Map of my neighbourhood, 1790

1790 Plano del Estrecho de Fuca small

Detail of Plano del Estrecho de Fuca reconocido por el Alferez de Navio de la R[ea]l Armada D[o]n Manuel Quimper : en la Espedición que hizo con la Balandra de S[u] M[ajestad] de su mando no[m]brada la Princesa R[ea]l en el año de 1790
(Map of Fuca Strait recognized by Second Lieutenant of the Royal Navy Don Manuel Quimper on the Expedition under his Command that His Majesty’s Sloop the famous Princesa Real made in the year 1790)

Courtesy Washington State University Libraries Digital Collections. “Removed from Papers relating to the foreign relations of the United States … December 2, 1872, part II. Washington: G.P.O., 1872 …” Original map by Gonzalo Lopez de Haro, 1790.

My geographic home range is between P[uer]to de Cordova — Esquimalt Harbour on the map following (for which thanks to Google Earth; the labelling is mine) — and P[un]ta de S[an] Gonzalo (Gonzales Point on the map).

In 1790 Manuel Quimper led an exploration party here for the Spanish Crown. They ventured southeast from Nootka Sound in a confiscated English sea otter trading vessel, James Colnett’s Princess Royal. They were not quite the first Europeans to explore the Strait of Juan de Fuca. Gonzales Point was as far as they ventured before crossing the strait to the Olympic Peninsula. The Spanish left some names behind. Punta de San Gonzalo and Canal de Lopez de Haro (Haro Strait) were both likely named for Gonzalo Lopez de Haro, the pilot-cum-map-maker of 1790.

Gonzales Point (bottom right) and the Victoria Golf Club, courtesy Google Earth

The 9th tee at the Oak Bay golf links (aka Victoria Golf Club) is situated at Gonzales Point. I first got to know it as a caddy at the golf course circa 1963. I played there age 13 to 18, when on holidays from boarding school, and soon came to take Mark Twain’s view that golf is a good walk spoiled. Made visits home — very near the links — from Toronto, from Vancouver, from Lillooet. After moving back to Oak Bay with my wife Paula in 1978, I made Gonzales Point the destination of numberless walks in the golfers’ off-hours. In the 1990s it became a place we passed in rowing/kayaking expeditions.

The actual Gonzales Point is a shelf of rock that is exposed in a medium tide. It is a place of elemental power. Those old rocks are damn difficult to traverse. Yet there’s a pathlike declivity near the 9th tee where the rocks flatten to an evenness I could negotiate in the blackest night. I have at dawn on a summer morning made my way down the pathway of rock to find a fisherman standing on the shelf, casting far into the streaming current.

Gonzales PtGonzales Point, Vancouver Island, from my rowboat.

In 2013, after thirty-five years living near here in Oak Bay, we moved to Victoria West. The night before we left I walked to Gonzales Point to say my good-byes. It was a dark night in late September. Distinctly I heard breathing, walked over to the little cliff overlooking the shore just west of the point, and there they were, a number of orca whales approaching the point, close to shore, diving, unified, seeming purposeful — feeding? — rising to exhale, making the surrounding water glint and glitter. In many hundreds of visits I have seen orcas in these waters maybe three times, always way far out in the strait. I saluted the passing lords of nature.