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Sailing past Pride

Gay yacht club salutes community

"I keep saying we should do pirates one year, but everyone is always like, 'No, no, no, we love sailors' because they are crazy about the uniforms," laughs Mickael Plourde (right, with Cary Ford), commodore of the Pacific Rim Yacht Club. Credit: Doerthe Keilholz photo

Pride enthusiasts Mickael Plourde and Cary Ford won’t walk in this year’s parade, but that doesn’t mean they won’t participate. As passionate boaters, they have been extending Vancouver’s Pride celebrations from the streets to the waterways for the last five years.

From the deck of their boat, Konakai, Plourde and Ford will once again lead the Pride sail-past, trailed by about a dozen other boats, all decorated with flags and garlands and filled with members of the Pacific Rim Yacht Club (PRYC) and other Pride revellers.

“We have a theme every year. This year it is Navy. I keep saying we should do pirates one year, but everyone is always like, ‘No, no, no, we love sailors’ because they are crazy about the uniforms,” laughs Plourde, commodore of the PRYC.

From the docks of the False Creek Yacht Club, the boats will sail through the Fraser Inlet out to English Bay and right along Sunset Beach, the festival site that marks the end of Vancouver’s Pride parade route. The “raft up” barbecue will take place at the east end of False Creek, near Science World, with dinghies shuttling people from the shore to the boats.  

“We honk our horns, wave and salute and try to get people’s attention. We always make a lot of noise. It’s hard to miss us, really,” says Plourde.

For him, seeing the crowd at Sunset Beach react to the cheering boaters is his biggest reward. “Every year there are actually people who go and swim out to the boat, or they moon us. Sometimes they even salute back.”

Although many North American cities have a waterfront, Vancouver Pride participants are the only ones who get a sail-past, Ford says.

“We are the only city that is doing this. We were talking, for example, to the Seattle Yacht Club, and the Pride route there is nowhere near the water. They envy us, that we can do that. They just have to go in the parade.”

Aside from the fun of sailing by the parade, for Plourde the sail-past is also a way of giving back to the community that helped him come out. “For old yacht clubs, the idea is that you always do a sail-past to show your respect to the commodore,” he says. “So our idea is that you do a sail-past to show your respect to the community and to salute them.”