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Review in Nanaimo's Harbour City Star

It's a book I would normally pass by in a bookstore. It's not that I don't like salmon I love them especially barbecued but salmon fishing has never interested me all that much.

So I opened the pages of High Boats, A Century of Salmon Remembered with some trepidation. Several hours later I closed the covers and knew I'd just met some fascinating people and had enjoyed a thoroughly good read.

High Boats, written by Pat Norris is a sharp, gritty, multi- faceted book. It takes us on a voyage up and down Johnstone Strait and through 100 years of time.
High Boats is, first of all, a celebration of the golden age of salmon fishing. For many years, Alert Bay's newspaper ran a box titled "High Boats" on its front page. In the box the newspaper listed the fishing boats with the biggest catches of the week Those who worked on high boats cherished the bragging rights almost as much as their paychecks. The skippers who made the list week after week were called 'highliners.'

Pat Norris takes us back into this golden age as we take a last ride on the fishing boat May S. Two old friends, David Huson and Barrie McLung set out to revisit some of their old haunts. In truth, they are saying good-bye to a glorious and hard-working past. Through their eyes and through Pat Norris' careful research, we see the northern coast of Vancouver Island as it was when the sockeye ran so thick you could almost walk across their backs.

But "High Boats" does not glorify those days. It shows us the poverty and starkness of that life. It describes the hard work and even the dubious politics of the times. The book also takes us through the decline of the fishing industry and sadly we watch the government's "experiment" in spraying the salmon spawning grounds with DDT; we watch the lumber industry clear-cut the forest right down to the edge of the streams, and we watch the fish farming industry encroach on the wild salmon grounds.

In her introduction Pat Norris says that many of her women friends in Vancouver like her dearly but will not read her books because she uses cuss words. She writes, 'For the convenience of the gently reared I have put the first swear word in the second sentence of this book so they can tell right away that it isn't a book for them. But those who can get past the word 's---' will find that this story chronicles the fortunes of the Nimpkish River salmon runs over 100 years and more.'
Goody Niosi