By John A. Heddle
Probably you have seen the pond on Dallas Road between Government St. and South Turner Ave. On a recent Sunday morning, a young lad was beaming as his blue model lapped the yachts, a famous battleship, and a tug on the yacht pond. Mostly, the Harrison Yacht Pond is bereft of yachts and is quiet, unless the Herring Gulls want to bathe. But every Sunday morning from 9:30 to 11, the pond is a hive of activity with VMSS boats on the water and crew on the greensward along with onlookers. The miniature ships are mostly models made painstakingly from kits, but a Canadian Tire speedy runabout was making a young lad smile as it zipped across the pond.
The Hood, a British WWII battleship was sailing sedately around, undisturbed by any German Bismark, and ignoring the speedy blue runabout. Soon her handlers were busy rebalancing her cargo of weights to keep her stable. Meanwhile two elegant sailboats were criss-crossing the feather-strewn water rather slowly in the rare absence of a useful breeze. A red model car, which was supported by two empty water bottles, proved to be amphibious, both seaworthy and able to circle the pond on its concrete rim.
The yacht pond was commissioned in 1956 by Mayor Claude Harrison for the use of modelers and the enjoyment of visitors. It is about knee deep, which is barely adequate for the largest sailing yachts but more than adequate for Herring Gulls and Canada Geese who get more use out of it than the modelers. During one of the seasonal migrations, I saw a flock of a few dozen American Wigeons bathing excitedly in the water. The pond is usually pretty murky for bathing, with a noticeable sprinkling of feathers, but it is fresh rather than salt water so the birds rejoice in getting rid of the salt. Fortunately, it gets a periodic cleaning by the firefighters.
The small Sunday gatherings are pleasant, as onlookers and modelers alike chat with friends and partners who watch and help – as the boats are not trouble-free. Almost all are controlled by wireless technology, some of which is both high-tech and expensive. But controllers are available for less than $100. The same cannot be said of most boats, which can run into many hundreds of dollars and may take months to construct. Nevertheless, enthusiasts may have several. Nowadays, few are made from scratch rather than from commercial kits, but home-made ones still exist: Earnest Reid told me that he had some among the many different ones from decades of modelling. His expensive controller could control 10 different ones without resetting, but he would not attempt to control such a fleet simultaneously!
If you are interested in this hobby, the Victoria Model Shipbuilding Society -www.vmss.ca - has monthly meetings (Second Thursday 7:309:30 p.m. at St. Peter's Anglican Church (Lakehill 3939 St. Peter's Road) and often puts on two special events a year. Members sail on Elk Lake on the first and third Sundays of the month. The Langford Lake Navy meets on Langford Lake (Leigh Rd. at Trillium) on Wednesdays at 9:30 a.m.. There is also The Binnacle, a newsletter with many interesting articles. Mike Bush is the president and can be reached at 250-418-5527. Non-members can, of course, run models in the Harrison Yacht Pond with its two lighthouses, at anytime.