I recently took in a conference in BC and flew into the Vancouver area with a friend of mine who’s into photography.
We left early Monday morning so we’d have a day to explore before our Tuesday conference started and he said there was an old river ferry he found online that he wanted to take pictures of.
Here’s what followed:
We could see the old ferry from the road and started driving towards the river to get closer. As the road turned to gravel we noticed quite a few “No Trespassing” signs and other deterrents, so we did what we do in Alberta when we see things we don’t like, we pretended we didn’t see them and kept driving.
The yard beside the river looked like the equivalent to several decades of “Hey, we could use an old beat up truck from the 50’s! Hey, who wants a bunch of random scrap metal?” The river also looked like a junk yard, but for old boats which was strange for land locked folk like us.
Of course there was a strange guy living on site in an old camper who eventually emerged, so my friend was scrambling to get as many pics as humanly possible before getting kicked off of private property.
I can’t remember the man’s name, but I don’t think I’ll ever forget the crazy ferry man himself! He was one of the most curious people I’ve ever met, I don’t know how else to describe him other than being super friendly and, well, he lived by a ferry. There was a small dock that he let us take pictures from across fifty feet of water from the old ferry quietly resting in the river. There were apparently more boats on site that we couldn’t see though..
“Do you see the top of that mast over here? That’s a forty foot boat called the ____ and we can’t figure out why it keeps sinking. Once a year we pump it out and get it on top of the water again. This over here is a tanker. It sinks sometimes too. I used to live on that boat under the water over there until it sank, now I live in my camper.”
There was a pretty blue row boat tied to the dock we were standing on and I had an idea (I get them every now and again) that if looking at the ferry was cool, maybe being ON the ferry would be cooler? It didn’t seem decent or even possible to ask to do what would give safety people simultaneous heart attacks in Alberta, but I asked anyways. I expected straight up rejection but received a strange conversation in return that sounded like “We don’t normally…” and “The owners don’t like people going on…” and “IF you did there might be a small fee…”.
The fee turned out to be laughable and we were giddy with anticipation to explore this boat when an old truck drove into the yard loaded down with fence posts. “Uh oh, that would be the owners. Looks like they picked up some fence posts”.
My buddy and I knew they had one more addition to the scrap yard and were fairly certain they didn’t need a fence built anytime soon, but we saw our chances for getting onto the boat dwindle rapidly.
We returned to our rental car to await the verdict and round up the entry fee which was the cost of a Flat White at Starbucks. After waiting for several minutes the truck drove away and Big Red (our tour guide with the wild dyed red hair and beard) came walking over.
“You guys aren’t environmentalists are ya??”
We laughed and responded “No, we’re pastors” (not that the two professions are exclusive of each other:). In this particular case it appeared that allowing two individuals involved with cleaning up society’s moral issues and concerned with future heavenly sustainability was more desirable than cleanup of the river itself, so we were allowed to board the ship. Most people are quite accepting of pastors until we preach a reclamation sermon about their own souls, but it does get us off the hook very nicely during check stop season…
So Big Red toured us around the boat for just about two hours. He basically didn’t say no to anything we asked to do which included crawling up to the Crow’s Nest and taking pictures of everything we could find. He regaled us with the movies shot on board and the renovations to the boat. He was furious with the River Rats who scavenge the copper wiring and anything else they can find on board worth money. He even said a scantily clad lady (or someone, we’re not sure) knocked on his camper door and asked if they could take a bunch of pictures on the old boat. I assume he forgot we were pastors and therefore not allowed to talk about that sort of thing, but we got the whole history of the boat. Like the whole history.
It was a once in a lifetime experience and we laughed all the way to Vancouver about it. It reminded me again how unique everyone is and how close unexpected adventure is to each one of us.
Sometimes we need to get out of what we think we’re allowed to do,
and go meet a crazy ferry man and ask “Permission to come aboard?”….