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Headed South Again


Oyster Bay Rest Stop
Vancouver Island, BC

Three quarters of the trip to Prince Rupert was lovely weather - partly cloudy, a mild breeze - but the closer we got the more it rained, until right at dark the fog closed in. I spent the last hour trying unsuccessfully to sleep upright in a chair. When we debarked I went straight to the ticket desk. Once again the young girl there was clueless about any weather that wasn't happening right outside the window.

I decided not to go. It was not the weather. The only ferry in the next few days was a night journey, from 11pm to 6 am, and no sleepers available, no reclining chairs. It was a clear prospect of arriving wasted, and the same on the return.

"Of course," she said, trying to be helpful, "some people sleep on the floor. I don't know if you are into that." Perhaps when I was 20. These days I prefer to arrive whole and sane.

And so it goes. I got into a local hotel about midnight, slept till five, then back on the "Queen of the North" for the return to Port Hardy. If I'd bought a round trip ticket in the first place, I could have stayed on the boat. But then I'd never have seen the Tim Horton's Coffee Shop in Prince Rupert at 6 am.

A veteran now, I have secured a deathgrip on one of the reclining chairs, and am writing these memoirs for the short attention span theatre that is Newsnet. The return has been a rewind of yesterday's: rain at Prince Rupert, with gradually clearing skies as we proceed south.

I have tried to improve my German by listening to the various conversations around me, only to discover it is probably beyond repair. I have seen 3 whales from a distance. This was an underwhelming affair. Each time a rush to the railing to view a barely visible spot of black in the water disappear altogether, only to reappear with a splash. One of them, going away from us, showed it's tail. They seem to move pretty fast when they want to.

A more organized traveler than I might have noticed that the Alaskan Ferry system docks right next to the BC ferries in Prince Rupert. One might have easily arranged an excursion from Port Hardy clear to Haines in Alaska, with a strategic stop in Juneau to view the feral legislator in his native habitat. Or not.

I got back into Wildwood Campground at midnight, and slept till noon the next day. I had thought to do some kayaking in Beaver Harbor, but locals warned me that once you get out of the bays, this whole archipelago south to Comox, which looks so accessible on the map, is a complicated trap of treacherous and conflicting tides and whirlpools. The unwary paddler will no doubt be deposited somewhere, but probably will not be able to fight the water back to where he started. They suggested the area around Tofino on the west coast, and I am headed there.

I spent Wednesday night at Sayward, on a spit right by the wharf, and for 15 bucks got every bit as good a view of the Cruise Ship Parade as I got for $33 at Ripple Rock. On the way through Campbell River today (Thursday) I stopped at the Museum and bought some goodies for the guys back home. The exhibits, including a historical chain saw display, impressed me with how hard people used to work around here just to put food on the table. Felling trees is no joke, and imagine trolling with hand lines all day from a row boat. Skulling in a sleek racer down Town Lake in Austin is a pleasure. Rowing all day and half the night, fighting the currents off Quadra Island in Johnstone Strait just to pull in a few fish during the 1930s had to be a backbreaking nightmare.

Nietzsche famously said that whatever does not kill you makes you strong, but hidden within that clever aphorism is the fact that sometimes what doesn't kill you just leaves you crippled up.

In the museum I saw a documentary on the destruction of Ripple Rock as a hazard in the narrows in 1958. Over a hundred twenty boats small and large had their sides ripped out by those twin rocks, but no more. They tunneled up inside both of them and blew them to smithereens. The explosion tossed water and debris 1100 feet in the air.

Right now I'm in a rest area on Oyster Bay, a little north of Comox, admiring the cruise ships again. I had no idea there were so many of them. The sense of wonder has a notably short half-life. These boats are still pretty, but the ga-ga factor has diminished considerably.

It is damn cold right on the beach like this, but it's a wet cold.

Actually I like it, with the trailer here to retreat to. Tonight at last the stars are out, the moon is full, and the waves will sing me to sleep.



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