2016 Cruise Report

No. 3

boat in water

Forested mountainsides and slide scars at Turnbull Cove.

Turnbull Cove, The Broughtons, July 11. It’s morning. Thin clouds are overhead, and occasional sprinkles of rain fell a few minutes ago. The sprinkles weren’t serious and might not return. The air is absolutely calm; the water is a mirror of dense evergreen forest on the mountainsides around us. I’m not kidding about mountainsides. The trees cling to a thin layer of soil that covers solid granite. In two places, the mountains were too steep and the soil too thin. When heavy rain soaked the forest the soil lost its grip on the rock and slid, trees and all, hundreds of feet down and into the cove. The slide scars are tall and narrow, with a mess of broken trees at the bottom and bare rock above. It appears, though, that Nature doesn’t like bare rock. Green vegetation has begun to make a cover.

We’ve been out almost a month, and this is only our third anchorage. It’s a welcome change from the busyness of dock life. Although Marilynn and I are fully retired from the Waggoner, we feel a compulsion to stay in touch with the marinas and stopping places that were such an important part of our lives for two decades. So we tie up, shake hands, exchange hugs, marvel at improvements, and get current on all the latest gossip.

* * *

Lagoon Cove Marina was sold then unsold, and an excited new buyer was on-site. Yesterday the kelpline reported that papers were signed. The kelpline is astonishing. Even without email and internet, news of what happens in one place will travel as if by magic a hundred miles away—overnight. Facts can be distorted in the telling and retelling. Now the kelpline says problems came up, and papers weren’t signed. A reporter needs to check everything out before publishing what he heard, even if the seeds of the story are there.

Shawl Bay Marina is sold and closed for renovations, and with it, nearly a century of history as a center for loggers, fishermen, heavy drinkers and pleasure boaters ends. The alcoholics description applies better to earlier days. Some years ago I saw an “I survived Happy Hour at Shawl Bay” T-shirt. The T-shirt had to have been old because the deadly happy hours were no more.

bob and red shirt man

Bob and Lorne Brown in Shawl Bay.

We motored into Shawl Bay to have a look and saw Lorne Brown, the previous owner, walking out the dock to wave us in. Tracy, who has worked at Shawl Bay for several years, had alerted Lorne to our arrival. “That sounds like the Hales in Surprise,” she said. Visitors, it seems, can be known by their exhaust note.

Lorne Brown told us that yes, Shawl Bay was closed, but he was helping string wiring from the generator to new float houses that had been moved in. We’ve had a long and warm relationship with Lorne. Our first time up, nearly 20 years ago, we arrived late and tired on a rainy afternoon, and Lorne offered us a mess of prawns he’d pulled next door in Moore Bay only a few hours earlier. Since we’d never had fresh prawns, he showed us how to take their heads off and cook them in boiling water. Fresh prawns after a long day. They were wonderful.

Back to Lagoon Cove for a moment. We hadn’t seen many boats out—both Princess Louisa Inlet and Prideaux Haven were lightly settled—but Lagoon Cove was plugged solid. The only space available was on the “Honeymoon” dock, located a walk through the woods about 100 yards away from the main marina. It’s tie-up moorage only on the Honeymoon Dock, no water, no power. Our space was at the inside end of the float, with our bow perilously near the rocks on shore, and a very low tide the next morning. The rocks went almost straight down, however. They were not a beach, they were a wall, and when the tide went out, the bottom fell away with it. We were fine.

Jean Barber, now 80, has kept Lagoon Cove Marina running while she tried to find a buyer after Bill died of a raging cancer a few years ago. Jean thought she had it sold to a logging company last fall, but backed out when she realized the company had no interest in running the property as a marina. Then, a man named Jim Ryan, from St. Louis, happened by as a guest on a boat going north, and fell in love with the place. He got off the boat, moved into a small cabin on the property for a few weeks to see how the marina operated and wants to buy it for his family to run. We met Jim. He made a good impression and seemed sincere.

* * *

Sointula, wolves. Sointula is a little village on Malcolm Island, across from Port McNeill and the north end of Vancouver Island. Sointula is the village; the rest of Malcolm Island makes up the community. And a community it is. When Albert Tarkenen died in his mid-80s last year, the whole island turned out for his memorial and get-together afterward. Albert was a highliner fisherman, and he owned Tarkenen Marine Ways in Sointula. He caught a lot of fish and fixed a lot of boats, and made a lot of friends.

We always spend at least a couple nights in Sointula. Something about the place crawls into a person, and it’s hard to leave. Except perhaps for the Burger Barn and the Upper Crust Bakery, there’s not much excitement to take in. The people are easy-going and friendly, though. They’ll offer a ride if you’re packing bags from the grocery Co-op, a mile from the docks, and go out of their way to make visitors quietly welcome.

Jennis Bay Marina

Wolf scratch time at Sointula.

This year we discovered the wolves. There are three wolves, owned and cared for by Gary Allan of Who Speaks for Wolf. Gary raised them from pups, one from three weeks old, the other two from five weeks. Gary has studied wolves, and his mission is to educate people about them. On Sunday and Wednesday evenings he puts on a demonstration. Ten of us gathered at the Co-op hardware store near the marina, and at 7:00 he set the wolves to howling on the hillside above. Then we followed his wife up to their place, where Gary gave an hour-long informal lecture about wolves, their instincts and habits, and why wolves are good for the wildlife balance in nature. The largest of his three wolves, Tundra, was the social one. She came out of the pen and visited each of us. We scratched her ears and rubbed her back, and even played a little with her. It was quite an experience.

Port McNeill. Port McNeill is where boats resupply and refuel, fly crew in and fly them out, have good suppers and make repairs. Boats always need repairs. Our starboard engine throttle cable is sticky and will need replacement, and we hoped we could find a mechanic to do it. As we walked back from shopping, we saw two men approaching. One of them looked familiar. “Is one of you Graham MacDonald?” I called. Yes, one of them was “Mr. Fixit” Graham MacDonald, and he came over to see who it was that called. What a memory—he recognized me from brief meetings when I was researching the Waggoner. I’d heard that at age 71 Graham was trying to retire and cautiously asked if he could do a little job for me. He agreed to look at it later that afternoon.

Jennis Bay Marina

Graham MacDonald in the engine room.

Marilynn and I cleared the main cabin of its furniture and had the engine room hatches open and waiting when Graham arrived. He tried the starboard throttle at the helm station, muttered, and eyed the outboard side of the exposed starboard engine, where he’d have to lie on his back while he investigated further. We gave him a thick towel to cushion his head, and down he went. The problem was isolated to the short length of Morse cable from the synchronizer to the starboard engine governor (throttle). Graham copied the part number from the cable and said he’d be back.

He returned a half-hour later with two cables. The exact replacement wasn’t in stock in Port McNeill, but perhaps one of those would do. No luck. The first cable was too short and the second was the wrong diameter. It was late Friday afternoon, and a new cable wouldn’t be available until the following Tuesday. I guess we’ll have a sticky throttle until we get home. But thank-you Graham MacDonald, “Mr. Fixit” on the Coast, for trying to help me.

Jennis Bay Marina

At Jennis Bay, Ellie charms her mom and Vic Pizzey.

Jennis Bay. I’ll leave a full Jennis Bay Marina report to Waggoner Editor Mark Bunzel, except to say that Alyson’s 4-year-old daughter Ellie is a real cutie. Ellie visits all the boats on the dock, and happily poses for pictures. Alyson’s other daughter, Charlie (not Charlie Marie any longer), is almost 16 and turning into a fine young woman. With Shawl Bay now closed, Jennis Bay is one of the last marinas in the Broughtons where boaters pitch in and help with maintenance, especially painting.

Jennis Bay Marina

Jennis Bay painting help.

Opportunity missed. For exercise, Marilynn and I walked the narrow road from Jennis Bay Marina to the nearby log sort and booming ground, with its rafts of logs awaiting tow to mill. Along the way, we were met by two heavy-duty log trucks going the other way and waved as they crowded by. The log sort, with its trucks and equipment and cable and hooks and shackles and I don’t know what all, was fascinating.

Jennis Bay Marina

Jennis loggers Jaydon Laird and Jim Bilton.

Walking back, we came to the loggers’ camp, an assembly of RVs of all description, most of them showing hard use. Voices were heard. I went looking for the voices and met two really good guys, Jim Bilton, 27, and Jayden Laird, 24, both from Nanaimo. In the course of the conversation, they offered to take Marilynn and me up to the yard where they would load the last logs to be shipped out of Jennis Bay, and take us down to the log sort, to skid the logs into the water. As a city boy, my reaction was “Wow!”

Jennis Bay Marina

Jennis Bay log sort and booming ground.

Unfortunately, it didn’t work out. The logs wouldn’t be loaded and splashed until the next day, and we needed to move on in the morning. It was great while it lasted.

Bob Hale

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