Part 1: Checking in With Mick & Chasing Orca Whales off the BC Coast
May 20, 2017
“Hi, is this Mick?”
I remember well the final moment before I talked with Mick for the first time. It’s easy to remember because the relative silence and routine of another day at the office was contrasted so completely by what I can only classify as an onslaught of energy and passion. And I’m being purposeful in my word selection here – onslaught is a strong word but speaking with Mick does feel like an onslaught.
The best kind of onslaught.
Sure, it’s my job to tell Orca Spirit’s stories; to write articles and meet people and learn more about the magical orca whales swimming beneath our boats.
But Mick? It’s not just his job. It’s the very nature of his entire existence.
Sound a little too heavy? Well, here’s the first of a series of posts you’ll get to read in which Mick stops in for a visit. Check it out and then tell me my description is too heavy.
Seriously though, strap in!
Kelvin: Hey Mick, how’s it going?
Mick: Just great Kelvin, thanks for calling. I’m looking at a couple cruise ships outside my window right now so I’ve got boats on the mind. I live up at Ogden Point so the views are always cool.
So your entire life is spent on the water basically?
(Laughs) Yep that’s how I like it, it’s nice to keep an eye on the comings and goings.
Fantastic. So let’s start at the beginning. How did you get into this line of work?
Well you’ll learn more about me over the next little while I’m sure just through talking, but I found myself doing this after being a 13 year sports fishing guide for a nice resort. I had my own boat but ultimately killing fish for a living wasn’t what I wanted to do. It was more on the take side of things rather than the give. So I moved to Victoria and got my science degree at Royal Roads University and one of my best friends owned a whale watching company and said to me what are you doing, you’re the perfect fit.
And he was right!
What makes you the perfect fit?
Well I’m passionate about boats for sure, but about nature more than anything. I love animals and I love and appreciate that I’m just another animal and another cog in the wheel. I appreciate the fact we’re all part of this corner of the country together, people and animals both. So saying I love animals is an understatement – truthfully I just really enjoy people. If I can deliver an incredible experience for someone or someone says that’s one of the best experience I’ve ever had then that makes my day.
So a combination of all that and from being a fishing guide to taking people out to see all the different animals, whales or not, it’s been very natural for me. I want to show people as many cool things as possible. The guest experience has always been a passion of mine. I love the smiles, the excitement, whether we’re seeing orca whales or anything else living and moving through the area.
Did you grow up being obsessed with animals and people?
You know, I grew up in Courtenay, I was born way up in the middle of nowhere, but I grew up without boats. My dad was a retailer but I was never on the water until I was an adult even though I grew up on the beach. So his line of work is probably where I got my people skills.
Do you remember the first time you saw a wild animal?
Sure I do. Up at Stewart Island, that’s in the mouth of the Bute Inlet, that’s where I lived for 13 summers and it’s remote nature at its best. There’s bears on the beaches and orcas swimming by and there’s salmon to catch every day – well that’s just a dream but we’re out there trying. Just to be up there in a remote place and live off the land with propane and generators – as a young guy it was a dream.
So I remember very well being in my own boat and feeling like part of the pod basically, you’re so close. There’s a lot more awareness and respect now, but back then as a young man, we would get close to the black bears eating mussels on the beach and float quietly by the orcas. Probably a bit too close.
But when you’re young you do a few more silly things than you probably should.
Can you tell yet? Mick is fabulous to talk to. You can catch him on an Orca adventure this summer on his favourite type of trip: the zodiac.
More about zodiac orca tours and Mick’s take on an enormous old wolf patrolling the shores of Vancouver island are coming up, make sure you stick around!