How I Got Here: Ron Woodall

A reluctant Bowen Islander becomes its best chronicler

Ron Woodall hedged his bets when he finally let his wife Heather convince him that they should move to Bowen Island.

He’d already delayed it for years by saying that he would never commute across the Howe Sound. For 40 years — as the creative force behind Mad Men-esque marketing agencies and as creative director of Expo 86 — he had to cross the Lions Gate Bridge twice a day from his home in Fisherman’s Cove near Horseshoe Bay to his office in Vancouver and he wasn’t going to add a ferry ride to the daily hell.

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It didn’t stop them from visiting on weekends, however. “We had a sailboat and one absolutely regular habit was sailing to Doc Morgan’s back in the days when there were dogs at Doc’s. It was our destination for a day sail and we didn’t often get past Snug Cove.”

When his retirement in 2003 put an end to his daily commute, Heather said, “It’s time to move to Bowen.”

“But what if I get island fever,” Ron asked.

The compromise was that instead of selling their West Vancouver home, they’d re-mortgage it to buy their house where the hotel from Union Steamships days once stood. It was his lifeline to the mainland.

After a month on Bowen, the lifeline seemed more like a leash. He wanted to be free of the mainland altogether.  Today, more than a decade later, Woodall takes the ferry back to that other life maybe three or four times a year. A year.

Why the change of heart? “I probably went and sat around the Snug and realized that it was a classic Norman Rockwellian scene that also reminded me of those Jack Daniels ads of a bunch of geezers in rocking chairs in Tennessee.”

Then he befriended the enigmatic Bob Bates and that was it. 

“We just very quickly realized it is such a refuge,” he says. 

But with today’s real estate market driving up the cost of housing, he feels that the Bowen way of life is under threat. “What’s really the big selling point is that it’s a rural lifestyle that you can get to quickly. At first it was the closeness to the city that comforted me. Now it’s its closeness to the city that worries me.”

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