John West as Master of Ceremonies at the Victoria Classic Boat Festival award banquet.

John West as Master of Ceremonies at the Victoria Classic Boat Festival award banquet.

The Victoria Harbour History website is dedicated to the memory of John West (1949-2017). John was a sailor, historian, engineer, maritime activist, bon vivant, and a raconteur of the first order.

He loved the sea and her boats… as a young boy he once set out aboard his first command, an eight-foot Sabot, single-handing across Haro Strait to San Juan Island. Fortunately the voyage was curtailed when his parents, with the help of a neighbour’s speedboat, convinced the young mariner to return to his home port. John and his father BIll built and sailed Vado, a five-metre keelboat. John inherited a keen sense of design and proportion from Bill, a high school art teacher then stage designer at the University of Victoria.

As an adult, John explored the history and geography of his beloved BC coast aboard his many vessels: Far West, a restored 12 metre troller, then Gabrielle II, a 48 foot Knut Reimers’ yawl. Astrocyte, a 50 foot William Garden circumnavigator sloop was followed by Scaup, a Monk troller-cruiser. One day in 1986, while John was bringing Scaup into Pier One, Bonnie Stacey helped him with the lines. John and Bonnie began a friendship that grew and, much to the delight of all their many friends, they married in 1996. Following in Scaup‘s wake came Kwasun, the Laurent Giles designed Salar 40 John had transported from Rhode Island to Victoria for a meticulous restoration.

John’s  enthusiasm and vast knowledge of maritime heritage has had a profound impact on the subject’s preservation. In 1977 he was a founding member of the Victoria Classic Boat Festival, serving on its board for 21 years then as its chair from 1998 through 2005. As the festival’s longtime judging coordinator, he brought both his own deep understanding of classic vessels, along with that of many of his peers who also served as judges, to countless festival participants dedicated to the restoration of their own vessels. John served as a trustee, board member, then chair of the Maritime Museum of British Columbia’s Board of Directors and was among those instrumental in the ongoing restoration of Dorothy, the gaff cutter built and launched in 1897 that is among Canada’s most historically important vessels.

John was at his happiest when exploring the BC coast and was a “walking encyclopedia” of both the British Columbia’s coast and her classic boats. Whether moored or anchored, John always found a boat he knew the heritage of and, with a frosty gin, tonic and bitters in hand, would set off to meet and chat with the vessel’s skipper.

Scaup, John West's Monk troller cruiser

Scaup, John and Bonnie West’s Monk troller cruiser

John’s first professional post was aboard the TEV Princess Marguerite, which ultimately took him to Northern British Columbia. Later he served as chief engineer at Victoria’s Bapco Paint. Most of West’s professional life was served in real estate to which he brought his prodigious knowledge of local history and its architecture, a refined and exacting eye, and his great enjoyment in helping others to the many clients who benefited from his broad professionalism.

He is missed by many.