The 20th annual Maritime Festival took place this past weekend at the Britannia Shipyards in Steveston.
The free event brought locals and tourists together to enjoy maritime-themed activities and learn about Steveston’s heritage. The event showcased former wooden fishing boats that have been fixed up and restored by their new owners.
Steveston, an important part of Richmond’s history, was originally a cannery until it became a shipyard and maritime repair shop, which operated until 1979. In 1991, the area was declared a national historic site.
Due to this, many of the heritage buildings were preserved and allow visitors to learn about the fishing industry and labourers during that period of British Columbia’s history.
Mimi Horita is the destination development coordinator of Steveston Heritage Sites at the City of Richmond and sees this festival as a time to celebrate the province’s multicultural heritage.
“It’s a blend of outdoor and indoor heritage displays and exhibits … there’s something for everyone of all ages. If you’re familiar with the history, it’s really fascinating. If you’re not, it’s a great introduction to it,” Horita says.
Fourteen boats were displayed on the dock each carrying different significances and maritime history, including rescue boats, fishing boats, and Japanese old boat works.
“We have a number of Japanese old boat works, where Japanese-Canadians skilled boat workers were building fishing boats for the fleet,” Horita says.
The buildings also give visitors insight into how fishermen were treated. While men of European descent lived in the men’s bunkhouse, which was occupied by around 15 men, Chinese male labourers had different living quarters.
“[The houses] represent the different types of living arrangements and conditions for people with different backgrounds. We have the affluent managers house, the men’s bunkhouse, and the Chinese bunkhouse, where Chinese male labourers may have been living,” Horita says.
The Chinese bunkhouse was occupied by 100 workers from the 1880s until the 1920s.
The festival also featured live music, food trucks, and the opportunity to board some of the restored boats.
“I love being able to get up close and on board the boats,” Horita says.
“You get to meet the actual owners or societies that restore these boats … and you get that share of enthusiasm when you go and meet them in person.”
Derek Botkin owns the Island Provider, one of the boats displayed at the festival. The boat originally packed herring, until a fire took place, and then was converted into a halibut longliner and a salmon and herring packer. This is the first year Botkin has participated in the maritime festival.
“With the way fishing is going now, … it’s kind of our yacht,” Botkin says.
“Especially the fishing industry, it’s changing so fast and old boats like this are few and far between.They are just dying out. If you do not share it now, people will never know what it used to be like, [before] factory ships.”
The festival helps bring these old ships and the important part they played in B.C.’s history to the forefront.
“It promotes a sense of togetherness [and] makes a very positive space for people to come and enjoy,” says Lauren Tang, an interpreter for Britannia Shipyards.
“It celebrates the different cultures that we have already. To be able to celebrate and give these different performances and cultures a place to perform and engage [attendees] and ask them to participate is the best part about it.”
For more information on the historical site visit https://richmondmaritimefestival.ca/historical-exhibits/.