Banner image: ‘Looking across the stern of the four masted barque Comet launched in Port Glasgow, Scotland, in 1891 to the stern of the three masted ship Melanope launched in Liverpool, England, in 1876.’ Royston, B.C. 2010. John Pollack photo
Rick James is a writer, maritime historian, and photographer. Many people recognize him from his role in The Sea Hunters documentary Malahat: Queen of the Rum Runners, which aired on Canada’s History channel. Rick grew up in Victoria, one of the most beautiful port cities anywhere on the planet, which Sir James Douglas described as a perfect “Eden” what with its open Garry oak meadowlands which stood out in sharp contrast to our often wet and dreary northwest coast. Of course, living right beside a watery Paradise, he ended up spending many a weekend with his Dad sports fishing out in the family clinker built runabout June Bug in his young years.
Then in 1976, when finally out on his own, he was living in Sointula up off the north end of Vancouver Island as a treeplanter when he also landed a job as a deckhand on seine boats out after Fraser River salmon in Johnstone Straits. He says that back in those days the industry was absolutely booming and that they were even grabbing hippie longhairs right off the dock to crew their boats. As a result, over a period of ten years he got to experience some of the best sockeye years on the coast.
Then after he met up with his partner, author Paula Wild, in Sointula, she encouraged him to quit talking about wanting to write all the time and just set himself down in front of his computer and get on with it. Then in 1985, after moving down to Fanny Bay on Vancouver Island, he soon became totally obsessed with researching and writing about West Coast maritime history. His first major project was identifying the 15 derelict hulks that were sank and used for Comox Logging & Railway company’s booming grounds breakwater in Royston, and researching the fascinating history of its collection of World War II R.C.N. frigates, Cape Horn windjammers, lumber schooners and old steam tugs.
Rick’s work has been published in numerous periodicals including The Beaver: Canada’s History Magazine, The Sea Chest: Journal of the Puget Sound Maritime Historical Society, Pacific Yachting and still continues on as a ‘stringer’ for Western Mariner magazine. Many Victorians will probably remember his maritime history tales published in Victoria Times Colonist Islander magazine throughout the 1990s. In 2011, a collection of a number of his stories that appeared in these magazines as well as the Times Colonist, were published in Raincoast Chronicles 21: West Coast Wrecks & Other Maritime Tales by Harbour Publishing. He also has served as Paula Wild’s in-house assistant and helped out with the writing, research and photography for her popular books Sointula: Island Utopia and One River Two Cultures: A History of the Bella Coola Valley.
He is also the author or co-author of a number of popular reports published by the Underwater Archaeological Society of British Columbia: Ghost Ships of Royston; Historic Shipwrecks of the Central Coast and Historic Shipwrecks of the Sunshine Coast. This has proved a particularly rewarding relationship since the UASBC is a volunteer, non-profit organization which came together in 1975 and remains dedicated to the science of underwater archaeology and to conserving, preserving and protecting the maritime heritage lying beneath our coastal and inland waters
The various reports of the Underwater Archaeological Society of B.C., can be ordered by going to the Publications link on the Society’s webpage here.