Andrew McBride navigates the return of the 2021 Sea of Lights on Dec. 3. (Black Press Media file photo)

Andrew McBride navigates the return of the 2021 Sea of Lights on Dec. 3. (Black Press Media file photo)

Royal Victoria Yacht Club powers up popular nautical holiday parade

Sea of Lights sets sail on Dec. 3 along Oak Bay, Saanich shorelines

A popular late fall tradition returns to the beaches of Saanich and Oak Bay after a year hiatus.

Right up to the first week of November, members of the Royal Victoria Yacht Club were sure the annual Sea of Lights wouldn’t set sail again in 2021. With unexpected approval for the community bonfire at Willows Beach, Andrew McBride put his years of experience navigating this particular event into high gear.

During the Sea of Lights, a tradition dating back to 2006, decorated and lit boats parade past Cattle Point, Willows Beach and Gyro Park before heading back to the club in Oak Bay. With six RVYC members signed up off the bat, organizers hope to hit 15 or 20 boats led by a naval ship – as per tradition.

“We hope to see a great turnout this year. Having spectators on the beaches, too, will allow for ample social distancing. We do still encourage masks if social distancing isn’t possible,” McBride said.

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A community bonfire at Willows, overseen by Oak Bay firefighters, includes hot chocolate by donation, courtesy of the Oak Bay Kiwanis. Festivities will also fill Gyro Park in Saanich, with the Salvation Army taking donations in exchange for cocoa.

“For us as a yacht club it’s an opportunity to do something that creates an opportunity for other charitable groups in the community, and Christmas is a good time to do that,” McBride said.

Many waterfront residents in the area use the colourful event as the kick-off to their Christmas social calendar.

Rescue crews from local units of the Coast Guard Auxiliary ensure safety by marking and patrolling the route. Judges at the two beaches mark the vessels on showmanship, with awards – donated by local businesses – handed out during a dinner later that evening.

The annual Sea of Lights ship parade is Friday, Dec. 3. The fleet leaves the RVYC at 6:45 p.m. passing Cattle Point around 7 p.m. then Willows Beach around 7:15 p.m. The fleet parades past Cadboro Bay’s Gyro Park beach around 7:45.

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