I’m not sure why, but I felt compelled to stop by Jamie’s Whaling Station in Ucluelet the following day, just to ask what they had been spotting on their tours. “A couple of hump backs breaching and some good tandem flukes,” Lisa said. “Man, I should have gone with you guys,” I told her. I had considered checking out Jamie’s before I booked the Tofino tour, but alas, I didn’t. “We have a Zodiac tour going out in about twenty minutes,” she said. “I can give you a deal if you want to go. There’ll only be two other people on the boat.” Go or not go. She did offer me a great deal. “I’ll go.”
The man standing at the counter that I assumed would be our tour guide and boat captain looked like a seasoned professional. In good hands, I thought, until I overheard him say that he was off and going home. And then Dylan walked through the door excitedly proclaiming, “I can’t wait to get back on the water. It’s been over a week.” My first thoughts--Too enthusiastic. This guy is as green as they come. He’s obviously new and just got his captains license. I’ll admit, I was a bit nervous. First impressions are sometimes, well, wrong. Down at the boat, all geared up in our full-body floatation suits and ready to load, Dylan introduced himself. A seasoned pro, it seemed.
Dylan was, in-fact, born in Ucluelet and is a fourth-generation fisherman of Japanese descent. He told me that he started as a deck hand on the family fishing boat just as his father did with his grandfather. Dylan had spent his whole life on the waters around Ucluelet, it turned out. The way he presented himself during the safety briefing confirmed that he knew his way around watercraft. Dylan skilfully backed the boat away from the dock and we were off to the Broken Group Islands in the Barkley Sound.
Before we had reached the speed limit marker in the harbour, Dylan was spotting wildlife and tutoring us on the history of the old houses dotted along the shoreline. He provided a brief history on the Ucluelet First Nation community located on the opposite shore and then, he hit the throttles. We were off.
It’s great that the tour operators in the area maintain radio contact, advising each other of whale sightings, and I’m sure Dylan appreciates that as much as anyone, but I’m not convinced that he needs the help. Dylan was spotting far off spouts, and when we got close enough to view a whale, he would spot two more off in the distance. And to my delight, a grey gave me the shots I was looking for.
I asked Dylan what excited him most about being a tour guide. “Getting to show people the scenery out here,” he said. “It’s next to none and being on the water and going through the broken group will never get old for me.” Dylan’s favourite ocean critter--the octopus. “I've always been fascinated with their intelligence and gracefulness in the water,” he said. “I've even been bit by a small one and have always felt a connection to the animal.”
Dylan has left Ucluelet a few of times to explore other types of work on the island, but he has never been able to stay away for long. His love of being on the ocean has always brought him home. But, Dylan is now ready to embark on a whole new adventure. “I'm heading down to Australia on a work visa,” he told me. It remains to be seen, however, how long Dylan can stay away. “I have a feeling I’ll be back out on the west coast sooner rather than later as spending time away from this beautiful town is tough.”
Dylan, best of luck on your new adventure and I do hope that our paths will cross again someday. I’m confident that I will return to Ucluelet and I will certainly be checking in at Jamie’s Whaling Station. I’ll ask for you when I do.
Jamie’s Whaling Station and Adventure Centres operates out of Ucluelet and Tofino. They offer a variety of tours aside from whale watching—bear watching, kayaking, cultural etc. If you are travelling in that area, check them out. You can read all about the company and the services they offer at: www.jamies.com
Here are some of the photographs I was able to get thanks to Dylan.