Locals shared stories of their dangerous moments at Joanna Streetly’s book launch in the Tofino Legion on April 17. Streetly’s book ‘Wild Fierce Life: Dangerous Moments on the Outer Coast’ is on BC Bestsellers’ list. (Marcie Callewaert John Photo)

Streetly’s book launch captures Tofino magic with evening of storytelling

“The ocean is a great teacher. When you need a lesson she will be more than happy to teach you one.”

ERIN LINN MCMULLAN

Special to the Westerly

There are moments that define you. Dangerous moments when a split-second decision can mean life or death. When, as Wild Fierce Life’s author Joanna Streetly explains, it is almost like you are two beings: a body committed to action and a mind racing back and forth across existential questions. “Death’s beautiful secret lay before me, tantalizingly unexplored,” she read to a rapt crowd at her recent book launch. “But my father had always taught me to fight.”

While she was recounting a night swim where bioluminescence lured her away from shore, self-rescue informs each transformative “moment” in her stories spanning 30 years of adventurous coastal life.

Already on BC Bestsellers’ list, Streetly insists she hasn’t captured the market on dangerous moments. “That’s what makes it so magic to live here.” A point reinforced by the community of storytellers joining her onstage that evening at Tofino’s Legion.

“You’re going to be all right,” Fiona Peters told herself when her kayak began sinking in the icy Pacific. “But you have to do something!”

Over the evening, survival tactics included praying for divine intervention, a yogic imagining of warm fire in the belly, trusting the compass and the plan, science and well-rehearsed kayak rescues. Yet nature was impish – fog, wind and waves threatening to batter bodies and boats, even snatching cell phones, that is, when batteries didn’t fail.

Lennie John (above photo) crawled out the window of an overturning boat to cram into a life raft with two other men, using pinboards as makeshift paddles.

Jacqueline Windh paddled 300-miles upwind from Tofino to Victoria, only conceding the final crossing when she and her trip partner hauled their kayaks onto the Vancouver-bound ferry.

Father Charles Channel took on an ominous character as waves stranded Robinson Cook high atop a 10-foot rock with his motor in his lap and wind pinned diver Marcel Theriault’s inflatable yellow signal tube flat mid-channel.

Mary Forest followed the light her partner, Cook shone through foggy night, trying to get back to their island home to nurse their daughter. Narrating her self-doubts humourosly, the crowd laughed along with her. How much easier to laugh in the face of death when that storyteller stands safely in front of you.

Travis Wade reconsidered taking a lesson after abandoning his kite-surf, imprinting this insight by swimming all the way into shore.

“I’m proud of all the storytellers,” Streetly acknowledges how laden those survival memories could be. Asked what happens after the adrenaline rush, she explains you are left with curiosity: what are those forces that allowed you to stay?

“The ocean is a great teacher,” Theriault, Streetly’s partner suggests, “when you need a lesson she will be more than happy to teach you one.”

Streetly felt “we did Frank Harper proud,” especially when MC Gary Marks donned a paddle and backpack to read that master storyteller’s “Paddling into the Wind,” punctuating with his characteristic “pshwoo” of awe. For her, the evening captured “that old Tofino magic.”

“To hear wild and dangerous stories from a community that thrives and lives by the ocean,” said Michelle Hall, “only confirms, that all of us truly live a grateful life that respects the ocean deeply.” A portion of book sales were donated to Surfrider Pacific Rim.

RELATED ARTICLES

Tofino author David Floody remembers Detroit riot (Westerly News, Mar. 31, 2017)

David Pitt-Brooke penning Chasing Clayoquot Sequel (Westerly News, Jan. 8, 2016)

Caroline Woodward’s book shines light on the view from Lennard Island (Westerly News, Jan. 6, 2016)

book launchStreetlyTofino,

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Big Beach parties spark concern in Ucluelet

“You find needles, left over party debris, bottles and still burning fires.”

Ucluelet’s Terrace Beach Resort is for sale

The commercial offering of 21 suites and cabins was recently listed for $4,495,000

Young tourist caught untying boats from Ucluelet dock

“He was just untying the boats and watching them float away,” said Harbour Master Kevin Cortes.

Feds announce $8.3M to deal with ‘ghost’ fishing gear in B.C. waters

Ghost gear accounts for up to 70 per cent of all macro-plastics in the ocean by weight

Ucluelet RCMP warns of scammers impersonating police

“Police will never demand payment of any kind to get rid of an arrest warrant.”

B.C. sees 25 new COVID-19 cases, community exposure tracked

One death, outbreaks remain in two long-term care facilities

B.C. Ferries increasing passenger capacity after COVID-19 restrictions

Transport Canada 50-per-cent limit being phased out, no current plans to provide masks

Shellfish industry get funds to clean up at Island sites and beyond

Businesses can apply to cover half of costs to clean up so-called ‘ghost gear’

BREAKING: Amber Alert for two Quebec girls cancelled after bodies found

Romy Carpentier, 6, Norah Carpentier, 11, and their father, Martin Carpentier, missing since Wednesday

B.C. man prepares to be first to receive double-hand transplant in Canada

After the surgery, transplant patients face a long recovery

Grocers appear before MPs to explain decision to cut pandemic pay

Executives from three of Canada’s largest grocery chains have defended their decision to end temporary wage increases

Bringing support to Indigenous students and communities, while fulfilling a dream

Mitacs is a nonprofit organization that operates research and training programs

RCMP ‘disappointed’ by talk that race a factor in quiet Rideau Hall arrest

Corey Hurren, who is from Manitoba, is facing 22 charges

NHL’s Canadian hubs offer little economic benefit, but morale boost is valuable: experts

Games are slated to start Aug. 1 with six Canadian teams qualifying for the 24-team resumption of play

Most Read