In 2013-2014, I worked as a relief lighthouse keeper for a year on the coast of British Columbia. I traveled by boat and helicopter into these stations and stayed for a length of time. Each station is different. There was always one principal keeper and I would be there to do the duties of the assistant keeper. We each had our own house. As romantic as it sounds, we did not live in the light;) This blog chronicles some of my adventures and the history of these remote locations.
Signs of Spring
Signs of spring are everywhere in Friendly Cove. Generations of lightkeepers have planted bulbs around the station, so daffodils and grape hyacinths flash splashes of colour and cheer on fogbound days. Yesterday, while the sun shone on the Lower Mainland and bees sang in the blossoming trees, we clung to the rock in a pale blanket of drizzle and fog for the entire day. Visibility two miles. Weather changes frequently. Case in point: thirty minutes ago the sun was shining, the sky blue; now, it is almost overcast again.
When the clouds do break, Lucy and I wander down the trails to the cove, breathing in the sun. Along the pathway, pink fawn lilies blossom. Snakes surprise me, slithering from the threat of my rubber boots, while birds sing in the echoing waves.
The herring did not spawn this year at Friendly Cove, and Ray has taken away the branches that laid waiting on the dock for weeks. He told me it was sad for his people. First Nations along coastal BC have collected Pacific herring spawn for thousands of years. In his journal, Jewitt spoke of it as a delicacy. For an interesting article on the Pacific Herring, read The Tyee.
When I say, I am a lighthouse keeper, most people are surprised. Unknowingly they smile. Do they still exist? How did you even think of doing that? Is there training? How did you get the job? I understand this fascination; asked many of the same questions myself, when my friend became a keeper a few years ago. Romantic. Captivating. The Lighthouse. That fiery beacon by the misty sea is ingrained in our ancestral memory. If you’ve ever dreamed of living in a tower, stirring up a cauldron of chowder, or sipping tea as you scan the horizon for floundering ships, you know what I mean. But be forewarned. As merry as it seems, lighthouse life is not a dream. In my late fifties, I wanted a new career, something different from my stressful, chaotic, sedentary high school teaching job, something that would allow me to think and write and create.
When the online job posting appeared at last, I applied and waited, interviewed and waited; and finally, was informed that if I passed the medical, I wou…
The steep cracked cement steps are caked with moss. A mottled brass plaque inside the wooden doors reads: This church, dedicated to Pope St Pius X, erected 1956 to the Glory of God and in memory of Padre Magin Catala, OFM, first missionary to Friendly Cove, 1793 and in memory of the historic meeting of Capt. George Vancouver, RN and Commander Bodega Y Quadra of the Spanish Navy in Friendly Cove, 1792, and the Nootka Convention Treaty, was sponsored by His Excellency, Bishop James M. Hill of Victoria, directed by the Rev. F. Miller OMI Parish Priest, assisted by Rev. T. Lobsinger OMI with the approval and assistance of Chief Ambrose Maquinna and his band at Friendly Cove. So many to acknowledge, and yet the actual people, who have lived here since time immemorial, and on whose territory the church stands, barely make it to the last line. In the vestibule are stained glass windows sent by Spain, framed yellowing photographs, and a model of a longhouse. The hall itself, I am pleased to say…
Four years ago at this time, I was working as a relief lighthouse keeper for the Canadian Coast Guard. I'd taken a year off teaching to explore and destress and try something new. Between March 27 and May 23, I stayed at Nootka and recorded my adventures, and misadventures, in a journal and a blog. This was my house for eight weeks.
I've been thinking about that time a lot lately. This summer, I am planning to take the Uchuck III day cruise from Gold River to Friendly Cove, so I can walk those beaches and trails once again. This is a photo of the Uchuck III docked at Friendly Cove. This will be a brillliant way to experience the sound and the cove where so many historic events occurred. Plus, you get three hours to hike and explore the beaches, trails, graveyards, lake, and the lighthouse.
I had hoped to visit with Mark, the lighthouse keeper I worked with at that time, but apparently Mark and Joanne retired last September. So, all I can say is "Congratulations!" fr…