in which we take a big gamble and are rewarded, or, we are moving to port hardy

I got a job! We are moving to Port Hardy, BC! Port what now?

Yes, we are moving to a tiny, remote town in the "north island" -- the northern end of Vancouver Island -- a town of 5,000 people. Nearby Port McNeill counts 2,600 residents, and the third town in the region, Port Alice, is a village of less than 1,000. And we are thanking whatever it is we atheists thank, because we're actually already paying rent there!

As my friend Detective Monk used to say, here's what happened.

As I've mentioned, finding a place to live that allows dogs on Vancouver Island (and possibly all of British Columbia) is incredibly difficult. When we were on the island in April, we saw a huge number of rental buildings. We were very encouraged, as in the GTA, rentals are increasingly rare; everything is condos. But that was before we knew that the great majority of rentals do not allow dogs. Even buildings that say "pet-friendly" may restrict to cats only, or something like "small dogs negotiable".

I applied for a job at the Port Hardy branch of VIRL, a job I really wanted. I had seen great-looking rental townhouses -- spacious, newly renovated, affordable. They're the only rentals in town that allow dogs, so of course they have no availability. No one ever leaves.

Then suddenly, over the Labour Day weekend: an ad. A house. Four bedrooms, three bathrooms. A fireplace. A deck. A big fenced-in yard. The rent is great and dogs are welcome. And if we don't put money down right now we will lose it.

We put off the agent as long as we could, but it quickly became clear that I was not going to know about the job before we needed to commit to the house. In fact, I was not even going to interview for the job before we needed to commit! But what choice did we have? If I got the job and we had no place to live, what would we do? But if I didn't get the job in Port Hardy, we couldn't move there. It was a potentially expensive gamble.

We did it. We signed a lease, and put down a deposit. About 10 days later, we paid October rent. And two days after that, I had my interview! Ohmygod has this been stressful!

And today, just a few hours ago, I found out I got it. Whew.

The problem with being a risk-taker is that every time a gamble pays off, it reinforces your belief in taking risks -- when in reality those past gambles have absolutely no bearing on the present. But... whew.

Here we go!


Unknown said...

Congratulations ! I used to travel up that way a lot, up to Alert Bay, which is on Cormorant Island, a ferry ride from Port McNeill. Such a lush area to be in, and oh those whales! I can't believe you're moving so soon !!
Good luck to all of you!
Big hugs,

The Mound of Sound said...

Two words - Cape Scott.

It will be part of your new turf. It is astonishing. On a clear night you will be ambushed by the Milky Way.

Good boots. Don't skimp.



laura k said...

Whales. Starry skies. I can't wait!

We don't even own rain gear! But we will soon.

Jay Farquharson said...

Get a Mountain Equiptment Coop membership. It will pay for itself.

Don't skimp on the Gortex jacket and rain pants. Get the long jackets, not the short ones, they'll keep your bum dry when you sit on driftwood, and get them oversized, so you can layer on the warm clothing.

laura k said...

You are scaring the fuck out of me. I won't skimp, that's not a problem. But you make if sound like we're literally living in the forest.

The Mound of Sound said...

"you make if sound like we're literally living in the forest."

Only if you're lucky. As you'll discover, people travel from Europe and Asia to experience what you'll have on your doorstep. The weather can be challenging but that's all part of living in paradise.

Jay's not trying to scare you. He's trying to make your experience more enjoyable, safer.

As for Mountain Equipment Co-op there's just one on the island, Victoria. The next closest is Vancouver. They do have online shopping and, as he says, they've got everything you'll need. Most towns have outfitters and sporting goods stores.

There's so much on this island to see, to discover. It does entail some travel but the road is good (there's just the one) and the scenery never gets old.

If you think Port Hardy small, you'll have to go to Campbell River to find bigger.

Jay Farquharson said...

One of the best things about places like Port Hardy, is all the outdoors, the lack of crowds, all at the edge of town.

Being the north tip of the Island, it get's wet, windy and being wet and cold is no fun.

Gortex is way more than raingear. It's wind gear, with layers underneath, winter gear, sailing gear, skiing and boarding gear. Layering allows you to regulate your warmth by taking off or adding on clothing to match the temps and levels of activity.

That and hiking boots are the Official Uniform of the Wet Coast.

I live in the mountains in the interior now, and my Wet Coast gortex is still daily wear. Because I bought the good Gortex, despite daily use and wear, I'm only on my second jacket in 40 years, and only 1 pair of rainpants.

laura k said...

I didn't think anyone was trying to scare me. I know you all better than that.

And absolutely, living so close to so much natural beauty and away from crowds, is a big part if why we're moving, why we chose the island. I do think the town is tiny, but that's not an insult, just an observation.

I'm fine with boots and Goretex. I just don't think I'll need them every day at the library. We are actually living in the town itself.

Thank you guys for the tips and advice. Cape Scott, duly noted.

And hi Valerie, thanks!

laura k said...

PS: layering and Goretex is known in Ontario, too. Even in New York and Vermont, where we're originally from. :)

James Redekop said...

You're going to be closer to Haida Gwaii than to Victoria! :) Though driving to Victoria would be easier.

laura k said...


allan said...

Here is a map of the top of Vancouver Island, with Port Hardy and Cape Scott. How in the hell do you get from one place to the other? There are no roads!

laura k said...


Jay Farquharson said...

"Beware of bears and cougars during your time in the Cape Scott. Directions: From Highway 19, approx 2KM south of Port Hardy, take Holberg Road and travel 45.5KM to Holberg. Continue on San Josef Main and follow the Cape Scott Provincial Park signposts."


There's lots of roads, they are just Forestry Roads. BC Outdoor Mapbooks are a key to getting around.

There's hiking trails across, floatplanes if you have money, and yes, boats.

laura k said...

Jay what beautiful dogs!! One looks like a Belgian Shepherd, a seldom seen beauty. They are both lovely.

Jay Farquharson said...

Thank you,

Both are gone now.

Digger was a Belgian/Border Collie cross. He was a dirty brown when Casey adopted him, until I had him washed, waxed and detailed.

Casey was a Pit Bull/Border Collie cross.

Both were rescues.

We loved them so much that we bought them a ranch.

I miss them always. We had 17 years with each of them.

laura k said...

Oh I'm sorry. I get it. I'm currently missing one every day too.

I saw that pit mix, such a sweet face.

17 years?? That's amazing. All ours have been rescues, but no one lived to be such an age. Damn dogs and their short life spans. It's the only bad part of sharing our lives with them.

Jay Farquharson said...

Both Casey and Digger were about 2 when we got them.

Casey was twice jailed, was abused by a man. Digger was deemed "unaroptable" and was on death row.

We got Casey first. Casey picked out Digger at a dog park.

My wife said we could try a "trial adoption" and I laughed, and laughed and laughed.

I have so many memories, and they were such perfect dogs.

So they both had roughly 19 trips around the sun, 17 with us.

laura k said...

Wonderful. We've had some hard cases too, including an abused pit mix who was abandoned on the street in NYC, near death. He was a prince. Although the damaged kind.

I'm still amazed your dogs lived to be so old. Once they're in their teens, every day is a gift.

James Redekop said...

Saying there are "no roads" is a bit of an exaggeration, but there aren't any sizable roads. There's an east-west road from Port Hardy to Cape Scott through Holberg.

It's not *paved*, mind you... Hardy-Holberg Road

James Redekop said...

BTW, Google Street View comes to an end just outside of Port Hardy, but I did find a Street View shot of the Port Hardy Museum & Vancouver Island Regional Library (Port Hardy Branch)

laura k said...

Oh yeah, I've been looking at street views of everything for weeks!

But we literally did not see any roads. I'm glad they're there, whatever the condition. Allan noted that many of the real estate ads mentioned "paved road". Not something we've seen in an ad before!

Amy said...

I guess my earlier comment never went through so I will try again.

This is such an amazing story, and the fact that you were willing to make this gamble is wonderful. It shows true self-confidence (and obviously well-deserved self-confidence). I can't wait to read more about this adventure!

Two questions: When do you move? What is Allan's plan?

Mazel tov!

laura k said...

Thank you Amy! We don't know the answers to those questions yet.

We'll move sometime in November, for sure, so that our rent deposit in Mississauga can pay our last month's rent, and we don't have to double-up on rent another month. But more specifically, we don't know yet. Next week I'll negotiate my start date.

Allan, we are waiting to hear about something. That's all I want to say for now. One thing is certain, though: he will do something different and have a very different schedule. I'm very glad about that. His current job has been great for us, gave us stability when my income was precarious, and gave him a great schedule for his writing. But in my very expert opinion, it's now causing as much or more harm than good. I've wanted him to do something else for a while, but there was no chance of that happening living in the GTA. Now he will have to make a big change, and I'm glad of that.

I will probably repeat all that in an upcoming post. :)

James Redekop said...

Fun fact I just found out: Port Hardy is named for that same Hardy from Nelson's famous dying words, "Kiss me, Hardy" -- Vice-Admiral Sir Thomas Masterman Hardy. He commanded Nelson's flagship, the HMS Victory, at Trafalgar.

And speaking of roads, another fun fact: Port Hardy is home to the "Carrot Campaign Monument", a large (10'-12'?) wooden carrot with a bite out of it. The plaque reads:


This carrot, marking the
northern end of the island
highway, is a symbol of
government road building
promises, dangled in front
of north island settlers
since 1897. The successful
Late 1970's "Carrot
Campiagn" was aimed at
making the government keep
promises of a completed
island highway.

Amy said...

Oh, now I am intrigued! Hoping this means he will be free of law firm work!

RossK said...

This is one of my favourite posts and comment threads ever, anywhere.

Welcome to the Wet Coast!


impudent strumpet said...


I'm just catching up on everything, and I'm amazed by so many things:

- Moving across the country!
- You found a job across the country!
- You found a landlord who would rent to you even though you didn't have a job yet!!! (I've never encountered such a thing in the wild)
- I think there are fewer people in your new town than in the buildings I can see out my window!!

laura k said...

RossK, ohmygoodness thank you! I don't know why that is but I'm happy you are happy! (Also just generally happy to hear from you.)

laura k said...

You found a job across the country!

Amazing job posting boards! My current employer just hired two librarians, one from Halifax, one from Saskatoon. And a good library/union friend of mine now in Toronto began her career in Alberta. This helped me believe I could find a job elsewhere.

Interviewing by Skype was tough. I really disliked it the first time. A later interview for a different position on the island went much better. I was beating myself up for not doing as well on the first one. Hmm.

You found a landlord who would rent to you even though you didn't have a job yet!!! (I've never encountered such a thing in the wild)

The agent asked for current employment references. I provided those, than never heard anything else!

deang said...