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Leaving the World Behind II: Return to Tahsis

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Well-Known Member
Mar 2, 2001
Leaving the World Behind II: Return to Tahsis
by Eric Fattah

[ If you have not yet done so, it would be helpful to read part I, the original 'Leaving the World Behind' ]

Tyler and Anneko had been in Vancouver for some time, and were going to return to Tahsis on Thursday December 26, 2002. Lukas and I were going to follow them there, and stay in Tahsis for a few days, planning on returning Sunday afternoon, on the 29th.

This trip turned out to be a major adventure, far more epic and precarious than the previous trip. We narrowly escaped disaster on several occasions! This is the story of these adventures.

We were planning on meeting Tyler and Anneko at the meeting point (a White Spot restaurant parking lot), at 7:15am on the 26th. I got up around 6am, and in our separate cars, Lukas and I reached the meeting point, ahead of schedule, around 7am. While we waited for Tyler and Anneko, we moved Lukas' gear into my car. Then, we waited. Our plan was to catch the 8:30am ferry, and we needed to leave for the ferry no later than 7:30am. But, Tyler and Anneko were late. Very late. It turned out that their alarm hadn't gone off. By 7:35am, Lukas and I were discussing back up plans. There wasn't much point in us catching an earlier ferry than them, so we decided to wait. Around 7:45am, Tyler and Anneko finally arrived in their truck. Their truck was overloaded with furniture and other items they were bringing back to their house in Tahsis. We left for the ferry immediately, and caught it. Soon we were driving north on Vancouver Island, towards Campbell River. We reached Campbell River and hoped to refuel and do some grocery shopping. We refueled both my car and the truck, and as we tried to pay, the power in Campbell River went out, and stayed out. Luckily we had cash, and paid. Grocery shopping was now out of the question due to the power outage, and day light was precious. We couldn't hang around until power came back, if it came back. So we set off towards Gold River. We reached Gold River after another hour and a half of driving. So far so good. We didn't get groceries, but at least we got fuel. From Gold River, all that remains is the dirt/gravel road to Tahsis, which winds up the mountain then down again. The road normally takes 60-90 minutes to drive. As we drove the Tahsis road, we gained altitude rapidly, and soon the trees and road were covered with snow. The snow got deeper and deeper, until finally a steep hill was too much for us. Tyler's overloaded truck, leading the way, didn't even make it a third of the way up, before spinning out of control. His truck is rear-wheel drive. Lukas was driving my car, and we immediately went into reverse, back down the slippery hill, to avoid Tyler's truck which was now sliding backwards down the hill uncontrollably. Eventually we both reached the bottom again. We discussed our options. With Tyler driving my car, Anneko, Lukas and I put on boots and pushed my car up the hill while Tyler applied controlled acceleration. A couple of hundred meters later, we were totally exhausted, but my car was up the hill. Lukas was fighting sickness, and this exertion in the subzero temperatures was no good. But we had little choice. Next, we tried to push Tyler's overloaded truck up the hill. It was amazingly heavy. Only during brief spurts of maximal effort could we make progress. Eventually, some trucks came along the road the other way, from Tahsis. They had chains and said the road was much worse later on. Tyler was confused. He had driven this road many times last winter, and despite snow, it was never like this.

Dusk was now upon us. We still had another 50km on this precarious road, including steep downhill sections with sharp turns, overlooking cliffs. Any loss of traction could be fatal. Further, if we got stuck out there, we would be spending the night in deep subzero weather at altitude. We were out of range of any cell phone station. We decided to head back to Gold River and look for chains.

But, to go back to Gold River, we first had to get back down the hill, and Tyler's truck was parked halfway up the hill after all of our efforts to push it up. Just turning Tyler's truck around was a major problem, requiring full man-power. Then, getting him down the hill without sliding off the sides was also a major effort. Eventually we got back to Gold River. We went to both gas stations and the hardware store. Each time we asked for chains, and each time, we received the same answer, 'No', along with a blank look, as if they didn't even know what chains were. Our options were fading fast. Power was still out in Campbell River, so even if we could get back there, we wouldn't be able to shop for anything. We were about to can the entire trip, when Tyler and Anneko remembered a friend who lived in Gold River. We found him (Dave), and he had some oversized chains. We tried them on both my car and Tyler's truck. They were way too big. Again we considered canning the trip. Dave wouldn't have it, and he started calling his other friends in the tiny town, and he found someone with cable chains. The cable chains fit my car, and Tyler was convinced he could make the other huge chains work on his wheels by using bungee cords.

With darkness only minutes away, we thanked Dave and left for our 2nd attempt to cross the Tahsis road.

We kept the chains in the trunk until we would actually need them. As we neared the dreaded hill, something seemed different. Our cars went over the hill without any problem! It seemed the road had been cleared by a machine. We thought our troubles were over. We breezed along the road, through the darkness, to higher and higher altitudes. Then, we ran into the machine which was clearing the road. Unfortunately it was only travelling about 5-10km/h. If we followed behind it, it would take another 4-8 hours to cover the remaining 40km. We had to go around it. We passed it, and once again we entered the deep icy snow. Eventually we reached the top of the mountain, still without the chains; then the steep downhill sections began. We stopped and began mounting the chains. Our gloves were buried in our bags somewhere, so our hands froze in the subzero temperatures, and we had to rewarm them frequently. We weren't even done yet when the road clearing machine caught up with us. It went around us. Finally we had our chains mounted. We descended the hills and passed the road clearing machine again. Soon we reached a low enough altitude that the snow dissipated. We removed the chains, and finally reached Tahsis at about 6:45pm. Exhausted, we crumbled inside and then tried to unload the car and truck. We had left home around 6:30am, and arrived in Tahsis 6:45pm. So it had taken us more than 12 hours to get to Tahsis.

Soon we were planning our activities for tomorrow.

We didn't have any boat trips planned this time, so we needed to reach that amazing dive site, 'Liboracci's living room', without a boat. The last time we were in Tahsis, we dove that site and were utterly amazed. Our plan was to spend both of our diving days there. It was just getting there that was the problem.

We knew of two methods to reach the dive site without a boat. One involved taking the truck to an old logging site, and then swimming 3km in the freezing water. The problem with long swims is not only cold exposure of the body, but numb feet, numb hands, and general calorie deprivation. The other method to reach the dive site was to take the truck further into the woods, and then hike down a steep forest for about 15-20 minutes, followed by a 500m surface swim. That was our plan. Unfortunately, the sickness that Lukas had been fighting had taken over, and he would not be able to dive the whole trip.

The next morning, Tyler and I geared up before we left, then all four of us took the truck along the logging roads. Soon, we began the hike down to the water.

Unfortunately, a recent windstorm complicated the matter. Tyler and Anneko had made this hike before, it wasn't too difficult, but several giant trees had fallen and blocked the way. We eventually found an alternate route, but it was extremely precarious. First of all, the actual ground (Earth) was mostly unreachable. Each step involved walking along fallen logs (unstable) or branches (even more unstable), and our feet rarely touched solid ground. Prickly bushes were everywhere. When our feet occasionally touched the 'ground', it wasn't earth, and it wasn't solid; several times my foot fell through. I was wearing my smooth skin picasso suit, and a single fall would have finished my suit forever. We hadn't anticipated such a difficult hike, so I was only weaking sandals outside my slippery neoprene socks. We were also wearing big weight belts and neck weights, and we carried our fins/monofin, backpacks, a hot water jug, and lots of drinking water. The path became steeper, and more precarious. I nearly fell several times. Finally, we needed to make our way down a near vertical chasm, without climbing equipment. By then I was already overheating and sweating like crazy under my suit. My legs soon became like jello (my legs often get weak when exerting myself under solid neoprene). My sandals made every step dangerous. As I descended, I tried to hold onto tree branches, but more often than not the trees were dead and the branches gave out. Eventually we made it to the shore, drenched and exhausted. I was so hot I couldn't wait to jump into the 8C water. I tried to drink and drink, but even then I knew I hadn't rehydrated. I dragged a water bottle with me, and began the 500m swim to the dive site. Tyler soon followed. It was now around 4:15pm. I had my dive light attached to my forearm, as did Tyler. Lukas and Anneko stayed on shore, and would look for an easier path up the mountain.

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Our tired legs eventually propelled us to the dive site. I chugged a ton of water, and left my water bottle on some rocks near the cliff by the light house, which marked this fabulous dive site. As always, there was a strong current here.

We began diving, and despite the exhausting hike and swim, we had excellent dives. However, unlike our last dive here a few months ago, we didn't discover any 'new' undiscovered species. The incredibly colorful life begins around 20m, and the center of the narrow channel is 60m deep. Who knows what might lay down there. We knew that there were Gorgonian Corals as shallow as 25m, but despite repetitive dives between 25-30m, we couldn't find any corals. I decided to try a deeper dive to look for corals. I went down into the clear green water and started sinking around 18m. I pointed my light into the blackness. Eventually I reached 35m but I still couldn't see the bottom, so I turned around. Then, we swam about 200m across the channel to the other sister dive site, the 'Rock Garden', and we each made one dive there, but it was getting too dark, and we were exhausted, so we swam the 200m back to the lighthouse. By now it was nearly 5:15pm and almost completely dark. Our feet were numb, and we were in desperate need of calories. My water bottle had disappeared with the rising tide, and we didn't have time to look for it. We swam the 500m back to shore; Lukas or Anneko must have had their flashlight on, to guide us in. We exchanged some simple signals with our lights. Just before we reached the shore, the bioluminescence of the water began. Any turbulence would case a trail of green sparks. The sky was totally clear, and being in the middle of nowhere, the stars were incredibly bright, and the milky way was clearly visible. The air, however, was freezing, probably -2 or -3C.

We arrived on shore with Lukas and Anneko waiting. As Tyler and I tried to warm our hands and feet in the jug of warm water, we discussed our options. It was now completely dark. Lukas and Anneko had not found any easier path up the mountain. It was hard enough coming down, in the light, and now Tyler and I had lost most of the feeling and dexterity in our feet and legs, and my sandals still didn't cut it. Plus, the darkness would make it even more dangerous. Also, I knew that a single fall would ruin my smoothskin picasso suit. Tyler, at least, had a nylon suit, but he was not in much better shape. Remember that there are two paths to the dive site. One is by means of the mountain. The other is a 3km swim to the logging site. But, we still had 500m to swim just to get back to the dive site, and then another 3km from there to the logging site. So, if we wanted to escape via the water, we needed to swim 3.5km through the blackness to get the logging site. In addition, this 'route' via the water was only theoretical. We had never actually travelled that route, but we had seen it on a map a few months ago. We decided to try. Lukas and Anneko would take most of the gear, and two flashlights, and try to make it back up the mountain to the truck, and hope for no cougars or bears. Tyler and I would take my dive light (Lukas and Anneko needed the other), and I would drag a one liter bottle of water. We carefully formed backup plans. If either of our parties were delayed, we agreed upon a procedure. If Tyler and I arrived at the logging site, and Lukas and Anneko were not there, we could wait no more than 45 minutes due to numb feet and cold water. At that point, we would have no choice but to swim back to Tahsis, another 5km. If that occured, we would leave a weight belt on a log to indicate we had left.

We wished each other the best of luck, and set off.

Despite starting the swim with relatively warm feet, our feet became numb again by the time we reached the light-house, after only a 500m swim. I had already crashed into an invisible log in the darkness. By then, Tyler complained that his toe nail seemed to be jammed in his fin, so we stopped to fix it. As I shined my light on his foot, hundreds of microscopic spawning shrimp flocked to the light. The water was so dense with them that if you got water in your snorkel, 50 shrimp would come along with it! Soon Tyler's fin was fixed, and we started the remaining 3km of the trip. Secretly we hoped that Lukas and Anneko had found their way to the truck.

Since Tyler was using bifins, and I was using a mono, he led the way, in order to prevent me from getting ahead. As he swam through the black water, he left a bioluminescent trail of green sparkles. That, along with the incredibly bright stars in the sky, made the swim feel magical, although somewhat desperate. This was no pleasure swim.

The entire swim was along the shoreline, and from time to time we used my 10W light to see where we were at. We had never made this entire swim before, but we had explored this shoreline before, and we tried to get our bearings. It was fruitless. On and on we swam, losing track of time, hoping to see the outlines of the abandoned logging trucks. Soon, the lights of the town itself began getting brighter and brighter in the distance. Tyler had not done any long swims with his fins lately, and soon his ankles were hurting badly. He began swimming mainly with his arms, and our progress slowed considerably. On and on we swam, leaving bioluminescent trails behind us in the quiet darkness. We became more and more thirsty, and I had the water bottle with me, but we refused to waste even an instant to stop. As the kilometers passed us by, soon my feet were solid numb. My hands were not doing much better. My body, however, was overheating despite the 8C water.

We knew we were closing in on the logging site. It was just finding it that was the problem. Thankfully, a light on the shore made our task easier. It was Lukas and Anneko. At that moment, I breathed a sigh of relief, not for me, but for them. I couldn't even imagine the nightmare they must have lived through, trying to climb that chasm in the darkness. Soon Tyler and I reached the shore, and collapsed in relief, after 55 minutes of continuous swimming (not to mention the previous 1400m of intermittent swims, an hour of diving and the hike!). We got up out of the water and tried to walk to the truck. It was nearly hopeless, with no feeling in our feet. Our bodies, however, were actually overheating due to the extended effort, despite the 8C water. Tyler and I climbed into the back of the truck and Lukas drove us all home.

Soon, we started eating, and eating, and eating, and there was just no way our digestive systems could actually digest enough calories to fully recharge us for the adventure which awaited us the next day. But, we continued eating, until we finally collapsed into bed.

We awoke the next morning starving hungry. Our plan for the day (the 28th of December), was a little different. We were just getting started with our new favorite dive site (Liboracci's living room), but the hike was out of the question. We had made the swim last night, and we figured that if we brought a dry bag with lots of hot water, we could swim the 3km to the dive site, then warm our feet, rehydrate, dive, then warm our feet and rehydrate again, and swim 3km back.

We packed the dry bag with 3L of drinking water, a jug of hot water, one heat pack, a 3mm neoprene vest, and two empty 4L containers for buoyancy. We ate, geared up, and then took the truck to that same logging site. As we put on our gloves and fins, and mounted our dive lights, we both realized that we were not warm at all (and we hadn't even got in the water yet). The air had cooled dramatically over the clear night, and it was already around -2 or -3C, despite being only 2:30pm. Lukas and Anneko had stayed home. This time it was just the two of us.

Once in the water, we wasted no time. We began the 3km swim to the lighthouse. After about 20 minutes of swimming, our feet were already getting numb, and we encountered three small male harbor seals near the shoreline. They were very curious. We played with them for a while, until I reminded Tyler of the enormous amount of swimming we still had to finish. I continued dragging the dry bag along behind me, and it floated nicely, causing minimal drag. Soon I pulled ahead of Tyler. I reached the lighthouse after 50 minutes of swimming. Unlike yesterday, I did not heat up much during the swim; the surface water had cooled to 6C over the chilly night. I got out onto the elevated rocks, and found that once my fin was off, and my hands were out of the water, both my hands and feet warmed spontaneously from the high blood flow caused by the swim. So, I didn't waste any hot water trying to warm up. Unfortunately, I tried to rehydrate, but the drinking water was now freezing cold. I lost most of my heat trying to drink it. The rock upon which I was sitting was also freezing cold, and the air had dropped a few more degrees. Each inhalation stole more heat. Soon I had lost whatever heat I had generated during the swim, and I hadn't even started diving yet. A boat passed through the channel and saw me on the rocks. They yelled, 'Are you all right..?' I signalled 'OK'. Ten minutes after I arrived at the lighthouse, Tyler arrived. He had been delayed, because one of the male harbor seals had followed him the whole way from the seal's playground, a distance of at least 2km! The seal had been biting Tyler's fins and staying right by him for the whole swim.


I was now getting my fin on, to actually begin the diving part of the day. I got in the water, and watched the seal as it inspected both of us. I decided to make a dive; I wondered if the seal would follow me down like the seal 'Shylo' at Ansell Point (please see the story 'Amazing Encounter'). From experience, male harbor seals are normally less playful than females; this male seemed to be an exception. I dove down along the steep slope towards the middle of the channel. I was nearing the great life around 20m when I turned around, wondering if the seal had followed me. Instead, to my incredible surprise, I saw that I had indeed been followed, but not by the seal! Three juvenile sea lions had tailed me, and when I turned around they suddenly swam away. I surfaced and told Tyler; 'There definitely was a seal here, but now there are three sea lions as well!'. Tyler and I then saw the seal, but soon after, about 50m away, the three sea lions surfaced near the center of the channel. I asked Tyler if he was going to get out and warm his feet up; he agreed he should. On my next dive, I descended into the clear green, and at 25m I ran into the three sea lions again! I continued descending, but the bottom was no where in sight, so I turned around. On my next dive, I descended the slope, and started scrutinizing the amazing life which began at 20m. I slowly descended, hoping to find Gorgonian Corals. I turned around at 31m, only to find the three sea lions had tailed me again, and were only meters away. Again they fled as soon as I turned around.

The water was as flat as a lake, and Tyler had now come back in the water. I decided to try a deeper dive, hoping to find some corals. I took a longer breathe up, totally relaxed. As I breathed up, one of the sea lions swam under me and inspected me for a while, before swimming away. Soon after, I started my dive, heading for the abyss.

Soon, I was sinking past 20m into the blackness, with no bottom in sight. I pointed my light into the darkness and tried to sleep as I sank. Down and down I sank, and I felt the narcosis begin, since I was getting a bit cold. Eventually some white sponges broke through the darkness, way down there, and I continued sinking until I hit the steep slope at 38m. I knew I didn't have much time, but I scanned everywhere with my light, hoping to find Gorgonian Corals. But no luck. As I started for the surface, I dropped my light to my side, allowing myself to view the area with the natural illumination. I was suddenly shocked to realize that the visibility here must improve dramatically with depth. Whereas on the surface the vis was around 13m, down here the vis was at least 20-25m! I could see forever both left and right, and I saw a bird's eye view of the actual terrain of the slope. The sea lions were nowhere in sight.

After twenty two monofin strokes I was back at the surface. I made three more deep dives and encountered the sea lions once. Unfortunately, Tyler didn't have any close encounters with the sea lions, but that was more than made up for by the 2000m swim with the seal on his fins!

By now it was 4:30pm, and almost dark. We knew that we had another 3km swim to get back to the truck, and we still wanted to go hunting for crabs at a dive site near Tahsis, to get some dinner.

My feet were numb again, so I headed for the rocks and started taking my fin off. With one foot out of my monofin, I suddenly felt something strange, and looked over to see the male seal had returned and was biting on my fin! Soon, he left, and I got out onto the rocks and tried to warm my feet up with the hot water. The 'hot' water was now luke warm, since Tyler had already used it earlier. The rock I was standing on was so cold that it was impossible to stand on it even with neoprene socks. The air had cooled even more, it was probably somewhere around -5 to -7C. The cold air, windchill and the freezing rock upon which I was sitting drained what little heat I had left. Not to mention that my body hadn't recharged from the day before. Soon I was shivering hard. My thought processes slowed down. I knew the day was barely half over, so with shivering hands I reached into the dry bag and extracted the emergency heat pack. I activated it, slid it under my two wetsuit tops, and then I put the 3mm vest outside it all. The whole setup made me very clumsy, but I felt the warmth and my shivering slowed. It was now almost totally dark. Tyler got out, warmed his feet up, and then we began the 3km swim back to the logging site.

This time Tyler felt much stronger during the swim, so we were not slowed down. Leaving bioluminescent trails behind us, we covered the distance in only 36 minutes. We had warmed up significantly, despite having numb hands and feet again. We knew we still had to crab hunt back in Tahsis.

We got out of the water and dragged the dry bag back to the truck. Tyler had left his keys on top of his front tire, under the chassis. However, he was wearing clumsy three fingered gloves for the first time ever, and while trying to get the keys, he accidentally knocked them into some hole which led into an engine compartment. At first we were not worried; we thought the keys had fallen through, and hit the ground under the truck. After searching with our lights under the truck (being careful not to rip the suits), we realized the keys were nowhere to be found. They were inside the engine somewhere. We were soaked, and the subzero windchill would knock us out pretty soon. We had no clothing to change into. We had no more hot water to warm our hands or feet. Tahsis was 5km away. The back of the truck was open, and Tyler found a wire. We started trying to fish out the keys. Tyler, with his bare hand, could feel the tip of one of the keys in the hole, but we could not fish them out. After half an hour trying to fish the keys out of the engine in the freezing darkness, we considered our options. We could try to swim the 5km back to Tahsis; Lukas and Anneko were no doubt waiting anxiously. Or, we could put on our sandals and walk the 5km back through dark logging roads. Or, we could try to sleep the night in the back of the truck, but we would likely freeze to death in our wetsuits. If we spent another hour trying to fish out the keys and were unsuccessful, we would be too cold to either walk or swim back. We took the risk, and kept trying to fish out the keys. We found another hole which led into the same compartment, and after an eternity, we eventually extracted the keys. We got into the truck, freezing, and drove home; we stopped there only to say we were okay, and to pick up a big bucket. Then, we left again and drove a couple of minutes to the crab site. We turned on our dive lights and once again entered the 6C water, this time to hunt for crabs in the darkness. As Tyler descended for his first dive, again he left a bioluminescent trail of green sparks.


When I hunt for crabs, I always give the crab a chance for life. Any smart crab will realize that if it is captured by a giant predator, its only hope for life is to be nice to its captor. Soon I had a giant dungeoness crab in my right hand. I hadn't gotten the grip I wanted on him, so I tried to get a better one, but he talked me out of it. I had about a 100m swim to get back to the bucket on shore, and I never took my eyes off the crab, and with each passing second, his legs dragged my thumb closer and closer to his claws. He was trying to kill me. He wasn't being nice. If he had been nice, I would have put him back in the water. But now he deserved to boil, and he would boil! Eventually I dumped him into the bucket, along with two other dungeoness crabs and a rock crab that Tyler had caught. We got out of the water around 7:15pm, drove home, gave the crabs to Anneko, and got changed. I arrived back in the kitchen in time to take revenge on this crab. Now, if I were to buy a crab in the store, I would have problems boiling it, because it hasn't done anything wrong. This crab, however, tried to kill me, and so it was with savage glee that I watched him drop into the boiling water. I ate every piece of him. Only the strong survive, and he wasn't strong enough.

Again, Tyler and I ate and ate, trying to recharge our bodies.

The next morning, I awoke starving hungry. I ate about three breakfasts' worth of food, and then Lukas and I started packing our stuff. The fun was over and it was time to head home. We thought our troubles were over. In fact, this story is just beginning.

Eventually we had packed everything. Lukas and I said goodbye to Tyler and Anneko and thanked them for their hospitality. They lived here and would not be coming back to Vancouver for another month at least.

Lukas and I left Tahsis before 3pm, and optimistically hoped to catch the 7pm ferry from Nanaimo to Horseshoe bay.

The mountain road from Tahsis to Gold River, which had caused us so many headaches before, had been thoroughly cleared, and we breezed into Gold River after only 1h05 of driving. We still needed to drop off the chains back at Dave's house. As directed, we took the first right turn into Gold River. It was the wrong turnoff. We drove around for a while until we realized we were lost, without a map. Eventually we got back to the main road, took the next turnoff and found Dave's place. We gave him back the chains and thanked him. Soon, we were on our way back to Campbell River, for the 90 minute drive along the very windy (but paved) road through the middle of nowhere.

By now there were some small snowflakes falling, but it was nothing major. There was no snow on the ground.

As we drove on (going West), it seems the climate changed, because the snowfall got heavier and heavier, and we entered a region where there was snow on the ground. We slowed down a bit, fully aware that if we missed the 7pm ferry, we could still take the last ferry at 9pm.

However, the weather continued to degrade until we were in a full blizzard. Five or eight centimeters of snow made the winding road precarious; visibiltity dropped to a car length or two, at best. We slowed to a crawl, maybe 15 km/h, and we were still in the middle of nowhere. Not a single car had passed us coming from Campbell River, possibly indicating even worse conditions ahead.

As the conditions degraded, we realized that we were definitely not going to make the 7pm ferry, and now even making the last ferry at 9pm was in doubt. If this kept up, we would be stranded due to ever deepening snow. Remember, we just gave the chains back to Dave! We thought the road from Tahsis to Gold River was the only bad one. Now we were in trouble again between Gold River and Campbell River.

We continued to creep along in the worsening weather, cursing our luck. The car was so jammed with gear and bags that if we had to sleep the night in the car, we wouldn't even be able to lay back without emptying out some of the gear.

Somehow, we managed to keep driving through the deep snow, plowing our own tracks, and eventually we reached what we thought was Campbell River. We encountered a few trucks, the first signs of civilization. Yet, none of this seemed familiar. In the dark, snow covered area, I guess nothing would look familiar. We followed another truck, letting him plow some tracks for us. Eventually we did reach Campbell River. Power had now been restored (remember it was out several days before), and we refuelled the car. The snow here was more like slush, so we thought we had 'escaped' the blizzard zone and were home free. Wrong again!

Eventually we got onto highway 19 which goes south along Vancouver Island, towards our destination, the Nanaimo Ferry Terminal. We had to travel about 150km along this highway, plus another 10km in Nanaimo. It was now about 6pm, so we had less than 3 hours to reach the ferry terminal if we wanted to catch the last ferry. This meant that we needed to travel at *least* 50km/h to make it in time. But, soon the entire highway was enveloped with deep snow and another blizzard. The highway was wide, and it was impossible to guess were the lanes were. We crawled at 30km/h, knowing that every minute under 50km/h would mean another minute over 50km/h to make up for it.

This continued for ages, until finally, going south, the climate changed, and the snow turned to slush. The roads were still not ideal, but were able to speed up to 70-80km/h, which we hoped would make up for the lost time.

To make a long story short, we actually caught the last ferry! That's the end of the story, right? Wrong!

Soon we were on the ferry (which is the size of a cruise ship in order to hold hundreds of cars). Lukas and I headed up to the passenger deck and collapsed into some chairs, thankful that the trip was "over." The ferry trip was supposed to last 1h35. After about an hour, the ferry started shaking violenty and people who were standing nearly fell over. Suddenly a voice came on and told everyone to remain calm. The voice told everyone to remain seated; not to venture outside or to the car deck. This did little to calm the crowds; screams and shouts could be heard, and the shaking of the ship continued.

When the captain tells the passengers to 'please remain calm,' it's bad knews. Lukas looked over and told me that we should go down to the car deck and get our wetsuits and fins. We were probably about 10km away from shore. If the ferry croaked, the swim to shore would take us about 3-5 hours if we were lucky. Trying to steady ourselves amongst the shaking ship, down we ventured onto the car deck to fetch our gear...

[ Now it is up to you, the reader, to finish typing out the story ]

PS--The fact that I wrote this story means I survived, so if you complete the story, make sure you keep that point in mind!

Eric Fattah
BC, Canada
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i enjoyed reading 'episode II'! i'm not really sure what to make of the ending though.

(myself and a couple of friends undertook a special diving trip up in a glacial mountain lake in North Wales just a few days ago. but it was pretty tame in comparison with your adventures! if the photos turn out well, then it should appear in Freediver magazine soon. the aim of the story is to encourage people to freedive in UK waters.)

I loved this story Eric! Thanks for sharing. Now I'm ganna go read part one. I screwed up and read part two first.:eek:
Great story!

Great story Eric-
My one question pertains to all of the monofin surface swimming you had to do. Did you swim on your side or on your stomach? Also, when the seals and sea lions bite the blade, how hard do they bite it, does it cause any damage? Glad you survived,
For long surface swims I swim on my right side, with my right arm extended. In the summer, in a thin suit, I can swim on my front if I use a front mounted snorkel, and I do go a bit faster than way. In winter my suit is too buoyant to swim on my front.

After the experience with the seal Shylo (see story 'amazing encounter') my monofin was totally covered in scratches. However, the scratches were not deep enough to affect the functioning of the fin.

Eric Fattah
BC, Canada

That was a mad story, but please tell me what happened with the ferry I reckon it crashed into some rocks and sank whilst you and lukas swam to shore with the seals. Please tell us what really happened.

Eric, you swine!

I hate open-ended stories!

You had better tell us what happened soon, or I'll be forced to come over to Cananda to administer some discipline!

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the rest of the story

oceandate 2003JAN09
reprinted without permission from Vancouver Moon Times

The Royal Canadian Mounted Police reported today that they will drop charges against a man known as Lukas for trying to obtain free passage on a ferry out of Nanaimo last month. When the Ferry's captain reported that he was in distress, the authorities found Lukas clinging to the rudder but, on further investigation it was discovered that he had purchased a ticket. He told a ludicrous story about trying to push the ferry to safety.
His accomplice however will not be so lucky. E Fattah (a suspected nom de plume) was caught neoprene-handed, so to speak, at the other blunt end of the ferry, with the bow line in his teeth, strongly swimming towards another country. The RCMP stated that if the ferry-jacking indictment doesn't stick, he will be charged with 726 counts of car theft. Lawyers for the accused plan to have him relate to the court, just one of his many adventures and are quite confident that anyone hearing this story will declare him crazy.
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Send Eric to the asylum!


Get him in a staight jacket, quick!

To quote B. A. Baracas:

"Crazy fool!"

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