No lawyer talk in tales of sailing

Capt. James Gaudin is levelheaded, ambitious and has a knack for navigating stormy seas.

Bob Harvey

Bob Harvey

Capt. James Gaudin is levelheaded, ambitious and has a knack for navigating stormy seas.

With a fiancé in Canada and a lover in Chile, his onshore life is pretty lively, too.

No Tame Cat, Fur Trade Daughter, her Cape Horn Captain and the Chilean Courtesan is a detail-rich slice of Canadiana that is part nautical adventure, part love story and part erotic novel. The fiction-based-on-fact book was written by Denman Island resident Robert Harvey.

The story begins with Gaudin dashing on deck in his bare feet. It’s 2 a.m., Jan. 9, 1878 and his ship, Lady Lampson, has just run aground outside Esquimalt Harbour.

Minutes before, the vessel was slated to set a new record for passage from London. Now Gaudin faces a black mark on his record and the loss of the personal cargo he had onboard.

The centrepiece of No Tame Cat is the Lady Lampson’s 16-month voyage that takes the barque from London to Esquimalt to Chile and back to London again. With sea spray freezing in the rigging and the crew suffering from salt water boils, swollen fingers and frostbite, rounding Cape Horn is no small feat. But Gaudin’s already cut his teeth on winter storms in the North Atlantic.

On an earlier voyage to Victoria, the dashing captain met Agnes, daughter of Alexander Anderson, a Hudson’s Bay Company trader who crossed the Rockies with the Columbia Express from York Factory.

Spunky and determined Agnes plays a pivotal role in the book.

She’s got her own dugout canoe and has her share of adventures, too. And it’s through her eyes that readers get a glimpse of what life was like for young women in the latter part of the 19th century.

Gaudin’s unexpected detour to Chile where he meets the irresistible Consuelo adds a surprising twist to the story. Their liaison is passionate and all-consuming. In the meantime, Agnes waits for Gaudin to return for their long-postponed wedding.

Harvey says the idea for No Tame Cat came from childhood conversations with his grandmother Harvey. “She was born in Saanich in 1878, and used to tell me about her mother’s voyage back to Canada from Jersey,” he explains. “All the ships had rats, of course, and her mother remembered one chewing on her braids.”

The author was also inspired by a silver tea service given to Capt. James Gaudin — his great-grandfather — by the Robert Burnaby family in gratitude for offering Burnaby passage from Victoria to England when he was paralyzed. Harvey drew on family history, 600 pages of logbooks and documents in the Hudson’s Bay Company archives, as well as his early years in the tugboat industry to create No Tame Cat.

“It’s all based on fact,” the 83-year-old says. “But I created the dialogue, so that makes it fiction.”

The book cover is from a painting commissioned by Harvey’s father. It depicts Lady Lampson as painted by marine artist Jack W. Hardcastle.

Harvey said he toyed with the idea of writing a book about Gaudin and his father-in-law, Anderson, for years. “I wanted to know more about them and thought others might find it of interest, too.”

So, in 2003, after a 54-year career as a lawyer specializing in civil litigation, Harvey attended the Surrey International Writers’ Conference and took some writing courses at North Island College.

“Steve Schoenhoff at North Island College was particularly helpful,” Harvey notes. “He made sure we actually wrote something. He gave me a C+ on the first exercise I handed in. ‘This is just lawyer talk,’ he said. That made me loosen up a bit.”

Harvey was born in Duncan and grew up in Victoria. He began practising law in Duncan and later worked in Victoria and Vancouver. He and his wife moved to Denman Island in 1997.

As for writing a book, Harvey says it involves a lot of time at the computer rewriting and rewriting. “The computer is what made it possible,” he admits. “My handwriting is terrible.”


No Tame Cat (338 pages, softcover) is published by Ptarmigan Press and retails for $24.95. It’s available at bookstores and other shops in the Comox Valley, Campbell River, Victoria and Quadra Island.



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

Just Posted

Inside the new shop operated by Wachiay Friendship Centre. Jared Kotyk (left), Jan Kotyk, Paloma Joy, Tim Gagnon, Jonah Hill, Jennifer Corbett and Tally, the shop dog. Photo supplied
Wachiay opens store-front arts shop in downtown Courtenay

There’s still tailor-work in the back of old AnnSew site, with the store in front

CSWM is planning to increase the space for loading bays at the Comox Valley Waste Management Centre. Record file photo
CSWM plans increase to number of Comox Valley landfill bays

The expansion prompted in part by COVID-19 spacing requirements

Cumberland is demanding a major clean-up at a Derwent Avenue property. Photo by Mike Chouinard
Cumberland orders massive clean-up at downtown house

Uninsured vehicles, illegal structures have been subject of multiple complaints

Andrea Cupelli of the Comox Valley Coalition to End Homelessness told council the coalition’s needs assessment for non-market housing continues to grow throughout the region, as well as within Comox. . File photo
Coalition to end homelessness asking for additional funding from Comox

The coalition’s needs assessment for non-market housing continues to grow

Work on the first phase of renovations at the Village of Cumberland office is nearing completion. Record file photo
Cumberland office close to re-opening after reno

First phase with COVID measures should be done this month

Justin Kripps of Summerland and his team have competed in Olympic action and World Cup competitions in bobsleigh. (Jason Ransom-Canadian Olympic Comittee).
QUIZ: Are you ready for some winter sports?

It’s cold outside, but there are plenty of recreation opportunities in the winter months

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

A health-care worker prepares a dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine at a UHN COVID-19 vaccine clinic in Toronto on Thursday, January 7, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
COVID-19: Provinces work on revised plans as Pfizer-BioNTech shipments to slow down

Anita Anand said she understands and shares Canadians’ concerns about the drug company’s decision

Tourists take photographs outside the British Columbia Legislature in Victoria, B.C., on Friday August 26, 2011. A coalition of British Columbia tourism industry groups is urging the provincial government to not pursue plans to ban domestic travel to fight the spread of COVID-19. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C. travel ban will harm struggling tourism sector, says industry coalition

B.C. government would have to show evidence a travel ban is necessary

(Phil McLachlan - Capital News)
‘Targeted’ shooting in Coquitlam leaves woman in hospital

The woman suffered non-life threatening injuries in what police believe to be a targeted shooting Saturday morning

JaHyung Lee, “Canada’s oldest senior” at 110 years old, received his first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine on Thursday, Jan. 14, 2021. He lives at Amenida Seniors Community in Newton. (Submitted photo: Amenida Seniors Community)
A unique-looking deer has been visiting a Nanoose Bay property with its mother. (Frieda Van der Ree photo)
A deer with 3 ears? Unique animal routinely visits B.C. property

Experts say interesting look may be result of an injury rather than an odd birth defect

Standardized foundation skills assessment tests in B.C. schools will be going ahead later than usual, from Feb. 16 to March 12 for students in Grades 4 and 7. (Black Press Media file photo)
B.C. teachers say COVID-affected school year perfect time to end standardized tests

Foundational skills testing of Grade 4 and 7 students planned for February ad March

Sooke’s Jim Bottomley is among a handful of futurists based in Canada. “I want to help people understand the future of humanity.” (Aaron Guillen - Sooke News Mirror)
No crystal ball: B.C. man reveals how he makes his living predicting the future

63-year-old has worked analytical magic for politicians, car brands, and cosmetic companies

Most Read