Captain Ron

five_kingsfirst_fivekingsThe Kings are one of the few truly local families. Like his parents John and Patricia, Ron was born and raised in Victoria. His father Captain John King was a life-long commercial fisherman who trolled for salmon onthe Pacific west coast. John built 2 salmon troll boats: the 36 foot Five Kings and the first steel vessel on this coast named Five Kings II.


Born into a fishing family, Ron was introduced to the maritime lifestyle before he could walk. He developed a passion for boating at an early age. He built a 10 foot sailboat from scratch in the family’s car port when he was 7 years old. His father only showed him what to do and, with his guidance, Ron laminated a mast and built a solid boat. The boat was kept at a beach 2 blocks from his View Royal home so after school Ron could be found sailing or rowing around Esquimalt Harbour.

Anxious to join his father at sea, John King’s rule was that Ron could come once he was old enough to know how to hold on and not fall overboard. That time came when Ron was 11 years old. He joined his father’s crew and began doing a man’s job before he became a teenager. He knew right away that he’d spend his life on the high seas. His love affair with the Pacific West Coast had begun.


14foot_boatThe wages he earned that year were used to purchase a 12 foot wooden power boat with an 18 horse Johnson outboard and a trailer for $125.00. He was driving his first power boat between Victoria to Esquimalt Harbours before he was 13!

Ron spent the next few summers fishing with his father and saved enough money to buy a 16 foot fibreglass boat called an Islander. This boat had a 70 hp Mercury engine so he could now fish, water ski and venture further out to sea.


When Ron was 15 he decided that he wanted to drive and re-build an early 1900 to 1930s car. He found a 1934 Ford 4-door sedan in a farmer’s field and immediately began re-building it as a hot rod. He restored the car to it’s former glory, equipped it with a 283 Chevy 3 speed and started driving it the minute he turned 16. He still owns and loves this car!


By this time Ron was the only deck-hand needed on his dad’s salmon troller. Together they fished the high seas off the Oregon coast to the top end of Vancouver Island. At the end of August the Japanese Current pushes warm water 50 to 100 miles off the west coast. This event lures albacore tuna into these waters. Ron caught “tuna fever” and persuaded his dad to go tuna fishing.


ron_fishingTuna is a totally different fishery compared to salmon trolling. They used downriggers for salmon and had 10 to 20 lures per line with 8 lines in the water. Trolling speed was about 2 knots. Tuna fishing, in comparison, was an adrenalin rush! Getting into a bite, they ran 12 lines on top of the water and travelled at 6 knots. Tuna fish can hit those lines at around 30 knots! A “good bite” would see the guys pulling in 200 fish an hour, each fish weighing between 15 to 40 lbs. Sometimes they could fill the boat in only a few days and the money made the hard work worth it.


5_kingIn 1975 they were about 150 miles off shore tuna fishing. Without the benefit of modern technology, fisherman could only listen to local weather forecasts and make their own calls. Although rare in these waters, they were slammed by a 110 knot hurricane. There were many San Diego-built tuna boats out on the water when the storm hit. These boats were not built for the north coast because they were too top-heavy for our sea conditions. During the storm 2 of these boats followed in the wake of the Five Kings II because she was the better boat for the conditions. That night the American captains contacted John on the radio. They wondered if John could turn around and pick them out of the hellish waters if their boats rolled over. Unfortunately a turn around would have sunk the Five Kings II so the Americans could only follow the boat throughout the night.

The 2 boats that followed the Five Kings II made it through the night but many were not so lucky. 6 boats and 40 men were lost in the storm. John’s best friend Jimmy Blythe and his son saved 7 crew members from a capsized US tuna boat. Many years later Jimmy and Don Blythe received a Medal of Honour from the Canadian government for their heroic actions that night. It was a “perfect” storm on the Pacific Ocean and one that John and Ron King will never forget. According to Ron, it was the only time he’s ever seen his father frightened.


In 1979 Ron and John focused on the herring fishery. Herring was abundant and top dollar was paid for the herring roe. The wages from the herring fishery enabled Ron to purchase his first commercial fishing vessel. He was now captain of the 36 foot boat named Aquarius.


The Aquarius was a Japanese-built boat that needed refitting to Ron’s standards. After his first season Ron replaced the old gas engine with a 6-cylindar Ford diesel, redesigned and rebuilt a taller wheel house to accommodate his height as well as insulating and fibre glassing the fish hold.


Ron owned and operated the Aquarius for 16 years. He trolled for salmon on the west coast of Vancouver Island from Uculet to Prince Rupert. In addition to salmon trolling, Ron used the Aquarius to gill net salmon, long line cod, and trap Dungeness crab and prawns. Sometimes Ron and his dad would charter a halibut boat named JuJuwhen the season opened. In those days halibut was a derby style fishery so the guys would often work 7 days straight with very little sleep.

In 1993 Ron and a deckhand were bringing the Aquarius back to Victoria after a summer of fishing. They were travelling down the inside of Vancouver Island in waters called the Johnson Strait. Night was falling and there was only a 1 foot chop so Ron allowed his deckhand to take the wheel. Suddenly the boat hit a huge log. Rolling down the log, the boat was spun in a circle before powering over on its side. She began to capsize almost immediately so their only option for survival was the 4-man life raft. Battling hypothermia, Ron and his deckhand were in frigid waters for almost 30 minutes before inflating the raft. They spent a wet, cold, miserable night bobbing in the raft before being rescued by a logging crew boat the next morning. Luckily the crew boat had seen the up-turned hull of the Aquarius and had been watching for survivors.

The next day Ron salvaged the Aquarius by towing it into Kelsey Bay. The boat was then trucked down island to Victoria where Ron spent the winter rebuilding and repowering it. Given a new life, the Aquarius was re-launched and sold in 1994.


seakin_giftshopThe stars aligned when Ron met his best friend and soul mate Holly Hansen on Thanksgiving Day 1993. Introduced by mutual commercial fishing friends, it was marriage at first sight! Since that first meeting 20 years ago, the couple has spent fewer than a handful of days apart. Holly, true to her Norwegian heritage, was also hard-wired for a nautical lifestyle. Their first date was spent gill-netting for salmon off Nitnat on Vancouver Island’s west coast. As fortune would have it, Holly was just finishing the Office Administration course at Camosun College. Ron now had the shore and office support he needed and the couple created SeaKing Adventures in 1995.


The decline of the salmon stocks and other limited fisheries had convinced Ron that it was time to try something new. In order to make a living on the waters he loved, he’d decided to start a charter boat company. They started with a 42 foot Canoe Cove boat named the Sea Kiss and spent lots of time and money re-fitting it for whale watching, fishing, diving and cruising charters. Ron needed a Masters Ticket to drive a passenger vessel and received his 40 ton certificate in 1995. Sea Kiss was the only Coast Guard passenger certified boat in Victoria and took 25 people per tour. At the time there were also only 6 other whale watching boats in the harbour so the demand for whale watching far out-weighed requests for fishing, cruising or diving. Unfortunately the 17 knot boat was not fast or manoeuvrable enough for whale watching so another boat was bought in 1996.


whale-watching-boat01They bought the 24 foot Four Winns bow rider Sea King in 1996. Capable of carrying 12 passengers and achieving speeds of 40+ knots, it was (and still is!) the perfect whale watching boat. SeaKing Adventures operated out of the current day Harbour Air seaplane dock from 1996 to 2000. Weary of the noise and fumes, they moved “back home” to Fisherman’s Wharf in the spring of 2000. In 2001 Ron demolished the old fish processing plant in Sooke and used the reclaimed materials to build SeaKing’s floating office/gift shop “Treasure Chest”.


In 1997 and 1998 Ron and Holly suspended shore operations in response to the gray whale hunt in Washington State. Situated on the tip of the Olympic Peninsula, the Makah First Nation were given permission to slaughter 5 gray whales each year for a total of 40 whales. Ron and Holly became founding members of the West Coast Anti-Whaling Society and joined the protest at Neah Bay. Although a young female whale was killed in May 1998, the hunt was eventually shut down in court.


There were only 3 businesses at Fisherman’s Wharf in the early 2000’s: Barb’s Fish & Chips, the Fish Store and SeaKing Adventures. Timmy was selling crab from his boat Hi Gear on the week-ends. The dock was mainly used by commercial fishing vessels and houseboats or liveaboards. Commercial and residential development began in earnest when the facility was transferred from the Federal Government to the Greater Victoria Harbour Authority.


Concerned by the health and decline of wild salmon stocks, Ron and Holly joined Alexandra Morton’s Salmon Are Sacred movement in 2010. Our goal is raising public awareness about salmon viruses and spurring the government into action before the stocks are decimated by disease and mismanagement. In October 2011 Ron and Holly joined the Migration protest from Victoria to Vancouver. Salmon are the back bone of the west coast eco-system: humans, bears, orcas, birds and countless other species will face disaster if the wild stocks fail. Learn more …..


During the winter months Ron often joined his dad to fish and prawn on board his father’s converted commercial fish boat Miss KC. They’d go out with a couple of friends and set prawn and crab traps. While the pots were soaking, they’d pull out some rods and fish for salmon and halibut. The boys would often come home with hundreds of dollars of fresh sea food after spending an amazing day on the water. Everyone who came out loved it and couldn’t wait to go again. The problem was that the Miss KC could only accommodate enough gear for 4 fisherman so space was limited. This became the inspiration for Club Seaking and Seaking Adventurer. Why not, Ron reasoned, find a boat large enough to accommodate more fisherman and make the adventure available to the public?

The first hurdle was finding the right boat. The “right” boat would need enough deck space for 90 traps as well as hydraulic pot pullers. The cabin needed to accommodate 16 passengers. Above all, the “right” boat would have to meet strict Coast Guard standards in order to be certified as a CSI passenger vessel.

Ron looked at several boats over the years but couldn’t find what he needed. In late 2009 the “right” boat arrived at Fisherman’s Wharf. Walking along the main finger one evening, Ron saw a 42′ commercial shrimp boat chained to the dock with a court order to sell. Best described as a diamond in the rough, it had been sorely neglected and stripped of equipment before going into foreclosure. Initial inquiries revealed that the investors were still hopeful of regaining some of their losses. Ron thought they wanted too much money for a basically derelict vessel but he kept his eye on it nonetheless. Time passed and when no one else expressed interest in the boat, Ron was able to strike a deal in November 2010.


adventurer02adventurer01Purchasing the boat was just the beginning of the project. The boat shed on the King’s property had to be enlarged to accommodate it. The boat wasn’t in running order and had to be trucked to the property by Jenkins Marine. Years of growth on the hull had to be dealt with before any work could start. The 8/71 Detroit Diesel engine was removed and replaced with a 12/71. The cabin was demolished and redesigned for passenger comfort. Everything – electronics, wiring, plumbing and refitting – had to be engineered and installed. Because of the massive refit and renovation, Coast Guard classified the SeaKing Adventurer as a new build.

The build took 4 winters to complete because Ron was working on his whale watching boat between April to October. Ron and his dad worked tirelessly every winter to get the boat ready. In 2014 Ron and his SeaKing Adventurer were finally ready for new journeys and adventures.


PHOTO FILE SEAKING ADVENTURER

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Captain Ron King – ‘The King of Whales’

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