Shooting the breeze with Qaya Way West




Today, they’re taking staff up to April Point Resort. Tomorrow, they’re headed up the Toba Inlet. “We go where we’re needed,” says Qaya Way West Transportation’s Office Manager Marion Dickmeis … “and we are needed at over 150 locations departing from Campbell River daily.” What’s on the roster for this busy water transportation service changes day to day, month to month.

Since its beginnings in 1996, Way West Water Taxi has been a vital marine link servicing the North Island, Discovery Islands, and Gulf Islands. Having recently shifted ownership to the Homalco First Nation, the service has been newly dubbed Qaya Way West Transportation LP. It still features the same great service, providing permanent and seasonal scheduled runs (northern and southern routes), as well as charter services. The recent move from the Discovery Harbour Marina to the Coast Marina means there’s room for expansion, with talk of new stops being added, exploration of efficiencies to existing routes, and the potential of a seven-day-a-week service versus the current five for the regular Southern Schedule.

Homalco Business Group’s Chief Executive Officer JP Obbagy sees the acquisition as a catalyst to ensure continued growth and economic development of the Nation and surrounding communities.

Qaya Way West

When the company shifted ownership in October of 2023, all long-tenured and dedicated staff re-joined the organization under the Qaya Way West Transportation Banner. Navigating these waters with seasoned captains and skippers not only gets you to a remote destination safely and efficiently but also has the perk of tapping into the vast knowledge of someone who has been on these routes more times than they can count. “We are very proud of the experience our team has, offering customers their knowledge about the area, incredible scenery, and wildlife on the way,” says Qaya Way West’s General Manager Jason Johnson. “Many people ask about the traditional territory of Homalco and other local First Nations we travel through.”

Wildlife tours now run by Homalco Wildlife and Cultural Tours

Wildlife tours were also a part of the business through Way West—run through West Coast Grizzly Bear Tours. They have shifted to another company under the Homalco Group of Businesses, Homalco Wildlife and Cultural Tours (HWCT). HCWT has a proven track record of premium tours to Orford Bay and is now excited to be expanding to Toba, working with the Klahoose Nation.

“Safety is at the heart of everything we do,” shares Johnson. Their fleet of six aluminum boats—a combination of catamarans and monohulls—is built to withstand arduous conditions, and there are currently nine seasoned skippers to captain these vessels in and amongst the straights, inlets, narrows, and sounds. Additionally, Homalco has two Landing Craft vessels (and two in the build phase) that will also be available to Qaya, allowing for the movement of more freight, and services for kayakers and other recreational solace seekers. “These boats are great for landing places without docks,” explains Johnson. “With this fleet, we’re able to provide a service for more underserved areas, both big and small.”

Qaya Way West

Moving around the traditional and shared territories feels like a privilege for long-time skipper Michel Payeur who has been with the operation since ’96. “I like it out there on the water. If you think about it, every day is something different,” he says of the ever-fluctuating role and scenery that is a skipper’s job. “Sometimes it’s smooth and sometimes it’s not, but it’s always changing.”

Skippers who love what they do, and do it well

It is obvious after spending time in the bustling, phone ringing, schedule shifting, and happily accommodating office of Qaya Way West that the staff here are buddies, and they operate seamlessly—filling gaps and chumming around while waiting for passengers to arrive.

“Our skippers are the eyes and ears of our organization and let us know what we can and should be providing in terms of service,” says Johnson. “They’re talking to our customers every day; we really depend on their input for this.”

As a vital service to outlying communities, a transportation link for staff and adventurous vacationers destined to remote businesses, a water taxi service for a variety of industries, and a bucket list item for those with ‘visit the very end of Bute Inlet’s aqua green glacier waters,’ Qaya Way West is a vessel for just about anyone and everyone.

Wherever you need to be, Qaya Way West will get you there—safely, swiftly, and with reliable service you can depend on (and possibly some hearty banter and oceans of knowledge along the way).