Flying Canoe Pub has real canoes

The Flying Canoe West Coast Pub takes its name seriously.


The Flying Canoe West Coast Pub takes its name seriously.

The second of two genuine West Coast canoes was hung recently from the ceiling of the former Gulliver’s Pub at the Best Western Plus Westerly Hotel and Convention Centre in Courtenay. It hangs not far from the first one, which was made by the same person.

Don Roberts, a 37-year Sooke resident, came up from his current home in Colwood recently to visit the pub with his wife Marion and Lynn Allaire, the eldest of their four daughters, and witness the hanging of his second canoe.

Roberts, who was born in Elnora, Alta., in 1922 moved to Sooke in 1946.

His passion for woodworking led him to complete many wooden projects, including bedroom suites, tables, lamps and even wooden puzzles.

While visiting his daughter Shari in the mid-1990s in Two Hills, Alta., Roberts was introduced by Shari’s husband George to the art of building a cedar strip canoe.

Although in his 70s, Roberts learned how to cut canoe “ribs” and one-inch strips of cedar and how to place the strips on the rib frame, gluing each strip carefully in place.

Back home in Sooke, Roberts bought cedar, glue and fiberglass, then built a canoe complete with woven seats. After many long hours, he finished his “labour of love” in Allaire’s words, complete with a maple leaf from their property sealed at one end of the canoe.

He then made a second, longer, canoe — inserting a pine strip on each side as a way of personalizing it.

“The canoes were used mostly on vacations with his daughters and carry many fond memories of paddling with the family,” Allaire says.

He used one of them to hunt moose, too, Roberts adds.

The canoes, which Roberts estimates took him a year each to build, were restored by Jeff Matwyko in December 2010 and June 2011.

The canoes were acquired by Westerly general manager Michelle LeSage and now they help the artfully modernized pub live up to its name.

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