Salvaging On British Columbia’s Central Coast

As I was waiting for the ferry at Quathiaski Cove, my eyes were drawn to a trailer full of rough planking and an antique floating devise. They belonged to a BC Ferry captain from the Quadra to Cortes run. Randall Warnock spends a lot of time salvaging on British Columbia’s central coast.


He’s being combing the beaches for the past ten years.  The pace picked up three years ago, when he started visiting the abandoned site at Namu

bringing some of the stuff found salvaging on BC's Central Coast back to the boat
Bringing stuff back to the Aruga – Courtesy Randall Warnock

“It’s an old abandoned fish cannery; a small city on the central coast. There was a Chinatown bunkhouse, a Japanese section, a First Nation section – where they all had their people who worked there. There was a big fish plant, a processing plant, a cafe, and had manager’s houses up in the back. It was a pretty happening place for years. I think it shut down in the early 80’s or late 70’s,” he says.

Namu went into receivership after that. “It is deteriorating and some of it is falling into the ocean.”

Some of the booty found salvaging on British Columbia's Central Coast
Storing the stuff at home – Courtesy Randall Warnock

What Does He Find?

For Warnock, salvaging is like being a kid with free access to a candy shop.

“There is all kinds of old brass and fishing artefacts … {he and his twin brother] usually pick up a thousand crab floats every summer.  They come up from Washington and Oregon, they drift up with the currents. Then rope and we call them jellybeans, these big three or four foot long egg shaped things with an eye on each end that come over from Japan. We throw fish foam up into the bush, because that grinds up into the beach and effects  the sea life. And, of course, we are fishing while we are up there: crab, salmon and cod.” 

One day he found what looked like a fibreglass rowboat, only there was no access to the inside. 

“On the back it said ‘Department of U.S. Space and Warfare,’ so apparently it was something that had busted loose from a submarine and ended up on a beach in the Great Bear Rainforest. I couldn’t it. I just took pictures and gave them to the Canadian Navy when I was tied up at Port Hardy,”

Wolf Tracks – Courtesy Randall Warnock

Attacked By A Grizzly Bear

Warnock is best known for surviving a grizzly attack. The incident occurred while he was waiting for the weather to clear on Brown Island, about about about sixty miles north of Port McNeil. Now Warnock says he should have known something was up when he saw a dead tree with about five eagles in it. “I should have known something was up.”  

“All the hackles on the back of my neck rose up, like I was being watched. So I looked in the bush, didn’t see anything. I turned around and walked out of that little bay – heard a noise. Turned around, and there is a grizzly bear charging at me – full bore. He stopped about five or six feet away and started checking me out. Dancing around; trying to decide what to do. 


Warnock’s shredded clothing after the attack – Courtesy Randall Warnock

“He started nipping at my left knee, didn’t get hold of that, and grabbed on to my right knee with his mouth and he is trying to throw me around – but he is not that big a bear. He’s about a 400 pounder, a young one.  

“I was kind of paralyzed at first: freaked out; in shock. My first thought when I saw him charging, was ‘Aw sh__!. this was how it was all going to end. I thought I was dead right. Then after about half a minute I thought this is going pretty good; I’m not dead yet, I am not gored; he hadn’t thrown me on the ground.”

I had a stiff bladed knife on my hip. So I grabbed that and went to stab him in the head. It just hit hard bone and pushed the knife up into my hand – cut my hand open. I thought, ‘Oh yeah, he’s got a sensitive nose.’ So I punched him as hard as I could right in the nose, which was to the right of my right knee – because he hadn’t let go of my leg yet. He lets go right away and backs off about three feet. He’s trying to decide what to do, dancing around again … I fell back on my ass, grabbed a log, threw it at his face and he took off – then I went in to shock.” 

Showing how he survived (on the statue of a much larger grizzly) – courtesy Randall Warnock

The Most Painful Part

The attack took place at 7 PM. Warnock called the Coast Guard from his boat and checked in to the Port Hardy hospital around midnight anf they finished cleaning him up by 3 AM.  The most painful part of the whole experience was the 50 needles used on his right knee.

“It’s almost like the best thing in my life. I do not care about anything other than love and family now.” 

The Auriga – Courtesy Randall Warnock

The Life Saving Apparatus

The morning we met, Captain Warnock had a life saving apparatus on his trailer.

“This was just a copper box covered in wood, with two handles on each side. So if the boat sank … eight people could hang on to this floating device … It was apparently off the Monarch II, a steam tug built in 1910. The previous owner said that was where is was from. So I’m captain of BC Ferries now, on the Tachek and we’ve got way better life saving appliances and rafts. I couldn’t even think of using that on todays vessels. You’d be dead of hypothermia in no tie using that thing.” 

He says that a number of people buy the things he finds on the beach. 

BC Ferries

A Selfie – Captain Randall Warnock of the BC Ferry Tachek

Warnock has been one of BC ferries captains since about 2000 and took over from Captain Rex Lowe on the Cortes run, six years ago.  

The abandoned cannery site at Namu, BC – Courtesy Captain Randall Warnock

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