Writing a book after about four years of fieldwork is a tough job, much harder than I ever anticipated. As a perfectionist, I have agonized over every single word I have used in these pages and over every bit of material utilized on the book’s website. And as a chronically unsatisfied author, I have found plenty of reasons to be discontent with every aspect of my work. But closure and completion must take precedence over my obsessive tendencies. So here I go: I surrender this ethnography in hope that three fundamental outcomes will unfold.

First, I hope that those of you who have no clue where Gabriola Island, Haida Gwaii, Nanaimo, or Sointula are will be able to make sense of a strange way of life and a unique place. I also hope that you will be able to learn about the significance of mobilities outside of the urban contexts in which they are generally studied. And I hope that you will appreciate my passionate attempts at composing a mobile ethnography and at creating ethnographic material that animates the ways of life I write about.

Second, I hope that those of you who live, work, grew up, or vacation in places like Saltspring, Victoria, Hornby Island, or the Sunshine Coast, that is, those of you who are islanders and coasters by birth, by residence, or by design, will forgive me if I have made any mistake in telling your stories, in describing your home, or in interpreting the significance of your ways of life. If I have made any mistakes or forgotten anything I blame it on the excessive amounts of BC Ferries food ingested over the years; date squares and French fries and gravy in particular. And I hope you will forgive me if throughout these pages I occasionally sound too much like a pedantic academic.

Third – and I realize that this is almost a dream – I hope that somebody reading this, or reading any of my numerous op-eds or media interviews, or listening to my audio documentaries, will realize that something must be done to intelligently map out the future of island and coastal life in British Columbia. Many interrogatives trouble our sleep at night. Is our life sustainable? Can we continue to rely on the ferries and on the fossil fuel they consume? Do we not have a right to demand freedom of movement? These political questions must be asked and answered by an audience much greater than my book will have. I hope I can at least spur that debate and find ways to contribute to it in the future.

With all of this said, I hope that you will enjoy the Ferry Tales I have to share with you. The tales, let it be immediately clear, are not all mine. This book would not exist without the hundreds of British Columbians who gave me their time, their ideas, their stories, their opinions, and their hopes. My interviewees alone, about four hundred of them, ought to be listed and thanked one by one. Of course I cannot do so because this would violate the anonymity I promised them, but I want to express my gratitude to every one of them. You know who you are. And in particular, I would like to thank those gatekeepers who introduced me to their communities, such as all the island trustees and ferry advisory committee members.

A big thank you also goes to all the local journalists who were kind enough to share their knowledge and contacts with me. Also, I wish to recognize those islanders and coasters I met through the non-profit associations, service clubs, and other civic organizations for which they volunteer. From housing groups to sustainability committees, from historical interest societies to local chamber of commerce representatives, I have been very fortunate to benefit from different perspectives, diverse backgrounds and interests, and differing opinions and stories. Islands and small coastal villages could not survive without the volunteer work of these dedicated groups and individuals.

While mine may be a modest contribution, I have elected to demonstrate my thankfulness and recognition of the importance of their labor and service by donating all of my royalties for this book to two such groups: the Parent Advisory Council of the Gabriola Island Elementary School, and Gabriola’s People for a Healthy Community (PHC). After all this book was funded by taxpayers, and the money should go back to taxpayers. Speaking of money, I ought to thank the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC), which gave me a Standard Research Grant that allowed me to meet expenses for data collection, research dissemination, and research assistance. A very small part of the funds needed for research dissemination of this project also came from another SSHRC program, the Canada Research Chair. Royal Roads University was also incredibly kind in providing with money, time, and other resources to make my work possible. The Research Office, the School of Communication & Culture, the Center for Teaching and Educational Technologies, and the Faculty of Social and Applied Sciences were invaluable in many ways.

I also wish to express my gratitude to Lindsay Vogan, who produced the audio documentaries and soundscapes featured on the book’s website, Jonathan Taggart who helped with the photo essays, Laura Milne, who helped with copy-editing the website, Bryan and Mariko McRae from FeedLot Studios who produced the website design with the technical assistance of Cheryl Takahashi, and Paul Ripley – who advised us along the web production process. Because much of the research which appears in the pages of this book has been reviewed by peers, I want to acknowledge the friendly encouragement, advice, and feedback I have received from many journal editors, anonymous reviewers, and colleagues – especially Eric Laurier, Tim Cresswell, Carol Rambo, David Bissell, Godfrey Baldacchino, John Urry, Dennis Waskul, Simon Gottschalk, Stuart Elden, Lucy Budd, Ole Jensen, Rhys Evans, Michael Brown, and Peter Adey. Their insight has made my words clearer and more useful. I also wish to thank all the people at Routledge who have given me the trust to produce this book and the series on Innovative Ethnographies, Steve Rutter in particular. I also wish to acknowledge the kind permission to reproduce previously printed material that I have received from Ashgate Publishing, Peter Lang Publishing, and from the following journals: Symbolic Interaction, Canadian Journal of Communication, Journal of Transport Geography, Environment & Planning D, Mobilities, Time & Society, Cultural Geographies, Space & Culture, and Social and Cultural Geography.

As well, I owe an enormous thank you to April Vannini, who provided research assistance throughout this project. April provided advice of a theoretical, methodological, and substantive nature–advising me on what to read, how to analyze data, and how to develop ideas and write them for both journal publications and for this book. April also helped with collecting field data and taking photographs. April’s intellectual energy and collaboration has sustained me throughout these years of fieldwork and writing. I have probably borrowed more ideas from her than I can remember, but since I am known to be forgetful she will probably forgive me. I hope.

Last but not least, the patience and support of my children Autumn and Jacob as I missed dinners, rugby and football games, and bedtime stories because I was out and about catching ferries was truly phenomenal. And the fun I had catching ferries with them was even more remarkable.