The cover of John Anderson’s memoir: Of Times and Tides (Submitted photo)

Retired master mariner in Nanaimo publishes memoir of a life at sea

John Anderson’s book: Of Times and Tides is a vivid memoir of decades in the shipping industry

After a life of sailing the high seas, retired master mariner John Anderson has written and self-published a memoir of his experiences, Of Times and Tides.

Originally from Liverpool, England, Anderson lived in Ladysmith for 15 years before recently moving to Nanaimo. The memoir has been decades in the making.

“I brought most of it together years ago. Then in the last couple of years I finally brought the thing together. I had to get the thing finished or I’d drop dead with it unfinished,” he said.

Anderson has written two other books, This Noble Ship and Others, and Old Ships and New Yarns – both of which are about the shipping industry.

1962 was the year Anderson first went out to sea. In the course of his career, Anderson has traveled to Asia, Australia, South America, the Arctic, and expansively around the B.C. coast. Much has changed since Anderson first set foot on a ship, but perhaps no change was greater than the container revolution of the ’70s and ’80s.

“It brought both good and bad things from my perspective,” Anderson said. “Satellite navigation is a prime example. Anybody can navigate today if they’ve got a GPS, whereas before it was quite a complex mathematical process. It was much more satisfying work figuring things out longhand.”

Of all the work Anderson did in his career, he recalled his voyages to the Arctic as the most challenging, and his work with ocean scientists as the most rewarding.

“All the equipment in offshore oil is big and heavy, and usually it froze as soon as it came out of the water late in the season. Or it was covered in mud and that mud was frozen. I was given good advice when I first went up there, I was told, ‘however long you think the job will take, double it and throw and hour in for good luck.’ And it was good advice.”

In his work with Canadian scientists, Anderson and the crew he worked with helped facilitate the studies by taking the scientists where they wanted to go, and helped deploy the scientific instruments. Much of the research was funded by the federal government.

“A lot of people have very little idea of just how much science the government is involved in,” Anderson said. “It’s extremely worthwhile. There’s no big obvious breakthroughs, but increased knowledge of geo-hazards are ultimately reflected in building codes. With the more fisheries-related work, that ends up in quotas or open and closed seasons in fishing.

“I really enjoyed the science. I thought it was really worthwhile. It was contributing to solutions, not to problems.”

On the cover of the book is a photo Anderson took from the Bering Strait, on the left is Little Diomede Island which sits on one end of the International Date Line; in the centre is Big Diomede Island with is beyond the International Date Line. It’s one of the only places in the world where a person can see tomorrow.

Of Times and Tides is available directly from Anderson. The book can be ordered from for $20 plus $5 for shipping costs.

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