I moved to Bowen exactly one year ago. I had been living in Gastown with my partner and our son for four years and in December 2013, we decided it was too urban so we packed up and moved to Bowen. When we arrived on the island, we knew all of two people. When we told people we were moving to Bowen, there were generally two reactions:
1. That is amazing, but won’t you feel lonely?
2. That is amazing, but what about the commute?
Socially, the last year has been wonderful. I have met more people on Bowen than I ever did in the city. It seems like every weekend, we have had someone at our house for dinner, or have visited someone’s else charming Bowen house. The friendships feel different than city friendships. The bonds feel stronger: the type of bonds formed by sharing something or living through something.
During the summer, my son and I spent endless days swimming and enjoying all the beaches that Bowen has to offer. We would often see people we knew (or were getting to know) enjoying the warm summer waters. This September our son started kindergarten at BICS and has a whole group of young friends that he plays in the forest with during recess and lunch. Our new daughter has also started going to Mother Goose and other community offered classes.
One of the main places I built community on Bowen was on Mike Shannon’s English Bay Launch water taxi. The 8 a.m. run to Coal Harbour was huge part of making life on Bowen sustainable for me. To leave my house in Miller’s Landing at 7:45 in the morning and to be sitting at my desk in Gastown by 8:45 was an incredible part of living here. I often thought of those poor saps stuck in bumper to bumper traffic coming in from Langley while I was cruising under the Lions Gate Bridge surrounded by my new friends and neighbours.
Mike has been running English Bay Launch with little or no support from the municipality for almost half a decade. He has tried to figure out a way to make the service more financially viable. This year he finally got the municipality to agree to link to his website from the municipal website.
With the MLU period for the Queen of Capilano approaching, I thought that supporting the water taxi would be a perfect way for BC Ferries to avoid the car overloads and that it would provide the small subsidy that Mike needed to finally get the ridership he needed to make the business sustainable. In the age of climate change, the idea of getting up to 50 people out of their cars and straight downtown seemed like a no-brainer to me.
One night in September, after getting off the Water Taxi, I saw Murray Skeels campaigning for Mayor in the ferry line-up. I approached him and asked him what he thought of supporting the water taxi with a small subsidy - his response was that it was not possible to run a water taxi in the winter, so it was a non-starter. I told him Mike had done it the previous year (and as far as I knew for the past few years). He seemed unconvinced. I thought about pulling out my receipts from the winter and then thought the better of it.
Living here for a year, I have started to wonder why their isn’t more municipal support for a sustainable water taxi that carries Bowen Islanders downtown. Part of the answer is certainly the fact that there are currently two water taxi companies offering very different services. Would it not make more sense to combine these services so that both the lucrative ambulance contract and the needs of daily and late night commuters could be covered?
This is a beautiful island. I am very happy to call it home. My small family loves the community, the bonfires, the hiking, the ocean swimming, and the amazing amenities. Living here we touch nature so much more deeply than those living in the City. We are uniquely positioned to support new modes of transportation that encourage people to get out of their vehicles and onto their feet and into their community. A sustainable passenger ferry is one of these new modes. I hope one day our beautiful island will support it.