2011 Report #2 from Squirrel Cove to Port McNeill

July 14, 2011

We haven’t been trying to update everything as in the past, but we do have some updates. The Squirrel Cove item in particular is urgent.

Squirrel Cove

The best-kept secret on the Coast is the proposed marina, fuel dock and aquaculture development for the Squirrel Cove anchorage in Desolation Sound. I say best-kept secret because it has all the elements of trying to sneak something through without the public knowing about it. The proposal includes a marina with slips for boats 40 feet and larger, a fuel dock with high-volume delivery capability, and substantial expansion of existing aquaculture.

The wonderful Squirrel Cove anchorage would be lost. You can do an Internet search for more details and comments. I urge all to comment. The address I was given is:

Mr. Cameron Bezanson
Land Officer
Ministry of Forests, Lands & Nature Resources Operations
Ph: 250-751-7278

I’ve written an e-mail in opposition. Others should do the same, and quickly.

Big Bay

The Stuart Island docks in Big Bay have been expanded by one more float, to make aircraft access easier. We were there when Roger Minor was working from before dawn (literally) until darkness, installing the floats. That evening, neighbors assembled to help with new decking. The Canada Post strike has delayed delivery of some of the store’s stock, but Cathy Minor had a selection of attractive, locally-produced items. The liquor store appeared to be well-stocked.

We hiked up to Eagle Lake. The trail was in excellent shape and the aluminum skiff was ready for use. The walk through the woods was fascinating. I wish I knew more about plant and tree life. The range of things growing was overwhelming. The walk took about 30 minutes each way. It could have been faster if we had been younger.


Big Bay neighbors helping with float.

Shoal Bay

Mark MacDonald’s alder tree attack was covered in Week 1. We’ve learned that an alder tree that splits like that has “barber chaired.” The wood-fired pizza oven was scheduled to begin on Saturdays in July. Pig roasts are scheduled in the oven next to the pizza oven.

On December 24, 2010 Cynthia Jones became Mrs. Cynthia MacDonald in a small ceremony in California. You can see Cynthia’s artistic touch all around the property. Mark is building a new home for her on the hill overlooking the property. The view up Phillips Arm is beautiful.


Mark and Cynthia MacDonald

Cordero Lodge

The docks and dining are fully operational. Doris and Reinhardt’s daughter Kellie is up for the summer with her two boys. Kellie grew up at Cordero. Doris is doing all the cooking. It’s a big job, but boy can she cook. Her German dishes are superb. Cordero Lodge is actively for sale, so this might be your last chance to enjoy it under its quarter-century of present ownership.

Blind Channel

Little Jonah, now 2-1/2, is one of the fastest things on two legs we’ve seen in quite a while. He’s talking a streak and with that big smile, he can get just about anything he wants. All the boaters ask to see Jonah. He’s going to have a sibling in October. Laura and Eliot will be doing it the old-fashioned way: boy or girl, they won’t know until the blessed event occurs. A girl would be first Richter girl in 60 years.

The open-air shelter overlooking the moorage had its first wedding last September. The bride was Laura’s lovely sister, who’s working at Blind Channel this summer.

Great-grandpa Edgar Richter remains busy running machinery, riding his golf cart, designing and building. Last summer we saw Edgar on a ladder helping build the open-air shelter. People in their mid-80s shouldn’t be on ladders, but you can’t keep Edgar down.

The store, of course, is well-stocked, and Jennifer is baking her fabulous bread. Marilynn did laundry, I filled the water tanks. The restaurant was excellent. Everyone stops at Blind Channel – or should.

Lagoon Cove

It’s a summer-long old home week at Lagoon Cove. Boats come back year after year to relax and enjoy the good humor and easy hospitality. It begins with the radio call from around the corner:

Lagoon Cove, Lagoon Cove, this is [boat name], channel six-six-alpha.
Hello, [boat name]! Is that you, Mary?
Sure is. Do you have room for us, 40 feet, starboard side tie?
You bet. I’ve got just the spot for you.

Bob and Pat are there again this year, as staff. Bob does maintenance, Pat runs the fuel dock and collects the moorage, and stays on top of everything that needs doing. The two of them help Bill Barber with landings and departures. Help is important because boats are squeezed in very, very tightly.

Crab races

Lagoon Cove Canada Day crab race action!

The old fuel dock office, with rustic washroom/shower, finally got too old and needed replacement. The new structure, on new float, has two bright, up-to-date washrooms with shower stalls. I’m sure the five sailboats from Comox appreciated the convenience of those showers.

Bill Barber was suffering from a bad cold when we were there, but he rose to the challenge to tell two of his hilarious bear stories at the potluck happy hour gathering up in the big old workshop (rain was pounding down outside). The next day, still feeling rotten, he rose again to conduct the crab races. He’s a real trouper.

Trouper or not, Bill is in his mid-70s and finally ready to back away. Lagoon Cove is actively seeking a new owner. As with so many other people and places up here, if you wait for another day you might miss them.

putting out food

Lagoon Cove—putting out food for the crab feed

Kwatsi Bay

Kwatsi Bay filled up the night we were there, helped by five sailboats from Comox who are cruising together. The 5:00 happy hour snackies were varied and plentiful. The sailboaters didn’t want to quit. One of the ladies was celebrating(?) her 60th birthday. The cards and comments were, um . . . colorful.

Daughter Marieke graduated from the Port McNeill high school this year, and is working as a dock girl at the Port McNeill town marina. She’s off to college in the fall. Son Russell has another couple years of high school, so he’s still helping at Kwatsi Bay. Russell is well into his growth phase: same weight but a foot taller, skinny. The weight will come, Russell, often more than you expect.

How quickly the time has gone by. We met Marieke when she was 5½. Russell was taking a nap that afternoon. He was two.

Happy hour

Happy hour—despite the rain

Anca and Max are the parents. With the kids in high school, Anca has taken an apartment in Port McNeill from fall through spring. Max remains in Kwatsi Bay, trying to keep everything together in the winter storms. This winter the wind blew a tree down in the cliffs above the house. The tree crashed down and down and into the small hydro plant that supplies electricity to the house, damaging about one-half of the Pelton wheel that catches the water and spins to make electricity. The damaged wheel can be seen on the docks. A new wheel has been purchased but isn’t installed yet. The house electrical power is from a Honda generator.

There’s no cell phone coverage, but as with most places up here now, they have Internet and email via satellite.

As always, Anca’s gift shop features interesting and tasteful things we don’t see elsewhere. Good jams and jellies, for example, made by a friend in Victoria. Wall décor. Dark brown oilskin baseball caps with Kwatsi Bay subtly displayed on the front. Attractive pottery pieces. Marilynn needed a little bowl just the right size for the hot appy she made. Anca had a perfect piece, twenty bucks. It’ll find good use at home, too.

Sullivan Bay

We must be running late this year, because we’ve always been farther north by July 4 and we’ve missed the U.S. Independence Day celebration and parade at Sullivan Bay. This year we were there. We and a whole bunch of boats, from one boat at least 80 feet long to a group of C-Dory cruisers in their 22- and 27-footers. I don’t think anyone has more fun in their boats than those middle-age and even “senior”-age C-Dory couples. Their boats are filled with food and drink and propane stoves and sleeping bags and radars and anchors and coolers and barbecues and crab pots and folding chairs for the docks and dinghies on the cabintops. Not even the 22-footers have two-foot-itis for a 27-footer. They definitely don’t want a boat that stays in the water. One couple I met had trailered their 22-footer to Lake Powell. They plan to trailer the boat east next year.

Don Filer

Don Filer leading the Fourth of July parade.

But I wander. The parade began at 11 a.m., led by Don Filer in a silly patriotic hat and riding a Segway. We all followed Don, banging spoons on pots, waving flags, making a general ruckus. The Canadians stood by and applauded as we went past. There was quite a string of us in the parade. We must have marched around the docks for half an hour. Marilynn and I didn’t have costumes or decorations, but I took Surprise’s U.S. ensign (flag) down and waved it as I marched.

The blindfold dinghy competition was at one o’clock and took all afternoon. Four fairly stable but wiggly inflatable water toys were used. Two-person teams, one member blindfolded, each with a paddle. Race from the main dock across to the fuel dock and back. Heats, semi-finals, a final. Directional control in these boats was iffy at best. The blindfolded paddler had no sense of where to go and usually paddled as hard as possible, shooting the bow this way or that, sometimes turning the ridiculous little craft in a circle. The better teams figured out teamwork strategy but the biggest cheers were for the least competent. Two absolutely darling little blond-haired girls, ages perhaps eight and nine, couldn’t do anything right and were towed back to thunderous applause.

I planned to enter. I put on shorts, water shoes and life jacket, and prepared to give it a try. Then I saw what it would take to get into one of those softly-inflated rubber boats from the high Sullivan Bay dock. Recalling my inflatable kayak dunking from our low-to-the-water swim step and considering my overall awkwardness, I withdrew. I wasn’t agile back when I was agile. No way was I going to flop into one of those boats. Marilynn was ready to go if I went. She seemed relieved when I changed my mind.

Then came an excellent rib, chicken, Caesar salad, potato salad, 3-bean salad and strawberry sundae buffet, joyously consumed under tents while the rain pounded down. After that, dancing under the shelter to a really good live combo. I went down to take pictures. But the festive mood was contagious, and I approached two wives Marilynn and I have known for years. “I hear this is a good place to hustle chicks,” I said.

“Let’s dance!” one of the wives replied.

No, not me, I protested, and inquired about her husband.

“Oh, he’s back on the boat,” she said dismissively. “He’ll never dance. Come on, let’s dance!” She grabbed my hand and suddenly I was out there. I was spinning her out and bringing her back, twirling her under one arm, then both of us twirling under one arm each. I spun her under my two arms, then I spun under her two arms.

“Let’s turn under two arms together,” she said. It took a couple tries but we made it. Holding both hands, we twirled back-to-back and around, smooth as silk. After a couple bouts of this I gave up and went home. She danced till 11.


We just plain like Sointula. The moorage is a working waterfront – no reservations, fish boats and various work boats coming and going. No landing or departure help, other than by neighboring boats. Somehow, even with diesel engines growling around, it’s peaceful. We chatted about the rotten weather with Murray, aboard Foxy Lady II, a gillnetter on our dock. As we were walking back from the “town” a mile away, Murray stopped his pickup truck and gave us a ride.

Dan Hillert, the meatcutter at the Co-op grocery store, has reduced his store hours to mornings only. At noon he crosses the street to the Bistro he and his wife Debbie run, and begins cooking. We ordered an excellent pizza for supper, delivered to our boat.

I was surprised when Tasha, the Co-op store manager, asked if we were going for coffee at the Senior Centre the next morning. She said the boys get together every morning by 7:00 to have coffee and talk about things.

Well. This sounded interesting. Although Tasha insisted that women were welcomed, Marilynn said I should go without her. I used one of the purple guest bicycles at the marina and rode up to the big museum building next to the tennis courts. An “Open” sign blazed in a downstairs window. Carefully, I went in.

working waterfront

Sointula working waterfront

Three of the boys were there, discussing boats and radar repairs, and the boat one of them had for sale, and whatever. I was told to put a dollar in the looney-bin box, and have all the coffee I wanted. In situations like this it’s best to keep your ears open and your mouth shut, which I did. Eventually I was interrogated, but not too much. If you’re in Sointula, get yourself up to morning coffee at the Senior Centre. They’ll appreciate the fresh blood, and you’ll appreciate what you experience.

Port McNeill

Marieke from Kwatsi Bay is the dock girl at the town docks, and helped us land. She knew exactly what to do and did it well. “Growing up at Kwatsi, I didn’t realize I was in training,” she said. It doesn’t hurt that she knows about half the boats coming in, and welcomes them as old friends.

The fuel dock moorage was completely taken by boats with reservations, including three mega-yachts. The town docks don’t take reservations, although it never hurts to call when you’re about an hour out, to let them know you’re coming.

Port McNeill remains a major fueling and supply destination. The big IGA has complete produce, meats and deli. The neighboring Super Valu is well-stocked, too, as is the good-sized liquor store. For repairs, we were told that Graham McDonald, “Mister Fix-it,” was busy on boats from morning till night. Other repair people are available, too. They have to be versatile and good. They keep the boats and the camps running.

Gosh, 2400 words. We departed for points north the next morning. That’ll be Report Number 3.

Order a Guide today! The Waggoner is the Northwest’s best selling, most popular cruising guide. Cruisers call the Waggoner “the bible” for Northwest cruising.
© 2013 Burrows Bay Associates LLC. All rights reserved.