Memories of Boat Bluff c. 1980s

Memories of Boat Bluff c. 1980s

– Ray MacKenzie (Assistant Keeper on Boat Bluff 1982 – 1986) 

Boat Bluff at low tide, Summer 2003; Mike Higgins photo

My wife Petra and myself and our dog Butch arrived on Boat Bluff Lightstation on the 2nd day of October, 1982 aboard the Canadian Coast Guard icebreaker “CCGS Wolfe”, having been picked up in Port Hardy by Capt. Mellis on the CCGS WOLFE whilst it was on it’s fall re-fuelling run.

It had been a very nice, albeit long trip, as we were on the fall refuelling run. We had an opportunity to go ashore at a few of the stations which made it very interesting to a couple of greenhorns with stars in their eyes. 

We met Stan and Judy, and son Stanley Westhaver at Egg Island, Lyle and Velma Bigelow and assistants Bill and Gail Trafford at Pointer Island, Gorden and Judy Schweers at Ivory Island and John and Karen Coldwell at McInnes Island. It was an interesting and very pleasant introduction to “life on the lights”. 

On the third day we arrived at the little patch of land that was going to be our home for the next two years. 

CCGS Wolfe c. 1980s

Oh my God! If we had had the luxury of seeing what the next two years were going to bring, we would have just stayed onboard the “Wolfe” to Prince Rupert, BC and waved goodbye to the opportunity forever!! In hindsight, I’m very happy we didn’t. 

Now I have always maintained that with the right mixture of personalities on a lightstation, working together and complimenting each other’s abilities, there is no more idyllic job anywhere in the workforce. On the other hand however, if there is a personality conflict or the chemistry is not right between the senior keeper and his new assistant, then the job certainly has the potential to be hell on earth!!! 

TCV at Boat Bluff - photo Ed Whitebone

My senior was some fourteen years younger than me and exhibited from day one a degree of insecurity that could only be described as paranoia. Our life was neither tranquil nor pleasant to say the very least. However, we had vowed to give it at least a year and with the help and support from Captain Oliver Howard and the crew of the “MV Thomas Crosby V” (United Church mission boat, a.k.a. TCV) we were able to persevere until the following April when my tormentor and family left for a southern station. 

It was at this time that a degree of sanity slowly and surely began to re-enter our lives. Now we had time to do the station work and STILL have a few quiet moments to ourselves. 

Now if any of the readers are familiar with Boat Bluff Lightstation, you will know it is located on Sarah Island on the world famous “Inside Passage” of British Columbia and that the area where the actual station sits is on a miniscule piece of real estate that rises out of the waters of the channel at about a forty-five degree angle. Needless to say there is not very much room for recreation except on the helicopter pad. 

So one of our favorite pastimes was to walk up the shoreline rocks at low tide for about 300 meters, (which was as far as was physically possible), and then just sit and take in the absolute fantastic beauty, peace and serenity of the moment. 

On one particularly warm day we decided to take our stroll in the time between scheduled weather reports, me in my cutoffs and my beautiful little, shapely wife in her one piece short set. You know the kind – no sleeves, and just a band of elastic to hold the top up. 

Well, there we were approaching our favorite spot with my wife a few steps ahead of me when the B. C. ferry “MV Queen of the North” came around the bend and we started waving as we always did to the ferries and other vessels going close past our home. 

However on this day the captain came out on the wing of the ship waving his cap like crazy while someone else on the bridge was blowing the horn very enthusiastically. It also appeared that a number of the passengers out on deck were being unusually exuberant with their gestures! 

To make a long and momentarily embarrassing story short, my wife glanced down to discover that the elastic holding her top up had chosen that moment to let go. There she was, naked from the waist up with her breasts flapping in the breeze with every enthusiastic wave! Needless to say, we had many good laughs in later years reminising about that incident. 

We went on to have some good and some not so good times on Boat Bluff with the new senior, but later we went on to work on Bonilla Island  with Jean and Lena Beaudet and family, which was a most rewarding and wonderful experience. We finished off with my serving alone on Triple Island  with Jean-Paul (J. P.) Turcotte who was a joy to work with. 

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Retired (2001) British Columbia lighthouse keeper after 32 years on the lights.

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