Old Hans Shumer eyeballed me from across the lounge in our booking office the other day. Sitting in the corner sipping his coffee, he had positioned himself in the perfect spot to survey the room, keep his back protected against the wall behind him, and have two clear paths to the exits should he for whatever reason suddenly need them. Perhaps it was a coincidence that Hans chose this location to enjoy his morning coffee, but perhaps it was not.
I was oblivious to Hans’ penetrating stare when I walked in the door and made my way towards the booking counter. I’d just returned from a full day on the water with a family from the USA and I wanted to check with the front end staff to see what was on my schedule for tomorrow before deciding which equipment needed to be prepared for the next day.
The office was packed with customers and the front end staff was busy trying to attend to them all. I answered questions from as many customers as I could as I scrolled through the booking calendar. A nice couple from Alberta seemed particularly interested in our Ultimate Adventure so I filled them in on the experience having just freshly returned from one that I had ran for my clients that day.
The benefit of the Ultimate Adventure, I told them, is that we depart early from the marina and head straight to the Hot Springs, ensuring that you get to enjoy a relaxing and rejuvenating soak in the springs before the throngs of tourists arrive for the day. After the springs we head out for a few hours of fishing, filling the cooler with a myriad of tasty fillets from salmon, halibut, snapper and cod. Action is often fast and furious, I told them, so be prepared for some incredible fishing. With fish holds full to the brim we spend the remainder of the afternoon on an exhilarating wildlife safari. Intimate interaction with all manner of wildlife including whales, sea otters, sea lions, eagles and bears. If you are looking for the best marine experience that Tofino has to offer, I told them, then this is the trip for you. We don’t call it the Ultimate Adventure for nothing.
Unbeknownst to me, Hans was also attentively listening.
I finished up with the couple from Alberta, who booked an Ultimate Adventure for later that week, made a note of my itinerary for the following day and dashed out the door and back down to the docks. I did not notice the gentleman finish his coffee in the corner, swiftly stand and glide towards one of the exits, slip out the door, and follow me down to the marina.
I was halfway through spraying the front windshields off on my boat when I heard someone loudly clear their throat directly behind me. Startled, I spun around in mid-spray and before I could realize what happened shot an older gentleman with the hose square in the face.
I let go of the nozzle and for a moment nobody moved. I stared slack jawed at the gentleman in front, water dripping from the tip of his nose. Finally he removed his glasses, reached into his pocket to withdraw a handkerchief and calmly wiped his lenses clean before running the handkerchief over the rest of his face.
“Sorry!” I stammered, “you kind of snuck up on me there.”
The gentleman held up his hand in acknowledgement and then extended it towards me. I shook it firmly and introduced myself.
“Capt Josh Temple” I said, “pleasure to meet you.”
“I know who you are” he said, “I have been watching you. Please call me Hans Shumer.”
Not your typical introduction but hey in this line of work you get used to hearing them all.
Hans volunteered that he had overheard my conversation in the office and that he was interested in booking an Ultimate Adventure for himself. He was enjoying a much needed vacation after many years of hard work he told me. He had never been to Tofino and wanted the best possible experience available because he wasn’t sure if he’d ever be back. The Ultimate Adventure is right in your wheelhouse then, I told him. We finalized details and he returned to the office to confirm his date with me later that week.
A few days went by filled with the kind of adventures that are commonplace here in Tofino. Sharing the magic of Clayoquot Sound with guests from all over the world fills my heart with gratitude it’s easy for me to get into a rhythm of getting up early, heading down to the docks, preparing the boat, and waiting for the next group to arrive and set out for the day.
Imagine my surprise then when I arrive at my boat the other day to find it fully prepared, warmed up, door open and Hans Shumer sitting patiently in the co-pilots seat with a spare coffee in his hand that he hands over to me as soon as I step through the door. That is when I realized that there was something special about Hans.
A lot of captains might be put off by the fact that a client had taken the liberty to arrive early and prepare their boat for them. I suppose I would have counted myself amongst them if the boat had not been prepared exceptionally well with the same fine eye for detail that drives me to seek perfection day after day.
I didn’t say much as I untied the lines and maneuvered the boat away from the marina. Frankly I was still trying to process what had just happened. In twenty five years of working as a professional mariner I’d never experienced anything like this before.
As Hans and I motored away from Tofino we sipped our coffee in silence for a while before my curiosity got the better of me. My instincts told me that I should start by asking a few simple questions.
We got to talking a little bit on the journey up to Hot Springs, and a lot more during the course of the rest of the day as we fished and adventured our way across Clayoquot Sound. I won’t bore you with the details of male bonding, but let’s just say that Hans opened up and shared some of his mysterious history with me by the end of the day.
His story was fascinating, exciting, scary, and deeply heart wrenching all at the same time. In the interest of the confidentiality that exists between a fishing guide and his clients, that’s all I’m at liberty to say about that.
What I can say is that this was and shall be Hans’ one and only visit to Clayoquot Sound and Tofino, and that I am honoured that he chose to spend a bit of his time here with me.
We see all kinds of people here throughout the course of the summer season, but it is sometimes the quiet ones that sip coffee in the corners that leave the loudest and most memorable marks on our heart.
– Captain Josh Temple