The Bob Wright Story

It is one of life's ironies that Bob Wright was born in Regina, Saskatchewan, which is as far from the ocean as one can be in Canada. Born in 1930, he got closer to the ocean when his father took a job as a relief worker in Edmonton. The westward drift stopped and Wright spent the Depression years in Alberta, where he recalls being one of the poorest kids in the neighbourhood. His mother died when he was seven, and his family was so impoverished that Wright slept on the floor of an unheated room in the family home. "I remember I had the dog to keep me warm."

Bob Wright at the Oak Bay Marina.

Not much of a scholar, he quit school by by grade 11 and took to fishing the neighbourhood creeks. "My schooling was not something I would write home about. Tasked with guiding me in the right direction, my teachers tried their best. In grade three my music teacher loaned me a violin. After three weeks she took it back and suggested I should perhaps concentrate on art classes. After about a month, my art teacher told me that I might actually be a natural in sports. I spent the remainder of the year warming the bench."

It was the Sea Cadets that took him on a field trip that offered him his first glimpse of the Pacific Ocean, a sight he found both inspiring and baffling. "I couldn't understand why the water would go up and down. I'd never heard of tides."

Although he pursued a 12-year marketing career in newspapers in Victoria, Wright cast his eyes on the ocean, where he had an uncanny knack of seeing opportunities that others had missed. In 1962 he successfully won a permit to build a marina off the small Victoria community of Oak Bay. With only $600 in hand, he began to build the Oak Bay Marine Group, which would become 19 operations in over three countries.

"It never ceases to amaze me how things sneak up on you. Some might say the success of the Oak Bay Marine Group is due to perseverance over time. Some might use the term ‘dogged determination.’ I say, it’s a combination of timing, luck, and sure, maybe the odd good idea and the tenacity to see it through, against all doubt and odds."

“Primarily though, it comes down to people,” says Wright. Without a dedicated, passionate team his company would not exist as it does today. The energy, enthusiasm and pride of his staff is difficult to comprehend, but is without any doubt the key to OBMG's 50 years of success.

"I am often asked by customers and friends how on earth I find such great people to hire. From the first point of contact in our Victoria Reservations office to our front desks, restaurants, spa, and fishing guides, we receive so many compliments about our staff and service. I truly believe that each and every one of our crew, in Canada, the United States, and the Bahamas is the reason we will continue to succeed long into the future. Ours is a complex business with many moving parts, and without such a dedicated team surrounding me I would still be selling fishhooks for a nickel a piece."

OBMG credits their incredibly loyal customers, some of whom have visited their resorts over 100 times and are truly part of the Oak Bay Marine Group family. Similarly, they credit key industry partners, suppliers, and local businesses whose exceptional service provided them the opportunity to grow into who they are today.

With hundreds of employees - each contributing to the resounding success and growth of the company - the self professed gumboot fisherman counts his lucky stars. In 2008, he donated 11.2 million dollars to the University of Victoria to start an ocean research centre now named the Bob Wright Ocean, Earth and Atmospheric Sciences Building. At the age of 80 he was inducted into the Tourism Hall of Fame.

"In 1962 it might have been my dream alone to build a successful company, but it’s truly the employees and customers who have made this dream come true. With gratitude, I would like to thank each and every one of them. In this golden 50th year, we will continue to welcome guests from around the world, with a commitment to 50 more, and perhaps this gumboot fisherman can pursue those violin lessons after all."