to avoid trouble for those planning to attend the event by boat.
“Check your boat, make sure your navigation lights work, know where you’re going, and make sure you know what the tide and currents are doing,” he said. “You could leave at a point when the water is nice and calm and you come back two or three hours later and the water is ripping through the area.”
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Daily Hive is a Proud Media Partner of the 2017 Honda Celebration of Light