Up above the tide line on the beach at Victoria are a number of small craft; a Hobie cat, a canoe, a kayak, a dinghy that someone uses to get out to a moored boat and something sporting a stubby mast that looked like a sailboat and became more and more familiar as I approached. It was the colour that I had first noticed – a deep blue with a thin white stripe along the side and as I got closer it became clear that this was a boat I knew well. The characteristic snub nose which set this boat apart was its most obviouis feature but I knew each and every inch of this boat because I had built it.
The last I had seen of “Keltie” was atop a car going down my street as it left my yard for a new home. Keltie was a Selway-Fisher design, a Highlander 12 that I had built more than ten years ago. I had carefully researched it as my first real boatbuilding project. I had used the best of materials, 1/4″ okumie marine plywood, and really honed my skills. I took no shortcuts. I gave it the best of marine fittings including Harken blocks and bronze oarlocks. What wasn’t painted with Interlux Top Coat was varnished. For the sprit rig I located a retired sailmaker and had a proper sail made – a change from the Tyvek sails of my earlier boats. The years had been kind to the Highlander and it had been well cared for. There were a few repairs and changes, especially where my skills with epoxy and fibreglass tape were not quite up the requirements in the plans or where I had made things up as they went along. Some of the varnish was painted over and some bits has simply worn out and had been replaced. But it was still a great boat and I was proud of how good it looked under the summer sun.
And now here it was on the beach in Victoria. The person I sold it to lived and sailed on the north side of the Island on Tracadie Bay. I was delighted to re-discover Keltie, named in honour of a motor cruiser that had belonged to my grand-father in the 1920s , which had in turn, been named for his youngest daughter – my great-aunt. Local inquiry soon resulted in the name of the current owner who was chef and innkeeper in the Victoria Village Inn. I later ran into him at the beach and got the story of how Keltie came to Victoria. The first owner after me had been a doctor and when he returned to Montreal or Toronto he left the boat with a friend who was a dentist close to Victoria in whose barn the boat was spotted by the chef and who bought it and sailed it as his only boat for several years before acquiring a Hurley bilgekeeler which he moored in Victoria harbour. The Highlander was still used for those times when he had just a few hours between welcoming guests and preparing meals as it was easy to launch and rig and could handle the shoal waters very nicely.