By Cherie Thiessen
The M.V. Frances Barkley nudges the pier on the west side of Bamfield. Its famous boardwalk twists along the inlet, cottages perch alongside, docks sprout into the waterway. The red and white buildings of the Coast Guard station alongside the dock gleam, and through my binoculars I can see the proprietor of the tiny boardwalk store hanging out a sign: closed for freight receiving.
Our binoculars have never been far from our eyes during this three-hour voyage up Alberni Inlet from Port Alberni to Barkley Sound. We’ve spotted eagles, inched by rainbows, chugged in and out of mists, rainstorms and occasional splatters of sun, and passed a wilderness that goes on and on. The passenger freighter’s crew of five is casual and friendly, and the captain, John Adams, who retired as captain from B.C. Ferries but just couldn’t stay home, has pointed out interesting spots along the way – like Kildonan, for example. In 1914, it was a thriving cannery and 500 people lived there. Now it’s home to only a few summer cottagers and fewer still full timers, who gather at the dock. In the season, the Frances Barkley also stops at the old Sechart whaling station just outside the Pacific Rim National Park Reserve; it’s now a lodge catering to kayakers. The Norwegian built ship can carry 200 passengers and 100 tons of cargo, and it makes stops wherever it’s needed: fish farms, small settlements, and even float homes.
We’re met by Don Kapalka from the Imperial Eagle Lodge in his cherry red Ranger. There’s only room in the ATV for two plus luggage, so I get to ride along the steep and rocky track while the others head to the lodge along the boardwalk. Don fills me in en route. Read More→