War canoe to test Penticton waters

Authentic 1920s 30-foot war canoe will race along the shores of Okanagan Lake following Saturday's Peachfest parade

Just after the Peachfest Parade ends (about 11:30 a.m. Saturday), an authentic 1920s vintage, 30-foot-long Penticton war canoe will race along Okanagan Beach from the SS Sicamous and back. Spectators have a chance to see an actual piece of Penticton history in action.

The canoe will have a crew of 15 enthusiastic volunteers from the Penticton Racing Canoe Club, the Penticton Paddling Centre, local paddlers from the Raymond James Penticton Dragon Boat Festival, the Penticton Museum and the SS Sicamous Inland Marine Museum, solely motivated by wanting Pentictonites to see an important part of their past — and a consuming desire to see just how fast they can get this thing to go.

“War canoes” actually have nothing to do with warfare. About the turn of the 1900s, racing these 30-foot-long, cedar-strip canoes became a passion in the communities on Okanagan Lake and fierce completion arose between them. The sport continued full force until the outbreak of the Second World War. Both sexes competed, with Penticton fielding some of the best teams.

The SS Sicamous Inland Marine Museum is hosting a new permanent war canoe exhibit put together through the generosity of the Penticton Museum and the work of designer par excellence Ted Senior. The exhibit features a restored vintage Penticton war canoe as well as historic artifacts from Penticton’s paddling past.

There are two more vintage war canoes waiting restoration, and if this can be completed by next summer, it is proposed to hold a real race with proceeds going to charity. Donations to support this restoration can be made at the Penticton Museum or through the SS Sicamous.