Alberni Inlet Excursion

September 27th, 2008


Once again this is not really the report of a vacation, but the report of an excursion. Eleanor & I made the 90-minute drive from Comox to Port Alberni where we shacked up, so to speak at Timberlodge (N.R.) for 2 nights. On Saturday morning we boarded the Frances Barkley, a well used, 300 ton vessel built in Norway in 1958. It can carry 100 tons of cargo and 200 passengers but, on our excursion, the passenger count appeared to be about 40. A single 400 HP Bergen Diesel pushes the vessel along at a stately 10.5 knots. At 450 rpm the exhaust sounds the familiar and reassuring chuga-chuga-chug, a sound that is slowly disappearing from the Coast.

Port Alberni is very much a lunch bucket city with logging, sawmilling, a paper mill, tourist excursions, guided fishing and general tourism. It's situated at the end of a long inlet that runs west to the open Pacific, a situation that makes it vulnerable to tsunamis.


The Inlet is well marked for navigation and a number of small communities are situated along it's shores. Most are accessible only by boat or float-equipped aircraft.


Some choose to live in isolation. Nearby is Henderson Lake that boasts the highest rainfall in North America. On our excursion we encountered drizzle in the immediate vicinity of Bamfield but the weather was otherwise mainly sunny and pleasantly mild.


There were many wildlife sightings, including this humpback that put on a spectacular performance for an appreciative audience. There were also numerous seals, sea lions and a Black Bear that was looking for a meal of fresh salmon.


Anyone who has gone whale watching on the West Coast will recognize the red and black vessels that are widely used. Above, several loaded vessels appear ready to depart from the outfitter's float near Bamfield.


We made several stops along the way to unload cargo, typically store provisions but also propane cylinders, construction lumber, windows and general merchandise. Some passengers disembarked and others boarded for the return to Port Alberni


One of the lifts out of the hold was almost entirely cases of beer. Another, seen below, consisted mostly of Old Dutch potato chips. It appears that even these isolated communities have access to the necessities of life.


Eleanor watches lumber being offloaded to a pickup.


This untidy and very visible cut block was a poor advertisement for our forest industry and was not typical of the several we saw.

This is the kind of excursion that you're unlikely to take a second time, unless it's to accompany guests, but it's one that I recommend to anyone who wants to see a different and working part of Coastal B.C..