Christine van Reeuwyk/Oak Bay News
A blue-hulled wooden boat beached at Willows Beach heads east while the sailor of said vessel remains a mystery.
Oak Bay resident and regular walker Alan Gregory discovered the small boat bearing the black marker inscription – Iris McKinley 1927-2013 and Gerald McKinley 1926-2015 together again – snugged up against the retaining wall of the popular Oak Bay beach last month.
A regular walker of “three to five miles a day,” Gregory said Willows Beach is usually besieged by walkers during his 7 a.m. walk. With a storm brewing on March 13, Gregory found it unusually quiet.
A spot of bright blue butted against the cement wall that barricades the park from the beach captured his attention.
Gregory picked it up and discovered it was small wooden boat.
Inside, black marker noted two names and dates: Iris McKinley 1927-2013 and Gerald McKinley 1926-2015 “together again.”
It made for a bit of a moment.
“I thought, ‘This is sad,’” Gregory said. “I thought, ‘This has got to go back to somebody.’”
Turns out Gerald, or Jerry as he’s referred in his Clearwater Times obituary, found through a quick internet search, “loved to fish, hunt and travel the back roads.”
An email to our fellow Black Press paper, the Clearwater Times, made its way to Lloyd and Doreen Romeo. Doreen is the daughter of Iris and Gerald, explained Lloyd in a phone call from Penticton.
“I really don’t know who made the boat or anything,” Lloyd said. “There are only a couple people in my mind who would be involved in this.”
The couple hasn’t yet attempted to solve the mystery, as they now live in Penticton.
“We were there (in Clearwater) all the time, we just moved down here after they passed away. We were there looking after them,” Lloyd said.
He suspects the wee craft could have set sail from the North Thompson River, making its way through to the Fraser and across to the Island. Gregory figured someone set it adrift in James Bay. Both now prefer Lloyd’s version of events.
Gregory called the couple and sorted out where to send the vessel, because despite not yet knowing the builder, Doreen would love to have the memento.