But Here is something different. I’m going to go back in time to last August 2021, but I am often a bit slow with the blog and other things . . .
I’ll set the stage. The pandemic had eased-off somewhat, and we decided to try to run some tours. We contacted potential guests and the tours filled quickly. Despite the blistering heat in the Salish Sea near my home, our first tours were off northern Vancouver Island and it was charmingly cool. And finally, on August 12th, 2021 our first guests in 18 months arrived in Port McNeill and boarded the ship. It was wonderful and strange, I felt rusty in my role as host, thankful to have some revenue and excited just to be acting normal again. We showed our guests to their rooms and I gave them the initial safety briefing and then finally we were underway! Appetizers were served, guests began to make it out onto the front deck with binoculars and I was desperately trying to be the hero and find our first orca of the season.
.. . But my cell phone rang . . . a neighbour was calling in great agitation to let me know that Diamond Bay with the floating shed that houses the COLUMBIA III in the winter and my home were engulfed in a forest fire!
Literally, 42 years of effort and the home base for my small business flashed before my mind’s eye . . . But I was too far away to help. It was all beyond my control. So I told my guests that I needed to be frank and that I might be a bit distracted by this new turn of events and they were all deeply concerned and understanding.
And the news and the photos trickled in during the next 24 hours. While I was relaxing (!?!) on the gorgeous COLUMBIA III, eating sumptuous snacks and even better meals, as we searched for and found orca to watch and finally found a tiny secluded anchorage for the night in complete comfort, two planes dropped fire retardant, three helicopters bucketed sea-water, 14 professional firefighters fought the blaze and nearly 50 locals came to save all our family’s buildings from destruction. The 14 fire fighters even set up in my little home (cabin) and slept on my floor and used my shower and cooked in my kitchen.
On the second day the ship’s cook asked me how I was doing and I said I felt pretty shook up. And she said that was natural given how close I was to losing every thing (nothing is insured out on the islands) . . . But I said “No, that’s not it. I’m moved to tears in appreciation that I live in a country were trained fire fighters sit waiting every day of the summer on a 5 minute call-out time to respond as required. That there were 3 helicopters ready and waiting to fly out to Sonora Island and that there were water-bombers tasked from hundreds of miles away to come to our rescue and that 50 locals (its a small community and that was everyone!) came to help and even near by resorts sent pumps and boats and help . . . .”
And no one asked me for a cent. I wasn’t even there. And I didn’t even make it home for another 6 weeks as I was skippering the COLUMBIA III.
“No,” I said to the cook. “I’m thankful to live in this country and I’m happy to pay taxes so that all this can happen for me when I really needed it and for others when misfortune comes knocking.”