My Rowboat On Langara Island

by Jeannie (Hartt) Nielsen (daughter of Ed Hartt, Senior Keeper on Langara 1957 – 1963) 

painting - Phyllis Ray

My dad built me a 8 foot plywood rowboat on Langara. It was my pride and joy. I often rowed it in the “cut”. This was a sheltered cove where the supply workboat brought our groceries and fuel, and hooked slings onto the skyhook to bring the goods onshore. 

Often the cut would become choked with kelp, fouling the workboats prop. I would take a machete, throw my boat in, and spend the warm summer days leaning over the side of the boat and chopping the heads off the kelp. They would then sink to the bottom, leaving the area clean. 

I would become lost in another world, watching the rock cod and crabs on the bottom. Other times I would use a fishing line as an excuse to be out – just rowing in the gentle ocean swells. (I really didn’t want to catch fish, as I felt sorry for them!) Any fish I caught was purely by accident, not design. I loved the ocean then, and still do. But I also have a great respect for it’s ferocity and unpredictable nature. 

Sometimes I would poke into coves, pulling my boat ashore and exploring. One day I had done so, pulling my boat high above high tide mark, and securing it’s bow line to a log for good measure. I hiked for a couple of hours. When I returned, I was horrified to see my little skiff adrift in the bay – still tied to the log, being buffeted by large waves, and half full of water. 

Fortunately, the water was only waist high. I rushed out to it, and tried to untie the bow line. But the boat was bucking wildly in the waves, hitting the log it was tied to. It was impossible, trying to hold the boat from being holed, hold the log off, and keep my balance in the swells. I finally was able to grab the knife I kept stuck into the side gunnel of the boat, and slash the bow line. 

I dragged myself into the half submerged boat, rowed it out of the breaking waves, and commenced bailing. I was pretty shaken. Once I stopped shaking and thought about it, I realized what had happened. There were a group of large fishing trollers running out to the fishing grounds. The tide had come in, and with the large bow waves coming off one boat after another, the water had come much higher than I had anticipated. 

I guess the good thing is that I had tied the boat to the log, or else it might have been long gone. I was also grateful for the knife I always kept with me, and the bailing bucket! I felt like a “modern” day Tom Sawyer. 

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