July 11, 2021 Connection in paradise

Barrman stood at the helm of his pontoon boat and soaked in the warm air of the Okanagan Valley. It has been a hectic couple of weeks touring people on the shimmering waters of paradise. He had mixed emotions about how so many others have discovered the Okanagan paradise.

He grinned widely at his fortune, he hurt an ankle in the boat launch when he stepped into a gap in the concrete. Luckily it was only a flesh wound on the outside of his left ankle. It was sore and swollen but at least he didn’t break it.

An extra fortune was the parking spot he found. Parking at the Westbank Yacht club boat launch is terrible on most days, on a Saturday morning it can be next to impossible. Except when someone leaves their spot in the main parking lot right at the launch. Barrman pumped his fist, pulled into the newly open parking spot, and limped to his Harris fourteen-passenger pontoon boat that sat tied to the dock.

Summer in the Okanagan Valley has been getting busier for the last fifteen years Barrman has called West Kelowna home. When covid struck in March 2020 things slowed to a halt. Traffic was negligible and tourism dried up. The fifty-year-old former window cleaner had started his boat tour business four years prior and was worried about what this new world was going to bring. He never thought that things would explode as much as they would.

2021 came and there was a vaccine to fight off the dreaded covid, things looked to be opening up. On July 1, 2021, the province of BC and much of Canada eased the restrictions of travel and gathering.

That is when things went crazy.

The Okanagan has boomed in these strange times and tourism from within Canada has gone off the charts.

For Barrman life the past few weeks has been a blur of long days in the sun. He has the worst of first-world problems, taking people on the water in a heatwave. The only problem was he didn’t want to become so busy he couldn’t relax and enjoy the waters of his beloved lake. A first-world problem indeed.

The boat captain pulled away from the dock and set out to pick up his group at the city docks in downtown Kelowna. It was a twenty-minute cruise and the warm air caressed his face as he throttled up and watched the lake go by.

In a short time, he idled up to the floating docks across from the city park and tied off. He had to put up the roof for some much-needed shade and await the arrival of the four tourists from Alberta. As he was struggling to lift the top on the pontoon some random stranger came up and offered to help. Barrman grinned widely and accepted the man’s assistance.

Life is so much better with the kindness of strangers.

He saw the four girls approach the dock and knew right away they were his crew for the next four hours. There was positive energy of excitement around them and he had a very good feeling about the tour.

He had a choice the night before to take this foursome or a group of six girls booked for a bachelorette party. When the captain spoke to the two groups he knew who he wanted on his vessel for the tour. It wasn’t the bachelorette party. Let Captain Rob take the girls out on the Campion Biltmore. Barrman had a good feeling from the group of Albertans who said they didn’t need a bathroom on a boat.

They pushed off from the dock and Barrman gave the usual safety spiel. At the end of his speach he always says his most important rule is to have fun.

Have fun they did.

Krista was the leader of the four fourty-some-year-old ladies and she exuded an energy that connected with Barrman in a way that doesn’t occur very often. Maybe it was because she shared first names with Barrmans wife, but more likely it was just a natural connection that occurs sometimes between random strangers. The rest of the group was very enthusiastic and they happily shared laughs and stories as they cruised the fresh waters of the Okanagan.

Four hours passed in a blur and Barrman pulled back to the dock. The girls had so much fun they threatened to stay on the boat and come join Barrman and his wife and friends to just hang out all evening.

A laugh and a group hug sent the ladies off to their next adventure. It was a rare moment of connection and joy after the last year of fear and hesitation. All four had been double vaccinated and a group hug with strangers felt good. It felt safe, it felt normal.

Barrman watched the ladies walk back up the dock and laughed to himself. “That’s why I love this job.”