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Carols Afloat adds colour to local waves and bright lights to local lives

Maple Bay Yacht Club member Keith Fuller decorates his 34-foot Bayliner, AKA Santa’s boat for this year’s Carols Afloat, a signature event for folks in the valley and especially for those living in Maple Bay. - Ashley Degraaf
Maple Bay Yacht Club member Keith Fuller decorates his 34-foot Bayliner, AKA Santa’s boat for this year’s Carols Afloat, a signature event for folks in the valley and especially for those living in Maple Bay.
— image credit: Ashley Degraaf

Being the operator of St. Nick's boat is pretty cool.

And although Keith Fuller probably didn't ever consider that would be become his role in life, it has been now for more than four years.

And he loves every minute of it.

"It's an awful a lot of fun every year," the Maple Bay Yacht Club member said, while getting his 34-foot Bayliner prepped for Santa's visit Sunday during the club's annual Carols Afloat event.

Fuller has been a member of the club for about 14 years and started participating in the water parade almost as soon as he signed the membership form. He takes his job transporting the jolly fellow in red and his Mrs. to shore at Maple Bay's Rowing Club very seriously.

"We try to keep it as safe as we can," Fuller said, noting decorating the watercrafts is one of the favourite parts for participating boaters, but can also be tricky with visibility being so tough in the dark.

"It's more than just the lights. There are boats with things like candy canes and reindeer," explained MBYC director Scott McIvor. "It really becomes a competition between the members. And we have awards for best sailboat, best powerboat, and overall."

Watching the parade of about 15 to 20 boats has become a yearly tradition for many valley folks. Whether they're watching cozied up from their homes in Maple Bay, parked in their cars on Pacific Drive, or bundled up amongst the crowd at the rowing club, the event offers a feast for the eyes — enough to get the coldest of Grinches feeling warm and fuzzy.

"We just have fun. It's a social event for sure," said McIvor, as he talks with Fuller about who's riding on who's boat and who's participating and who's not this year due to factors like mechanical issues.

McIvor noted many folks host annual holiday gatherings at their homes in the Bay the night of the float past. 

The long-time yacht club member is hopping on buddy Arthur Allan's craft Tranquil Lady this year, since he sold his 34-foot Tollycraft beaut about a year ago.

The sale is still fresh and saddening for McIvor, who's owned sailboats in the past as well, although he added his bank account has been thanking him. He now owns a smaller vessel.

"One of the best parts of it all is seeing the HMCS Oriole," said the long-time event participant. "It just looks so beautiful. And I know for many people watching, it's just about the colour. It's very colourful."

The boat parade, led by the Oriole, a navy training sailing ship, leaves the yacht club at about 6:30 p.m. The convoy heads into Bird's Eye Cove and back out through Maple Bay, ending up at the rowing club, where most families wait to get a glimpse of and a candy cane from Mr. and Mrs. Claus at the government dock.

The rest of the boating convoy circles around the bay for about 20 minutes until the Clauses are ready to depart and join them for a parade that eventually ventures back to yacht club headquarters.

McIvor and Fuller remind folks anyone can participate in the boat float, and often some operators cruise up at the last minute to join in. They also encourage people to watch from the rowing club, as it's really about drawing the crowds of people.

"It's the people that get us decorating the boats," said McIvor.

A potluck is also being organized for participants this year at the Yacht Club.

For more information call 250-746-4521 or 250-746-4670.

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