It was a chance encounter that would bring the Woodward-George’s to their decision to leave their jobs in publishing.
At the Nakusp Public Library on Sept. 23, author Caroline Woodward explained what led to the making of a life altering decision.
One day, while on the ferry bound for Alert Bay, Caroline rescued a jack russell terrier on the deck, and met its owner, a relief lighthouse keeper. They got to talking, and Caroline realized this would be something Jeff would probably like to do.
“I called him after I finished taking book orders in Alert Bay and Port McNeil, and I drove down the island highway to the northern outskirts of Campbell River, where there’s cell phone service,”she said. “I said ‘Get the white wine chilling honey, I’m going to buy salmon at the dock in Campbell River. I have found out what we’re going to be doing for the rest of our lives.’”
With her blessing, Jeff applied to be a relief lighthouse keeper, and once his training was through, he got a posting on Egg Island. In 2008, he was asked to be the assistant lighthouse keeper on Leonard Island. It was then that Caroline made the decision to become a relief keeper.
After going through several training courses, including first aid, and a VHF radio course, she was ready.
“I ended up having to do relief 15 days after I got to the Island,” she said.
She now does anywhere between six and eight months of relief work a year.
At the lighthouse, they give weather reports every three hours, the first one is at 4:40 a.m., the last at 10:40 p.m.
Of the many lighthouses that dot the B.C. coastline, 27 are staffed. Woodward stated the importance of having these lighthouses staffed, as opposed to being monitored by computer, when she recounted an event that took place just a few weeks ago.
“I was waiting for that last weather report, and all of a sudden there was bang, bang, bang on our door at Leonard Island. We have kind of a hostile island, jagged toothy beaches, it’s not a safe place,” she said. “There was, in the fading light of 9:30 p.m. and fog rolling in, a man and his little boy. They had come in on some sort of Canadian Tire kayak, and there was no cover, had no VHS radio. Their phone was soaking wet and defunct — they were in big trouble.
“We got him warmed up, and Jeff woke up, and called the lifeboat crew and they came out and took them back to the resort they had zig-zagged away from.”
Marilyn McKinnon, one of the attendees, thoroughly enjoyed the reading.
“I thought she was just delightful, very articulate,” she said. “I was particularly interested in her talk, because I’ve been out to that area, and I just love it. I’ve seen quite a few of the lighthouses when we’ve been on the water, in and around the inside passage, so I was interested in hearing of her life as a light keeper.”
The first week the book was released it was number 10 on the B.C. Best Seller List, and last week it went up to number three.
Woodward thinks part of the reason is because many people have connections to lighthouses on either of the coasts.
“It’s really apart of our history, and people really connect to that.”