Historic plaque marking Silva Bay Shipyard unveiled

Ivan Bulic

Gabriola Museum

Tuesday, July 3 2018

In 1945, Vancouver boat builder Les Withey brought his young family to Silva Bay, where he built a shipyard that would became Gabriola’s largest enterprise, employing dozens of shipwrights, electricians, mechanics, painters, and clerks,  and launching hundreds of vessels including fishing boats, yachts and naval patrol boats. 

On June 26, an historic plaque was unveiled at Silva Bay Shipyard commemorating the history of this iconic Gabriola landmark. 

Fred Withey (centre), son of the Silva Bay Shipyard founder Les Withey, in front of the historic plaque unveiled on June 26 on the front of the Silva Bay Shipyard. With Withey are Dan Mayrand (right) current co-owner (with his wife Vickey) of the Shipyard; and Ivan Bulic, Gabriola Museum Director. Sarah Holmes photo


On hand to unveil the historic marker were Fred Withey, son of shipyard founder Les, current shipyard operators Don and Vickey Mayrand, and directors of the Gabriola Museum. 

Les Withey sold the Silva Bay shipyard in 1974 and retired aboard a converted wooden tugboat with his wife Marg, spending their last years cruising the BC coast. 

But the shipyard he built is still operating, and remains the last commercial shipyard in the Gulf Islands. 

Many of the boats that Withey launched at Silva Bay are still working and sailing local waters, a testament to the skill and quality of the Gabriola craftspeople who worked at the shipyard.

The historic panel at Silva Bay was designed and produced by the Gabriola Historical and Museum Society, and is the first in a series of markers that will be mounted around Gabriola  to highlight the island’s historic sites. 

The panels are the final component of the Museum’s commemoration of the Canada 150 sesquicentennial celebration that included the publication last year of Travelling Through Time: A guide to the historic sites of Gabriola Island.

This project is supported by the Province of British Columbia and Canada 150.