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living the coastal life

West Coast Living in Ahousaht, BC

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Watching your Husband Almost Die Via Facebook Livestream

The last thing you want to hear when my husband, Lennie, is driving a boat, is swearing.

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Lennie and I run a water taxi company and he often travels to and from Hotsprings Cove to transport tourists and locals to the springs and village site in Refuge Cove. To get into the Cove you must round the infamous Sharp Point. The Point is fully exposed to the fury of the sea – wind, tides and swells from the open Pacific slam onto its rocky shore. There is nothing to soften the blow.

VHF Radios from this area can’t really be heard well in Ahousaht unless someone from high on the hill in the village relays. Our home VHF will pick up certain ones from the village. Lennie and I devised a system so I can tell what’s going on when he rounds the Point and I can rest easy knowing he has made it around safely. Lennie has attached a suction cup mount to the front window of the boat and before he approaches the larger swells of open water, he turns on Facebook livestreaming so I can watch his journey live. Thankfully there is cell service in Hotsprings. They have their very own cell tower there!

Yesterday, there was a large swell coming in due to some consistent high winds hitting the coast lately. Video always makes waves look way smaller than they are (Why can’t it do that to the human body too?), so when it looks kinda rough on video, you know it’s really rough. It certainly looked rough yesterday. The boat plowed through the swells, rising and falling over the crests. Thankfully they weren’t breaking. That presents a whole other issue.

Unable to see anything except the straight foward view off the bow of the boat, it can be hard to judge how far around the Point he has made it but by watching the horizon and changing mountains, I had a pretty good idea.

Suddenly I heard Lennie go “Oh, Sh*t” and my breath caught in my throat. Lennie only swears on the water if things are about to go wrong. The boat swung around and we were looking at open ocean again. When a larger wave comes, sometimes it’s necessary to swing around and face it head on, rather than let it sweep under you from behind. This is what he had done, just before a large one tried to catch him off guard.

I knew he would be sitting and counting the sets, but he was doing it in his head. Slowly the boat turned as it rose and fell, and eventually we were staring straight at the rocks. I began to wonder if his motor had died and he was on the back of the boat working on something? Why wasn’t he saying anything? It was probably only 10 seconds of waiting but I was getting panicked (and sitting at work watching this, unable to actually do anything).

Livestream has a handy feature that any comments you make pop up live for the one streaming the video, so I asked “What the heck are you doing?”. “Just counting the Waves” came his reply through the video. “Just checking you were ok” I typed back.

Soon enough he started to move again and once he was around the Point and just before he passed into the annoying dead spot where his service always cuts out he said “All good there Marcie. I’m around and safe.” He knows me too well.

So he didn’t almost die, but I guess he could have if something had happened in those conditions. Our boat drivers risk their lives every day. Lennie has an inflatable life jacket he wears, especially if he is ever alone on the boat. But if something goes wrong in rough seas, there isn’t always someone nearby to rescue you. I’m thankful for technology, but if something really did go wrong, I wouldn’t be watching online – I’d be sprinting to the dock and yelling for the boats to head out to save him.

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The Dangers of the Fog

Those of us on the coast are no strangers to mystical foggy mornings. They are beautiful and ethereal and dangerous.

Working in Tofino while living on an offshore island in Clayoquot Sound has its challenges. Our commute is anywhere from 35 minutes to over an hour depending on the weather. August is commonly known as “Fogust” to those in the know, as the air and water temperatures are just right to make foggy mornings a regular occurrence.

On one morning this year I was riding a water taxi into town. It was one of the larger boats and we had a full load of workers heading to Tofino. The fog was split-pea-soup thick. You could barely see a few meters in front of the boat. GPS is a god-send on days like that. I don’t know how navigators did it before electronic technology (Compasses of course, but few still have those skills now!).

As we were coming into Tofino “harbour” the fog was still thick and soupy. All of a sudden we felt and heard the dreaded *THUNK* of a large chunk of wood hitting our engines. Both stalled out and we shuddered into a slow drift. That same instant, in the space where we would have been if we hadn’t stopped so expectantly, a zodiac sped by, directly off our bow. Tourists looked at us wide-eyed and surely with a new stench filling their Mustang suits. A thrill of another kind for the office staff to deal with when their tour group returned!

Things happen in mysterious ways on the water. I don’t believe in a god per se, but we were all being watched over that morning.

The Final Hurdle

The boat soared upwards, plowing through the mountain of water surging in front of it. Lennie, the skipper, pulled back on the throttle as the reached the crest of the wave. There was a pause. Then the 20 ft long boat, began sliding down the back side of the swell into the looming maw of the trough in front of them. Over and over Lennie guided the boat through the everchanging roller coaster of water below them. Finally came the wait. Lennie had to time the waves before cutting across the point of rocks jutting out in the the sea.

This is the final hurdle to get into Hotsprings Cove – Home to about 70 full time residents, the tiny community is home to the Hesquiaht First Nations band on the remote western coast of Vancouver Island.

Most tourists don’t see Sharp Point at it’s worst. They experience scenic boat cruises on calm seas or fly into the inlet on a sea plane. The locals have to brave these rough winter seas near daily in order to carry on their everyday life. Doctor’s appointments, grocery shopping, basketball tournaments all happen outside of the community and residents must take a boat around the Point to get there.

On the third wave Lennie made his move. Turning broadside to the waves he charged along the backside of the swell. He repeatedly checked over his shoulder to see what was coming up alongside and behind the boat. A simple miscount could send them hurdling over in a whitewash of breaking water. When he was clear of the rocks, he turned the boat and rode into the inlet on the back of the swell. The timing had to be perfect. Both the wave in front or behind them could break. He had to match the speed of the swell and stay balanced on the back of the swell in front of him.

Eventually the waves lost their force as they travelled deeper into the narrow cove. Lennie could relax – for now. He had made it safely to the dock. But now he had to load up with passengers, and do it all over again.

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Sharp Point on a calm December day, 2016

A Doggy Day on the Town

… Well, a day in Tofino with Yoda!

I scored an awesome toolbox off the Tofino Trading Post ( A locals only FB based buy, sell and trade) and had to make a run down to Ty-Histanis (Another reserve about 20 min. south of Tofino) to pick it up. I decided to bring our smallest dog, Yoda, with me for company. He had a blast riding around and meeting new people. I must have tired him out because he is passed out beside me right now!

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Yoda happy and smiling in the back seat! He just hops right in and really enjoys car rides. Most stores are great in Tofino about dogs and if they are worried about things getting peed on (A valid concern) they simply ask for your pooch to be carried, which I certainly didn’t mind! There was only one store that asked for him to remain outside, which Yoda would NOT have put up with, so I simply left. That kind of sucked because I was looking for a piece of clothing that I was pretty sure I would have found at their shop…. their loss!

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Enjoying the patio (and the fresh stream water from Meares Island) at Tofino Sea Kayaking. We love stopping here for a drink or dessert. Lennie compares every single caffeinated drink he ever has to the Americanos here. Apparently they make them just right and no one else even comes close!

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I got an iced latte and was pleased to see that Tofino Sea Kayaking is supporting the Surfrider Foundation’s Straws Suck campaign and is using paper straws in their drinks! These don’t create needless plastic waste or endanger wildlife if they are littered into the ecosystem.

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Lennie had some fun with Yoda on our way home and let him pretend to drive the boat! He was actually much happier being cuddled and I held him on my lap most of the way home.

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Our view as we entered the Ahousaht Harbour. The closest point of land on the right is known as the “Switchback” and that’s where you make the tight left turn to enter the sheltered waters of the harbour. The other boat following us is the Ahous Hakoom, another water taxi based in Ahousaht.

It was a great day – Next time I might take Leia because she needs to be car trained before we go visit my parents in Duncan!

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