Peter Gordon came to Victoria in 1977 after a self-described California divorce, leaving a successful career in the film industry behind in search of new horizons.
“I had $10,000 and a new car, and not much else, but I wanted to try something new …something I’d love to do,” said Gordon. “I found it in Victoria.”
He took his money and purchased a 50-foot cruiser, which he converted to a charter boat, and Magna Charters was born.
Gordon had no idea how to manage a boat that size and was totally unfamiliar with the waters around Victoria so, as part of the purchase deal for the boat, the old owner had to agree to spend a month showing Gordon the ropes.
“I had no idea, but I was a fast learner,” chuckled Gordon.
“I loved the boat and I loved meeting new people, so the business seemed to be a perfect fit. Before I knew it, I was the skipper of a charter business.”
He named the boat, Kahlua as Kahlua and coffee was a staple on board. Then, with the help of his two children, Ian and Anna as deckhands, he was open for business.
His memoir, entitled Stalking Salmon and Wrestling Drunks has now been released and is an account of his charmed B.C. life as a charter captain. The book is a story of a joyful lifestyle, set against the spectacular backdrop of the Olympic Mountains and the sea and sky that made up Gordon’s existence for the next 11 years.
But it’s primarily a story about the people Gordon met during his decade at sea.
“Of course, some were real asses, but mostly they were this amazing collection of people from all over the world,” explained Gordon. “Mostly, it was great fun.”
Still, not all the adventures on the Kahlua were fun.
“We had this one charter…a family outing…and I saw the guest of honour. She’d removed her glasses and was walking up toward the bow and I wondered what she was up to, so I followed her,” recalled Gordon.
And it was a good thing he did, as it turned out the elderly woman had decided to commit suicide. Gordon learned later she was on medication and had prior psychological problems. He also learned how her medications didn’t react well with alcohol and that offering her a beer had probably been a very bad idea.
“She jumped in but her blouse captured some air and bubbled up around her, keeping her afloat. My partner and I managed to get a rope around her and get her back aboard,” said Gordon.
That task was made slightly harder as the woman’s grandson decided to “be a hero” and jump in after his grandmother. It turned out he wasn’t much of a swimmer and the young man’s heroics necessitated a second rescue to be preformed.
“It you look at the cover of the book, there’s a cartoon image of grandma making the jump. It’s funny now, but at the time, it really wasn’t,” said Gordon.
On another occasion the Kahlua played host to royalty as Prince Andrew chartered the boat for a tour.
“We didn’t realize how thoroughly the boat had to be vetted,” recalled Gordon, adding that he hadn’t been allowed to leave the boat for over a day after that vetting to ensure security. “If I left, they’d have to start all over, including sending divers under the hull to look for explosives.”
Stalking Salmon and Wrestling Drunks is described as a book of humour, pathos, and sincerity. His book transports the reader to 1978, giving a glimpse of Victoria and its visitors at that time. It also serves as a reminder of the full range of people who come to visit the Island; each with their own story.
“Whenever I look back at this moment in my life, it crosses my mind that those were the good old days,” said Gordon.
“It was a good life, and I’m glad to have the chance to share a bit of it with my readers.”