Posted by: Kate | January 24, 2011

Working Waters

Living on the east side of Vancouver Island, at one of the narrowest sections of the Georgia Strait, we are reminded daily of the dependence upon the waterways. So many communities north of us are most easily accessed by boat or water plane, and that means bringing goods in by boat. While in the summer the traffic in the strait is a mixture of working boats and pleasure boats, in winter it is dominated by working boats.


Tugboat pulling barge in front of Quadra Island. One of three we saw in the channel Saturday afternoon when we were walking.



Barges are the most frequent vessels, along with the tug boats pulling them along. Sometimes the barges are loaded with cargo boxes, other times there might be large cranes, or huge logs (those are usually heading south), or even buildings. Buildings are barged out to remote islands, or logging camps/fishing camps along the coast, or to resorts further north. Sometimes they come into town as well, returning from adventures on the coast.

I love this connection to the water. It isn’t just for pleasure, or to wonder at. It is another highway, and a vital one to many people on the wild northwest coast of North America.


  1. Now there’s something you don’t see everyday! For me, at least. Last night I was reading about a ‘barge man’ in “Our Mutual Friend”, Charles Dickens. He speaks of several bargemen and one who holds the key to open the gate for to and fro traffic. I would much rather watch ‘your’ highway than mine!

  2. This picture brings back memories of our time living in Steveston. I loved watching the tugs on the arm of the Fraser near our home.

  3. i’ve always been amazed when i’ve been able to get close to those container barges (when on a boat or ferry myself) and see all the things that get piled on top of the closed containers – vehicles, other boats, and lots of other random things. i think i will always have a weird soft spot for the red Seaspan barges though – something about three red barges lined up behind a tug, moving north or south along a blue backdrop of sea and mountains creates a very strong sense of place for me, if that makes any sense.

  4. so beautiful. i grew up near lake michigan and never realized just how much that affected me until i moved away from the water. i missed it terribly and felt so boxed in. there truly is something reassuring and comforting about living near the water, and its eve- changing stream of possibilities!

  5. I’ve got a thing for tugboats.

  6. The Straits of Mackinac are busy as well. We see mostly freighters. The US Coast Guard keeps the freighter channel open as long as the locks in Sault Ste. Marie are open. It is always wonderful to hear those first freighter horns in the spring.

  7. my mother-in-law used to live just off the inter-coastal waterway in north florida, i loved to sit on her front porch and watch the barges and boats go by.

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