Although I do not have a bucket list, I have always wanted to see Steveston from the water. My children have been out on the Fraser River as Santa’s crew members and I confess I felt envious seeing them arrive at Fisherman’s Wharf with big smiles on their faces, wondering what they saw out there. When the opportunity came along for me to interview Bruce Livingston, owner and operator of his one-year-old business, Steveston Eco Tours, it was difficult to stop myself from dashing immediately to Paramount Pond where he moors Archie V, his six passenger custom tour boat.
Livingston is living his dream. He recently retired from his thirty year career as a lawyer. Many of you will know him from the law firm Henderson Livingston Stewart which was located in the old Steveston Courthouse on 3rd Avenue. Livingston has made a huge commitment to this community. Born in Vancouver, he has lived and worked in Richmond since the 1980s when he began work as a young lawyer. He is incredibly knowledgeable about the area. He served on the Gulf of Georgia Cannery Society’s board for twenty years, he is on the board of the Steveston Historical Society, and he is board president of the London Heritage Farm Society. In addition, Livingston is involved with the Valdes Island Conservancy Association, which provides a voice for the natural areas of the island.
When Livingston chose to retire early, he wanted to share his passion for this spectacular area and purchased a boat to take people out to experience the wonders of this magnificent location. His clients include an even mix of locals and tourists. He sees Steveston’s heritage, harbour and the community minded people as being intertwined, and he is deeply committed to and grateful for all three.
Livingston has always been attracted to the water, and comes by it honestly; his grandfather was also a boating enthusiast. Livingston has had an affinity for the water and Gulf Islands for as long as he can remember. When he was a teenager his family bought property on Valdes Island, located between Gabriola and Galiano Islands. The property is outfitted with an Eco Lodge, where in the near future overnight stays will be possible. Swimming at a private sandy beach and enjoying a waterfront picnic are currently part of the tempting summer package if you choose to visit this island.
Valdes Island is one of many destinations where Livingston will happily escort his passengers. When you book a tour, the world is your oyster, and every day is an adventure. If you have a dream to visit the wineries on Pender and Saturna Islands, have a pub lunch on a Gulf Island, view the murals at Chemainus, tour the Fraser River Estuary, travel by water to Fort Langley, or see petroglyphs carved by First Nations people on Gabriola Island, Livingston can take you there. He also offers special services including burial at sea, small weddings, and club tours for specialized groups including bird watchers, naturalists and book clubs. Enthusiastic to show my children and me the ‘other side’ of Steveston, Livingston welcomed us onboard and we set off from Paramount Pond as he shared interesting Steveston history along the way, and kept me laughing with his good sense of humour.
The vista from the water is incredible. Steveston’s pair of swans came up to greet the boat. For the first time I finally saw Fisherman’s Wharf from the perspective of a fisherman aboard a trawler arriving at the dock; it was a humbling experience to be on the water where the history of this fishing village began and continues to this day. We motored by the recently placed wreaths at Fisherman’s Memorial, after the annual Day of Mourning ceremony had taken place.
Soon after we passed Garry Point, Livingston increased the boat’s speed and we zipped alongside the Steveston Jetty, which extends approximately five miles out and ends with an automated lighthouse. Along the way, sitting on the rocks and sandbars were countless eagles; I had not seen anything like this since I visited Haida Gwaii. Whoever would have thought this was on our ‘doorstep’? Trying hard to contain my enthusiasm, I was bracing myself for what I knew lay ahead.
The opening act for the star attraction were cormorants, which proudly perched on the rocks. Finally, with their barking announcing their presence, were the much anticipated California sea lions in all their glory. They were draped across the rocks, while others pointed their faces majestically up toward the sky. Spring is peak season for the migratory male sea lions, and Livingston estimated that there were fifty there that day; he had seen seventy the week before. It was a breathtaking scene which I exclaimed made me feel like I was visiting the Galapagos Islands. To have such a concentration of marine life within a five mile radius of where we live was an awe-inspiring moment. I realized that I may never be able to set foot in an aquarium again after seeing sea lions in their natural habitat. I don’t know if it was for my sake or for my children’s sake that Livingston asked if we should circle back to have a second look.
Now that we had experienced such natural wonders I contemplated if anything could top it. When we were heading back Livingston asked if we would like to explore the area further. I eagerly
took up his kind offer, and we motored along the Fraser River, and from this perspective I was able to view the south dyke trail where I frequently walk. We passed by Finn Slough and slowed down so Livingston could point out the boat named Eva circa 1937, which is one of the oldest of its kind with its classic Easthope gas engine. He suggested we go on top of the Massy Tunnel, something that I had never considered doing, but there we were, looking across each side of the river at the ventilation stacks, and imagining the tunnel full of traffic below us. Livingston took us inside the small harbour where B.C. Ferries are serviced. On our return we studied the south side of Shady Island where we saw the sandy and inviting beach, and got a closer peek at the eagle’s nest that can be seen as you walk along the boardwalk near Britannia Shipyard.
I felt a little bit sad coming back, knowing that the voyage was coming to an end. Joni Mitchell’s beautiful song Both Sides Now is playing inside my head at this moment, with a slight alteration of the lyrics, I’ve looked at Steveston from both sides now. It has altered my perception of where we live. Now I know what is on the other side of Shady Island, I know what the historical Paramount Cannery looks like from the water, I know the wonders of the Steveston Jetty, I now know what my children have seen, and I know I want to go back!
Like me, many people have simply never had the opportunity to explore the local waters. I encourage you to do so. Livingston says he can not count the number of times people have offered to volunteer for his company after returning to dock, for he is truly offering a unique service which is unlike any other in the area.
Steveston Eco Tours