Life On The Docks
The wharf was bookended by two floating fuel barges, with Esso at the west end and Texaco at the east end where the World Mark stands today. The Texaco float had showers, which was a plus for the wharf rats. For a while, it even had a hamburger joint called Vinnie's Eats ("Dine afloat or Dinah Shore"). Some wharf dwellers resented having to pay Texaco for showers in the 1980s. A community effort on Dock One produced a floating shower with its own hot water tank that all were welcome to use. The shower had to be discontinued when people began to receive large electrical shocks during their ablutions.
There were a handful of float homes during this era, but the main occupants lived mostly on boats of all descriptions. Trimarans jostled with Chinese junks and people living in floating boat moulds. The long suffering wharfinger was everyone's enemy and hardly anybody actually paid their moorage (the author included, I am afraid to say). The wharfinger's revenge was to sneak down very early and unplug all the boats, especially in cold weather. As he went back up the dock, people would crawl out of their bunks, plug their boats back in and return to sleep.
Over the years, the fishing fleet began to shrink and more dock space was allocated to live-aboards. As the power and sail boats moved to the west, new float homes began to take their place. A new sheriff came to town in the form of an efficient wharfinger. In addition to collecting the rent, they began to bring some order to the place. In 2002, the federal Department of Transport divested the wharf and other harbour assets to the Greater Victoria Harbour Authority. GVHA was faced with the difficult task of starting to run the wharf as an actual business. Unlike your average marina, the wharf is now home to an eclectic group of tenants, including the fishing fleet, live-aboards, float home dwellers and transient vessels as well as the many commercial operators.
It may be different than it used to be, but Fisherman's Wharf is still a colourful place to visit.
The Fishing Fleet
For forty or more years from the 1950s, salmon vessels, primarily trollers, were tied two and sometimes three abreast during the off season. Although the seasons grew progressively shorter, the fleet would depart for the fishing grounds in the late spring. The boats would not return until the weather turned for the worse in the fall. For many years, a "blessing of the fleet" by a man of the cloth took place before the boats and their crews set off in search of various species of salmon found off the West Coast.
Until the early 1980s, Dennis Shellfish operated a crab- and fish-buying facility just to the west of the Shoal Point condominiums, where the Malahat building is now. Fishermen would tie up alongside the dock and unload their catch. The company ran a crew that shucked tons of crab meat. Dennis Shellfish became Washington Fish and finally, Albion Fisheries, before being torn down in the late 1980s.