Port Alberni’s Swept Away Inn will sweep you off your feet

 

The Swept Away Inn

The Swept Away Inn

Big smiles. Warm welcomes. Amazing slow food. And, the most unique bed and breakfast experience you are ever likely to have.  Roll it all together and you have the distinctive, snug and delightful Swept Away Inn, berthed at Centennial Pier in Port Alberni.

The inn is housed in a 100-foot retired minesweeper/tugboat/fishing lodge that dominates the new pier in the heart of downtown Port Alberni. It took a full year for hosts Daniel and Bouchra to refurbish the boat in Port, by which time their initial plans to move on to Tofino had vanished.  The couple fell in love with Port Alberni and its people and made the decision to stay right where they were.  Since late summer of 2014 they have been running the B&B and offering dinner club-style meals that have proven to be a hit with local residents and travelers from all over the world.

The dining and lounge areas exude comfort and warmth

The dining and lounge areas exude comfort and warmth

The couple’s efforts have not gone unnoticed – they recently were selected as one of the top five nominees for a BC Small Business Award. As we discovered on a tumultuous rainswept winter day, all the praise for their efforts is not unfounded.

The sturdy tug has weathered the 70 years of its west coast existence with a good deal of grace, helped along by Daniel’s ministrations. Step into the combined lounge/dining area and you are immediately enveloped by the cozy ambiance and the  one-of-a-kind appeal that only a shipboard experience can offer. Combine that with the warmest of welcomes from Daniel and Bouchra and there can be little doubt that you are headed for an extraordinary time.

Bouchra works her magic in the galley kitchen

Bouchra works her magic in the galley kitchen

Bouchra grew up in Morocco and learned to cook at her mother’s side.  Her innate talent for flavour combinations and her dedication to what she calls ‘real, slow food’ shines through in every dish that arrives on the table. The combination of local ingredients and hours spent in the galley kitchen produces a wide variety of amazing taste sensations that keeps people coming back for the Swept Away limited-seating dinners.  The night we were there we were treated to a traditional Moroccan meal that included a mouth-watering tahini, home-marinated olives and a traditional chicken dish featuring preserved lemons, olives and Bouchra’s own combination of  time-honoured spices.

A traditional Moroccan dinner

A traditional Moroccan dinner

By my estimation it was three hours, start to finish, before dinner arrived at the table.  But all through those hours we enjoyed the company and conversation of Daniel and Bouchra. Both of them are very engaged in the local community, so discussions range from our travels to their concerns about a possible coal port on the Alberni waterfront and revitalization efforts in town.

‘Our goal is to see the world through our guests’, says Daniel, and from the sounds of it they are doing exactly that.

The packet freighter Frances Barkley is berthed just a stone's throw away, making the Swept Away Inn a convenient overnight stay for travellers heading out early on the Barkley

The packet freighter Frances Barkley is berthed just a stone’s throw away, making the Swept Away Inn a convenient overnight stay for travellers heading out early on the Barkley

Dinner finished, we hang out in the beautiful lounge area for a while before heading off to our small (but comfortable) quarters. Bunk beds are the order of the day here – nothing has been changed from the traditional accommodation found on older vessels, and we are fine with that (although we giggle a lot at having to pass each other going sideways in our small state room). We have a porthole that looks out to the wharves where the fishing fleet and the venerable packet freighter Frances Barkley are  docked and, with wind and rain buffeting the boat we are rocked gently to sleep.

Breakfast the next morning is another Moroccan delight – Bouchra prepares barghrir, or ‘crepes with a thousand holes’, topped with a flavourful brown sugar sauce and bananas.They are substantial enough to sustain us well into the afternoon.

Traditional accommodation on a ship - comfortable bunks, small staterooms - a very unique experience for many

Traditional accommodation on a ship – comfortable bunks, small staterooms – a very unique experience for many

While the Swept Away Inn is not what anyone would class a luxury bed and breakfast it is most certainly clean, comfortable and more than welcoming. The food is amazing, the hosts are even more so…and really, how many people can say they have stayed on a 70-year-old retired minesweeper? It’s one of those once-in-a-lifetime opportunities that we wouldn’t have missed for the world.

            The Swept Away Inn doesn’t have a website, but if you want to keep track of their dinner offerings and inquire about the bed and breakfast availability you can find them on Facebook at:

            https://www.facebook.com/sweptawayinn

 The Swept Away Inn is located at Centennial Pier at the bottom of Argyle Street, adjacent to Harbour Quay, Unit 1, 5505 Argyle Street

            GPS co-ordinates are:

             Lat. 49.23507867084177  Long. -124.8163073878357

            N 49 14.105  W 124 48.978

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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2 Responses to Port Alberni’s Swept Away Inn will sweep you off your feet

  1. Alana & Corley at Bowser says:

    I love your blog. Yesterday, we were in Campbell River for a medical appointment and deliberately sought out Dick’s Fish & Chips based on your recommendation. We enjoyed a very good meal and the fish batter was as light as angel’s wings. Thank you. We’ll definitely be trying more of your suggestions.

    • Shirley Shirley says:

      Thank you for the kind words – so glad that you went to Dick’s, which is one of our favourite fish and chips places on the Island. Be sure to check out some of the great places that advertise with us too – you can click right through from their ads to their business websites.

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