0840 Billy’s Museum – 160 people in the 60’s and 35 school kids, to 8 people today
1030 Burwood Fish Farm – 2 generators and something heavy, offload by crane
1100 Burwood Beach – white shells , followed by rock wall faces
1315 Mcuede Island Fish Farm – one quick pallet
1600 Wakeman Sound – hickama slices with avocado dip and chips
2000 Shoal Harbour
As I looked out our small glazed window, I could not tell if the window had just clouded up or if there was a dense fog outside. I had to pull the window down to tell that a low lying fog had surrounded us, leaving only a sliver of a view of the nearby shore. I didn’t realize it, perhaps I had just missed the briefing, but we had been told there would be an early breakfast today.
By the time I arrived for breakfast at 8:30 am, everyone was leaving the dining hall. I quickly stuffed down two slices of ham backed French toast and berry sauce. We were already only feet away from the dock. This would be our second opportunity in three days to disembark the ship and go exploring on land. We were tying up to Billy’s dock behind Echo Bay, a once lively town with a population of 160 in the 1960’s. Now there were two people on the dock to greet us Billy and Yvonne, to represent the current population of about 8 individuals left in this small settlement to show us around Billy’s Museum and Yvonne’s gift shop.
While this little settlement does bustle with boaters in the two months of summer, it was almost surreal and quiet as 12 of us travellers from the ship got off to wander around. The boardwalk from the dock to the museum, gift-shop and replica of a logger’s cabin was itself beautiful. A railing constructed of curved and twisted driftwood lined the sides of the walkway. A path continued up the side of the settlement to a log cabin in the trees overlooking the bay.
As I entered the small museum, I was surprised to see hundreds of artifacts from times gone by. A stack of newspapers lay there with one on top from 1969 showing a photo of the first moon landing. Old cash registers, pop and whisky bottles, fishing lures and animal traps. It was an eclectic collection of items salvaged from the area.
In the middle of the floor stood an old 30 year piano that Billy salvaged from the old schoolhouse. It was in an front end loader a few months ago being carted over to a pile of burning artifacts from the 1930’s schoolhouse that closed down in 2008. Billy had managed to enlist the help of another person to help salvage old class photographs and photos from the file cabinets that were being dumped out and burned. The building had been locked for years, and with little warning a crew arrived to dismantle it all and burn it down. There was no need to use the old schoolhouse anymore which in the 1960’s educated up to 35 students at a time. Times had changed for this little town that in the winter is little more than a remote coastal ghost town. There are no more children living here.
We wandered around the gift shop filled with books written by local authors, local pottery, postcard paintings and the music of Yvonne’s daughter as she sung a song of “Billy’s Bay”.
While Billy grew up 9 miles away, this has been his homestead for over 50 years. Now at the age of 80, he is determined to live out the rest of his years touring people around his museum and renting out space on his dock to boaters in the busy summer months.
I walked with my wife up the hill behind the gift shop. We passed a woodshed stocked full of firewood and across a small meadow with a lonely chicken pecking away in her pen. Buster, Billy’s dog, led us down a trail over the hill to the other side looking over the Echo Bay Marina. With time running short, we decided we didn’t have enough time to explore much more but determined that we would come back one day and bring our kids for a little coastal adventure of our own. It was truly a magical place that took us back in time, meeting friendly people with old-school hospitality. Entrepreneurs live here, trying to find any way to support a remote community lifestyle. The horn of our ship tooted calling us to return only too soon. It was already time to leave this pine tree paradise behind.
Being the last day of October I was pleasantly surprised by the mild weather of the day. There were many blue skies throughout the morning and only the need for a sweater or light coat. I returned to my cabin to shed off my sweater and coat to find a freshly made bed and a small bag of Halloween candies waiting for me.
Down the channel we made our way to the Burwood Fish Farm. After tying up to their dock, the crane on our ship spun over to the dock and one by one, picked up two generators and another piece of heavy equipment. At one point, the pallet underneath its load was not properly balanced and a heavy object tumbled to the ground. It took a forklift and 4 men to get it back onto the pallet that was being suspended by ropes on all sides so the crane could lift it onto the deck of our freighter.
Just behind the fish farm was our second opportunity of the day to get off the ship. It was Burwood Beach. The grey sand was coated with light white shells. Our freighter simply motored up to the beach and lowered the front deck onto the beach. This narrow stretch of beach had a narrow 5 foot stretch of grass with another white beach on the other side. It looked like the perfect kayaker’s hideaway. First Nations people lived on this island at one time and we could see the remnants of the marked cedar trees that had strips of bark peeled off ages ago. I enjoyed a quiet moment as I sat on a rock on the far side of the beach, enjoying the sounds of the waves and singing seagulls in the distance. Sure I may not be on some secluded tropical beach, but I was enjoying a quiet natural paradise along some of the remotest bays of the West-coast.
After our home-style lunch of freshly baked bread flavoured with fennel, vegetable soup, smoked salmon and bison, I enjoyed a quiet moment in the lounge by the cabins. For a brief moment at the crossroads of Kingcome Inlet and Wakeman Sound, my laptop detected an Internet connection on the ship’s WIFI, downloading my email messages from home.
We headed up to the end of Wakeman Sound to drop off some more supplies and 8000 litres of fuel at a logging camp. Passengers used binoculars from each of their staterooms to see if they could spot any bears off in the distance, along the grassy flatlands at the end of the inlet. But they were not there on this day. There seemed to be no person or any activity going on at this logging camp, just some lazy seals sleeping on log booms that reached out from shore into the inlet.
As was traditional on our voyage, midway between lunch and dinner, an appetizer snack was placed on the tables for all to enjoy. Chips and slices of hickma with a delicious freshly made avocado dip were a perfect midday snack.
Steak was the main course for dinner with tuna being the alternative for the non-red meat eaters. Of course this was preceded by a delicious Caesar salad and followed up with an ornately decorated fruit salad and dab of ice cream. Kirsten keeps telling me that she would love to take the chef Carole home with her after the cruise. It is exactly the style of food she loves to eat with plenty of choices for vegetables on the side.
By the time we were winding down our dinner, we were back at Echo Bay. We had been invited by Billy to come back for their annual Halloween bonfire and fireworks show. It was perfect timing for us. We had a half hour after dinner to sit around and talk before heading back to shore. Within a short period of time, the local residents all emerged from the dinner at Billy’s house, some wearing costumes as we gathered for the evening’s fireworks. Half of the passengers watched the fireworks from the boat while the other half of us watched while huddled around the bonfire on shore. We more than doubled the attendance to the fireworks on this island. The show was fun and an annual event Billy looks forward to putting on for all in his community. It was sad to have to leave but our boat needed to go out to deeper water to anchor for the night. We said our goodbyes with a wonderful memory of our newly made friends at Echo Bay.