Marine Link Tours In the Media
Wheelhouse Rambler Getaways (Day 1)
We board the Aurora at Menzies Bay, 18 km north of Campbell River, via the freight deck. After weaving our way around stacks of fresh food, rolls of cable, exotic bits of logging machinery and a car or two, our group of eight climbs the metal staircase in the deckhouse to the common room where wine, antipasto, cheese and crackers are set out. Our ultimate destination is the Broughton Archipelago in the Queen Charlotte Strait, opposite Port Hardy, but we'll do a circuitous dance to get there. Captain Philippe Menetrier sketches out the details. On average speed will be seven knots (1.85 km per hour) along the 400-kilometre route, so we won't exactly be whizzing through the water, but we can track the Aurora's progress on a wall chart in the upper passenger lounge as we deliver our routine load: vehicles, logging equipment and food for the fish farms at which we'll stop.
In its 16 years of freight service, Menetrier tells us, the Aurora has carried just about everything, from tree seedlings and horses to pianos and explosives - even an entire house, including the cement foundations. He then introduces the crew: mate Mike Pratt and engineer Bruce Stockland (who also double as guides) ; deckhand George Turner; cook Donna Sawatsky and steward Rhiannon McCannel. The warm invitation to come up to the wheel house any time we want reinforces the family mood as Donna, chief cook and baker, brings out huge platters of turkey mashed potatoes, Brussels sprouts, carrots and spinach salad with poppy seed dressing - delicious old fashioned cooking served in groaning quantities. Donna has been with the company for seven years and, apparently, is up every morning at 4 a.m. to bake bread, buns and cookies (I take her word for it since there is no way I plan to wake up before dawn). Speaking of which, she points out two full cookies jars sitting on the sideboard. The cookie addicts hit on them immediately.