West Coast Summer: Photos of the Canadian Gulf Islands

Notes on summers past: hot July days spent on Ruxton Island, one of the many Gulf Islands along the west coast of British Columbia.

The tide was out.

The boy and the girl took off their shoes and let their toes sink into the cool sludge. The water was so low that they could walk all the way out to their boat, which sat grounded on a bed of brown kelp.


The boy reached across the bright yellow motor (painted so that nobody would steal it) and lifted a bucket from the stern. He pried up large rocks and watched as clusters of baby crabs scuttled away in fear. If he was hoping to find supper he was out of luck; all the large Dungeness crabs went into hiding at low tide.


The girl climbed along the rocks towards a small cove.


Over time, the surf had carved out a field of craters in the sandstone and the shore was pocked like the surface of the moon. She waded through the shallows and collected sand dollars.


A row of pink, purple and orange starfish clung to the underside of a protruding rock. Catching starfish was like pulling off a band-aid; it required technique.


In one quick motion she yanked off a purple starfish. Poked at the slimy tentacles. They suctioned to her finger. She let out a small shriek and dropped the starfish. It drifted through the water all feather-like and settled on the ocean floor.


When the tide came in, they dragged two inner tubes down the beach from the boat shed. The rocks had been baking all morning in the sun and for once the water was almost warm.


She put on her goggles, jumped in feet-first, and swam along the bottom, careful not to touch her bare feet to the rocks, in case any hermit crabs were lurking between the barnacles.


Together they cruised around the bay, kicking their feet at top speed while the boy made noises like an outboard motor. The girl’s left leg was stronger, so she always steered towards starboard. Soon the water lapped at the edges of their beach towels, threatening to come closer.


Time to go home.


Their mother boiled crab for supper.

The crabs had escaped the boy, but not Dad’s trap.


The girl covered her ears while the crabs squealed and avoided their beady black eyes as everyone ate. After supper, Mom placed the dirty dishes in a tub outside the screen enclosure. The wasps devoured the buttery carcasses.


Note About Location:

Ruxton Island is one of the smaller Gulf Islands on the coast of British Columbia.  Only two km in length, it remains very primitive with limited access.  No electricity, no vehicles, and no running water.  Meant mainly as a holiday spot for cottagers, Ruxton is not very tourist-friendly, but larger islands nearby (such as Thetis or Saltsrping) make for a beautiful daytrip. To access this stretch of the Gulf Islands, consider launching a boat at Ladysmith or Nanaimo, or come in by float plane from Vancouver or Nanaimo.