Ebb and Flood and Slack Tides


Waldorf the Wolf Eel, photographed by Tiare Boyes

The ebb and flood of the tides are the pulse of God’s Pocket. Daily dive locations are selected and scheduled around the tides moving through deep channels. Between the ebb and flood tides is the slack tide: a window of time when the currents are balancing themselves and changing direction. The slack tide is the perfect time for divers; otherwise a tailing current can whip divers past a deep wall of color, or challenge them to stay in the same place with a head-on current.

The winter months are the ebb tide of the year at God’s Pocket: no guests and only one or two caretakers from November through March. And then the flood: up to 12 guests a week plus staff every day from April to the end of October. Before the ebb and flood is the slack: time to close up the resort for the winter or prepare it for the forthcoming season.

David and I have been alone here for five weeks. We’ve enjoyed being together just the two of us and having the place to ourselves: the quiet, the adventures, the expanse within the short days, and the many birds. Blue, our resident great blue heron, comes and goes, and scatters to a tree or distant rock if we walk too close to his perch. Two black crows, Sweetie and Russell, come to the sliding glass door every day or so for treats: apple cores, sliced grapes, and oats. Seagulls, mergansers and cormorants spat for spots on the breakwater logs, and eagles grace the sky overhead several times a day.

This year the season will begin early, tomorrow in fact, with the arrival of a documentary film crew from PBS New Zealand. They will be followed by another crew from the BBC. And so, for the past two weeks, the population of our little outpost has been growing, into the slack tide. Bill, one of the owners, arrived on February 12 to begin opening the cabins and getting ready for divers. That meant turning on the water and the heat to the cabins, and getting the boat ready by re-attaching the lift that brings divers out of the water to deck level. We eagerly anticipated Bill’s good company. We enjoyed our days helping him with his work, problem-solving unexpected technical obstacles, and chatting through the evening over repeated small pours of bourbon or scotch.

We went to Port Hardy on February 17 to meet Annie, co-owner of the resort and Bill’s spouse, two dive scouts, Tiare and Colten, and the chef, Gem; four more people and a carload full of provisions to the island. Since their arrival, Tiare and Colten have been diving three or four times a day, looking for octopodes (the official plural of octopus) and wolf eels in advance of the film crews. When the film crew gets here, they’ll want to shoot footage of underwater creatures without needing to find them first. Gem has reorganized and overhauled the kitchen, and made it a comfortable, efficient space for making her magic with food.

It didn’t surprise me that I felt a bit overwhelmed that first night by the energy of the group as we ate and talked and told stories. I’d been here with only David for company, and now seven tired but excited people were energetically getting to know each other. We had gone from ebb to flood without a slack time! I escaped to our cabin after dinner, just as a large catamaran made its way into the bay. I learned later what I missed: the catamaran was helmed by Ian McAllister, the director of PacificWild.org and an amazing photographer (see my post Canis Lupus) and his guest, a very good friend of Bill and Annie’s, Paul Nicklen. Paul is a renown National Geographic photographer and environmentalist (http://www.paulnicklen.com/). I regret that I missed meeting them.

God’s Pocket draws remarkable people to its shores, owners, staff and guests alike. Tiare, 26, is a commercial halibut fisherwoman on her father’s boat in season. Energetic and positive, she speaks as passionately about protecting the fisheries with sound science and good management as she does about the special bond among the longline halibut fishing crew she works with. She is an expert diver, and says every dive is a good one as long as everyone comes up safely. Colten, 24, is also both a commercial halibut fisherman in season (on a different boat) and an expert diver. When not in or on the water, he is an actor, writer, and now film producer. With his reddish curly hair and goatee, he looks like one of the three musketeers; I have nicknamed him D’Artagnan. Gem is an artist and writer, and chef. She is a bit mysterious, joyful with an easy laugh; she brings a calm and generous spirit to the group. A few days ago, she read us her beautiful self-published poem and showed us the illustrations, selected from her mother’s collection of daily drawings

In our short time together, our group has enjoyed meals, late afternoon yoga before dinner, and several versions of Pride and Prejudice on DVD after dinner. We have had energetic conversations about diving, the environment, group dynamics, food, and personal histories as we get to know each other.

Importantly, over the last two days, we have converted the main house from a cozy living room back into a large dining room. The couch and arm chairs are now in the clubhouse, the official ‘hangout’ space for guests during the season, as is the TV. During the slack time between the ebb of the season and the flood, we have prepared the resort for guests. The population of the island will swell to eleven by tomorrow evening, and the flood will begin.


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