Saturday, September 10, 2016

Where the road ends

Tyee Spit is less than 5 minutes from my house, by car. A road leads about 2/3 of the way to the end, and stops. There is a parking lot behind us here, but a few cars always park at the very end, where big rocks block the way. I walk to the tip of the spit, at the mouth of the Campbell River, and stand there listening to the splashing of waves on stones, and the whine, roar, and hum of traffic.

Where the road ends, the air and the sea continue. Little floatplanes drone over the hills beyond the channel, roar overhead, splash down, and rumble in to the dock. Another revs up, its song going from bass to alto; then the plane lifts off the water, and the motor settles down to a hum, fading off in the distance. A skiff with a couple of fishermen putt-putts along; someone drops a crab trap before they speed away, the outboard motor howling.

Down channel, I see a fish boat beating away against the current under the cliffs of Quadra Island, a barge with its tug and load of brightly painted boxes. And the ferry is just turning into the landing in Quathiaski Cove. If I wait, I might see a cruise ship sliding by, a city in a white floating box.

For much of the forbidding coast of northern Vancouver Island, these are the main methods of transport; small floatplanes, and boats tiny, small, and huge.

Touching down. Tyee Spit.

One minute later, the next plane lands.

On the far side of the Island, the west coast, the highway stops where the Gold River meets the sea, at the inner end of an Nootka Sound, still 40 km. from the open sea. Here, the Uchuck III, which regularly visits small coastal communities with no road access, ties up; and Air Nootka float planes pick up mail and travellers to be delivered up and down the coast.

Air Nootka plane. This photo taken in July.

The dock next door. Photo taken in March. Same view; still green even in winter, but with more snow on the mountain peaks.

Beside the offices (we stopped in to discuss a possible trip on the Uchuck next summer), a sign advertises the mail run:

2 hour flight, with several stops. $190.

I am seriously tempted. I was on this flight many, many (55+) years ago, on my way south. The landing procedure, spiralling down into the Gold River dock, one wing pointing at the clouds, the other pointing directly down into the water, and spinning, spinning, frightened me so badly that I don't remember any more about that trip.

I should go, if only to prove to myself that I'm no longer scared.

On the other side of the Gold River docks, Western Forest Products machinery herds logs. On land big, toothy machines pick them up and stack them; in the water, tiny, also toothy, nimble tugs sort them into booms for transport.

These little tugs fascinate me. So tiny, so solid, all welded steel; they look like they should sink. But they chug about, slamming into logs, tipping and whirling and thudding, water sluicing over the decks. Nothing fazes them.

I had to look this up twice. 3 seconds - seconds! - after the previous photo. Wham!

And 16 seconds later the log has been rousted out and is on its way to the boom.

The average boom boat measures approximately 16 feet long, 8 feet in the beam, and 4 feet deep. The typical gross tonnage is only a mere 3 tons. (Custom Boat Building -scroll down)
Gold River on the west, Tyee Spit on the east coast.


  1. Around here they call the little log boom boats dozers. They sure can zip around fast! - Margy


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