The July 1 Canada Day celebrations are taken seriously in the Broughtons, if the words “celebration” and “seriously” can be used together. We had overnighted June 30 at the Sullivan Bay Marina and knew they were getting ready for their annual July 4 U.S. Independence Day party—the old-fashioned parade on the docks, the blindfolded dinghy races, the dancing in the evening. So we didn’t expect much for Canada Day.

Boy, were we wrong. Sullivan Bay Marina had stockpiled strings of little Canadian flags to be tied to rails or flown from masts or antennas. They had red balloons and white balloons with maple leafs printed on them, leis made of artificial red and white flowers, and shiny red top hats with maple leafs. Marilynn and I wore red and white, as did nearly everyone else.

Sullivan Bay

Debbie Holt and Chris Scheveers, managers of Sullivan Bay Marina.

The docks were busy with decorations and decorating. Khrystyne Nightingale, a server in the restaurant, was inflating balloons, along with Maria Jeanne “M-J” De Silva, another employee. Chris Scheevers and Debbie Holt, who’ve managed Sullivan Bay for seven years, were keeping everything going. Chris wore a red T-shirt (with maple leaf) and Debbie wore gleaming white jeans and a red top. Buddy, their tiny but bossy Yorkie dog, was resplendent in a red-and-white maple leaf scarf around his neck.

Four American Tugs from Washington were being hung with flags and balloons. It’s so satisfying to be part of the goodwill that exists between Canadians and Americans.

Sullivan Bay

Lynn Duncan ties balloons to the rail of her American Tug 39.

But we had to move on—to Shawl Bay Marina, where we had reservations for the night and where we’d enjoyed Canada Day for the past few years.

It’s quite a contrast between the Sullivan Bay and Shawl Bay marinas. For a century, Sullivan Bay has been an important center in the wilderness. Sullivan Bay had (and has) extensive moorage, a fuel dock, a well-stocked store and liquor agency, showers and laundry. For the past several years it’s had a good restaurant. Until recent budget reductions closed it, Sullivan Bay also had a post office. And, from the early days of flight, Sullivan Bay has had aviation gasoline. Float planes refuel there. Bush pilots know Sullivan Bay well. The cover photo on the book Flights of a Coast Dog shows a float plane banking over Sullivan Bay Marina. The pilot, I am told, was Pat Finnerty, one of the best in the business at the time. Pat ended up as co-owner of Sullivan Bay for many years. In failing health, Pat died this past year. The stories, the stories up here. . . .

Shawl Bay is different from Sullivan Bay. It too has been a meeting place, though much smaller, with fewer amenities and a much slower pace. For a number of years Shawl Bay was where visitors could—oh, how should we say it—be very, very relaxed, especially beginning in the afternoon. I once saw a T-shirt with “I survived happy hour at Shawl Bay” printed on it. The dangerously liquid afternoons and evenings are the stuff of old-timer tales now, but the informal, low-key nature remains.

When we got to Shawl Bay we saw three classic motorboats tied up, white-painted topsides brilliant, varnished houses and transoms glowing. We managed a tour of two of them: Merva, 40 feet, built in 1932 and restored from derelict status by owner Donnell McDonnell, and Euphemia II, 50 feet, owned by Mike and Peggy O’Brien. The third was Olmaha, at least 50 feet, built in the 1920s. We would have enjoyed a tour of Olmaha, but the owners were off the boat when we were available, and we were away when they were available. Merva and Euphemia II had undergone extensive and tasteful restoration, remodeling and repowering. Both owners recommended Abernethy & Gaudin, in Brentwood Bay, for sensitive cabinet and shipwright work. Silly me, I thought our boat was good at transferring wealth from an owner’s pocket to other pockets. How naïve. Classic motoryachts are in an entirely different league. The result, however, is boats that others want to tour. It was a delight.

Shawl Bay

Donnell McDonnell hoists the dinghy aboard.

Carol “The Bead Lady” has moved her interesting crafts and art gallery to their float house around the corner. I took the dinghy over and came back with a nice piece of woodworking, a fish bonker. Except it’s too elegant to actually bonk a fish. It’ll go somewhere at home, probably in my office downstairs. Lorne Brown’s wife Shawn has been in Nanaimo for some time, caring for her 90-year-old father. With help needed and no one to do the baking, Curtis Burkhart and Misty Thorne and their four children, ages 10, 6, 4 and 3, have come up. Curtis helps on the docks and does the baking. His cinnamon buns are superb. His bread is excellent. And he makes hearty lunchtime hamburgers from patties he puts together himself on buns he bakes. They plan to stay year-round.

Canada Day afternoon life at Shawl Bay was fairly quiet. Tracy, who has worked at Shawl Bay for several years, was up on a stepladder, festooning the covered party area with flags. Around four o’clock Carol and her husband Jerry came over in their skiff, followed by their float house neighbors next door. The once-quiet party area suddenly was full of people, people bearing food. A potluck supper emerged: delicious baked beans, a noodle dish, salads, desserts—and Lorne Brown’s traditional seafood chowder in a huge pot.

After supper, the fireworks. Or more accurately, the potatoworks. Lorne Brown and two other men brought out their potato guns. You don’t know about potato guns? They’re made of PVC piping and components. The barrel is about four feet long. A potato is pushed into the outer end and shoved with a wooden ramrod down to the base. A combustion chamber is opened. The propellant—hair spray—is sprayed in and the chamber is quickly capped. A clicker, such as used to light a propane stove or barbecue, is pushed, and whomp! or pow! and the potato is shot from the gun. It arcs high into the air, and lands out in the bay. They went through several pounds of potatoes, to much cheering. I’ll bet the inventors of hair spray didn’t envision this use for their product.

Shawl Bay

Shooting the potato guns.

How the talk on the docks and in the party area flowed. The etiquette was simple. Find someone you don’t know, walk up and say hello, and it goes from there. Boats and cruising being the common denominators, conversation wasn’t difficult. From boat talk the subject evolved easily to gossip. What about the new couple at that marina? Has so-and-so really sold his place? Well, you know the real reason that boat was crashed. The gossip has no limit. The kelpline moves news—especially bad or juicy news—up and down the coast virtually overnight.

We quit as darkness was closing in, but others hung on. We heard voices until after 10:30.

—Bob Hale

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