My Place – Mike Bonkowski

Everyone has a special place, a place where you have memories, where you can find peace and harmony. A place where you know you are just happy being there. For some it’s a quiet place, for others it’s a noisy place. But all of these places have one thing in common; they are places where you think of first when asked “Where is Your Place?”.

1. Who are you and how long have you lived on Vancouver Island?

I am Mike Bonkowski. I have lived on Vancouver Island for all the 46 years of my life.

Bonkowski - Mike at Waterton Lakes National Park2. What do you enjoy doing in your spare time?

I do work in a fine-detail industry, and I enjoy hobbies of a fine-detail aspect. I work as a Chartered Professional Accountant, and my hobby interests are coastal BC transportation and related history, and photography of coastal BC transportation in action.

Living all my life on an island, I’m naturally most interested in marine transportation. I grew up riding BC Ferries and seeing the Canadian Pacific rail ferries in action. In my history reading, I’m fascinated by the history of small coastal steamships which were the only transportation link between remote coastal settlements in the early 20th century. The life and economy of those remote settlements depended on the schedules of the coastal ships that provided an exciting and necessary “Boat Day” where all the town’s action was at the wharf.

3. Where on Vancouver Island is “Your Place”?

Any place where I can seemingly go back in time and experience “Boat Day” for myself. There are two excellent companies that provide this boat-day experience today, in an enjoyable and practical way.

Bonkowski - Frances Barkley sceneryThe MV Frances Barkley has a regular year-round schedule serving Alberni Inlet and Barkley Sound, from her base at Port Alberni. 3 days a week, year round, the ship sails to both sides of Bamfield, with stops at Kildonan with its floating post-office, and the isolated resort community of Haggard Cove. The ship transports the mail, building supplies, store supplies and almost anything else. As a passenger, you experience gorgeous coastal inlet scenery while seeing the remote coastal economy in action. And the stopover at West Bamfield allows you to stroll the boardwalk and visit Brady’s Beach. I enjoy taking this trip to relax and watch the inlet scenery slowly pass by my view, and to see boat-day in action. You meet West Coast Trail hikers on board, and you get to see how many pallets of Lucky beer are delivered to the Bamfield store. Quite often when the morning is foggy or gloomy in Port Alberni, it is clear in Bamfield. The best weather is in summer, but any non-rainy day is great. The ship experience is best enjoyed on the outside decks, so dress warmly. Inside the ship are seating areas, a galley and heads.

Bonkowski - Uchuck III at Friendly CoveThe MV Uchuck III also has a regular year-round schedule, and she serves communities and camps at Nootka Sound from her base near Gold River. The Uchuck III even has a 2-day trip that goes out on the open water of the Pacific to the remote village of Kyuquot. I haven’t done that particular trip yet, but it’s on my bucket list. I’ve done the summer day trip a few times to Friendly Cove on Nootka Island. The arrival of the ship at Friendly Cove is greeted by the resident First Nations carver and tourism interpreter, and you learn of the historical 1700s meetings there between Chief Maquinna, Captain Cook and rival Spanish explorers. But today’s boat-day at Nootka Island is much more relaxed. Along the way, you see the various remote industrial sites that are serviced by this ship. And the scenery is awesome with the high backbone peaks of Vancouver Island in view. The best weather is in summer, and that’s also when the interpretive program is running at Friendly Cove. Any non-rainy day is great, but a little rain isn’t a problem. The ship has great outside areas to enjoy the sun, and a lovely covered outside promenade deck. Lots of wood and brass on this cute little ship, along with inside seating, a galley and heads.

When I’m on either of these ships, I am free. Free to enjoy magnificent coastal scenery, to learn about remote areas of Vancouver Island and to relax and enjoy life at a slower pace.  And that is why being on these ships is My Place.

To see Mike’s trip on the Frances Barkley from Port Alberni to Bamfield, click here:

To see Mike’s trip on the Uchuck III from Gold River to Friendly Cove, click here:


1 Comment

  1. I like Mike, enjoy boat trips on V.I. I have done the Gold River to Kyuquot 8 times now and have enjoyed it each time. I have also done the UCHUCK III trip , overnight, to Zeballos, and it was wonderful.
    The FRANCES BARKLEY trips I have done many times. Excellent enjoyment and adventure.

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