Category Archives: General

Happy New Year, 2022 . . .

January 2022.

Happy New Year from the International Headquarters of Mothership Adventures aka “The Command Center” or more locally known as Diamond Bay.

My home of 43 years on the left, workshop on the water, and Tavish and Deirdre’s cabin above right.

The COLUMBIA III tucked in her shed,

And Tavish’s boat and my skiff at the main float.


Where have the last 18 months gone?? I’m not sure if this blog will be a New Years salutation or one great, big, skipper whine.

Somehow I have been flat out busy for the last two years with little to show for it and certainly no blog activity. Rest assured, I know you were worried, I have been putting in long days and months keeping Mothership Adventures alive and the COLUMBIA III cared for. . .  but so little of my efforts have been showy, or if they were I was too busy to think to take a picture or annotate the moment.

We did participate in 2 epic Marine Debris shore-line clean ups during 2020 and 2021. Each expedition had me skippering for about 50 days and our collective fleet gathered 330 metric tonnes of debris. But the actual expedition was the simple part of the equation. Prior to leaving in May 2021 for the second expedition I logged 286 hours in April 2021 getting ready. Much of this time was spent on Zoom calls helping to organize the back-end to the clean up: First Nations approval, helicopter contacts, sourcing a tug and barge, arranging jet fuel and down stream recycling . . . . So when the COLUMBIA III finally left harbour for the second expedition the relief was HUGE! and a blessing to be out of cell coverage.

And of course there was/is the pandemic. Certainly the quaint old days of a guest simply phoning me to reserve a spot for an up-coming tour seems like some distant Camelot days of yore. We have been refunding, and shuffling and rebooking and rescheduling and reprinting invoices and corresponding with guests at an unprecedented rate. Charter groups trying to reschedule can’t get future dates to work for all their participants, some guests want to rebook for 2023 hoping the pandemic will be long gone, some guests just give up and others remain ever optimistic. Some guests want a full refund and some waive their deposit to help us weather this storm.

But it all takes so much more time than it used to. So much more computer time.

We did manage to run a few kayaking tours in late August and September of 2021 and it was wonderful to have the mothership full of laughter, good food and camaraderie again. But the pandemic reached its long tendrils even into our remote tours making all aspects of travel to and from our operations more complex  and wearing. The local airlines were just reopening and we struggled with coordinating crew changes and fresh food deliveries. On one tour our food arrived by charter float plane three days after the tour started . . .

But that is all distant history now. Our 2022 season is mostly full and I am steaming ahead with all aspects of a regular season. Our shipyard date is booked, spring sanding and painting crews are queuing up, and I’m puttering away on silly little details on the COLUMBIA III that were noted last season in my “To Do” list: a new micro wave in the galley, new GPS’s, re-built hot water furnace etc, etc, etc.

And I try to get some sleep. I try not to dwell on Omicron nor worst-case scenarios, and I try to remember to smile. This will all be behind us soon and our season will unfold in fun, safety and financial viability.

Fingers crossed!

Skipper/owner/chief dishwasher/tardy blogger and Dr. of Marine Voodoo.


Why I love paying taxes . . .and other warm thoughts.

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.”


Childish Tugs . . .

Ok. Ok. Someone asked about my tug boat sketches . . .  these are the only ones that have survived the whirlpool of time . . .

I have been mucking about on boats for a few years . . .  and I have always doodled with pen and pencil. Nothing consistent. When our kids were small I kept myself amused by creating sketches in ink for them to colour in: my answer to a coastal colouring book. There were many scribble-scrabble tugs produced in wild purples and oranges and greens. I finally got smart and started to make multiple photo copies of the basic images, then they could scribble to their hearts content and even share with friends . . . But all the scribbling got on my nerves  . . .  Hey you guys, slow down. Here, let me grab a pencil (instead of a big fat crayon) and I will show you what you can do . . .

Here are four pen sketches I shaded-in with pencil to give the kids an idea of what was possible.

The first real boat I owned as the classic small tug, the Ella McKenzie . . .

The other three images are simply fabrications of a father desperately trying to amuse his children. I did always want to own a ship with a upper wheelhouse/skipper’s stateroom . . . so the next best thing was to draw myself one . . .

Pulling for the Hole in the Wall . . .