Monday, January 12, 2009

The Night Ferry.

I`ve been dropped off by my daughter Gwyn at the Swartz Bay ferry terminal an hour before the last ferry of the evening leaves for Fulford Harbour on Saltspring Island. I will be a foot passenger tonight for a change and then walk the last four miles to my home. I have my camera with me and rather than sit in the waiting room where a family with small children is noisily playing hide and seek, I step outside into the cool, misty, December night.
Just over a half hour ferry ride away across the sea it will be dark and quiet as I walk along a country road, but here I am surrounded by the brightly lit steel structures of the major ferry hub for Vancouver Island: piers, ramps, docked super ferries, all dressed up in floodlight and shadow. An opportunity to do some night photography.

The time passes quickly as I record a place that is commonplace for me in daylight but full of interest now with this dramatic lighting. The Skeena Queen arrives and I capture the blurred images of it`s departing passengers and cars. Now it`s my turn to trot down the ramp with boarding pass in hand. The noisy passenger lounge on the ferry is full of a returning youth soccer team so I retreat once more and climb to the upper deck. Up here I watch the cars being loaded and the ferry`s careful exit from the dock. Even though I`m expecting it, the horn for departure makes me jump: it`s so loud up here. One other shadowy figure on the upper deck jumps with me in unison. The ferry headlights are turned on as we sidle out into the bay and I photograph the fog billowing over the bow and the cars. If I had been travelling with a companion or could sit in my car I would not be experiencing all this lonely splendor.

For all my fascination, the cold wind of the ferry`s passage through the foggy air cuts through my clothes and I retreat to the noisy, warm lounge. Soon we are entering our island harbour and shoving our bow into the little dock at Fulford Harbour. As the last cars zoom off into the dark I notice the other foot passenger I saw on the upper deck. He has put down his bulging back pack and basket and is unlocking his bicycle from a bike stand. Someone else beside myself will be silently travelling the misty roads tonight.

The little village is silent now on this damp Sunday evening as I walk up the hill and leave the lights of the ferry terminal behind. There is something about walking that alters the way one sees things. That man with the bike who is struggling along with his load somewhere on a different road from mine - his and my experiences are so different from the people in cars who even now are halfway across this island: warm, isolated in their rushing steel boxes, their minds on a multitude of things. Perhaps they are planning their work for tomorrow, while we two are listening to the owls calling off in the dark overhanging trees and can wonder if that bear that was sighted recently killing sheep nearby may be even now watching us! We may not have the dramatic structures of the mechanical age we have left behind over the water, but we can find our own life drama if we mix a little imagination with this foggy dark night!

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