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Authors: Sylvia Taylor


The Fisher Queen

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The Fisher Queen
A deckhand's tales of the BC coast
Sylvia Taylor

For my father, Laimon Cirulis,
whose greatest pride was becoming
a Canadian and building a life for his family in
what he called the “God's Country” of British Columbia


They say it takes a village to raise a child; the same can be said of a book. Deepest love and gratitude to all the villagers who nurtured and guided me and The Fisher Queen through this incredible voyage and brought us safely home. All the open hearts in all the places, that listened and loved the stories.

This book of the watery Northwest was born in the sizzling Southwest desert, where I went to write a historical novel of the Pacific Northwest and came home with 15 stories that grew into a chronicle of a way of life lost to us, and the last vestiges of Canada's Wild West. To the First Nations people of the Pacific Northwest who have revered the salmon and its habitat for 10,000 years, and all the fishers everywhere who risk life and limb to feed the world, all the Salty Dogs who are still with us and those who forever troll the celestial fishing grounds: may you always have a smiley on every hook.

To Heritage House Publishing and its phenomenal crew of literary pilots and navigators, especially managing editor Vivian Sinclair and editor Barbara Stewart, whose steady hands at the tiller, unerring eye on the compass and deep belief in the work moved us always towards excellence and authenticity.

Infinite thanks to all the writer-folks who tirelessly encouraged, supported, nagged and finally stood cheering on the dock to welcome The Fisher Queen home: agent-extraordinaire Donald Maas and his wonder-editor wife, Lisa Rector Maas, for lovingly reminding me to “just write the damn book”; Esther Sarlo, whose insightful preliminary edits, passionate belief and endless cheerleading kept me afloat along with my brilliant writer-group pals, Pamela Tarlow-Calder, Bill Chalmers, Cathleen Chance Vecchiato, Tony Ollivier, Bill Burns, Ed Griffin, Sarah King, Rupert Macnee and world adventurer Anthony Dalton, who led me and my “darn good story” to Heritage House.

To wise and loving Richard Tarnoff who saw the light inside me then and now and served as technical advisor on all the fishing-related stuff, and always had my best interests at heart. Tom and Annette Phillips, Jane and Wayne Garrison, and the writing communities of Arizona who adopted me as their own and rode herd on me for the last six years. The Barn Boys, my first “guy test group,” who laughed and wept their way through the stories, in a manly way, of course. To Paul, who was the catalyst of that grand adventure and stepped up 27 years later to make it right.

To Beenie and Etta, my dear ol' BFFs, who always loved and believed in me even when I didn't.

To Anastasia, who passed the writer gene on to me, and my brother, Martin, who always knew it was there. To Mum, who helped set me on the path by retrieving my crumpled poem from my bedroom floor when I was 12 and sending it to a CBC poetry competition so I could win. And to Dad, who always wanted this for me.


The Legend of Sisiutl

Vancouver Cast-Off


Port Hardy

Bull Harbour

First Day Fishing

Un-Dressing Salmon

Gaia's Whale

Davy Jones's Locker

Salmon Prince

Indian Candy

The Quick Turnaround

No Atheists at Sea

Winter Harbour

The Great Grey Beast

High-Pressure Fronts

For the Living and the Dead




Jostling cheek to jowl for a spot on the wharf at the government floats in the inner harbour at Ucluelet.

The Legend of Sisiutl
A Story of the First Nations of the Pacific Northwest

From the depths of the sea between the mountains, from the doorways of the Supernaturals he fiercely guards, the great serpent comes.

Wings of Thunderbird, twin heads of Wolf, silver sides of Salmon, forked tongue of Snake, fierce heart of Dragon, earth wisdom of Bear. Travelling in seas and rain and blood and tears, he transforms himself, for he is the Shape Shifter, the Soul Searcher, the Truth Seeker.

He comes to judge all Humankind. He comes to judge your courage, your heart, your soul, your spirit. He finds you in your deepest, darkest fear. He comes to you in your life-changing times.

And when his fearsome head rises from the waters and his gaze burns deep into your heart and soul, you must stand your ground and face your horror, face your fear. And when his second, more fearsome head rises from the waters to steal your soul, each face will see the other, your True Self reflected in them.

The ones who cannot control their fear, whose hearts are filled with darkness, who cannot hold their Truth, are devoured or turned to stone as they run from him.

Those who hold Truth and Courage, who stand in their authentic selves, he blesses with wisdom and magic and bids them return to their lives as Chosen Ones, to be leaders and beacons for others.

We departed at dawn from the Granville Island boat basin in Vancouver's False Creek.

Vancouver Cast-Off

At 7:15 a.m. I untied the midships
rope and leaned into the heavy wooden hull to ease her bulk from the float. Tucked the toe of my grubby sneaker into a scupper and gave the wharf a little good-riddance shove as I swung my leg over the bulwarks and onto the newly oiled deck. My feet wouldn't touch home again for four months, and that was more than fine by me. We would catch the outgoing tide that would sweep us away from this blue-collar corner of the yachty Granville Island boat basin, out into False Creek that rippled into the salty heart of the city, under the bridges and past the glittering towers and endless beaches and muscular green mountains. Out past the deep-sea freighters tethered in Burrard Inlet. Past the lighthouses and markers and buoys, then north and more north, until we reached the fishing grounds 400 miles away.

We left on a watery West Coast morning, all soft and grey and silent. Pussy-willow days, I'd called them since I'd first stood on this Vancouver wharf, clutching my dad's meaty finger in one hand and a spray of velvety grey buds in the other.

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