Port Alberni’s harbour is an engaging place to stop and watch the action on the water. Spend some more time down there talking to the people who live and work on the waterfront, and you’ll see just how busy it is.
Admittedly, I’m more of an aviator than a mariner. I love planes, whether I’m a passenger or in the pilot’s seat. My sole venture salmon fishing I spent the entire afternoon staring at the horizon and willing my stomach contents to stay where they were, if only to not give satisfaction to my boat mates when they teased me mercilessly about “feeding the fish.”
Maybe it had something to do with the fact we were fishing off of Campbell River…
I’ve been too chicken to go on another fishing charter since I moved to Port Alberni, instead cheering on the successful fishers as they bring their catch to the cleaning stations on solid land.
I’ve spent a lot of time observing along the waterfront however, as there is no end to the stories one can tell.
One of my favourite events was the tall ship festival, watching the cannon battle between two ships out in the middle of the Inlet. Watching the Martin Mars waterbomber drop a load of water as a display for a cruise ship was pretty special. As was photographing the final journey of the famed MV Lady Rose on her way to Tofino.
Every so often I catch up with the Port Alberni Port Authority about what is going on at their terminals, or Canadian Maritime Engineering for whatever large-scale shipping project they are working on.
None of this even touches the recreational boating vessels. In the 14 years I’ve been living in Port Alberni, we’ve never had enough marina space for all the rec boaters, although I hear the situation is better here than in larger waterfront communities. The amount of money that is spent on recreational boating here every year is mind-boggling.
Last Thursday, Oct. 15 I spent a couple of hours at Port Alberni Marine Fuels watching Western Canada Marine Response Corporation (WCMRC) crew members practice a spill drill. They used their 73-foot dedicated skimming vessel as a casualty, and I got there just in time to watch each step as they assessed the scene, laid out a containment boom, anchored it away from the vessel and deployed a fuzzy disc skimmer that would separate and store spilled fuel.
A number of people were surprised when Port Alberni was named an oil spill response base, saying the base was overkill for the amount of marine traffic we get. The spill response bases themselves are steeped in controversy because they are linked to the Transmountain Pipeline project.
With its deepsea port, Port Alberni is perfectly placed for a spill response base. It would only take one accident to convince naysayers, I’m sure.
The drill in Alberni Harbour saw 200 feet of containment boom deployed. A week previous to that, they deployed 2,300 feet of boom in Nitnat Narrows. The training that day was at the behest of the Ditidaht First Nation and involved three of the Sentinel workboats.
That’s a big boom.
Watching the WCMRC spill drill was fascinating; I hope they never have to deploy the team to a real spill. Of course, that would be a pipe dream.
— Susie Quinn is the Alberni Valley News editor