A Paddling People from the Beginning
For thousands of years people have launched naturally powered craft from the shores of what we now call Jericho Beach and Point Grey. Archeological evidence reveals a history of communities long connected harmoniously with their ocean environment.
The Legend of Point Grey
The legend tells the story of the Tyee of the West Wind; the scourge of local ancient mariners who aspired to be chief of gods and stood in defiance of the Sagalie Tyee. The Sagalie Tyee, in the form of The Four Men in a canoe, paddled through a destructive tempest brewed up by the West Wind and victoriously landed on this headland. The defeated West Wind Tyee was transformed into a great stone, filled with powerful medicine which today stands just off the shoreline SW of Point Grey. Ancient people named it Homolson Rock and say that for thousands of years to come any paddler who touches their blade to it will be blessed with favourable winds on their journey home.
Sailors entered English Bay for the first time in June 1792 captained by George Vancouver, who noted the sheltered inlet and its significant southern features: the large sand bank, the old growth forest and the fresh water stream emptying into an accessible tidal estuary at the east end of the bank. The magnificent towering stands of Douglas Fir were much in demand by mariners for building masts and the area would later be claimed by the British Admiralty. Capt. Vancouver made good contact with the people here and it didn’t take long for the local community to recognize all of the positive attributes of sailing.
Decades later Jeremiah Roger’s logging operation cleared the old growth forest which once stood here and depended on the ocean to get the product to market. Much of this wood went in to the building of early, pre-Great Fire, Vancouver. His location became known as Jerry’s Cove which was condensed to Jericho.
Jericho Beach Golf & Country Club
The ocean setting within the breathtaking mountain vista attracted the exclusive Jericho Beach Golf & Country Club which was washed away by a great ocean storm and was rebuilt only to then be expropriated by the Federal government for the Jericho Beach Air Station.
Jericho Beach Air Station: Vancouver’s First Airport
In 1920, almost a decade before YVR opened for business, the Jericho Beach Air Station commenced operations. In the earliest days of Canadian aviation history, flying boats from Jericho charted the BC coast, surveyed timber for BC’s fledgling forest industry, flew people, supplies and mail to remote communities, assisted Canada Customs in stemming the tide of rum runners during prohibition and photo surveyed and mapped remote areas of the province.
RCAF Station Jericho Beach
In the early part of WWII the Jericho Beach Air Station evolved into a Royal Canadian Air Force Base. The remnants of the Jericho Beach Golf & Country Club were covered with concrete and military buildings, and the number of flying boat and seaplane launches increased dramatically.
The building now known as the Jericho Sailing Centre was built in 1940 as the Marine and Stores Building for RCAF Jericho Beach. The upper floor consisted of officer’s offices as well as planning and briefing rooms for marine operations.
The primary mission became civil defense; launching reconnaissance missions from this shore to patrol the BC coast and looking for signs of enemy vessels and/or aircraft. Flying boats and seaplanes launched from here during WWII included: Blackburn Sharks, Vickers MKII, Canso Catalina and the mainstay of the fleet the Supermarine Stanraer – a sub hunter nicknamed “the Whistling Birdcage” for the sound generated by its biplane wing shrouds and rigging in flight.
RCAF Station Jericho Beach crew’s only actual contact with the “other side” was encountering a mysterious but ineffective invasion of incendiary bomb rigged weather-type balloons aloft in the winter of 1944/45.
Jericho Beach Park
RCAF Station Jericho Beach was decommissioned in 1969 and its land and buildings were turned over to the City who decided to create a marine access park. A lengthy process of demolishing the numerous buildings began and when City engineers assessed this building — then known as Building 13 — they determined that it would be too expensive to retain and rehabilitate, and recommended it be demolished.
The 1974 former Jericho Beach Air Station Marine and Stores Building had long been abandoned and, like the surrounding buildings, had an impending appointment with the wrecking ball. The building was hard to get to from the land side, through an armed guard station and other barb wire remnants of the closing military base.
It was unofficially adopted by a passionate crew of dinghy sailors, including members of the UBC and Viking Sailing Clubs, who had the dream and vision of creating a low cost, highly accessible, non-taxpayer funded community centre dedicated to ocean recreation for small, naturally powered craft.
When the ominous wrecking ball confronted this unrealized dream the undaunted sailors took their idea to the City of Vancouver who agreed to a tentative one year agreement to see how such an entity might serve the needs of citizens in the newly created Jericho Beach Park. The Jericho Sailing Centre has been the park’s “anchor tenant” ever since.
Jericho Sailing Centre
In ‘74 every window was broken, the roof leaked, there were no washrooms, showers, running water or electricity. There was however a determined “people power” and a new “army” of volunteers who went to work digging trenches for waterlines, fixing windows, building ramps, storage racks, washrooms, clubrooms, and removed metal and piling remnants from the beach.
Four decades of unwavering, passionate evolution have created the world-class ocean recreation facility enjoyed today by many in this city named after a prominent seafarer.
Since our humble beginnings when we served just a few hundred people, the population of Vancouver has more than doubled and the demand for naturally powered ocean recreation programs, services and facilities have increased exponentially.
More than 25,000 people from throughout the city and Metro Vancouver area, from all walks of life and all of life’s circumstances, annually launch from the Jericho Sailing Centre to experience Vancouver’s marine environment first hand.