In less than a year after meeting, Ted Paul asked Nancy if she would marry him and if she would try commercial fishing.
“I said yes to both,” she said.
She quit her job as a woman’s advocate for the transition house, and immersed herself in an industry she had no idea about with a man she had just fallen in love with. The couple now operate the food truck business, Fries and Pies, on Third Avenue West, and play live shows as the band “Just Showed Up” — but that story comes a little later.
Nancy was born and raised in a small town in Saskatchewan. She moved to Prince Rupert in 1989. Ted is originally from Ontario and moved to the North Coast in 1976.
Both played music when they came to the city. Ted used to play drums and guitar, but when he got carpal tunnel from fishing and couldn’t play anymore, he picked up the harmonica instead.
For work, Nancy was in advertising sales and then worked at the transition house, while Ted ran Prince Rupert Water Taxis for years until he sold the business and bought a commercial fishing boat. They both raised children and when they were on their own again they met.
“When it’s right it just kind of happens,” Nancy said.
They were at a mutual friend’s 50th birthday party in November. They talked and danced all night together and the next day he left to go fishing for two months.
Nancy and Ted made plans to go downhill skiing at Shames Mountain when he came back, and they did. But they were separated once again when he went out fishing that summer. In the fall, they decided to get married and Nancy would join him on the boat the following summer.
Nancy was game, she only hoped that she wouldn’t be prone to sea sickness and that she would at least like it.
“If somebody would have told me twelve years ago that I was going to be a commercial fisherman I would have laughed them out of the room. But I loved it,” she said.
They got married in the Museum of Northern B.C. in the room with windows that face the ocean, and where the sun bounces off three carved totem poles. One hundred friends and family came and brought food instead of gifts. It was an epic potluck with dancing until 2 a.m.
Then, it was just the two of them in a 37-foot freezer trawler, one of the smaller boats on the west coast of Haida Gwaii. In the first few years, Nancy learned how to navigate the boat and dress fish. She wasn’t a fan of the freezer work, so Ted did all the glazing.
“On bad weather days when we couldn’t fish I would pull out the guitar, and Ted would pull out the harmonica and we’d play music and make french fries,” Nancy said.
Once they were playing music, the couple noticed that the rigging on their boat was covered with starlings. When they stopped playing, one by one each little bird flitted away. “We think the music drew them there,” she said. “It was the most amazing thing.”
Over the next eight years, the couple saw their fair share of whales, storms and rugged sights along the island. They would be out on the water for 14 days at a time before they would need to deliver their fish, fuel up and get groceries.
When the commercial fishing industry started to fizzle, Ted and Nancy realized that with age, in a few years they wouldn’t be able to keep and needed a change.
Three years ago they sold the boat, the licence and retired from fishing. They took employment counselling through Hecate Straight and that was when Ted came up with the idea to start a food truck.
He took his brand new hunting trailer and rejigged it to be a the Fries and Pies trailer. In October 2014, they opened for business and began selling fries, poutine, fish and chips and other fast food. It’s busy work but it’s not stressful or hard on the body. They’re enjoying the social aspect of serving new and regular customers each day and working together, once again, in close quarters.
They also started playing music in public together as “Just Showed Up”. They have performed at the Relay For Life event, Kispiox Valley Music Festival and Bad Poetry night at the Harbour Theatre.
This year, when the weather warms up as spring and summer approach, Nancy and Ted are taking their food and music gig on the road. They plan to hook the Fries and Pies trailer up to their new motorhome and travel to farmer’s markets and music festivals.
“We’re a good team,” she said.