Around five years ago Protection Island author Brian Harvey decided to sail around Vancouver Island for the first time.
It had been 25 years since he’d done “any boating worth calling boating” and he wanted to introduce his longtime pastime to his wife, who until then was only familiar with paddle boats. Harvey said there can be a lot of downtime while boating and opted to bring some reading material: 30-year-old trial documents from his diseased father’s malpractice lawsuit.
“The way the trial went was very hard on him and it wasn’t something that he really had talked a lot about, but it was a big thing,” he said. “It was like the elephant in the room right up to the end of his life.”
Harvey chronicled his attempt to circle the Island while illuminating a shadowy part of his father’s life in his fourth book, Sea Trial. The book, which tells both stories at once, is available in Nanaimo at Chapters and Window Seat Books starting May 7 with a book launch on Protection Island on May 26.
While cleaning out his father’s house, Harvey found boxes labelled “The trial” filled with notes, evidence and interviews. As his father was a sailor, Harvey thought it would be suitable to bring those materials on the boat and try to piece together what happened.
“I don’t think many people are that lucky that they can find out what really made their parents tick and have the evidence of something major that happened and be able to sit and go through it all,” Harvey said.
The writer said he wasn’t looking for justice or whether wrong had been done or on which side. He just wanted the unfiltered truth. As a scientist by trade he’s always been bothered by the oversimplification of complex and controversial issues.
“What I actually had here was the opportunity to get to something which was controversial and actually to see what really had happened because I had the records on all sides,” he said.
Throughout the book, Harvey shifts from past to present, where he and his wife and dog meet interesting characters when they’re not contending with the challenging combination of wind, rocks and fog that afflicted their voyage, particularly along the Island’s west coast.
“We never saw Cape Scott, which is like one of the iconic things about Vancouver Island is the northern tip…” he said. “We almost hit it, but we couldn’t see it. It was all fog.”
It took Harvey and his crew two months to complete the counterclockwise circumnavigation of the Island. The adventure took place two boats ago (“We’re serial offenders where boats are concerned”), but Harvey is looking forward to getting back on the water.
“A strange thing happens when you come back from a circle – and other people have mentioned it, too – is that you reach the point where you started and you think, ‘I’ll just keep going,’” he said.
WHAT’S ON … Sea Trial book launch at Beacon House, 208 Colvilleton Trail, Protection Island, on May 26 at 2 p.m.