A Vacation to Quadra Island

Image: Hakai Institute.

We finally took a vacation. Well, a working vacation at least.

It started as an email out of the blue. An organization called SeagrassBC was going to have a meeting on Quadra Island at the Hakai Institute research station, and I was invited. What’s all this about?

Sometimes when you are here in the wilderness, you really lose touch. I don’t mean this in a bad way … life out there is often too intense, too crazy, too much. But still, for a moment, I found myself struggling to recall my previous life as scientist and researcher. Seagrass … what … oh, yes, I did spend a lot of my career studying eelgrass, a type of seagrass, on the north coast of BC. I do remember that now. And looking at the list of people invited to the meeting, I see that they are a good mix of people I have known and worked with and people I have yet to meet. So, yes, I guess that email was meant for me. They really are asking me to attend a meeting that is trying to bring together all the people involved in “seagrass research, inventories, monitoring and outreach in BC”.

Suddenly, I find myself getting a bit excited about my old career. Maybe this meeting will rekindle some old interests, bring a little spark back to an old joy.

We decided to treat the event as a vacation. It wasn’t truly work, since I was going as a volunteer to explore the prospects of this new organization. The weather gave us a bit of a treat on the first day too, sunny but not too windy. We headed across to Kelsey Bay, picked up some fuel for the Draiocht, and then cruised down to the Okisollo Channel. This was new territory for both of us, and the first really long run that we had done with the Draiocht. Kind of an adventure, you might say. Lots of fish farms. This is not something I’m used to seeing, as there aren’t any in northern waters. Then we were through the Lower and Upper Rapids. Things started to get really busy. Way more boats than I’ve seen in a long time. We felt like a couple of hicks coming out of the bush. Then with a swoosh (or is that flush), we were through Surge Narrows. Everything goes much faster in the Draiocht at 15+ knots when compared to the stately 8 knots of our old cruising days in the Moody Blue. Now that we were in Hoskyn Channel, it was like being surrounded by civilization. There were many beautiful homes on both sides of the channel, some of which were absolutely huge and opulent. Clearly, a few of these weren’t your typical off-the-grid tiny homes!

We pulled into Heriot Bay only to discover that the goverment dock was getting reorganized to provide space for two Canadian Navy ships. Happily, we were able to squeeze the Draiocht into a little space along one of the fingers. Travelling in a 24′ boat definitely makes finding places to tie up much easier than a 40′ boat.

We spent a couple relaxing (physically), but exciting (mentally) days on Quadra. It was good to hobnob with old friends, make some new ones, and catch up on what has been going on in my “field”. We got to eat ice cream two days in a row – a real novelty for us since we haven’t had refrigeration for over a year. What a change from the homestead! We enjoyed long walks along tree-shaded roads, and were amazed at the number of cherry trees, heavy with ripe fruit, that there were. There were lots of hazelnuts as well. Clearly a good cropping year so far.

The Hakai Institute research station, where the meeting was held, was an amazing facility. The Hakai Institute is operated by the Tula Foundation, a private charitable foundation that is independent, BC based, and self-financed. It is run on a full-time basis by Eric Peterson and Christina Munck, using the profits from the sale of Peterson’s multimilliion dollar medical imaging company. The mission of the Hakai Institute is to build and run a long-term coastal and marine ecological observatory on the central coast. At a time when federally-funded scientific research is at an all time low, the Hakai Institute has become a place of scientific exploration and discovery. If only I was 25 years younger … I would have loved to work at a place like this. Not only were there lots of scientific “gadgets” that made it hard for me to keep my hands away, but the location is absolutely beautiful, tucked away amongst the trees. Working here would be like living in a park. And, after all the muzzling, warping, and “editing” that I have seen done to science and scientists in the past few years, I’m absolutely astounded that a private citizen, one of the wealthy 1%, would expend all of his resources to encourage and enable good scientific research.

The trip home was quieter … the weather was still and a bit foggy. A good day for travelling and thinking. I was happy to be going home. I’m not used to being in the great press of humanity anymore, and although it was exciting for a couple of days, it’s good to be going back to my usual introverted self. Our vacation has left me wondering … do I want to get back into science again? How? How much? More eelgrass research, or something entirely different? Is there anything that I can do from our home base in Port Neville? Lots of questions … not many answers.