Yes I know… the river otters again, but they’re so cute to watch until they start crapping all over the dock. I still love them. The last few days, as I have returned from the shower, they’ve just sat there... blocking my passage to the boat. They stare at me as if to say, “where do you think YOU’RE going?” I don’t back down. I just snap back at them... “move over varmits, mind your manners!” There are 5-7 of them at a time... a pretty big wharf rat pack if you ask me. I think it’s time I give them names.
These characters HAVE had me thinking how cool dock life is down here at Fourth Street though, and it is about time I gave you all an introduction to the ‘otter’ side of Tofino (har har)… the side that isn’t often thought about when you think about this magical place. Tofino (according to Google images and most media articles) is a place of wilderness and mile long beaches, beautiful sunsets, clustered specks of surfers in the waves and world class food. It is a tourism destination for sure, and a perfect place to unplug and get out of one’s busy city life. Visitors to Tofino flock here from all over the world, saving their pennies for months for their annual (or singular) visit, and they need to book ahead (like MONTHS) or they will be out of luck for prime accommodation here. Annual rainfall aside, I never to take for granted my daily beach walks, or dockside sunrises and sunsets, as it fills my creative well on a daily basis.
Fourth Street Docks inhabit a micro-culture of its own here in Tofino. For wildlife, we have river otters (as you well know by now), raccoons, sea lions, eagles, ravens, crows, seagulls, kingfishers, swallows and a myriad of other birds (of which my daughter’s besties Cedar and Toby are the local birders and can tell you more than I can). We even have Orcas visit the harbour on occasion too which can be a treat in itself.
Wildlife aside, there are many interesting people with really unique backgrounds and cultures of their own too. We have a whole dock full of crab fishermen who are up before the crack of dawn, and still going well into the evening. You’d never guess you were in Tofino when their day is wrapping up as the smells of spices in their cooking and the chatter and laughter on the docks at the end of the day makes you feel like you are stepping into another country. In the summer months there is a constant coming and going of sport fishing and whale watching boats. Gangs of eager tourists in their big floater suits with their “zoot, zoot, zoot…” (like a loud pair of corduroys) sound is all you hear when that wall of bright red comes piling down the dock. We have a brilliant silversmith who makes beautiful First Nations jewelry on his boat, THE Tofino choir conductor and her little dog Peepa, heaps of oyster farmers, T’aaq-wiihak/Commercial fishermen, as well as smaller dinghies and skiffs from offshore and/or off grid families who commute to Tofino regularly or head off to other islands for work. Our finger is usually pretty quiet (except for the otters and the guys who head off to Vargas to build the new Cedar Coast Field Station each morning), but in the summer months bigger sailboats and power boats will start to show up. Only the hardy ones come here as it is a really long way from the popular cruising grounds of the east coast of Vancouver Island. Oh… and there is Luke and Maddy who are running the harbour and navigating this eclectic crew of people (bring them donuts…really… they deserve it). I am sure I am forgetting a TON of people (sorry if you are reading this and I missed you), but these are the ones I see most regularly down here and came to mind. I could easily go into more detail but I am by no means a writer and I wouldn’t do them justice! Essentially, Tofino Harbour may seem quiet compared to everywhere else in town, but it is a busy working harbour. Between the float planes, and all the boats zipping off to wherever they are going, there is no end to entertainment down here. This is my home and I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else.
So here are some otters… and a cameo of my ‘six knot studio’. ;) This colouring page can be downloaded for free here or on Tourism Tofino’s website, as well as in the pages of Tofino Time magazine’s March edition. Enjoy!