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Linda, Dr. Dale Anderson, Kelly
General News · 28th April 2009
Linda Kovacs
ONCE A SAILOR, ALWAYS A SAILOR, says Dr. Dale Anderson, a dentist in British Columbia who has managed-for almost 20 years-to provide treatment to his patients even though his practice isn’t rooted on terra firma, but floating on water.

He anchored his practice—a float house 12 meters long by nine meters wide—on Cortes Island in 1999. For a number of years, he operated his practice from a sail boat that he sailed around the coast.

Prior to that, Dr. Anderson owned a large dental practice on the BC mainland, but answered an inner call to sell the practice and embark on a sailing adventure around the Pacific Ocean.

“I’ve been a sailor most of my life, so travelling around the full Pacific Circle was a dream come true—quite the adventure,” Dr. Anderson told DENTAL CHRONICLE.

“Once a sailor, then you always like to keep your feet close to the water.”

After he sold the mainland practice and started his around the world journey, Dr. Anderson and his partner and her two children travelled down the coast . After hitting some stormy weather they ended up sailing to California, and then proceeded down the coast to St. Lucas, Mexico. Eventually they made their way to French Polynesia and Tahiti.

“We had hopes of sailing to Australia, but the children’s parental father was dying of cancer so we sailed to Hawaii and then the children flew back to Canada to tend to their father,” he said. The family spent a year in Hawaii before to returning to British Columbia.

Back in BC, Dr. Anderson decided to practice dentistry again, but he did not want to work at a regular clinic. So, he set up the practice on his sail boat and conducted business in the surrounding areas of Cortes Island.

“We just moved from island to island with the sail boat, and it was wonderful because being licensed in British Columbia there weren’t a lot of restrictions and I could pretty much go anywhere,” Dr. Anderson said.

“There were no environmental issues while my practice was on the sail boat because we did not put anything in the ocean—we kept it in containers onboard.”

DIFFERENT APPROACH TO MARKETING
When he was practicing from his sail boar and moving from place to place, Dr. Anderson had his staff hand deliver notices to the local post office, fasten posters on community bulletin boards, and advertise in newspapers indicating their docking location, so patients could contact them for appointments.

“Through advertising and word of mouth people would find us and schedule an appointment, and when we found business was slowing down we would set sail to another island,” he said.

“We were surprised at the variety of people who would schedule appointments as we travelled from island to island,” he said. He added that occasionally people from New York or California would schedule appointments, for the experience.

Dr. Anderson said that eventually the practice became so busy they needed a little more room to expand the clinic. So he purchased the float house because the sail boat was quite small for the number of patients they were seeing, and it wasn’t being sailed often enough.

“We are the only dental office in the Cortes Island area, and other than that people have to take two ferries to go to Vancouver to see a dentist, which can be quite costly,” Dr. Anderson commented.

“I find that we are busy enough because I am now semi-retired and the clinic offers the perfect amount of working opportunities. I guess if I were young and had a family that was just starting out then I would likely desire more business.”

Currently he works for two weeks and then takes two weeks off. During the downtime, the schedule is organized for the following two weeks, food and equipment is restocked, and any impressions to make crowns are shipped to the laboratory.

THE CORTES COMMUNITY
“Cortes Island is such a beautiful place. It’s north of Victoria, and I have really enjoyed my time working here,” he said.

The community is small with about 1,200 people, but patients also come from other islands in the area. “That’s why it is to our advantage to be right on the water because boats can come in from other islands, tie up to our dock, and easily come into our office,” Dr. Anderson said.

“We have had tremendous support from community members who help us maintain the clinic, and help us get power to [the float house] because they recognize the need for us in the community.”

WHERE IT ALL BEGAN
Dr. Anderson was raised on a ranch in Alberta. He graduated from dental medicine at the University of Toronto in 1971. Initially, Dr. Anderson’s actually planned to go into veterinary medicine, but after a slight disagreement with his advisor, he changed his mind.

“I walked down the hallway and found the dental people to be really helpful and friendly so I changed my mind and decided to become a dentist,” he said.

“I believe a person must live their life to the fullest extent possible. Throughout my life, I have tried to live each moment as I go along.”

Lynn Bradshaw
Reprinted from: Dental Chronicle_April_09
The floating clinic
The floating clinic