Small Frye episodes - In Search of Happiness – Part 2

Leonard Lea Frazer

That was a night to remember. As we were eating our supper we saw, for the first time, two huge whales, about half a mile off shore, rolling and having a wonderful time. It was the first time that I'd seen whales that close. They stayed around and played all evening while we watched the stupendous sight.

Vancouver Island, showing the route taken by Mike Frye in his fishing boat.
Vancouver Island, showing the route taken by Mike Frye in his fishing boat.

I was glad we were not out in our boat for each one of the huge mammals was near as long as our twenty-foot fishing boat and must have weighed twice as much. One slap of those big tails would have smashed our boat to pieces. I had never heard of them being so close to shore before, nor have I ever heard so since. It was the last we saw of them in all our travels.

A little hair-seal stayed with us almost as far as Hartley Bay near the south end of Grenville Channel.

We stopped overnight at Hartley Bay, but instead of going up channel to Kitimat we camped on Gil Island. We couldn't find any camping spots on shore so we tied up the boat and slept in the small cabin. We had spent many nights on the boat, lulled to sleep by the gentle rocking. We woke refreshed and ready for the long trip to Butedale Cove.

There are three small coves in that area, one of them very rocky and requiring careful manoeuvring, but the other two had deep water right up to shore. One, in particular, had a great view and a good place to camp, and we hoped to make that one by nightfall.

Inside the channel we were protected from rough water and had an enjoyable trip with the two seals, which seemed to have adopted us for company. All day they stayed within feet of our boat, and we fed them the bait we had caught for the large fish in the channel. They soon ate our bucket of herring and were looking for more.

About three o'clock that afternoon we met the McQunna (ferry) on its trip to Rupert. We passed within a hundred feet of each other and the waves caused by its big propellers rocked out a twenty-footer. The many passengers on deck enjoyed the fresh salt air and waved at us in passing.

Other than the McQunna, we had the passage all to ourselves that day. No one was in sight for miles, so we took advantage of the privacy and lounged on top of the boat getting a suntan. I tied the wheel and the boat drifted along while we relaxed in the lounge chairs. What more could two people ask of life?

Just as the sun moved behind the ridge, we drifted within sight of the first cove. We bypassed this one, and the second did not suit us either. We knew by the map it was only about four miles to the third, and just as it was turning dusk we found the camp of our dreams.

The area was sheltered from the rain by the huge boughs of a tree. A stream babbled nearby and there was a warm inland pool for swimming. There was even a big flat rock to use as a table.

We sat and watched the wildlife all around us. The fish were leaping for food, and one small seal seemed to be doing acrobatics close to shore just for our benefit.

Tales of all the enjoyable days we spent on that glorious trip could fill a huge book with the excitement and thrills we had going around Vancouver Island.

In some places we struck waves twenty feet high. Our little boat would slide up one wave to the crest, its propeller out of water, then slide down and drive through the next wave. We had to close the outside door and keep both bilge pumps going.

It was fun for us then but it is not for yours truly now. We would go right through each wave and at times we wondered if we would come out.

As the boat crashed into a huge wave, Lorna squealed with delight. I had my hands full keeping it straight, so I had to be on the ball. If I let the boat slip sideways, it would capsize. Those twenty-foot waves seemed a long ways up.

For two hours we bobbed up and down, through one wave and over the next. I was near played out, and glad to get closer to shore. We made it to a small cove near Brooks Bank, and had a chance to take a breather. We motored into a well-protected little inlet to camp.

After tying up the boat, I was ready to call it quits for the day. Lorna made supper while I lay against a log watching the breakers crash and splash on the banks beyond the reef where we had slipped in.

It had been some experience for Lorna. All played out, she looked at me and smiled. "What a ride, Mike. Let's take the boat for a cruise after supper."

"No go, Joe! Old Frye has had his share of that for tonight. If you must have a ride, hop that log floating in the water near shore."

"No, Mike, I've had enough. For a while there, I wasn't sure we were going to come out of some of those waves.”

Late that night I was fighting those huge waves in my dreams when I heard her let out a scream. I jumped out of my skin and out of bed before I knew where we were. "What's wrong, Lorna? Did a snake get you?”

"No, Mike I just fell overboard."

"Well, go back to sleep. I'll catch you next time you tumble out of the boat."

I awoke so tired that I suggested we stay over a day to rest up. It was not hard to get Lorna to agree. We lounged around on the hot beach, had a swim, ate supper (fresh fish, bannock and huckleberries), and hit the hay early for a good night's sleep.

On departure, we kept as close to shore as possible (travelling down the west coast of Vancouver Island) only heading out when the coral got close to the surface, and sneaking back in as soon as we had plenty of water. No more heavy winds bothered us all the way to Ucluelet and the white sands of Long Beach.

We hoped to get to Port Renfrew and Victoria if possible, without stopping for more provisions, so we stocked up on gas and grub at the general store (at Uclueltet).

We found an inlet along Long Beach to moor the boat, and lolled around the beach in our swimsuits. We spent two days on the beach, swimming and exploring. Some of the flotsam that was on the shore came all the way from Japan. When we left, we took along several of the varicoloured glass balls of all sizes that the Japanese fishermen use as floats on their gill nets.

In the Juan de Fuca Strait we were protected from the heavy swells of the Pacific. It was still rough at times until we rounded the corner and made it past Victoria to the Strait of Georgia. We kept as close to the west coast as was safe, and camped at several small inlets along the way to Departure Bay, across the channel from Vancouver.

It was a calm day and we could see the outline of the mainland at Gibson's Landing. The strait was two or three miles across, and I knew it would be taking a big chance in our small boat - if a squall came up, it would be trouble.

The water was calm, so we decided to risk the crossing. We could see all sorts of fish ten feet and more down in the bright blue water.

Lady Luck was with us all the way, and we arrived just above Gibson's at Sechelt. Lorna did some shopping at an interesting little store there, and I stopped in and talked with an old friend.

He gave me some good information about the famous Ripple Rock. "Steer clear of the rip tide. At low tide that bad chunk of rock sticks out of the water, quite a few boats have been sacrificed to that Demon of the sea."

I had heard enough to keep away from Ripple Rock. Now that I knew where it was, I would be able to steer clear of the whirlpool that extended three hundred feet all around. It had dragged down bigger boats than ours (I did not know at the time that years later I would be part of the crew that would blow that rock out of the sea in one of the largest peacetime explosions ever).

The villagers of Sechelt were very friendly. The local high school students served us an enjoyable meal, and we were given a tour of the village.

Next morning we were back on our way, the motor singing a song of happiness. We made for Gilhess Bay, near Powell River. At Irvides Landing we turned into Saltery Bay to spend the night. I made supper from beach clams, and Lorna went sightseeing. She had such an enjoyable time, it was dusk when she finally came back down to the beach.

We awoke to a glorious day. The water glowed like a large blue lake, with the sun shimmering. We knew that the wind would come early, and according to the weather forecast on the radio there was to be a record tide. The Ripple Rock whirlpool was bound to be rough.

That suited us fine, as we wanted to see the monster at its worst. We had breakfast, packed the boat and were soon off down the channel.

. . . to be continued.