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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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Orcas at Sunset

A couple weeks ago I got to spend some time with a large mixed pod of Transient orcas in the outer waters of Clayoquot Sound. The T109s and T11s were all present and slowly working their way up the coast. We joined up with them around Cox Point and left them at Wilf Rock as the sun slipped below the Pacific horizon. There was lots of action along the way. One youngster was constantly chasing birds across the water, surprising them by lunging up from the depths below them. Others gave a sneaky sea lion a heart attack as it held onto the rocks amidst oncoming swells with all of its might while their slick fins passed by just feet away.

 

Some of these photos are featured in my upcoming 2019 calendar which can be found here.

 

Small Town Trauma

Tofino has had it’s share of trauma in the past years. It is something that I believe small town communities handle better than cities, yet it affects small towns more, when tragedy does strike.

The trauma of what Tofino has gone through is still very raw. I don’t want to touch on personal details, but rather how the community pulled together and how disjointed many of us felt as we put on our brave faces to serve the tourists as they continued their vacations, oblivious to the heartache we were all feeling.

Being at work is hard when you are experiencing a personal tragedy. Normal people would take the day off. Yet how does an entire town shut down in the peak of tourist season when that tragedy affects everyone? You don’t. You wear a mask. You feign joy to keep vacationers happy and fall into bed exhausted at the end of the day, a wreck of jumbled emotions. On your days off and before and after shifts, you help where you can. You search, you bake and cook, you make donations. You do what you can to ease your guilt of not being there, while working shifts you can’t get out of.

Or perhaps your way of helping is to cover someone’s shift who is closer to the tragedy. You are helping. No matter how much you want to be on the front lines and assist. You are still helping.

Small towns pull together in tragedy so well BECAUSE everyone is so close. When the Coast Guard and RCMP and SAR all know the families involved, they go all out, as they always do, but with extra heart. The pain is their own too. The community steps up. Dinners are prepared for those on the front lines. Extra hugs are given in the aisles of the Co-Op Grocery. We hold each other up.

This summer in Clayoquot Sound has been especially hard. The Ocean who provides for us has taken far too many. Media articles don’t begin to touch on the real stories. I can’t in writing either. It is for those who are Present to know. Those who come to understand this place and what she demands.

Moving forward, we continue to support each other. A cup of coffee. A smile. A lunch date. Culture. Grief begins to be put into words  – A strength I admire beyond anything else. Our healing journeys advance at different rates and we recognize that within each other. We check in with each other. A touch on the shoulder says more than words can ever express.

Coastal small town life is a realm of its own, and one I will never take for granted.

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

An Afternoon at Chesterman’s Beach

A few days ago we took advantage of having a car (YAY!) and took our first little trip out to Tofino’s gorgeous beaches. It’s always nice to explore somewhere new and because of the cloudy weather, there weren’t as many tourists crowding the beach. We didn’t stay long but it was a nice break.

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Lennie looking out over the beach.

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Aggregate anemones and a green sea anemone in a tidal pool.

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Lennie looking for Tuutsuup – Sea urchins. They are his all time favourite sea side traditional food. We didn’t find any 😦

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I found a beautiful little shell!

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I couldn’t resist this shot of my ring on the rocks. It’s so beautiful  😀

Forget Whale Watching…

Let’s landscape watch!

(Mouse over or click on each image for the caption)

Yesterday was a gorgeous adventure into the upper reaches of Tofino Inlet, right to the head of Deer Bay. I really enjoyed watching the scenery slide by from my perch on the bow. I haven’t been that relaxed in ages.

We were following transient orca T077A, who was being rather elusive and going on extremely long dives before popping up erratically further ahead. We spent a while lazily following him from quite a distance and left in the mid afternoon when about 7 other boats were on scene.

I actually fell asleep on the bow as we cruised along and definitely have a bit of a burn today. I really want to be out on the water today too – Lennie has a neat whale watching tour, but the fog will burn off by then and I think I should be indoors looking after myself.

Orca Surprise!

What a beautiful and unexpected way to end the day!

We didn’t think we would get to meet up with the pod of orcas that was in the sound and in fact, we had no clue where they were. But 10 minutes from home, smashing through the glassy calm waters, came one of the youngest members of the T109As. We thought it was a Harbour porpoise at first glance, then maybe a dolphin. .. and then when the rest of the pod surfaced… Orcas!

For our friend on board, it was only the second time in his life to see a whale (the first was a cow and calf grey whale earlier in the trip!)

T109A Orcas off Front Beach

The T109As – The Runaways – passed by Ahousaht on June 22. This group of 4 are frequent visitors to Clayoquot Sound. Luckily I was listening to the whale watching channel on the VHF and heard when a boat discovered them coming around Yates Point near Ahousaht. I’m certainly getting my excercise this year by running to the beach for photos!

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