One Painting, One Story: The Pilotage, Brotchie Ledge & Beacon Hill

by Suzanne Heron.


One response to my question, “Where do you go around here to recharge your batteries?” was from a woman who looked off into the distance and said, “The Pilotage. My dad was a pilot, so I go and sit on one of the park benches and just sort of be with him.”

The pilot boats come and go from the Outer Wharf, behind the breakwater at Ogden Point. They are designed especially for efficiently transporting Coast Pilots to and from the vessels they are guiding – the cruise ships and freighters that visit us regularly. I saw 10 ships listed for today. The skippers maneuver their vessel beside the visitor, and the Pilot leaps from ship to ship – while the ships are still moving!

The most common meeting point is at Brotchie Ledge, a submerged reef that has claimed numerous ships over the years. It’s been guarded by some sort of beacon since 1843 – since everything and everyone arrived by ship in those days. It was named, inevitably, after the captain who ran his ship aground there in 1849. This despite the two large masts erected on the nearest hill that told a captain that if he was lined up with them, he had best beware the ledge. The hill became known as Beacon Hill. The current beacon, 9 metres tall topped with a green band, can be seen from the Dallas Road path. In addition to being a warning to boats and a meeting place for ships and pilots, Brotchie Ledge is a hotspot for fishing and diving (those old wrecks!)

I also love to sit at the Pilotage and watch the busy boats. It’s a great spot to admire the Unity Wall Mural, a magnificent series of paintings honouring the traditions and history of the Salish Nations. And perhaps to be with your dad.