Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Obstacles & New Friends

The winter months can often prove a tad challenging when trying to get to our oyster farm. Last week was a perfect example of the weather causing a big glitch in our plans. I had arranged with our Asian buyer to provide a decent number of small and medium oysters for a February shipment to Singapore. All of this meant Bob and I had to get to Nelson Island and work on pulling up and bagging the necessary oysters, and placing them on our small pebble beach to "harden" before they were trucked to Vancouver. Hardening the oysters before shipping is achieved by exposing the oysters to the rising and falling tides on the beach. When there is no water covering the oyster it will shut its' shell tight. This daily exposure to the air and clamping tight the shell will make for a stronger oyster for shipping. Basically the hinge that holds the oyster closed gets much stronger and when the oyster is out of the water all the lovely oyster juice is kept in the shell with the oyster.

Back to trying to get there. Vancouver had been covered in an unbelievably thick fog for about ten days when we decided we had to make the trip to the island. I knew the banks of fog stretched far up the coast and using our small boat to travel from the marina where it is moored to our dock on the island was not an option. Travelling on the water when the fog is really bad is almost impossible. There is no way to see the shoreline, the sky, other boats, or the water ahead. Just plain scary really. We had to get there or we were out of luck as far as selling some of our best winter oysters. We came up with the idea of driving to the marina and then taking a water taxi from there. Water taxis all come with GPS and radar. Fog is still an issue for them but at least they can make the journey. The only problem with all of this was the cost. It really irked me having to pay so much when we would be making so little for the oysters. The cost of the water taxi closest to our marina would have been $300. We then remembered another water taxi service closer to our cabin in Blind Bay. We would have to travel further by car and take another ferry but we thought it was worth it. I called the woman that owns the water taxi and got our "time and where to meet" plans arranged. I had heard a lot about this lady, Sue and her husband , Bob. Some of the local characters that actually like living on a tiny island in what most would consider the middle of nowhere. These kind of people are always interesting to me. Bob and I arrived at Saltery Bay after five hours of travelling by car and ferries and were relieved to see Sue and her trusty water taxi waiting for us. Sue hopped out and introduced herself while helping to heave all of our luggage and coolers on to her boat. She appeared to be a bit younger than me , but not much, and was in top physical form. Our heaviest bag was no problem for her. As we headed slowly out into the murky mist all around us Sue told me she had wanted to meet us for some time now. She couldn't imagine what kind of city-slickers would buy an oyster farm and then go on to work it. We swapped stories and reminisced about the "old days" when my dad had first purchased the island property and life was so much better. Great runs of herring and salmon swam through the bay and summer was always wonderful and perfect. In the end I think she thought we were ok. A little crazy , but ok. Funny how people that live such a different lifestyle are not too phased by other people's weird behaviour. I really liked Sue and was glad to have her as a new "island" friend.

We worked two full days in the freezing fog, 0 degrees during the day and -2 at night. Incredibly cold! We got the work done that we had come to do and gave ourselves a big pat on the back for surviving another couple of really tough winter days on the oyster rafts. The morning we were to leave the fog had finally gone and the dawn spread out across the bay with a rosy pink light and a pale blue sky. We loaded our gear on to our dock and waited for Sue to arrive to take us back to warmth and civilization.

When the water taxi showed up Sue was not the captain , instead it was her hubby Bob. Just like Sue he was a real pleasure to meet and full of information on the goings-on around our big bay. As we motored away from the old cabin Bob told us some of the local gossip. A new summer neighbour not far from our property had lost some ten million dollars in the now disastrous stock markets. According to Bob this fellow was weathering the storm as he must of had some twenty million to start out with. We laughed, sure this was one of those tales that grew every time it was told. I love good gossip and am sure Bob will provide good company and good stories in the days ahead. We will definitely make a point of keeping in touch with our new pals Sue and Bob.