Philip Michael Duke Davis
From the General Botha Old Boys Association Muster List
Mike Davis came from St. George’s Grammar School in Cape Town and, on completion of his time at the General Botha, went away to sea in the Union-Castle Mail Steamship Company.
He wrote his Second Mate’s Examination in Cape Town and then joined Thesen’s.
During a port call in Walvis Bay he met a fisherman who invited him to join him in the next fishing season. This Mike did and found it a great experience.He then did a boat delivery from Walvis Bay to Mossel Bay and stayed on at the latter port, fishing in small trawlers before joining African Coasters, running between Durban and Walvis Bay.
While he was in Durban he met Helen Wylie from Pretoria, a nurse at Addington Hospital. They were married in 1960 in the Missions to Seamen in Durban.In 1961, in Cape Town, Mike bought an old boat. She was the Susanah and had been built in the famous Nieswand yard in Luderitz. He fixed her up and went crayfishing until it became illegal to dive for crayfish commercially and then moved to Hermanus where he dived for abalone and where his three sons were born.
In 1966/67 Mike worked briefly for de Beers Marine, before emigrating to Montreal in Canada and then on to British Columbia. Unfortunately, at that time, his South African certificates were not valid in Canada, but after doing odd jobs, Mike finally managed to get a berth as a cook/deckhand on a coastal tug. He re-qualified and then spent some very pleasant years towing log booms and barges on the British Columbia coast. In the process he moved to the Queen Charlotte Islands, in sight of the south coast of Alaska.
Mike gave up his seafaring life to be with his children while they grew up and “pre-empted” some Crown land, living in a tent while he built a log cabin. He then did beach-combing, as part of a sophisticated enterprise which salvaged logs which had escaped from log booms or fallen off log barges. The logs were gathered up by heavy mobile machines called “skiddies”, dragged below the tide line, barged and towed away with a tug. (The tide in the region could reach 19’ above datum.) He also did some prospecting; claim-staking; carpentry; logging; felling trees and worked in a sawmill.
By 1979 Mike’s marriage was in distress so he took his sons to Vancouver to finish their schooling, as living in the wild limited their choices for the future. There he worked in the building trade as a finishing carpenter. 1982 brought major problems to the construction sector, because of soaring interest rates and inflation, so he left and secured a berth on a small supply ship in the Western Arctic. At the end of the navigational season the owners, Dome Petroleum, asked him to upgrade his South African Radar Certificate so, with this in mind, he went to Halifax. While there he got another job on supply tugs operating out of Newfoundland and Nova Scotia. In 1985 all the crews were laid off, because of a change in Government policy, but Mike had acquired the steel-hull of a 190-metre Dutch yacht which he fixed up, junk-rigged her and lived aboard.
He then enjoyed the great life by hobo-ing around the Maritime Provinces of Canada. In August 1988, Mike found himself in Labrador and got a job on a coastal tanker which worked the East Coast and Great Lakes. While he was away on this ship he pulled his boat up onto the beach. On his return it was under a snowdrift! While cleaning up the cabin his cup of nice, hot coffee froze, so he hiked into town to find warm winter digs. He found them and he and his landlady, Virginia Moriarty, are happy together to this day! Virginia is from Happy Valley in Labrador.
In 1989, Virginia and Mike set sail from there for further adventures. 1990 found them in Vancouver, with Mike as a carpenter once again pounding nails for a living. He eventually managed to get a relieving job with British Columbia Ferries, which resulted in a permanent job.
Mike retired a few years ago and he and Virginia are now living in Alert Bay in British Columbia.