Three sailboats anchored at sea, islands behind them.

Beach clean-ups, the Misty Isles and life between two worlds

Jonas Fineman has been at sea for much of the last seven months: cleaning up beaches, showing tourists the marine wonders of our area and as the  captain of a scientific research vessel. He returned home briefly last week, before setting out again for the waters off southern Vancouver Island.  

Photo credit: ‘The Misty Isles’ in August 2021 – courtesy Jonas Fineman

Fineman compared the constant shift from land to sea and back to straddling different planets. When he set out to sea as a 19 year-old, Fineman felt that youthful terror of missing out on an experience with friends. Now, he says you never feel quite as alone as you have after you’ve loved someone. As a parent, Fineman sometimes finds himself imagining the sounds of his children’s laughter through the roar of the ocean.

 Luckily, he is in the midst of a community of Mariners and friends who share a very common situation on shore. 

“We have partners, families and a serious passion for working on the ocean,” said Fineman. “So we push each other, we protect each other. And I think we do that so that our time away is a pure experience.”

Jonas’ daughters on board the Misty Isles – Photo by Jonas Fineman

As regards this last season on board the ‘Misty Isles,’ there were a lot more people from Cortes, Vancouver Island and the Lower Mainland. There were a lot more repeat travellers. Some of them came back the next day to see a different side of Cortes Island. 

“It actually became one of the highlights for Amy and I.”

2021 was the third worst wildfire season on record, but a beautiful summer on Cortes Island.  

“We didn’t get a lot of smoke over our waters this year and I hate to sound selfish, but it was really nice to be able to breathe and see the coast range and see all of our islands in this archipelago,” said Fineman.

He described the 2021 cruising season as the perfect antidote for 2020, when COVID 19 first devastated the marine tourism sector.

Island Odyssey crew, Marine Debris Removal Initiative 2021. Jonas Fineman at far left – photo courtesy Jonas Fineman

This year did not seem promising back in April, when the second wave of COVID struck. 

So the ‘Misty Isles’ remained at the dock throughout May, while Fineman took the helm of a vessel called the ‘Island Odyssey’ to take part in a beach clean-up on different islands and shorelines in the Bella Bella area. There were nine vessels in the expedition and a very large barge supplied by the Heiltsuk First Nation. (The fleet also participated in last year’s clean up.)

“We gathered 200 tons of marine debris and 60% of it was recycled,” said Fineman.

This was part of the largest beach cleanup in BC history. Crews were working on the west coast of Vancouver Island, Haida Gwaii, and the village of Kitkatla near Prince Rupert. Locally, there were also beach cleanups on Cortes, Quadra and the rest of the Discovery Islands, as well as along the east coast of Vancouver Island from Comox to the Johnstone Strait.

Fineman said the dedication and energy displayed up and down the coast is really impressive, but “it’s estimated that 8 million tons of garbage basically goes into the world’s oceans annually.” These cleanups need to continue as an annual event. 

Two days after he flew home from Prince Rupert, “we had our first guests on Misty Isles and then it was non-stop until about September 25th.”

Fineman then took command of another vessel, to lead some photographic expeditions in the Great Bear Rainforest.

“Now with the cruising season being done, I’m shifting back into ‘my off season- off Misty Isles work.”

Research vessel Achiever (Raincoast Conservation Foundation) currently in the Strait of Juan de Fuca – Photo courtesy Jonas Fineman

He is currently in the Strait of Juan de Fuca taking a survey of the seabird population for Environment Canada.

Top photo credit: Marine Debris Removal Initiative fleet in Hecate Strait – Photo by Jonas Fineman

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