Murray Minchin loves Kitimat and has been here most of his life. Whether it’s sea kayaking down the coast, or fighting for the community and the land, Minchin stays involved with the nature in Kitimat one way or another. (Clare Rayment)

Murray Minchin loves Kitimat and has been here most of his life. Whether it’s sea kayaking down the coast, or fighting for the community and the land, Minchin stays involved with the nature in Kitimat one way or another. (Clare Rayment)

In Our Valley: Murray Minchin

Murray Minchin and his wife, Kathy, spent six months sea kayaking along the B.C. coast

When people think of Murray Minchin, the first thoughts that come to mind are often his job as a postman in the Kitimat community for almost 30 years, or his role in the fight against the Enbridge Northern Gateway Pipeline in the early- to mid-2010s.

However, many people don’t know that Murray and his wife, Kathy, spent six months sea kayaking along the B.C. coast when they were in their late-20s.

“Since the very beginning of our relationship, we’d always wanted to paddle the coast of B.C.,” Minchin said. “That was before child, before house, before full-time jobs, before mortgage. You know, you could just pick up and run, you had no responsibilities.”

He and Kathy were working seasonal, contract jobs at the time, and Minchin was going to art/photography school, as well. They had been preparing and getting experience over the years and knew it was something they both wanted to do.

Then, one September, they both lost their jobs. They had all the equipment they needed and didn’t have anything else to do at the time, so Kathy said, “Let’s go!”

They took off in late-October, and it was snowing and blowing like crazy the first night they left. The first leg of their trip, they pushed off from Hospital Beach, and sea kayaked for two months to Bella Bella. They left their kayaks there for the winter and came back to Kitimat to work until spring.

Come early summer, they went back to Bella Bella and spent another two months paddling from Bella Bella to Vancouver. They brought their kayaks home, then, in the fall, they put them in again in Prince Rupert and paddled for another two months to come home.

“It takes about three weeks of being out there for the modern world to kind of drop away, and for you to relax, and for you to open up to what’s really happening around you,” Minchin said. “And then after that, it’s just your life.”

Minchin said his favourite part of the experience was becoming one with nature and with the coast, and feeling himself get into the swing of things and relax.

“Just being able to really really get a sense, like deep into your bones, what the coast is, was the best part.”

They camped most of the trip, but stayed in a motel once in Port Hardy, on the northwestern end of Vancouver Island.

“We went into the motel room and we sat down on the floor, and we were talking, just going through our gear and stuff, and it took probably 20 minutes to half an hour for us to realize there were chairs in the room. So that’s how in-tuned to travelling in nature we were.”

Minchin and Kathy dried most of their food beforehand, but also had family members mail food to them at different points along their trips. Minchin said they were very careful with their food, but also only saw one bear on their entire trip and no other wildlife at all, save for some birds and squirrels and smaller creatures.

“We saw one bear on the whole coast of B.C. in six months,” Minchin said. “There was something that was crunching through the bush, and it was really big, and it didn’t care that anything was listening, or hearing it. And it was going to come right out where our tent was…and we called out and said that we were there, and then it just disappeared. So we have no idea what it was to this day.”

They didn’t take a gun, only pepper spray, which apparently wasn’t a good decision, Minchin said, according to one person.

“Some guy, I think the quote that he said to Kathy was, ‘Well don’t come crying to me when a bear rips off your pretty face!’ All because we weren’t taking a gun.”

Minchin and Kathy now have a 19-year-old daughter who goes to Okanagan College and haven’t done any big trips like that since. Kathy was also in a car accident several years ago and isn’t able to sea kayak anymore due to a shoulder injury from the crash, so they bought a diesel trawler instead, and have been using that for the past several years.

“We ended up buying a diesel trawler so that we could get back out there again, and also so our daughter could grow up knowing how amazing it is in this place that we live.”

And Minchin and Kathy always make sure they stay involved with the place they live, as well.

Both were heavily involved with the Enbridge Northern Gateway Pipeline fight several years ago, as part of the Douglas Channel Watch, a group that was started by concerned citizens in Kitimat. Kathy and Minchin’s mother-in-law were both very active with the group straight from the get-go, but Minchin said it took him a little bit longer to get fully involved.

“It took me a little longer to get involved, because I wanted to a bit more research. Then I heard Enbridge making claims that were just huge red flags for me.”

Minchin said they were saying things such as, “The environments that Enbridge works in will be safer because of the project” and “ There’s a one in 17,000-year chance that there will be an Exxon Valdez-type spill associated with this project.”

“They were making claims like this, they’re just assuming that we’re idiots here,” Minchin said.

However, Minchin truly decided to get involved after hiking down along the Channel on a trail that starts at the Kitamaat Village Marina, and seeing a boomstick — which is several logs or rounded objects chained together to form a boom, a type of collection device in case of an oil spill — soaked in diesel oil on the beach.

“I was sitting there, in this beautiful spot, looking down the Channel, trying to imagine in my mind’s eye millions upon millions of oil-saturated logs all the way to the mountains. I can talk about it now without a tear coming to my eye, but it’s still a very emotional thought.”

From there, Minchin was in. There were a large amount of members in the Douglas Channel Watch and each had their own special skill to bring to the team.

Kathy had been in the car accident a few years prior to this, and they had self-represented themselves with ICBC in court for the first while. Minchin said he learned a lot about researching and digging into huge documents to find information, which was useful when reading through Enbridge’s documents.

Minchin also has a real interest in natural history and the geologic natural forces involved in building Kitimat, which gave him expert knowledge on the area and the issues that the pipeline would bring.

Because of this, and despite the extreme stutter he had at the time, Minchin stepped up as the group’s spokesperson to help speak and cross-examine Enbridge’s expert witness panel.

“They would have six or seven experts and behind them were a series of tables where people had iPads and were doing research and bringing them documents, and they would feed them forward depending on what questions you had. So, I could, with my local knowledge, ask them questions that I know they never considered. And I’d ask my question, then just lean back in my chair and watch them squirm, and it was great. It was really enjoyable.”

Once that issue was solved, Minchin said he hasn’t involved himself in any more public issues and plans to keep a low profile going forward.

He and Kathy plan to do lots of coast exploring in their retirement, and Minchin also wants to keep working on his wildlife photography. Kathy is an excellent wildlife photographer, according to Minchin, and her pictures are what encouraged him to start taking pictures with a digital camera, something he’d never done in the past.

“I haven’t fully explored it yet. There’s things I want to do when I have the time,” Minchin said. “There’s a couple processes I want to explore, and that’s going to take a lot of effort and time, and so that’s what I’m looking forward to for retirement.”

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

The COVID-19 outbreak at the two Coastal GasLink workforce lodges has officially been declared over. (Lakes District News file photo)
COVID-19 outbreak at Coastal GasLink worksites declared over

In total, 56 cases were associated with the outbreak in the Burns Lake and Nechako LHAs

Sadie, a long-term care resident at Mountainview Lodge in Kitimat was among those who got the COVID-19 vaccine at the vaccination clinic held Thursday (Jan. 21). Northern Health photo
Mountainview Lodge gets first shipment of COVID-19 vaccines

The first vaccination clinic was held Thursday (Jan. 21)

Brett Alexander Jones is wanted on several warrants province-wide, in connection with multiple charges. Jan. 21, 2021. Kitimat RCMP photo
Kitimat RCMP searching for man wanted on several warrants province-wide

Jones is described as a five-foot 10-inches Caucasian man, with blond hair and blue eyes.

Haisla Nation Council photo
COVID-19 vaccine supply delayed for Kitamaat Village

Supply could not be guaranteed for the Village with the current national Pfizer-BioNTech shortage

Bus routes for CMSD82 students in Cablecar and Kitamaat Village have been temporarily changed for Jan. 21 and 22. (Black Press file photo)
Temporary school bus route changes for Cablecar, Kitamaat Village

The two routes will be combined for Jan. 21 and 22 due to a bus driver shortage

Toronto Public Health nurse Lalaine Agarin sets up for mass vaccination clinic in Toronto, Jan. 17, 2021. B.C. is set to to begin its large-scale immunization program for the general public starting in April. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn
B.C.’s COVID-19 mass vaccinations expected to start in April

Clinics to immunize four million people by September

Chief Public Health Officer Theresa Tam speaks during a daily briefing in Ottawa. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld)
31 cases of COVID-19 variants detected in Canada: Health officials

Dr. Theresa Tam made announces 13 more variant COVID-19 cases in Canada

An Atlantic salmon is seen during a Department of Fisheries and Oceans fish health audit at the Okisollo fish farm near Campbell River, B.C. in 2018. The First Nations Leadership Council says an attempt by industry to overturn the phasing out of salmon farms in the Discovery Islands in contrary to their inherent Title and Rights. (THE CANADIAN PRESS /Jonathan Hayward photo)
First Nations Leadership Council denounces attempt to overturn salmon farm ban

B.C.’s producers filed for a judicial review of the Discovery Islands decision Jan. 18

Daily COVID-19 cases reported to each B.C. health region, to Jan. 20, 2021. Island Health in blue, Northern Health green, Interior Health orange, Vancouver Coastal in red and Fraser Health in purple. (B.C. Centre for Disease Control)
B.C.’s COVID-19 infection rate stays stable with 508 cases Friday

Vaccine delivered to more than 110,000 high-risk people

More than 100 B.C. fishermen, fleet leaders, First Nations leaders and other salmon stakeholders are holding a virtual conference Jan. 21-22 to discuss a broad-range of issues threatening the commercial salmon fishery. (Black Press file photo)
B.C. commercial salmon fishermen discuss cures for an industry on the brink

Two-day virtual conference will produce key reccomendations for DFO

The District of Saanich’s communications team decided to take part in a viral trend on Thursday and photoshopped U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders into a staff meeting photo. (District of Saanich/Twitter)
Bernie Sanders makes guest appearance municipal staff meeting in B.C.

Vancouver Island firefighters jump on viral trend of photoshopped U.S. senator

School District 57 headquarters in Prince George. (Mark Nielsen, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter)
Prince George school district settles with sexual abuse victim

Terms were part of an out-of-court settlement reached with Michael Bruneau, nearly four years after he filed a lawsuit

Surrey provincial court. (File photo: Tom Zytaruk)
New COVID-19 protocols set for provincial courthouses

The new rules were issued on Jan. 21, and took effect immediately

Police in Vancouver looking for male suspect who allegedly spat and attacked a store manager for not wearing a mask, at 7-Eleven near Alma Street and West 10th Avenue just before noon on Dec. 17, 2020. (Vancouver police handout)
VIDEO: Man spits on 7-Eleven manager over mask rule, sparking Vancouver police probe

‘Unfortunately, the store manager sustained a cut to his head during the assault’

Most Read