Sink or swim: Cowichan Bay gets fast and furious again

This Fast and Furious team assembled this craft in the allotted three hours during last year’s Cowichan Bay Boat Festival. - Rachel Penney
This Fast and Furious team assembled this craft in the allotted three hours during last year’s Cowichan Bay Boat Festival.
— image credit: Rachel Penney

Whatever floats your boat is more than just a saying.

It's also one of the instructions for those participating in the Fast and Furious Boat Building Challenge being held next month at the Cowichan Bay Maritime Centre's Small Wooden Boat Festival. The festival runs from July 5 to 6.

Here's how it works: teams of two to four people have three hours to build a boat from scratch, before racing it in the water. Teams are limited to $100 in materials; can only use hand, not power tools); can't pre-cut panels, transoms, molds or bulkheads; and can't pre-assemble their boats.

"Blue styrofoam, we prefer that over white, it doesn't break up as much, plywood, anything that floats," maritime centre manager Sheila McLeod said.

A minimum of two people must be on board during the race, which consists of a sailing and rowing/paddling leg. The race will be held at Kil-Pah-Les beach.

Entrants will be judged on: best costume, first to finish building, best clean-up of their building site, most original design and first to finish the sailing and paddling race.

If that sounds like fun, and you want to register, or want more information before deciding, call 250 746-4955 or The entry fee is $50.

In addition to the boat building challenge, half hour boat trips up the Cowichan Estuary from 12:30 to 2:30 p.m. are being offered for the first time in the festival's history.  Those interested should sign up Saturday and Sunday afternoons.

This year's focus is on small wooden boats. McLeod says small means power, row or sailboats up to 22 feet.

"The wooden boats is a little something different to focus on," she said. "We're hoping to get boats from all over Vancouver Island, the San Juan's, all over the Pacific Northwest."

Other events include a people's choice award for attendees favourite small boat and sailing, power and row boat demonstrations.

Boat races run Saturday. There's the "Seagull all out and out race" — that's the small engine, not the bird — and rowing races to boot.

For those hungry for some chow, there's a pancake breakfast and a salmon barbecue to look forward to.

The popular event — which has been held for 29 years — was cancelled in 2011, because of a lack of volunteers.  If you like being near the water, or want to ensure that the celebration goes ahead, contact McLeod and her staff at the centre.

For a full itinerary of the festival's events, go to:

Your ticket

What: Cowichan Bay Maritime Centre's Small Wooden Boat Festival

When: July 5-6

Where: 1761 Cowichan Bay Road, Cowichan Bay

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