The MV Frances Barkley can be seen in the harbour in Bamfield in this undated photo. (SUBMITTED PHOTO)

LETTER: Visitor from Ontario excited at news MV Frances Barkley will still sail

It hardly needs repeating that COVID-19 has exacted a terrible toll on Canadians…

To the Editor,

It hardly needs repeating that COVID-19 has exacted a terrible toll on Canadians. We will be living with the consequences for many years. Through this trauma, however, we have, each in our own way, been sustained by the expectation of a “return to normal.”

For me, a Vancouver Island native, that expectation has revolved around a return to British Columbia from my now Ontario home. Throughout my life I have succumbed to the nostalgic pull of the beauty of the west coast, visiting many times as far north as Haida Gwaii and south through almost all the Gulf Islands. Among all these memories, my fondest has been the hours spent on the ships of Port Alberni’s Lady Rose Marine Services.

I can recall our first trip up to the Broken Islands Group on the MV Lady Rose. We sat for hours on her deck taking in the stunning scenery, fueled by a hearty breakfast from her cramped galley. Chitchat with our fellow passengers – often European visitors gobsmacked by the unspoiled views — up on deck always brought interesting tales of what had brought people to Barkley Sound. Ad hoc stops in small outports along the way to deliver mail, saplings, lumber and the necessities of life reminded us that not everybody was a tourist on this route. A noontime ramble and sandwich at Bamfield provided a glimpse of life out of the mainstream. By the time we docked back at Port Alberni in the evening, we were suffused with the soothing and memorable a sense of a day well spent. No matter how many times we took the trip, the after-effect was always the same.

I received a dismaying shock late in August when I phoned to make a booking with the folks at Lady Rose Marine for a September sailing from Port Alberni. The MV Frances Barkley would sail no more, they said, an economic victim of COVID-19. I felt a pang of sorrow listening to man on the other end of the line.

Well, I now happily know that there will indeed be a new normal: Lady Rose Marine has been rescued by a Nanaimo entrepreneur. Selfishly, my first reaction was that we would again sit on the deck of the Frances Barkley taking in the glorious landscapes and walking the boardwalk at Bamfield. We immediately booked a mid-September sailing. But, on reflection however, I realized that the truly good news here was for the men and women who operate the service, for the folks dependent on the service up the Sound and for the city of Port Alberni. Good on you all! See you soon!

Dr. Duncan McDowall,

Kingston, Ontario

Alberni Valley News