Tides

photo Paul Kurbis

One of the reasons for the establishment of a lighthouse is to mark the dangers from the effect of extreme tides (low and high) on surrounding lands, islands, waterways, and beaches. 

Look at the photo on the left of my old lighthouse at McInnes Island at low tide (click for a larger version). We can tell it is low tide because the kelp is exposed on the rocks, and the high tide mark on the rocks is marked by a dirty black line. Here on the Pacific Coast of Canada, the tides come in and go out twice a day, and the range is between seventeen (17) and twenty-one (21) feet (6 to 7 meters)!

Note the small rock at dead center, bottom of the photo. At high tide that would be covered and become a menace to navigation. In this case this is not a marked shipping channel so no marker is necessary. The reason for the lighthouse (visible on the left of the large island) is that it was listed as a landfall light. A marker for ships coming in from the Pacific Ocean to the British Columbia coastline, and also a marker for the entrance to Milbanke Sound. It really doesn’t mark the island as dangerous; just an indicator of a mariner’s location on the ocean.

Example of a floating dock

To return to a docked boat on the BC coast after a few hours of sightseeing or shopping is sometimes a surprise for many tourists. The docks for the boats are built to float up and down on fixed pilings to accommodate the 21 foot tides (see photo left). To get onto the dock you walk up or down a ramp. A roller on the lower end rolls along the dock as the tide rises or falls. The top part of the ramp is hinged.

The tides change approximately every six hours, so if you left your boat and walked up the steep ramp to the topside dock at 10 AM (low tide) and came back at 2 PM (4 hours difference), the ramp would be almost horizontal (high tide). If you had lots of heavy groceries to move it was always a good idea to plan at what time of day you wanted to move them! Continue reading

Glass Balls – The Dream of Every Beachcomber

Various sizes - photo BeachComberBum

In my years on the lights there was always talk of finding a glass ball. The inside lights such as my first one at Pulteney Point did not have too much chance of stopping a floating glass ball because of the strong tides.

My first outside light [not sheltered by land] was Quatsino but with only one beach at the back of the island and all the rest rocky it was nigh on impossible. Pachena  wasn’t much better and we weren’t there long enough to hit the beaches around the area. Green Island was like Pulteney but we did find one or two there sitting in the pools. 

So a real outside light was needed, and one was waiting! 

Our 14 ft. Zodiac with stowable sail - photo John Coldwell

We moved to McInnes Island  in 1977 and in the next couple of years we outfitted a fourteen (14) foot (4.27 m) Zodiac with a 25 HP Evinrude outboard with which we could go beachcombing. The children were still young then (see photo left) so a lot of the beachcombing was done alone with not much luck. Oh, I found a couple but nothing big. Then a friend came up and he found a larger one – about 12 inches (30.5 cms) in diameter along with a couple of small ones.  Continue reading