Divers search – and find – better life on Grand Manan

·3 min read

A pair of professional divers went in search of work-life balance and they came up to find it on Grand Manan.

Now the former Vancouver Island residents are sharing their love of Grand Manan with a new business Turning Tides Cottages, which provides rentals on four and a half acres with an ocean view. The business is also helping solve the scarcity of single-day rentals on the island, according to Kim Shewfelt, co-president of Grand Manan Tourism.

Kendall Martin and his wife Alie Stever drove from Vancouver Island to Grand Manan after Martin accepted a new diving job. Both Martin and Stever are professional divers and were living on Vancouver Island until they had their first child.

The only diving work Martin was finding out west was "camp work and he would be gone for two to three weeks at a time," Stever recalled, which made it difficult to manage a newborn.

Martin started searching for a new job where he could come home every day after work, and that pointed their compass in the direction of Grand Manan in January 2019, with an opportunity to work with Charlotte County Diving while staying on the island.

When Martin returned after a successful job trial, Stever said they "packed up all of our belongings and our dog and our eight-month-old baby and then we drove across the country."

It took them three weeks to reach Grand Manan, with an adequate amount of stops, due to weather conditions and travelling with an infant, Stever said. The family had to go through a few snowstorms, stop and let their dog out for walks, stop to take care of the baby, and also pick and choose the days that they could drive on.

After getting to the island, Stever went through bookkeeping school and Martin started diving at Cooke Aquaculture's fish farms.

The couple had difficulty finding a place to rent in their initial days and lived in an apartment for three months followed by three months living in a renovated motor home, Stever said. They were able to purchase their own home in May 2020.

In 2021, the couple had a baby boy and the idea of building cottages came to Stever's mind while she was on her maternity leave. She began collecting items and appliances required for the project ahead of time, due to issues with the global supply chain, and construction on the cottages began in March 2022.

Turning Tides now offers four theme-based, two-bedroom cottages on the island. With the help of her family and a few neighbours to set things up, the cottages were available to rent by August.

"I had my first guest down there like Aug. 26," she said. "We busted it, we got it done, that's for sure."

Stever said she wants to share the island with visitors, and that's how the cottage idea came to her mind – the island-themed cottages highlight Grand Manan's beauty. She promotes the island on social media too, along with her business.

"I feel really proud and... it's really cool to build something from the ground up," she said. "I can't see us doing this anywhere else really."

Shewfelt said Turning Tides Cottages has done an incredible job marketing the island, as the business displayed its progress over social media while building the cottages. She added that there have been accommodation issues on the island and most rentals are for a week minimum.

Opening four cottages with the option of single-day rentals will help those families who cannot carve a week out of their work schedules, Shewfelt said. She also noted the business has undertaken accessibility measures when building its new cottages.

"(Stever) has done a really amazing job of highlighting the island," Shewfelt said, "and we are actually trying to recruit her on Tourism."

Rhythm Rathi, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Telegraph-Journal