By R. Bruce Striegler
For 64 years, members of the Plimsoll Club, representatives from the shipping and marine transportation industry in Metro Vancouver have gathered at their annual fall gala to celebrate the industry, to meet new members, renew old acquaintances and to raise funds for Vancouver’s key charities. The organization takes it name from the line often painted along the hull of a ship indicating the ship’s draft and the legal limit to which it may be loaded, the plimsoll line.
For current Club President, Louise Kawaler, this year’s event held November 22 was especially notable. “We exceeded our attendance expectations with 300 guests, listened to the remarkable exploits of our keynote speaker, the Honourable Dr. Marc Garneau, Member of Parliament for Westmount-Ville-Marie and the first Canadian astronaut to travel in space, and we presented a $15,000 cheque to the Greater Vancouver Food Bank.” Kawaler explains, “I was certain that an astronaut would be an ideal guest speaker for the gala since the space experience offers a unique view of our world, and it was certainly a bonus that Mr. Garneau served as a commander in the Canadian Navy.”
Marc Garneau entertained the black tie crowd with anecdotes highlighting his life’s adventures, including a journey crewing aboard a 59-foot yawl twice crossing the Atlantic. He recounted his career with the Canadian Navy beginning as a naval combat systems engineer until his retirement in 1989 as naval captain and his 15 years as a Canadian astronaut where he logged almost 700 hours in space as both payload and mission specialist. He touched on his educational work as the President of the Canadian Space Agency, and his desire to have an impact on Canadian politics which led to his election to the House of Commons in 2011.
Marine industry gives back to the community
While the Plimsoll Club may have begun its life as a social organization whose purpose was to foster fellowship in the marine community, today the 140-member group is recognized for its philanthropic accomplishments. Louise Kawaler notes the organization has raised $56,000 for local charitable organizations over the past four years including the Mission for Seafarers, Covenant House and the United Way. As well as direct donations, the Plimsoll Club sponsors a bursary for an eligible student at the British Columbia Institute of Technology’s nautical sciences marine engineers and deck officer’s diploma program. “We do two major events a year,” says Louise Kawaler. “In May we host a golf tournament, always a sell-out, and the November gala, which is where we raise the majority of our money for charity.”
In a first, this year Kawaler reached out to the Port of Prince Rupert, inviting Port representatives to the gala. “I’d like to see Prince Rupert come into the Plimsoll Club fold, and I think an initiative for next year might be to have a Plimsoll Club chapter in Prince Rupert.”
By K. Joseph Spears
In January 2012, when newly elected Plimsoll Club President Louise Kawaler of ATP Instone, an international marine travel management company, invited The Honourable Marc Garneau, MP for Westmount-Ville Marie to be a speaker at the Vancouver Plimsoll Club’s annual gala on November 26, 2012 at the Fairmount Waterfront Hotel, little did she realize that a few days after the event had taken place, Mr. Garneau would be throwing his hat in the ring for the leadership of the Liberal Party of Canada and vying to become Canada’s Prime Minister in 2015.
Canada’s marine industry is central to its economy and this is nowhere more clearly set out than on Canada’s West Coast. As a professional mariner, Captain(N) (retired) Garneau, a former Canadian naval officer, is a sailor first and foremost. This year’s guest speaker was a fitting addition to this year’s Plimsoll Club gala event, as Mr. Garneau is well aware of the importance to the marine industry in Canada and its role to drive economic growth.
While British Columbia’s Plimsoll Club event is not as large as the Montreal Grunt Club or Toronto’s Marine Club functions, Vancouver’s Plimsoll club provides a great way for members of the marine community to come together in goodwill and relationship building which is central to this critically important industry. The Plimsoll Club also supports a number of local charities including the Vancouver Food Bank. The Plimsoll Club donated this year almost $15,000 which was raised from a number of fundraisers held throughout the year.
This year’s event saw a number of door prizes including a fishing trip to Duncanby Lodge on Vancouver Island, as well as an art show by marine artist Carla Sumarlidson of Salish Cross Studios, who donated an original piece of her art. The head table was piped in by the Honorary Guard of the 78 Fraser Highlanders Fort Fraser Garrison whose roots can be traced back to the siege of Louisbourg (N.S.) in 1754. The national anthem was sung by vocalist Minna Rytkonen accompanied on the piano by Moscow-trained opera singer Valeria Lockwood. Grace was given by Reverend Nick Parker of the Mission for Seafarers of Vancouver.
The Guest speaker, Marc Garneau, was presented with a Plimsoll Club-commissioned hand-carved set of Haida cufflinks by noted Haida artist and commercial fisherman Billy Bedard of Massett, Haidi Gwaii, with an eagle motif. Mr. Bedard was delighted to present the “Eagle has landed” cufflinks to Canada’s first astronaut. But as he mentioned in his presentation speech, his family was of the Raven clan and not the Eagle. Mr. Bedard in his remarks clarified that the stylized eagle was in fact a Raven. Mr. Bedard went on to add the Raven is a very smart bird but is also a trickster.
At this year’s gala there was plenty of opportunity for all the attendees to mingle before, during and after the event and also a chance to speak personally to Mr. Garneau, and to savour the spirit and the camaraderie of the marine industry. The evening was a great success as smiles on the attendees showed. This year’s Plimsoll event was the largest and finest yet. The bar has been set high by Louise and her committee, and the stage set for future events.