Timeout in Shoal Bay
Standing at the end of the public wharf, looking beyond Shoal Bay, across Cordero Channel and north up Phillips Arm, the view is about as lovely and dreamlike as they get in the Discovery Islands.
Then you turn around, look up at the East Thurlow Island shore, and try to imagine that here was once a veritable metropolis on the BC coast, some 5,000 folks, schools, hotels and markets, saints and scoundrels.
In the late 1800s the bustling town supported the logging, mining and fishing industries that grew up in the area. Many rushed in for the vague promise of gold. In the 1920s, the government built a 200-metre wharf. It seemed there would be no looking back.
It ain’t so easy to imagine what it was like back then. Today, not much of the past remains.
Now it is a good anchorage with spectacular views of snow-capped mountains. The public dock has 500 feet (150 metres) of moorage space on three transient floats. Rafting is not only tolerated but mandatory.
In 2000, Mark MacDonald bought the old Shoal Bay Lodge, and set about refurbishing the inn. He boxed and barged up everything he and his family owned to the site and prepared for a new career as a resort mogul.
Then the lodge burned down.
Mark and his partner Cynthia had to start over. With the help of friends, and strangers who just happened to be sailing past, they have built two cottages, one which doubles as a pub, as well as other outbuildings, a garden and chicken coop.
There are many plans on the drawing board. Offers of help, in the form of advice or getting your hands dirty, will not be turned away.
Cruisers are welcome to share the vegetables, herbs and flowers grown in the garden.
Mark and friends also host a music festival which has become an annual event. The festival is free to attend, and past events have attracted both professional and amateur performers.
The 2017 festival is scheduled for August 12. Cruisers are encouraged to bring an instrument to jam the night away.
The past has faded away, but there is an oldtimey feel to the place. Maybe it’s a hippie vibe. Just let it sink in. It won’t hurt.
(Shoal Bay is covered in Salish Sea Pilot’s Cruising Guide to Desolation Sound and the Discovery Islands.)