People walk along the dock beside Oyster Bay Cafe (Gerry Beltgens photo)

People walk along the dock beside Oyster Bay Cafe (Gerry Beltgens photo)

Ladysmith Maritime Society sails through a successful 2019

The Ladysmith Maritime Society has a lot to celebrate from the 2019 season

The Ladysmith Maritime Society has a lot to celebrate from the 2019 season.

Business was steady throughout the summer. The marina’s visiting dock ran at capacity, and other docks have been fully booked out — that totals to just under 3,000 boats. There is limited capacity to increase the number of boats.

In order to make more space available, the marina runs a revenue sharing program, where boaters can rent out their moorage space while they are on trips outside of the marina. With this program, those spots are used by visiting boaters rather than sitting empty.

Visitors from B.C. continued to be the largest users of the marina, followed by visitors from Washington. Visitors from California and Oregon were tied for third. The marina also saw visitors from Alaska, and as far south as Costa Rica.

There was an increase in how long visitors stayed at the marina. Visitors spent 1.8 days in Ladysmith compared to 1.6 days in 2018. Richard Wiefelspuett, executive director of the Ladysmith Maritime Society, said that the 0.2 percent increase was likely having a positive impact on the local economy.

“People stay longer, they are going up to Town to have a look around. They will spend more time exploring the area rather than just staying at the marina,” Wiefelspuett said.

The marina is a non-profit, so the profits go back in to maintaining and upgrading the marina. Over the winter season, LMS will be upgrading C dock. The upgrade will be a full replacement with new pilings, dock structures. It will have a total length of 678 feet.

LMS has begun the detailed planning phase, and has received a grant from B.C. Gaming that will match their funds 50/50.

Outside of their commercial marina operations, LMS hosts a variety of community events at the marina.

Kids’ Pirate Day saw an estimated 1,700 visitors. 800 visitors came for the Sea Life Celebration. The Heritage Boat Festival suffered under bad weather, but still saw a good turnout. The festival opened with Stz’uminus ceremony, including song and dance — a first for LMS. Wiefelspuett said the ceremony was well received, and he looks forward opening with ceremony again next year.

The marina leases space to a downstairs cafe that is run by the Beantime. The cafe is now closed for the off-season. Wiefelspuett said the cafe performed well, and it works as a “magnet” to attract people to the visitors.

LMS took full advantage of the restaurant space, and held nine Dine on the Docks events over the summer. Each event had a different theme. Wiefelspuett said the events were 80 percent sold out, with only two events that under performed. Going in to next year, Wiefelspuett said they will be more mindful of other community events, and long weekends when they make the schedule for 2020.

Wiefelspuett has only been with LMS for one summer season, and said he was very impressed by the marina.

“I spend a lot of time down there talking to people about why they come here, and it’s a mix of things. The cafe is a big draw, the festivities are a big draw, the washrooms, the building, it’s all on the state of the art side, and in many cases leading the field,” Wiefelspuett said.

“We have a reputation of being one of the friendliest marinas in the world. We have summer students come down here, and they make a very good impression. We have a strong marina team that builds on that. We have volunteers, that’s a big thing. The biggest figure I’m impressed by is our volunteer hours.”

LMS tracked 6,600 volunteer hours in the fiscal year. However, Wiefelspuett believes the number is closer to 10,000 hours. At a paid rate of $20 per hour, that is $200,000 of value generation.

Going in to 2020, LMS is looking at ways to make their internal processes more efficient. They are also looking to improve the way they communicate technical issues to customers. The marina is considered a “green marina” with a certification from Green Marine. They have 3 of a possible 5 anchors, and are aiming to add another anchor this year.

In terms of 2020 goals, Wiefelspuett prioritized community partnerships and building volunteer capacity with the youth. LMS is looking at giving young volunteers Serving it Right, FoodSafe, and radio operatoring tickets, so they can take away volunteer skills.