Born in Northern Ireland during a time of internal conflict, Rob’s parents moved to Canada just ahead of his fifth birthday. He grew up in southern Ontario’s golden horseshoe area ahead of immigrating to New Zealand in 1968 to attend Massey University and study Zoology. Upon completion of his bachelor’s degree Rob launched for South Africa where he found a home in a tent, in the Kalahari Desert, working as a geologist field assistant.
Advancing his career in Zoology would eventually lead to employment as a teacher. Teaching would to be a “shirt and tie” type job that Rob wasn’t particularly interested in so he returned to Canada and welded for two years while advancing his cause in aviation by taking helicopter training at Canadore College. Rob graduated in 1977, and after a short stint as a crop sprayer in Ontario, he moved to British Columbia and found work with Transwest Helicopters. Initially he was based in Atlin, moving geology and prospect crews, while flying a piston powered Bell 47G3B1. It was an easy fit for Rob as he had proven skills in living and working out of tent in the desert!
By 1979 Rob had advanced onto the turbine powered Hughes 500 and gravitated southward finding work with the Geological Survey of Canada contract flying in the Knight Inlet and Mount Waddington areas. By the end of that year he had found a home in the mystic mountains of Bella Coola still working for Transwest doing utility work and fire fighting in the summers. Rob became base manager for Transwest in 1982 then moved over to base managing for Vancouver Island Helicopters (VIH) in 1985. He found warm comfort in his base management role advancing VIH’s interests in the land of the Norwegians and Nuwalk peoples until 2001 when West Coast Helicopters came knocking on his door. At that point in time, VIH had already started to reduce its involvement in this geographic area just as West Coast Helicopters was increasing theirs. It was a perfect fit for Rob to slide over to us and become a relief pilot for the base manager, Richard Lapointe .
Rob stayed in Bella Coola flying the B206, the AStar and the MD500 for West Coast Helicopters until his retirement in 2012. He decided that after 35 years of rewarding work in the demanding helicopter business it was time to pull away and pursue other adventures. Approximately nine years earlier Rob looked into building his own sailboat after the unfortunate passing of his daughter and decided to do just that. From 2003 through to 2016 he found the plans, acquired the materials (often in somewhat conspicuous means and ways), used his welding, hydraulic, mechanical, electrical and carpentry skills to build the beautiful 42 foot sailcraft shown below. Rob named his boat after his late daughter, Pauline Claire, and successfully launched the sailboat in the chilly waters off Bella Coola in front of cheering friends and family in May 2016.
If you see Rob safely tucked alongside or at anchor, he may very well be telling stories such as the one about a grizzly bear awakening from a drug induced slumber only to find himself in a net under slung from a helicopter with Mr. Skelly at the stick. Or a fire he worked for five days of revenue which, initially, lite off from stray signal flare fired in a frenzy by a startled forestry crew toward an approaching bear!
To Rob, after giving much to this company over the years, we honestly and warmly wish for you “fine winds” and “friendly waters” in all aspects of your new life on board your beautiful sailing vessel “Pauline Claire”!