MAXIMCHUK, Yvonne Caroline

Author Tags: Fishing

Born in Bralorne, B.C. on November 17, 1952, Yvonne Maximchuk was raised in B.C.

As a single mother of two in White Rock, B.C., Maximchuk fell in love with a prawn fisherman who fished at Boundary Bay. She and her children moved with him to Echo Bay where there was no running water, electricity had to be generated and the closest grocery store was two hours away by boat. She cleared land and helped build a homestead off the grid with her husband Albert Munro, befriending Billy Proctor and gaining access to his trove of stories. She spent ten years working with Bill Proctor on the manuscript to her first book Full Moon, Flood Tide. She was a deckhand for Bill Procter for eight years, and worked as a salmon and ling cod fisher.

Yvonne Maximchuk has been a painter and potter for thirty years, and she has built an art retreat on her seaside property at Echo Bay. "Contrary to popular opinion," she says, "I believe that learning to colour inside the lines adds to a person's creative freedom rather than detracting from it." Consequently she has published a colouring book for adults, Colour the British Columbia Coast (Harbour 2016), complete with artist's tips.


AWARDS: Nominated Bill Duthie's Booksellers Choice Award

Reviews of the author's work by BC Studies:
Drawn to Sea: Paintbrush to Chainsaw: Carving out a life on BC’s Rugged Raincoast


Full Moon, Flood Tide (Harbour Publishing, 2003). With Bill Proctor

Drawn to Sea: Paintbrush to Chainsaw — Carving Out a Life on BC’s Rugged Raincoast (Caitlin 2013) $24.95 978-1-927575-03-1

Tide Rips and Back Eddies - Bill Proctor's Tales of Blackfish Sound (Harbour $24.95). 978-1-55017-725-1 With Bill Proctor

Colour the British Columbia Coast (Harbour 2016). $19.95 978-1-55017-773-2

[BCBW 2016] "Fishing"

Drawn to Sea
Review (2013)

from BCBW Jeanie Keogh
Yvonne Maximuk’s memoir describes rowing to school, jelly fish stings, a wrinkled wedding dress and the many hazards of living off the grid at Echo Bay

by Jeanie Keogh

As a single mother of two, living as a painter and potter in White Rock, Yvonne Maximchuk wasn’t expecting to fall in love with Albert Munro, a crab fisherman who was fishing the waters of Boundary Bay. But off she went with her kids to live with Albert, off the grid, in Echo Bay, an outpost of sympathetic do-it-yourselfers in the Broughton Archipelago, where she soon met Billy Proctor, a BC coastal icon and fisherman.

Intrigued by Proctor’s life on the sea, Maximchuk asked to join him as he fished for chinook and sockeye, ling cod and tuna. Eight seasons later, she was able to share authorship with him for her first book, Full Moon, Flood Tide (Harbour 2003), shortlisted for the Bill Duthie’s Booksellers Choice Award.

Now Yvonne Maximchuk’s Echo Bay follow-up memoir, Drawn to Sea: Paintbrush to Chainsaw: Carving Out a Life on BC’s Rugged Raincoast describes living on a boat with Albert, a crab fisherman and her lover of eight years, as well as her adventures with marine biologist and anti-fish farming activist Alexandra Morton, for whom she collected sea lion fecal samples.

She also describes further salmon fishing adventures with Proctor in Haida Gwaii and her artists’ dates with Kayak Bill, an eccentric painter who earned his nickname from living out of his kayak year-round. Day-in-the-life anecdotes round out the story—rowing her children to the one-room schoolhouse, teaching Billy Proctor how to write while at sea, and waking up to find otters sunning themselves on the front deck of her home.

As the title suggests, Maximchuk learned to divide her time between using a chainsaw to clear land to build a house and using a paintbrush to capture her surroundings. Along the way we learn that float house residents put their house on land or onto a float by “yarding” them, how to navigate through fishing boat traffic jams, how to pack salmon on ice and cure jellyfish stings, and where to find the best inlets and coves to shore up for a leisurely lunch break.

Maximchuk shares secret tricks and superstitions of the fishing trade and describes how "bushed" neighbours call one another over VHF radio, but Drawn To Sea is largely about the zany absurdity of being emotionally rooted to a challenging life on water. Maximchuk "battens down the hatches" in a fierce storm in her flannel nightie and gumboots; wears a wrinkled wedding dress on her wedding day because the generator stops working and it can’t be ironed.

Humility is manifest in the painstaking, 20-year process of building a permanent settlement, coming home empty-handed after a failed fishing expedition or falling ill at sea and having to be taken to hospital, as well as losing two friends to a plane crash in dense fog.

Maximchuk also describes depleting fish stocks, the birth of fish farms, dwindling local populations due to job losses and a subsequent lack of people to man the volunteer-run salmon hatchery—obviated by the pleasures of canning parties, Halloween trick-or-treating by troller, all-you-can-eat crab Christmas dinners and the all-important dependence on one’s neighbours.

Maximchuk and her husband Albert have since built their own home and art retreat on the shore of Gilford Island, located due east of Port McNeil on Vancouver Island. Guests can fly from Port McNeil and stay at their SeaRose Studio near Billy’s Museum and Echo Bay. 978-1-927575-03-1

Jeanie Keogh is a journalism graduate of Langara.

Tide Rips and Back Eddies: Bill Proctor’s Tales of Blackfish Sound (Harbour $24.95)
Article (2016)

from BCBW (Spring 2016)
Echo bay on gilford island in Blackfish Sound, with its year-round population of ten, has been home to four authors who have produced nine books.

Alexandra Morton, now widely known as the province’s leading opponent of fish farming, lived at “Billy’s Bay,” raising her son and daughter on a floathouse and working as a seasick deckhand on Bill Proctor’s fishboat from the mid-’80s until 2007.

Artist and homesteader Yvonne Maximchuk also worked as Bill Proctor’s deckhand for eight seasons and co-wrote his first book, Full Moon Flood Tide - Bill Proctor’s Raincoast (Harbour, 2003), nominated for the Bill Duthie Booksellers Choice Award in 2004.

Following Maximchuk’s own memoir, Drawn to Sea: Paintbrush to Chainsaw, Carving out a Life on BC’s Rugged Raincoast (Caitlin Press, 2013), she collaborated with the old salt for Tide Rips and Back Eddies: Bill Proctor’s Tales of Blackfish Sound (Harbour $24.95).

Newcomer Nikki Van Schyndel took up residency on Bill Proctor’s land after the release of Becoming Wild (Caitlin, 2014), a memoir about living in the Broughton Archipelago for a year-and-a-half, foraging for food and making tools from cedar and bone.

Blackfish Sound expert Billy Proctor was
born at Port Neville in 1934 in a cabin near the Port Neville Store. A month later he moved with his parents to Freshwater Bay on Swanson Island where he spent the next twenty-one years. Here, in this excerpt Proctor recalls evading formal schooling at age twelve:

“Round about that time there were two missionaries who came once a month to visit Mom. They’d paddle over in a dugout canoe and Mom always told me to go down and help them out of the canoe. So I would and one would always say, “How is the heathen today?”

“This was because I was not going to school. They were always trying to get Mom to send me to boarding school. Finally they reported me to welfare. Then the government boat called Sheila started coming around.
“I took to hiding in the bush when I saw them coming, so I ended up spending a lot of time in the bush. It really bothered me to think that these people wanted to take me away and leave my mother there alone.
“As I was spending a lot of time in the bush, I got to know all the different species of trees and plants that grew on our land. In 1948, a salesman came in selling books, so I bought a 10-volume set of The Book of Knowledge, which I still have and I still use.

“So, instead of going to school, I was learning about the things around me. Now when people come to my museum, some ask me, “How often do you go out in the real world?”
I say, ‘I think this is the real world.’”
Tide Rips: 978-1-55017-725-1