The City of Victoria, and hundreds of young men and women, owe a deep debt of gratitude to the vision, efforts and expertise of Martyn and Margaret Clark.
The Clarks launched their maritime careers and married life together in 1969 aboard their newly purchased Nova Scotian schooner, Ayesha. From Cape Breton the pair set sail for the West Indies on a year-long honeymoon cruise christening their love affair with boats and the sea, a love that endures to this day.
Their first business enterprise was Clark MacKeown Yachts in Toronto, a combination yacht brokerage, sailing charter operation, and marine consultancy.
In 1972 they moved to Vancouver Island’s Bird’s Eye Cove in Maple Bay, becoming pioneers of bareboat chartering in the Pacific Northwest. Under their management their Cove Yachts grew to include a marina, a small shipyard, boat sales, and a sailing school. The day inevitably arrived when they realized they were doing far more managing than sailing. They sold up.
Moving to England, they undertook the restoration of the Norwegian schooner Nylund on the Isle of Wight. The work was completed over a long, hot summer. After a short cruise to France and through the Channel Islands the couple wintered in Dartmouth, Devon, where Martyn worked as a shipwright and in film.
Returning to Canada in the late 1970s, the Clarks settled in the remote northern British Columbia community of Oona River on Porcher Island. The couple fished commercially in the summer, and Martyn repaired boats in the winter. Margaret was enlisted as the village’s public health nurse.
In 1981 Martyn and Margaret moved to Victoria where Martyn became founding executive director of the fledgling Sail and Life Training Society (S.A.L.T.S.). He commenced the final restoration of the organization’s first vessel, the former Banks fishing schooner, Robertson II. Martyn served as her captain and shipwright, fundraiser and as director of S.A.L.T.S. Margaret served as booking manager, medical officer, relief cook, and laundress of the 40-bunk vessel.
The pair grew the society, sailing with complements of young trainees from spring until fall. Over three years of winter restoration work the Robbie, as she was affectionately called, was brought back to her historic rig and won the Best Restored prize at the Victoria Classic Boat Show. The S.A.L.T.S. training program grew by leaps and bounds, soon requiring a second vessel. In 1985 the brigantine, Spirit of Chemainus, was launched in Chemainus British Columbia to meet the demand.
In 1986 the hull of the society’s third vessel, the topsail schooner, Pacific Swift, was built on site at Vancouver’s Expo 86. She was completed in Victoria and, in 1988, sailed on her maiden voyage to Australia where she attended Expo 88 in Brisbane. Martyn was her captain and Margaret her first mate and ship’s nurse. Over the next 11 years Martyn and Margaret introduced hundreds of S.A.L.T.S. trainees to the life-changing joys and responsibilities of life at sea, logging well over 100,000 miles.
By 1999 the society’s school, summer, and offshore programs were fully booked. Martyn’s planning and fundraising had seen the construction of a new schooner, the Pacific Grace, to replace the aging Robertson II well underway. S.A.L.T.S. was a success and Martyn and Marg felt the time had come to turn the helm over to younger hands. They stepped down from the S.A.L.T.S. bridge.
Martyn then accepted the position of consultant and master for the new 1812-replica privateer schooner Lynx in Rockport, Maine. With Margaret as cook and watch officer they delivered Lynx first to the West Indies and then, passing through the Panama Canal, to San Diego, California.
For a few years thereafter Martyn acted as a relief master for S.A.L.T.S., skippering both the Pacific Swift and the Pacific Grace. During this period Martyn worked as consultant for sail training organizations in Canada and the United States. In 2005, during a period of transition, Martyn returned as Executive Director of S.A.L.T.S. for a year.
Following a stint as master of a hotel barge in France, consulting, cruising and living aboard their ketch, Passat, occupied the Clarks for the next few years. Martyn then took a short-term position as executive director of Victoria’s Maritime Museum of British Columbia and in 2012 he took the helm of the Los Angeles Maritime Institute in San Pedro, California.
These days the Clarks, parents of five beautiful daughters, continue to consult in the maritime community, travel extensively, and are busy restoring their seventh home in 12 years, a little seaside cottage in LaHave, Nova Scotia. They sold their beloved ketch, Passat, in 2012 though still put to sea in the 28th boat they’ve owned together, a Wayfarer sailing dinghy, Ratty.