Coffee with: Char’s Landing diva Charlene Patterson

Char's Landing owner Char Patterson sailed the world on cruise ships and has now dropped anchor and found a home in the Alberni Valley.

Charlene Patterson turned in her cruise wear in favour of opening Char’s Landing

An Alberni entertainment luminary who sailed the world on cruise ships has found a home and dropped anchor in the Valley.

Inside the stillness of Char’s Landing and with the chime of baroque music in the background, owner Charlene Patterson chatted about her life and what brought her to Port Alberni.

Patterson was born in Kelowna, and is the fifth of six siblings. She has four brothers and one sister.

Her earliest memory is of a winter in Winfield, a community just outside of Kelowna. “A man named Mister Ogilvie used to take us sleigh riding on his ranch,” she said.

Patterson went to elementary school in Kelowna before graduating from George Elliot Secondary School in 1979.

Patterson’s overriding memory of her school years is being involved in band. “I played tenor sax in stage band, clarinet in concert band,” Patterson said. “And one time I was in five choirs. We sang harmony on the way to church.”

Patterson’s favourite teachers were Mister Gfeller, who taught chemistry, and David Bingham, both of who made learning fun, she said. But the former band student’s favourite subjects were math and science.

Patterson attended UBC and took science and molecular biology but the workload was daunting. “In one term I took biology, micro biology, chemistry, bio chemistry and algebra — I thought I was going to die,” she said

She admits that she was young, from a small town, in a big city with other young people. Throw some alcohol in the mix and a few parties and what you have is a potent cocktail. “It was a real culture shock,” Patterson said.

She took a year out in 1981 to work at a job involving mainframe computers. She immediately understood the programming language FORTRAN and found her first calling.

She went on her own and worked as a computer consultant, packing her computer in a backpack and riding her bicycle between clients.

Patterson took two vacations in 1997, both on cruise ships, and assessed where she was in life. “I had no life, just computers. I lived and breathed computers.”

The ship’s maître d on one cruise encouraged her to work in the cruise ship industry, and after a long first interview Patterson had a decision to make.

“I made a decision to do it in November of 1997, packed it all in and started on my first ship in March 1997,” Patterson said. “The captain of my ship was the captain from my first cruise.”

Patterson continued to work with computers but this time aboard several cruise ships in the liner’s fleet. “I was responsible for 250 PCs and 14 servers and a point of sale system,” she said.

Her ports of call over 11 years included England, Croatia and Italy, as well as return stops to St. Lucia, Aruba, Barbados, and the Cayman Islands.

Patterson retired but worked on contract with the same firm before finally leaving the industry in 2009. She amassed enough savings to invest, but changes in the industry after 9-11 nudged her departure.

“Everything was regulated. You couldn’t drink and could be blood tested at any time and depending on the results be sent home,” Patterson said. “It wasn’t like the old days anymore.”

Patterson backpacked across the Atlantic provinces and spent some time in Kelowna with her brother, all the while pondering her next move. “I wanted to be near the ocean,” she said.

She looked into buying property on the Sunshine Coast and in Bowser, but earlier contract work with a local firm brought her to the Alberni Valley.

She studied Port Alberni and found that a lot was happening: the uptown revitalization plan was lifting off; the concept of an arts district was being bandied about; and a deep sea port meant a possible port-of-call for cruise ships.

She looked at one other location for an entertainment venue but was taken aback when she viewed the inside of the former Salvation Army church on Argyle. “This is it. This is the place,” Patterson said. “This is my last cruise ship. This is my dry dock.”

The fledgling entertainment venue is home to everything from spoken word performances to bands. She envisions a tapas bar for the post movie/play crowd.

The best advice Patterson ever received was from her grandparents. “They taught me to just be the best person I can be and the rest will fall into place,” she said.

Her favourite movie was Under A Tuscan Sun and her favourite author is Nora Roberts.

And if she could have dinner with anyone past or present it would be the Alberni’s late Terry Whyte. “He was my biggest supporter and inspiration,” Patterson said. “He was the first one to walk in here and see what this place could be.”

reporter@albernivalleynews.com

Just Posted

Wedding plans derailed following City of Port Alberni’s train announcement

Five wedding parties are scrambling to find alternate transportation arrangements to McLean… Continue reading

Kids help Alberni Aquarium build rockfish luminary for next exhibit

Swimming For Change takes over in time for spring break

Spring fishery closures mulled for south coast

Fewer fish are returning to rivers and more conservation needed, say feds

One dead, two seriously injured in Hwy 4 crash west of Port Alberni

A man has died following a single-vehicle collision west of Port Alberni… Continue reading

Risk of ‘deadly avalanches’ leads to warning for B.C.’s south coast

Weak layer of snow on Vancouver Island, Lower Mainland could trigger an avalanche

National Energy Board approves Trans Mountain pipeline again

Next step includes cabinet voting on the controversial expansion

Two more measles cases confirmed in Vancouver

It brings the number of total cases within the city connected to the outbreak to ten

B.C. Special Olympics officially underway in Vernon

Athlete’s Oath: “Let me win. But if I cannot win, let me be brave in the attempt.”

Vancouver Aquarium wants your help to name a baby killer whale

The public helped name Springer’s first calf, Spirit, and is being asked to help with the second

Guards protest firing of fellow officers charged with assault at B.C. prison

Corrections officers demonstrated in Maple Ridge on Friday afternoon

Skier dies at Revelstoke Mountain Resort

Cause of death for young man has not been released

R. Kelly charged with 10 counts of sexual abuse

R&B star has been accused of sexual misconduct involving women and underage girls for years

More sailings coming to 10 BC Ferries’ routes

Transportation Minister Claire Trevena said the sailings were originally cut in 2014

Most Read