Ryan Cameron, co-founder of Tiicmis Wilderness & Wellness Retreats, beams with joy on a recent trip to the Broken Group Islands on his restored Navy vessel and good friends in tow. (Nora O’Malley / Westerly News)

Restored Canadian Navy vessel offers unique experiences of Barkley Sound, Clayoquot Sound and Nootka

“My dad always wanted to give people experiences and reconnect them to nature.”

Back in 2008, departed West Coast fisherman Donald Stanley Cameron bought a 1955 Yard Auxiliary Gate (YAG) training vessel at a military auction for the sweet ticket price of $4,500.

Sweeter still, he split the cost with one of his kids, Ryan Cameron, and they set about restoring the old Canadian Navy warship back to its glory days. Don, who passed peacefully at the Tofino General Hospital on Nov. 15, 2018, would spend the last decade of his life with the help of his wife Patty transforming the Navy relic once known as the ‘Badger 319’ into the ‘Pretty Girl’.

“It was a full time job,” said Ryan, remembering his dad rowed every piece of wood and every tool out to the ship in a dingy. “He had boards and stuff stacked on the edge, tittering over.”

Don’s dream was to convert the Badger into a Mother Ship for exploring—and protecting —the West Coast.

“We are carrying on exactly what his vision was. To get the boat finished and to make it protector of the Coast,” said Ryan, who is one of five in the Cameron brood.

In partnership with photographer and first mate Douglas Ludwig, captain Ryan launched Tiicmis Wilderness & Wellness Retreats, a travel adventure company offering tours of the Barkley Sound, Clayoquot Sound, and Nootka.

READ: Toquaht Nation opens new marina in Barkley Sound near Ucluelet

Ludwig describes the Nuu-chah-nulth word ‘Tiicmis’ as being broad like love.

“You can’t really describe it. It’s like the life force. The ‘mis’ part represents your heart and the ‘Tiic’ part, might be the environment. We wanted something that represented spirit and life force because there is so much more going on. This boat is alive; there is sweat and tears in here. We know that we are connected to the ocean and the forest here,” said Ludwig.

Ryan hopes the vessel will be used as a tool for the community.

“Working with youth and especially the First Nations is very important,” he said, adding that one of the first trips they did as Tiicmis was taking the young Warriors up Effingham Inlet.

“We want to teach people to get off their phone and get back to looking, observing, and appreciating where you live and what we have,” Ryan said. “My dad always wanted to give people experiences and reconnect them to nature.”

READ: First Nations youth Warrior Program revives cultural teachings

Already, Tiicmis is partnering with friends and local tour operators, like Kevin Bradshaw from Hello Nature Kayaking and Raph Bruhwiler from Ground Swell Adventures.

“We can do so much more with working with each other,” said Ryan.

Bradshaw said the collaboration with Tiicmis is a continuation of what Don would have wanted.

“[The YAG] provides a level of comfort for guests we couldn’t get anywhere. This one boat answers all the questions: we get to see the highlights and we get a good night sleep,” said Bradshaw.

The restored 75-foot ship sleeps 10 guests and three crew passengers.

“It encompasses so much. The boat has a life force and flow going,” said Ludwig.

From the bow to the stern, the hull of the ship is made from one solid piece of wood, notes Ryan. There is no joinery.

Above the restored helm, Ryan tacked an old photo of his dad at the wheel.

“I see him everywhere on the boat,” said Ryan.


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