We are greatly looking forward to attending this great community event again this coming Sunday, December 3. This ‘encore presentation’ from an earlier sail past will give our readers a good idea of what fun it is, even in the worst weather. Hopefully the weather Gods will provide a clear and dry evening for 2017 . So bundle up the kids, pack up the camera and be prepared for a fun evening that will appeal to every member of your family. The Port Alberni Sail Past festivities are slated to run from 5-9 p.m., with the actual sail past scheduled for 6 p.m.
Wow! What a night! I am fast coming to the conclusion that Port Alberni residents are among the most resilient, tough and fun-loving people on the Island. That was proven out once again this past weekend when we journeyed to the Alberni Valley to take in the annual sail past at the city’s downtown Harbour Quay.
The weather, in a word, was nothing short of filthy – torrential downpours and winds gusting up in the 70 kmh range – a bit of a challenge for an open air event. But Port Alberni folks turned out in the hundreds to take in the festivities.
There was a bit of confusion over start times for the affair – some advance publicity had it commencing at 6 p.m., while other missives publicized a 7 p.m. launch. Ever erring on the side of caution, we arrived shortly before 6 to discover that all the nearby parking spots were occupied – we ended up parking near the heritage train station, just a short walk away, and joined dozens of others headed for the waterfront. We arrived at the quay to find two huge barbecues (under cover) being used to cook hot dogs, available by donation – or free if you couldn’t chip in any cash. From there we ventured out in to the wind and rain to hang over the railing and enjoy a colourful procession of 18 festively-lighted boats. They were all shapes and sizes and they sported different themes – every one unique and beautifully executed. Each boat had a number attached so that spectators could vote for their favourites, with cash prizes handed out at the end of the evening. The lighted boats continued to circle in front of the quay for close to half an hour despite the high winds and driving rain. And then, a huge barge set off one of the most magnificent fireworks displays we have had the pleasure of viewing – it went on for several minutes and featured some really spectacular pyrotechnics.
The boats headed for cover in the protected harbour following the fireworks – rising winds no doubt were causing some anxiety, and by then everyone was soaked to the gunwales anyhow.
We sloshed back to one of several portable firepits (also under cover) to warm up, then headed over to the very busy Donut Shop, a permanent favourite fixture on the quay. Hot chocolate and donuts purchased, we trundled over to another part of the quay’s commercial area where we discovered Santa, all snug and warm in his own little cubby hole, waiting to greet the children and hand out candy canes.
Also tucked over in that vicinity were a number of craft booths, under cover but outdoors. It can’t have been a great evening for sales for the vendors, but they stuck it out. We couldn’t help but feel badly for them but once again the Port Alberni resilience shone through – they were all cheerful and helpful despite the miserable conditions, and they were exhibiting some really lovely and unique items.
So, another great event on the Port Alberni calendar. Despite the nasty weather we enjoyed every second of the sail past activities and the festive atmosphere. There is an old saying about adversity bringing out the best in people and that was proven in spades – again – this past weekend. Methinks this gathering is going to become a new annual Christmas tradition for us, come rain or wind or…well, whatever.
I don’t generally acknowledge commercial supporters of events in my articles, but we really need to offer a tip of the hat to the Blue Marlin Inn for getting behind this splendid family-oriented evening. I am sure that with each successive year the sail past will become bigger and better organized. It’s a great contribution to life in the Alberni Valley.
There is no website for the sail past, but if you keep an eye on the Blue Marlin Inn’s Facebook page you will be able to get all the details for future sail pasts there:
Alberni Harbour Quay is located at the foot of Argyle Street in downtown Port Alberni.
GPS co-ordinates are:
N 49 14.066 W 124 48.902