At age nineteen, Pat Ardley packed up her belongings and left Winnipeg for Vancouver, looking for adventure. Little did she know that she’d spend the next forty years in the wilderness, thirty of which would be spent with a man known as George “Hurricane” Ardley. Pat met George soon after arriving in Vancouver, and not long after that the two of them set out for Addenbroke Island to work as junior lighthouse keepers. The journey up to the little island in the Fitz Hugh Sound, 483 km north of Vancouver, took four rolling days by Coast Guard ship―and a huge leap in lifestyle. There, the couple fell in love with the wilderness lifestyle and each other. They learned to grow their own produce, keep chickens, can clams and salmon, build their own furniture, and in the evenings they read aloud to each other for entertainment. But, of course, it wasn’t always easy. Pat’s fear of the ocean made for a constant struggle in her marine environment, and being the partner of an adrenalin junky (he didn’t earn the nickname “Hurricane” for nothing!) sometimes made for a wild ride.
Soon Pat and George were starting their own remote fishing lodge in Rivers Inlet, not so far from where the adventure began on Addenbroke Island. Financed by their wilderness odd jobs, the lodge came together slowly but surely through the couple’s hard work. George proudly added a nursery to the float lodge when their family grew, and they made sure the little ones knew not to step out the door without wearing a life jacket.
Life was full of both challenges and rewards, and dealt plenty of disasters and close calls (including grizzly encounters) but the lodge business supported the family and gained a steady clientele who were enticed back year after year by the warm welcome, beautiful setting and plentiful salmon, giant halibut and lingcod.
After running the lodge together for twenty-seven years, George passed away from cancer. Despite all the advice she received to the contrary, Pat decided to run the business on her own with the assistance of her two children.
Through resolve and strength in adversity, Pat outgrew the shadow of Hurricane Ardley and earned an intimidating nickname of her own: Don’t-Mess-with-Me Ardley. Reminiscent of British Columbia classics like Fishing with John, I Heard the Owl Call My Name and the evocative wilderness writings of Chris Czajkowski, this memoir is a touching tribute to coastal life.