Ep. 35: Jet Boat Tours & Ghost TownsIn this episode of The Silvercore Podcast, Travis speaks with jet boat instructor of University of Northern BC, jet boat tour and fishing guide, Robert Bryce. Listen as they discuss some considerations you should make before purchasing a jet boat and experienced based safety precautions when out on the waters. Robert also talks about his interest in ghost towns in Northern BC and what he does in his off time when he’s not touring people with his business Northern BC Jet Boat Tours.
Travis Bader: [00:00:00] I’m Travis Bader, and this is The Silvercore Podcast. Join me as I discuss matters related to hunting, fishing, and outdoor pursuits with the people in businesses that comprise of the community. If you’re a new to Silvercore, be sure to check out our website, www.Silvercore.ca where you can learn more about courses, services, and products that we offer. As well as how you can join The Silvercore Club which includes 10 million in North America wide liability insurance to ensure you are properly covered during your outdoor adventures.
[00:00:43] If you really want to get deep into the back country to explore areas that see little to no hunting or fishing pressure, a jet boat can unlock that pristine wilderness. This podcast was recorded on the side of a river instead of thunder jet aluminum boat with expert operator, Robert Bryce. Robert provides important tips and tricks and insight that can help you get to your dream location and back safely.
[00:01:11] So I’m sitting down on the side of the beautiful Skeena River, just outside a historic 19 hundreds ghost town with Robert Bryce on his thunder jet jet boat. Robert, welcome to Silvercore Podcast.
Robert Bryce: [00:01:23] Oh, thanks a lot, Travis.
Travis Bader: [00:01:25] You’ve got an interesting history, you teach and help out at the University of BC don’t you? University of Northern BC, I should say.
Robert Bryce: [00:01:32] Yeah, university of Northern BC with our campus based out of Prince George. And yeah, we encompass the whole Northern half of the province and we’re fortunate to have a campus in Terrace, which I work out of.
Travis Bader: [00:01:44] You also have your own tourism business?
Robert Bryce: [00:01:46] Yeah, so I have a little touring jet boat business called Northern BC Jet Boat Tours, which I actually contract myself in a sense to the university for a series of adventure tours. And then also do a bunch of other jet boat touring on my own.
Travis Bader: [00:02:00] So when you take people out on these jet boat tours, what exactly are you doing?
Robert Bryce: [00:02:04] A lot of them are focused on kind of a little niche based unique tours focused on Northwest BC. So, you know, one of the highlights that I think we have is a series of ghost town tour’s. We’re fortunate enough to have five or six, kind of unique and almost exclusive ghost towns in this area, so that would be one of them. Grizzly bear viewing, so, you know, we have lots of coastal rivers here in estuaries and that with grizzly bears in them and some really healthy populations.
[00:02:28] So we can go out and watch, you know, grizzly bears from the safety of a boat and makes everyone feel comfortable and yeah, other stuff for this area, we have, canneries tours.
[00:02:38] We’re so we have a long history of a salmon canneries on the base of the mouth of the Skeena River. So we’ll go and look at those and talk all about the history and look at the remnants that still remain, you know, from that late 1800, early 1900 days. We also have the Skeena River, which we’re sitting on right now.
[00:02:55] And we do a tour, a five day tour down the Skeena River and looking at all of the history and scenery and wildlife, you know, staying at accommodations on the edge each night. So that’s definitely one of the highlights, especially on a nice day like today, you know, where it’s nice and sunny out. And yeah, a series of other rivers with waterfalls and, you know, ecology culture, you know whale watching even. You know, kind of just kind of looking at what we have in Northwest BC, what other people might want to see and take them out to see these things and experience.
Travis Bader: [00:03:25] Can I get a shameless plugin? Like if people wanted to experience this, where were they go? Where would were they?
Robert Bryce: [00:03:31] Yeah, I have a website it’s www.NorthernBCJetBoatTours.ca, or they can just Google that and my Facebook site will come up as well and [email protected] and send me a note and yeah, we can customize any tour for whoever. Get multiple boats out there and just depending on what people’s interests are, if they’re interested in scenery, wildlife, culture, history, or a combination, we can definitely set something up for ’em.
Travis Bader: [00:03:57] And you teach jet boating out of the university don’t you?
Robert Bryce: [00:04:00] Yeah. I mean, I dunno if I necessarily teach the course, we have an instructor that teaches it, but I definitely help out and assist with the course. So yeah we’re fortunate enough to have the flexibility to kind of run almost anything and everything out of our continuing studies department that I work for and jet boat safety is one of them.
[00:04:16] And yeah, we do a lot of courses for ministries, like the department of fisheries, lots of the first nation communities and their fishery programs, fishery consultants, biologists. You know, it’s just a program or a course it’s really not out there. And a lot of people are tasked with sending their staff out to run a jet boat and, you know, unless they’re doing that training internally, they have to have some sort of training at least to cover them off.
[00:04:38] And so we have a one day class in one day on the river jet boat course where people are actually driving the boats and myself and our main instructor will be out there with the students and giving them all the stuff that we know we can share with them to run a boat safely.
[00:04:52] And you know this course is for people who want to run a boat safely, not for Cowboys or guys who want to jump gravel bars. And you know, if that’s your thing, then this course probably isn’t for you. But if you want to be, you know, we treat it like being a captain of a boat or a ship and you’re responsible for those people, whether they’re staff members or family or whoever, getting them back safely at the end of the day.
[00:05:12] And that for us is the most important thing is that they’re putting their trust in you. And here’s all the tips we know of and, you know, being cautious. So that’s, you know, the one thing we’re not, you know, running rivers, we’ve never run before and if we are we’re scouting them and pre scouting and stuff like that. So it’s a lot of safety stuff. And like I said, that’s the kind of the foremost thing we focused on in the course.
Travis Bader: [00:05:34] So I guess jumping up gravel bars would be level two would it?
Robert Bryce: [00:05:37] Yeah, level two. And yeah, we call them the Cowboys and you know, these guys who have the sporty boats and yeah, it looks fun to me, but, you know, I value my boat a little bit more maybe. And some of these other guys are, you know, they got money to burn and the impellers to burn, you know, kind of gravel continually, and, you know, a boat like this might be $3,000 to redo the impellers. And some of those guys they’ll do that, you know, two or three times a year.
Travis Bader: [00:05:59] Woah.
Robert Bryce: [00:05:59] You know, they’re pumping more gravel out of their boat than they are water. And so to each their own if that’s their thing, but you know, our course and what we do is more tourism focused on running some, some nice rivers, but doing it safely and yeah.
Travis Bader: [00:06:14] So I’ve always wanted a jet boat. I’ve got an aluminum boat that I take out into the Georgia Strait and do some fishing in, but I’ve wanted the jet boat so I can get into the shallower areas and hunting in the lower mainland and taken up some of our rivers. For somebody who’s never owned or operated a jet boat before, what are some considerations that I should be thinking about maybe in purchasing and once I have one?
Robert Bryce: [00:06:40] Well, I mean, I always tell people, what do you think you’re going to be doing with this boat? Cause one boat will not serve all your needs. You know, we’re on a big boat here that can run, you know, decent sized rivers and go out on the ocean, but it will not run skinny rivers where lots of boulders and shallow areas. So you have to decide where are you going to be running your boat and pick a boat for that application.
[00:06:58] And also within your budget as well, I mean, money’s always an issue as well. So I always tell people, where are you going to be running your boat primarily? How many people are going to be going in your boat? That’ll decide how much power you need for that boat. Is it just you and your wife, or are you a hunter that’s going to get that thousand pounds moose and want to carry it out to some remote river?
[00:07:14] Well you need more horsepower for that and a bigger pump and so you know, are you doing fisheries work out of the back of it? Do you want a motor sitting in the back or do you want an outboard motor? If you’re doing fisheries work and having a big platform at the back of your boat?
[00:07:26] So it just really depends on what you’re going to be using that boat for. Then once people have decided that, we help people kind of narrow it down to the type and size and length. And you know, what kind of V on the bottom, is it flat bottom, does it have a good V for running in bigger water and oceans and lakes and that. If you’re just running your boat out in the lake then yeah, you don’t need a flat bottom boat that’s going to pound your kidneys all day long.
[00:07:48] So there’s lots of options out there between types and sizes of motors and lengths and yeah, it’s almost endless. Then you have inflatable boats, you know, so that’s one thing that’s kind of getting more popular now is an inflatable jet boat. So something that’s a bit more portable and you can move them around, deflate them, put them inside another boat. So yeah, lots of options.
Travis Bader: [00:08:11] Oh I like that idea.
Robert Bryce: [00:08:12] Yeah.
Travis Bader: [00:08:12] So just like an outboard jet?
Robert Bryce: [00:08:14] Yeah, an outboard jet. You know, I have another small jet boat that it’s a two-stroke motor that you can actually, one or two guys can actually carry the motor. So I can put it in a bigger jet boat like this, I can put the inflatable in a bigger jet boat like this. So I basically have two boats in one and then use the big boat to access areas that you wouldn’t normally get to and push the small one off and put the small two-stroke jet motor on and access small creeks out in the ocean that you wouldn’t normally run a small jet boat like that out there.
[00:08:44] But having the big one for the transportation. So yeah, lots of options. I’m not a hunter but I know guys love to hunt and putting an ATV on the back of your boat is something that a lot of hunters would probably like and I’ve done that with this boat.
[00:08:59] A little platform built on here, some ramps and load up that ATV, and you can go push that off on some bar where they’ve logged out in some ocean Valley or Creek and run that ATV up there and be probably one of the only people hunting up there with your ATV.
Travis Bader: [00:09:15] Now that’s cool.
Robert Bryce: [00:09:15] So yeah, it just depends on what you want to use that boat for. And it’s almost endless to be honest and just know the limitations of the boat you’re getting.
Travis Bader: [00:09:24] Now you recently did a trip in this boat I think it was, wasn’t it?
Robert Bryce: [00:09:30] Yeah.
Travis Bader: [00:09:30] Can you tell me a little bit about it? You started talking about it, but I asked you to save it.
Robert Bryce: [00:09:34] Yeah. So I love to fish and with COVID this year, one of the things that happened was a couple of lodges on the lower Dean River, which is probably the premier steelhead river in the province were shut down. And that gave us an opportunity to go down there and fish a river that basically nobody is going to be on none of the clients, no guides, nothing on there.
[00:09:52] So something you wouldn’t think about is taking a jet boat nine hours to a river to go fish, but we decided to do it, mostly inland ocean water, and ended up being pretty calm. But nine hours of jet boating to get to a river that really only has three kilometres of jet boat-able water and then there’s a big Canyon, but primarily, we had that river to ourselves fishing it for five days and then jet boated back to Kitimat.
[00:10:16] So from Kitimat to the Dean River, six hours to Shearwater, gassed up at Shearwater and that’s about the extent of the limit of this boat for gas. So six hours, seven hours of running time. We did bring some extra gas cans with us just for safety purposes and then yeah, gassed up and three hours into the Dean, three hours back, that was another full tank and then six hours back. So yeah, it ended up being about 18, 19 hours in total of boating that we did there and back. But beautiful trip, lots of fish and one of those trips of a lifetime that you won’t forget.
Travis Bader: [00:10:51] No kidding. Was it the first time you’ve taken it out on the ocean like that?
Robert Bryce: [00:10:55] That far, I mean I’ve done two and three hour, one way ocean trips. So, you know, never really more than a full tank on the boat. So that was definitely the furthest I’ve done it, but I’ve been out in areas similar, in similar areas that, coming in from Bella Coola or out from Kitimat. So there was only maybe a couple hours I’d never been on in that stretch.
[00:11:15] So I was fairly familiar with the water and I knew that, fairly protected, there’s no open water that you’re going to hit and all the safety precautions. We got a radio satellite phone and everything. If something did happen, we were set up for pretty much anything that could happen.
Travis Bader: [00:11:31] Now I saw something on, I think it was Tourism BC, they did a video and you were in it.
Robert Bryce: [00:11:38] Yeah.
Travis Bader: [00:11:39] And that was talking about the ghost towns.
Robert Bryce: [00:11:41] Yeah, that’s something that’s kind of unique to this area. And one of my passions definitely is, we’re fortunate here to have five or six different kind of ghost towns, all resource towns. So, you know, BC is really a resource town, we extract resources. So all these ghost towns once provided a resource.
[00:11:55] So there are a lot of them are mining towns. Kitsault, that was a Molybdenum mine shut down in 1982 as a full community there with mall shopping centres, swimming pools, movie, theatres, apartments, everything. We kind of have exclusive access to bring tours and guests in there.
[00:12:11] Another one called Alice Arm, silver mining town, another resource. Another one, half hour away by boat is Anyox, probably one of the most interesting ones was a copper mining town in the early 1900’s that had everything there. You know, had Canada’s largest dam at one time, which is still standing there, big concrete dam, which is in the middle of nowhere, so impressive. And then, Port Essington is a salmon cannery down in the lower Skeena. Dorreen, another mining and agricultural town that we’re actually fairly close to right now. Yeah then there’s some other ones up in the mountain, some other mining towns.
[00:12:42] So all resource based ghost towns that, you know, it’s typical. We go in, we set up shop, extract a resource and when the resource is depleted, we move on and whatever remains, remains in these towns. A few people remain sometimes and but yeah, a lot of these now are totally abandoned or a few people may have taken up a summer home or cottage in these places. So yeah, we’re lucky enough to have that and it’s really surprising the number of people I know that have this passion for ghost towns and history, especially in the province.
Travis Bader: [00:13:11] So this one that was, I guess, became a ghost town in the eighties there you said it’s got movie theatres or a movie theatre and apartments and.
Robert Bryce: [00:13:19] Yeah, it was only open for a year and a half. So the American company came in and built a whole community there. There’s I think 200, no, 100 houses, there’s seven apartment buildings, a swimming pool, library, school. There’s just all kinds of stuff there, there’s a curling rink up there, a pub, a couple of restaurants, post office, a Sears, the Royal Bank.
[00:13:44] Yeah, just everything in this town. And it’s basically a time capsule going back to the eighties that, those of you that are familiar with that, the old harvest gold appliances and that, and you know, all the houses have these big ashtrays in them still. And you know, it is really going back in time and brings back a lot of memories from growing up and seeing these things that, you know, as a kid.
Travis Bader: [00:14:03] So if somebody came on one of your tours, they’d be able to see one of these places or maybe a couple?
Robert Bryce: [00:14:08] Yeah, one, two, three, we’ve done multiple trips where we’ll go to all five, but over two or two or three days, you can see three of them definitely. I just came back from one here a couple of days ago and yeah, we take interested people into these places and they’re all mostly privately owned.
[00:14:24] So it’s, you know, or you need a permit to get into to some of them. So they are challenging to get to. Ocean stuff, a lot of driving and weather, stuff like that and then when you get there, we actually have the option of staying in three of them as well overnight. So we provide accommodations in three of the ghost towns. You actually get to overnight in these places you know.
Travis Bader: [00:14:43] Oh wow.
Robert Bryce: [00:14:43] Sometimes we’re the only people there in these towns and you hear creaking and noises and other stuff, but yeah, it’s quite unique.
Travis Bader: [00:14:51] So, do you research other ghost towns throughout BC, or are you primarily interested in the ones in this area?
Robert Bryce: [00:14:57] Primarily these ones. I do have an interest, some more of the coastal ones, down the coast, Butedale, Ocean Falls, and Namu. There’s actually quite a few ghost towns, even Alaska, you know, just for personal interest up in the panhandle, has a ton of canneries up there that I know and have read a lot about.
[00:15:16] It’d be interesting to go up and visit them. And a lot of them are fairly intact as well. Yeah, especially when you know a little bit of the history about all of them in the stories in that they kind of come to life that way so yeah. It’s but yeah, primarily Northwest BC is what my passion is now, but that being said, if I see a ghost town, when I’m traveling somewhere, I’ll definitely try and get in and visit it.
Travis Bader: [00:15:36] Now I heard about, I think it was a Difenbaker’s Bunkers. Have you heard anything about this one?
Robert Bryce: [00:15:40] No, I’m not familiar with those.
Travis Bader: [00:15:42] I heard there was some military and abandoned military base, and I figured if anyone knew about this sort of stuff, it would be the guy who researches ghost towns.
Robert Bryce: [00:15:51] Yeah. I mean, we have some military stuff here. The mouth of the Skeena River, Prince Rupert, you know, during the war we had, there’s some pill boxes and other stuff at the mouth of the Prince Rupert Harbour that were all armed. We had nets going across the Harbour, you know, thinking the Japanese subs were going to come in and torpedo our, I don’t know what we had there for fishing boats or whatever.
[00:16:10] We had a train that went up and down the Skeena twice a day that was an armourment train with guns sticking out of it and, you know, full of armour. And this thing would make, I think a trip in the middle of the night and one in the day looking for Japanese subs, it entered the mouth of the Skeena or boats coming up.
[00:16:26] So yeah, we ran this military train, which is, a lot of photos and stories about that one going up and down the Skeena. So, you know, we do have a little bit of war history and in that, even in this area as well.
Travis Bader: [00:16:37] That is so cool. And then of course fishing.
Robert Bryce: [00:16:40] Yeah.
Travis Bader: [00:16:40] You take people out fishing?
Robert Bryce: [00:16:42] Yeah, another thing I do. Do some fish guiding on the side, which I love to do, take people out and yeah, hopefully get them into some fish and experience the rivers that we have in this area which are just endless, you know, we have the Skeena the second largest river in the province here and so many tributaries off that.
[00:16:58] And so many access points in Northwest BC here for accessing the ocean and then small tributaries and rivers off that, that are all different in their own way with different species and timing and yeah, with all the different fish that we have. So it really is just a fisherman’s paradise up here for that.
[00:17:14] And we can start fishing well, pretty much year round for steelhead here, but some of the salmon show up in late April and we’ll go into November and in between that period, it’s just one species after another and different timing between all the systems that we have.
Travis Bader: [00:17:29] So, if we go back to jet boarding a little bit, you can access some pretty remote areas with a jet boat.
Robert Bryce: [00:17:34] Oh yeah, they are, I mean the places you can get with a jet boat here, it’s just, it really is endless. And I’m always looking on Google Earth for new places that I can get into with my boats.
[00:17:45] And especially these new inflatables with the small jets that you go to places that are otherwise helicopter accessible only. And even some of those, there’s nowhere to land on some of these small creeks. And it’s really opened up some of the systems here and we’re fortunate enough to have a number of tributaries, especially on the Skeena that have never been logged.
[00:18:04] So logging is also a big thing up here and, but we do have some tributaries where yeah, there is no logging, no industry, nothing up these places they are totally pristine and you can take a jet boat, you know, 30 kilometres up some of them.
[00:18:17] There’s even a couple, I think I went up one this year that was probably in the 80, 90 kilometre range. I went up 65 with this boat and then probably another 30 with a small inflatable after that. It almost from the Skeena Valley over to the Douglas Channel. It’s hard to, if you don’t have a map in front of you, but yeah, it’s just, like I said, the possibilities are endless here with the number of tributaries we have.
[00:18:39] And just, you know, the technology today with these jet boats and the tunnels and how flat they are and plastic and everything that they’re putting into them. And you wait for a little bump of water on some of these, you know, a little bit of rain or pressure, and you can go into spots that you’d otherwise never be able to get into.
Travis Bader: [00:18:55] So talking about the training course and is that something that’s open to only you and BC students? Or can somebody just sign up for that one particular course?
Robert Bryce: [00:19:05] No, it is primarily for people in the community. So, you know, I would say people that are new to jet boating that aren’t that familiar with it, want to get some experience on it, some tips and tricks and that before they get out. Maybe they’re even looking at it, buying a new jet boat.
[00:19:18] And we have usually five or six jet boats there, different sizes, types. They get to see all the different brands and types and sport jets and V8’s, and outboards and all the different pumps and Hamiltons, and you know, it’s American turbine. There’s just so many different options.
[00:19:32] So they’ll actually get a good feel for what’s out there. So that’s probably one audience and then the other is the, kind of that working kind of DFO, BC conservation officers, you know, fisheries, technicians and biologists, they’re a big audience as well.
[00:19:49] So they’ll come out and take that to kind of I guess tick off that Worksafe BC, they need some sort of training and Worksafe nowadays is, if there’s not a course out there, you have to do something. Whether it’s, you know, training your staff internally or taking the next available best course that’s out there.
[00:20:06] So this usually ticks off that box, in combination with more training from someone in the company, they’re not just going to let them loose on a big 50, 60, 100,000 dollar boat. But at least it gets them started. And so that would primarily be our market for that course and yet very popular.
[00:20:21] Like I said, just a wide range of people that have taken that and lots of good things to say about it that, they get out there and kind of get this mindset. And they’re still things today for myself who am out there almost every day it seems.
[00:20:35] Jet boating, I still think of the things that we learned in that course that, I still hold true where to run a boat and going out and checking rivers and levels and walking them prior to going out there and running it with your boat. Like just, especially if I have guests on board that like, Oh yeah and that in the course, we do this, we do this, we do this and, it all comes back to you.
Travis Bader: [00:20:58] So when I’m out in the ocean, we’ve got Navionics and Bathymetry that’ll show us a pretty good idea of what the ocean floor looks like.
Robert Bryce: [00:21:07] Yeah.
Travis Bader: [00:21:07] But with the river is changing so often. Do they have any sort of thing like that, or is all just local knowledge and running the rivers slowly at first and getting used to it.
Robert Bryce: [00:21:17] Yeah, I think it’s more that, there really isn’t anything out there. One of the best things is going with someone first who’s run the river and making a lot of mental notes there. There is Google Earth and Bing Maps, there’s a few on some of these tidal rivers that do show the gravel bars and that if they’re tidal.
[00:21:32] That’ll give you a good idea, especially if you’re going to run some of these coastal rivers that are very tidal, you try and go in at low tide, some of them fan right out and there’s one slot in there to get up in a boat at low tide, which I get anxious even running a jet boat at low tide up some of these tributaries that flow into the ocean so.
[00:21:50] But, yeah, there’s really not much out there, just talking to people. We have some local rivers here that, you talk to enough people, there’s a cascade here, a little fall here, a slot here, there’s some rocks here, watch out for that.
[00:22:02] Talk to them and then try and maybe piggyback with someone else. And that’s what I try and do is ask a lot of questions or I go up and very cautious. I get out and I walk a section, okay, I can get through there. I don’t just run it and hope for the best.
Travis Bader: [00:22:15] Right.
Robert Bryce: [00:22:15] You know, I value my boat and everything, and the people on the boat as well. So for us, like I said, we don’t just run things without knowing. We’d rather talk to people or we, common sense, the rivers very high and almost in flood stage and there’s not a lot of debris, we know we can get through a lot of this stuff.
[00:22:32] But here we’re on the Skeena river, it’s actually a little dirty right now. So you can’t see bottom, you’re kind of going visually, you know what a little pillow looks like behind a rock or a boulder and what a shallow riffle looks like.
[00:22:44] But every once in a while stuff does catch up on you and I always tell people, we do our best, but those things do happen eventually. You will hit a rock eventually in your life or nudge something or. You’re out in the river enough, it’s just, you know, it’s inevitable or you get there close calls where you’re, ooh, I just missed that one or, oh what about that one.
[00:23:03] You know that was a close call and eventually you hit that stump that is under the water that doesn’t have any, you know, it doesn’t send any message to you that there’s something there. It’s dead calm and it’s six inches below the water.
Travis Bader: [00:23:16] Ooo.
Robert Bryce: [00:23:16] Or four inches and there’s really nothing you can do sometimes. Unless you want to idle up a river, but that’s not feasible most times. So yeah, I mean stuff does happen, but you just kinda try and minimize those as much as you can.
Travis Bader: [00:23:29] When you’re not jet boating and giving tours, what are you doing?
Robert Bryce: [00:23:33] I’m out fishing lots. I don’t know, I’m trying to think what, that seems to take up most of my time to be honest. I like to explore though, and I like to read. Love to find new books on history, culture, environment of this area and any material that’s come out there, I love picking up on that stuff and reading about it. And people are always telling me about someone else’s writing a new book about this area and hearing those stories from the past.
[00:24:00] So, which probably wasn’t, I wasn’t really interested in that maybe 20 years ago, but these days, yeah I just can’t wait to get myself into a good book on some history of the local area. So I would say that yeah, to be honest, I don’t have a lot of, it seems a lot of that, our hobbies right now, other than being on the boat.
[00:24:16] And when they do get a spare day, when I’m not out doing a tour for someone or, doing some fish guiding, I’m either out fishing or seeing wildlife, watching bears or trying to find some wolves or something. So, if I get stir crazy after a couple of days and need to be going out and I have a little bucket list of rivers on my list that I want to go up and try out.
[00:24:37] And especially with the little inflatable jet boat and get up there as far as I can and see what they, you know, what the system looks like and just tick them off one by one. And so I would say that’s what I do with any of my free time is just out in the river, on my own.
Travis Bader: [00:24:49] Have you ever had any issues on the river?
Robert Bryce: [00:24:51] Yeah. Yeah, I had, well, I’ve got lots of stories. When I first started jet boating, you get out there, I don’t know, 10, 15 years ago and not understanding tides is always one of the biggest.
Travis Bader: [00:25:04] Ooo, yeah.
Robert Bryce: [00:25:04] Yeah, going up, one story was a tidal tributary of the Skeena. I went up with some friends and we didn’t realize how far the tide went up this tributary. And we packed up all our gear and went up there to go camp on this, found a gravel bar up I don’t know, a couple of kilometres up and got up in the middle of the night to go to the bathroom and it looked like in the dark than my boat was up on the gravel bar, which I thought that’s strange.
[00:25:24] And then I hop back into bed and we were all in big tent with air beds. We woke up in the morning and the thing was full of three or four inches of water. The tide had come up right into our tent and had pushed the boat right up onto the gravel bar.
Travis Bader: [00:25:37] Oh man.
Robert Bryce: [00:25:37] We had no idea that, now I would laugh by her to someone else, you know, telling that story, why didn’t they look and see where the tide line was? Where’s the debris pushed up to and there’s all kinds of indicators.
Travis Bader: [00:25:48] Yeah good point.
Robert Bryce: [00:25:48] Looking at the tables and things that you can see where the highest tide has actually been. But I was young and, younger and naive and really not aware of, I haven’t had any incidence’s where we’ve been hurt or stranded, but like lots of stories where I’ve spent five or six hours out there because of the tides or.
[00:26:09] Yeah, my first boat, you probably didn’t want to see what the bottom looked to that it was pretty beat up with hitting lots of rocks and boulders and that. And I was just telling you the story, how pretty much the first rock I’ve hit in this and 18 months, even tweaked was out on the ocean, a little sunken reef there that kind of caught me off guard while we were watching a bear on shore so that was yeah now I’m.
Travis Bader: [00:26:34] Good reminder.
Robert Bryce: [00:26:35] Yeah a lot smarter, but I realized that I still gotta be on my toes and, I still get even jet boating, I still get anxious and nervous going up systems all the time. I go up from for the first time or low tide, or I think that’s good to be cautious.
[00:26:50] And I’m always, I see people, I know that we call them weekend warriors that get out, maybe with their jet boat a few times a year and you see them go up these systems and I’m always amazed that they go up there. And then without very little training or knowledge of the rivers and but then you do hear the stories, oh, so and so sunk his boat, put a hole in it, and you hear those stories all the time that someone had to go rescue someone.
[00:27:13] And so I’m just thankful that’s not me and that and all my stuff is, professional development I call it, if I’m out by myself, I’m learning rivers, learning about the river and always staying current. And yeah, so that’s my professional development for my business.
Travis Bader: [00:27:29] Well, many years ago I was into the rivers and I really loved rafting and it would go down and just cheap, old Canadian Tire rafts. And then I got a world war II inflatable from a gun show, and I started running that down like the Elaho and the Thompson and the Nahatlatch. And then finally got a proper commercial whitewater raft, which I still got sitting upstairs at the office.
Robert Bryce: [00:27:51] Yeah.
Travis Bader: [00:27:52] And one thing that I learned kind of coming into it, at first, you look at some really gnarly looking water only to find later on that it’s actually pretty safe, you just kind of bob over top. And then you can see some water that looks otherwise, to the untrained eye, pretty safe to find that it’s something that could be pretty dangerous.
Robert Bryce: [00:28:14] Yeah.
Travis Bader: [00:28:15] Are there similarities to that in the jet boating? Like, are there things that when you’re starting out, you’d think, ah it’s fine, let’s run it, only with a bit more experience to say, uh uh.
Robert Bryce: [00:28:24] Yeah, I would say there’s things like that. I mean, one of the things that I always find is when the water is shallow and I come up in this boat, which is a big boat and I look at the gravel size, it’s relatively small, your intuition is maybe to slow down a bit, but it’s not, you have to put that throttle down and speed up.
[00:28:42] And you can just feel it as you put that throttle down, you think what, you’re getting into shallow water, you’re going to go even faster, you know, with rocks and stuff, but that’s what you have to do. You can feel the back-end rise up a few inches and you’ll put it up to maybe 50 kilometres an hour, even more, just to get over those shallow ripples and then pull it right back again.
[00:29:00] And so I’ve learned that, that that’s one of the things that maybe not intuitive, but that and then speed. The guy who taught me how to jet boat was, especially going down rivers is, speeds your enemy. And I still remember that you get in this false sense of security. You’re cruising down 50 kilometres an hour, when you can be going down just barely on step at 35 kilometres an hour, stuff comes at you so fast.
[00:29:23] So fast down the river and if you’re not familiar with that river, I keep catching myself. Oh, look on I’m going 50K an hour, slower down a bit stuff comes at you really fast and you can’t react fast enough. And the guy who bought my first jet boat, a friend of mine, he probably, if he heard this podcast he’d probably hate me for saying this.
[00:29:43] But yeah, we went up a river that was fairly high and relatively easy to run and I think he put us in the rhubarb and gravel bar three or four times on the way down and beaten and put in a few more dents in the bottom of that boat. And I was basically yelling at him, slow down, sacrifice an inch or two of flotation in the water for some control and.
Travis Bader: [00:30:04] Yes.
Robert Bryce: [00:30:04] Yeah, he would come around these corners at mach one, and basically trying to pull the throttle back on him so he had some control and he just couldn’t make the corners up on the gravel bar. Into the brush, into the tree, every one of them was cause speed.
[00:30:16] And I think that’s something that new people, you know, they get that 50K an hour, the throttles down and up river it’s not as bad, but going down river on technical rivers, you have to go down and under control. And with an inflatable, it barely drafts anything, I’ll go down idling down these things, which is barely enough control because you can’t make some of the corners.
Travis Bader: [00:30:36] Right.
Robert Bryce: [00:30:36] Nuggets that’ll pinch your inflatable, will pop it, sticks, logs, you don’t draft almost nothing, less in an inflatable so come down with control and get down there. Maybe you’ll bounce into something, even your boat, if you’re down under control, maybe you’ll bounce into something, but more than likely you’ll have control to make those corners.
[00:30:53] So I always say, yeah speed is your enemy, is kind of ingrained into me when I’m going down river on a new system. Maybe not on the Skeena here where it’s fairly forgiving and that, we don’t have the big tight turns and logs and big nuggets everywhere. But you know, any of our smaller systems, there’s some, like I said, so many things I remember from the guy who taught me.
[00:31:16] And the first thing he ever taught me was look at your bow line, and he took my bow line which was really long. I thought, well yeah I want to have the second tie off on trees, on shore and whatever. And he took that thing and he ran it down the bottom of my boat and it went right to the very end of my boat.
Travis Bader: [00:31:30] Oooo.
Robert Bryce: [00:31:30] And I go, what’s the big deal with that? And he says, this will inevitably flop out the front of your boat, you’re going to hit a wave or something, and it’s going to go right down the middle, right into your impeller, you’re going to suck it up and you’re going to be stranded.
Travis Bader: [00:31:42] Not having a good day.
Robert Bryce: [00:31:43] Yeah. So we cut that off and shortened it. So it was a few feet shorter than the intake on my boat and just stuff like that for new people that maybe not. But that was the first thing.
Travis Bader: [00:31:53] Totally.
Robert Bryce: [00:31:54] He did was take my rope, my bow rope and shorten it up. And whoever owned the boat before me, he obviously had this big long bow rope cause it was still on there and I just thought nothing off it. That, oh yeah, it’s nice having a big long rope that I can tie off and whatever. But yeah, lots of, most people would know stuff like that, but maybe not if they’re brand new.
Travis Bader: [00:32:12] Yeah, totally. Well, is there anything else we should be talking about?
Robert Bryce: [00:32:16] I don’t know, this is, it’s just like I said, it’s nice to meet you and be out here with you on the river and learn a lot about you. And I know you were talking about maybe, you know, being out here. A jet boat might be in your future and you’d probably be a good candidate for one.
[00:32:27] You’re into safety, which is always a good thing. And it sounds like you’ve rafted a lot of rivers, you know rivers and that’s probably one of the main things jet boating is reading the river. You know where the current is, where the pillows, the rapids and that kind of stuff, where the deeper water is, the V’s and everything else.
[00:32:43] So that’s sometimes half the battle with jet boating is being able to read the water and the river. And if you can figure that out then, yeah, you got ‘er made and yeah.
Travis Bader: [00:32:51] Well, Rob, thank you very much for taking the time. I really enjoyed speaking with you.
Robert Bryce: [00:32:55] Thanks for having me.
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