Bill McGuire, photographed for a 2005 article published with the headline ‘Mr. Bathtub.’ NEWS BULLETIN file photo

Longtime Nanaimo bathtub commodore Bill McGuire dies

‘Mr. Bathtub’ was involved in the sport and community event since its beginnings

He ensured the sport of bathtub racing thrived for 50 years, but now he’s gone and it’s up to others in Nanaimo to keep tubbing strong.

Bill McGuire, former longtime commodore of the Loyal Nanaimo Bathtub Society, died on Saturday. He was in his mid-70s.

“It is with heavy hearts today we mourn the loss of past commodore, friend and mentor Bill McGuire. Bill’s dedication and commitment to our community and our tubbers will never be forgotten,” noted a social media post Sunday on the Loyal Nanaimo Bathtub Society’s Facebook page.

Greg Peacock, current bathtub society commodore, said “from what I understand, it was peaceful.”

John Ruttan, former Nanaimo mayor and another former bathtub society commodore, said it was sudden, as he received a bathtub-related e-mail from McGuire just three days before.

McGuire was involved with bathtubbing since he was a participant in the inaugural race in 1967 with what he described as “a comic entry.”

The second year, however, McGuire, despite having almost no boating experience, made it all the way to Vancouver, reaching the beach in 21st place.

“He used to say with kind of a wry smile that he was frightened for most of the trip and would have turned around, except he felt he would have flipped over, so he kept going whether he wanted to or not,” Ruttan said

McGuire would go on serve two stretches as commodore, most recently from 1997 to 2017. The sport evolved over the years, from tipsy bathtubs attached to makeshift rafts to the super-modified speed-tubs that are capable of setting new world records in the strait.

“I think everybody is surprised, myself included, that it’s gone on for 50 years,” McGuire told the News Bulletin leading up to the race’s 50th anniversary in 2017.

Peacock said McGuire saw bathtubbing as a team-building, community-building, family event.

“If it wasn’t for that kind of commitment and dedication to it, we probably wouldn’t be bathtub racing still,” Peacock said. “He was there right from the beginning and right to the end.”

McGuire graduated high school in Nanaimo. He was a car salesman – for a time he worked for Jack Harris – and then ended up having a long career in real estate with Royal LePage Nanaimo Realty. Aside from tubbing, he was also involved with the Serauxmen service club. Last year he was co-winner, along with fellow bathtubbing volunteer Margaret Johnson, of the Michael Rhode Memorial Award, recognizing longtime commitment to the sport of bathtubbing, at the Nanaimo Sport Achievement Awards.

“He was a wonderful guy. I think the world of him,” said Ruttan. “He was one of those people that you meet from time to time – he was seldom really angry with anyone, I never heard him ever utter a bad word about anyone. He was just a really decent, nice guy, well-liked, had many, many friends … He brought people to him.”

McGuire is survived by wife Gail – whom he married on a bathtub weekend – son Ken and two grandsons.

There will be an informal gathering and salute to McGuire at the Frank Ney Memorial Polar Bear Swim on Boxing Day, Dec. 26, at Departure Bay Beach. Registration for the swim starts at 11:30 a.m. with the dip in the bay at 1 p.m.

A service for McGuire will be announced at a later date.

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