A Ferry Tale

Since our island passenger ferry started up here about 28 years ago a lot of people have chosen to make this little rock their home. It means that they could now live in this park like neighborhood without having to own and run their own boat.

They wouldn’t have to encase themselves in rain gear over their nice clothes during the wet winter months. It means they wouldn’t have to wear gum boots while carrying their “good” shoes in a knapsack to change into later. It means their hair would look the same as when they left their house.

It is convenient and reliable. Although if it it’s really bad weather it may sit out a few runs.

But installing some kind of shuttle to the island was always inevitable. More and more people moved on permanently, it was close to town, it was affordable where renting or real estate was concerned, it would certainly develop and grow.

The first attempt for a passenger ferry was 35 years ago by a property owner named Don. But it was hit and miss.

The story went something like this:

A group of residents would be waiting at the dock to return back to the island from town. Waiting. Waiting. Still waiting.

Al: Where is Don? Its been half hour.

Mike: Bet he’s in the pub, I’ll go check.

20 minutes go by…

Larry: I’ll go get Mike and Don

20 minutes go by…

You get the drift. Eventually they all end up at the pub until Don decided he was ready to go.

During the 50’s there was a much smaller seasonal population here, summer vacationers. They came in canoes, row boats or power boats of their own, staying in tiny cabins along the Lee Shore of the island just across the gap from the huge provincial park of Newcastle Island.

It was a rustic place then. A far cry from that now since opting out of the Island Trust and becoming part of the city and hooking into sewer and water, forgoing our wells and septic fields.

And especially after Bob and Hilda moved over and built the pub and Bistro here 28 years ago along with its ferry service to carry their customers over, benefitting the residents in the process. The boats they brought in, 3 of them, are retired B.C. Ferry life boats. They’ve had a few augmentations done and carry up to 29 people safely and comfortably warm and dry.

When my kids were school age they took the ferry each day at designated “School Run” times which meant the kids rode free of charge. The ferry was given a subsidy by the school board to bring all the island kids in to town where a school bus would be waiting to pick them up, so that worked well.

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There are occasions during peak times of the day all year through that this little boat is full to capacity; in the mornings with residents going to work, and after work around 5:00. In the summer sometimes folks might have to wait for the next boat if the pub is really busy, which it is all summer long. But they are quick to send a second boat, so everybody eventually gets to where they need to get to. The key is to relax and not be in such a hurry.

I used to ride the ferry more often than I do now, back when I had an open boat and opted for warm and dry instead of cold and drenched. I used to know the ferry drivers well. I had worked at the pub for a couple of seasons as a line cook, bracing for those “double boat runs” full of customers that would pack the bistro for another busy summer night.

Now when I do ride there are more residents I don’t know that have moved onto the island.

Once not long ago when I took the ferry home and I had a few bags of groceries one of the passengers offered me a ride in his golf car. We introduced ourselves. He said he lived next door to James. I said “Oh yeah, just around the corner from my house”.

He said, “so you know James?” An infamous resident who has lived here for 37 years.

I said, “yeah, I’ve known him for 25 years.”

“You’ve been here 25 years?! Part time?” He was surprised that he’d never seen me before.

“No”, I said, “Year round. My husband has been here 38 . How long have you’ve been here?”

“Five,” he says.

The island is 1-1/2 miles long and 1 mile wide. And yet it hides people well. That’s also the beauty of this place. You can keep to yourself – be a hermit, or jump into the community and engage.

Yet while having my own boat is part of the allure of living here, part of that self-reliant and independent nature belonging to many individuals who take on the task of living a slightly distinctive lifestyle here, there may come a day when I’m really old and not capable of using my boat any longer.  Then I’ll buy my monthly ferry pass and look forward to communing with my neighbors both new and long known while plying the waters that set this “moated suburb” apart from the rest.

It’s all good in the hood.

I love my little community ~ 🙂

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