Ucluelet’s Subtidal Adventures offers a delightful peek into another world

Brian Congdon on his retired 65-year-old Coast Guard vessel

Brian Congdon on his retired 65-year-old Coast Guard vessel

There is a whole lot of beauty, history and wildlife packed into Ucluelet’s harbour that one might never know about if not for Brian Congdon and his Subtidal Adventures.

CormorantsWe recently enjoyed a couple of hours on the water with Brian, who has been running his eco-tourism adventure tours off the west coast of the Island since 1978. A former park warden at Pacific Rim National Park, he was the first to come up with the concept of eco-tourism in Ucluelet and over the years has introduced thousands of visitors to the wonders of one of the most spectacular areas anywhere in the world. Subtidal Adventures is also the only company in Ucluelet to offer tours on a year-round basis. Even if you are there in the dead of winter you can delight in an on-the-water experience – wind, waves and weather permitting.

A hopeful sea lion joined us for a portion of the trip

A hopeful sea lion joined us for a portion of the trip

Subtidal is not what anyone would consider a big corporate presence in Ucluelet – one delightful 65-year-old former Coast Guard cabin cruiser and a single Zodiac may not sound all that impressive. But the intimate knowledge of the area and sheer affability of the skipper make for an engaging three or four hours on the water.

Eagles

Bald eagles are not an unusual sight

We were in Ucluelet in early February and enjoyed a basic harbour tour on a foggy, breezy and threatening-rain afternoon. Despite the less-than-stellar weather we came off the Dixie IV with dozens of photos and a new appreciation for all that makes Ucluelet unique.

Before we even pulled away from the dock Brian pointed out a regal blue heron perched on a piling high above us.  From there we wended our way past myriad fishing boats of all shapes and sizes, fish plants and a seaplane hangar constructed during World War II.  We hadn’t been on the water more than a few minutes when a lone sea lion, hoping that we were a fishboat that would supply an easy lunch, began tagging along beside us.

A view out to the open Pacific Ocean on a foggy day

A view out to the open Pacific Ocean on a foggy day

Further along the narrow inlet we encountered several bald eagles and a gaggle of cormorants and gulls perched on a chunk of rock.  A detour into a small bay in search of sea otter proved fruitless on that particular day.

One of the abandoned Japanese residences at Spring Cove

One of the abandoned Japanese residences at Spring Cove

We crossed the inlet, buffeted at this point by a little rough water, and journeyed into Spring Cove where derelict houses and wharves revealed the sad story of the Japanese internment during the Second World War. A couple of the families returned to their homes there following the hostilities but there is a poignant aura that permeates the place and leaves one feeling reflective and a little sad at the turn of events so long ago.

A west coast scarecrow, meant to keep sea lions off the wharf

A west coast scarecrow, meant to keep sea lions off the wharf

Back in more protected waters, we headed past more fish plants and a west coast scarecrow – a mannequin dressed in bright yellow rain gear, fishing rod in hand – designed to keep sea lions off a wharf.

Brian is incredibly patient when it comes to offering the best opportunities for photographs, and he is a walking history book when it comes to the past of his home of more than 40 years.

This is all that is left of the wharf at Spring Cove, a thriving Japanese fishing community prior to WWII

This is all that is left of the wharf at Spring Cove, a thriving Japanese fishing community prior to WWII

Although our touring options were pretty limited in the dead of winter we were grateful for the chance to appreciate and explore Ucluelet from the water.  Subtidal’s adventuring opportunities expand to whale, bear and other wildlife watching, sunset tours and exploration of the spectacular Broken Group Islands beginning in March and stretching through the summer and autumn.  We can’t wait to re-join Brian to learn about and see more of this beautiful and intriguing area.

Further information on Subtidal Adventures can be found at the website:

www.subtidaladventures.com

Subtidal’s headquarters is located at 1950 Peninsula Road, Ucluelet

GPS co-ordinates are:

Lat. 48.94487296732658  Long. -125.55765529999996

N 48 56.692  W 125 33.459

Shirley

About Shirley

More years ago than I like to remember, I completed the Journalism program at Vancouver Community College and launched straight into a career as a newspaper reporter (thanks to my journalism professor Nick Russell and an opening at the venerable daily Alberni Valley Times.) My work as a news reporter/feature writer/columnist and ultimately, newspaper and magazine editor, took me to many interesting places and introduced me to hundreds of interesting characters over the years. I loved every minute of it, but burnout caught up with me while I was trying to juggle the simultaneous editing of five trade magazines, and for 27 years I abandoned my keyboard (on a professional basis, at least) and followed my heart in a variety of other careers. In 2010 I returned to the journalistic fold, thanks to the encouragement (nay – nagging!) of my husband. I feel no regret – only great joy to be back at the keyboard, and to be spending time interviewing interesting folks and discovering great places.
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