0700 offload at Jackson Bay
0900 Yorke Island Walk – World War 2 (160 people)
1230 West Cracroft
1300 Bocket Point – offload fuel
1545 Pott’s Lagoon – logging camp, offload fuel, cables and supplies
first blue sky – sunset
1900 Duck Cove – Nighttime stop to drop off fuel during dinner (lamb)
2240 Shoal Harbour
The engine sputtering to a start woke me up first thing in the morning. It was already 7am. The freighter had moored through the night at Jackson Bay, attaching itself to a log boom. Within minutes, the ship which had just started up, moved in position and unloaded a morning shipment of goods on shore. Having just woken up, I joined the other 11 passengers for a leisurely breakfast while watching, entranced by the movements on the deck from the windows in the dining room. I really was not hungry but the aromas coming from the kitchen enticed me in like a magnetic force.
Before we finished our meal, the captain pulled away and headed a few minutes away for Yorke Island which was our first non-cargo stop of the voyage. It was a strategic defence post during World War II set up to defend Canada against any potential Japanese invasion.
The captain directed the ship at a rocky beach and pulled right in with precision as if he were parking a bus. Many of the passengers were anxious to have our first opportunity to get a little bit of exercise. Carole the cook had been feeding us too well for the past two days that we felt a need to burn off some energy.
Kirsten and I joined the other passengers, as we cinched on our boots and rain gear. It was a drizzly morning but we were not going to let the weather get the better of us. We all gathered in the lounge outside of our cabins before someone came from the bottom deck to say, “They’re waiting for you at the ramp to the forward of the boat”. Not realizing where we were supposed to meet, we all clamoured down the metal staircase at the stern of the ship in single file. The steps were quite steep and narrow so we carefully made our way to the main freight deck below.
I was relieved to have brought my hiking boots as I sloshed my way across the freight deck to the bow of the ship. A thin layer of mud had collected in most areas from the tires of the forklift that had taken multiple trips to and from the muddy shores of the logging camps and other delivery locations. We carefully walked to the ramp that had been lowered right onto the beach so that we could disembark even easier than if we had tied up to a dock. Climbing up the narrow 5 feet of beach, we were directly at the the trail-head that led inland. Right on the edge of the water was the remnants of an old building, perhaps one used by someone in charge of the island 70 years earlier.
The trail that led up to the centre of the island was wide enough for a car and was obviously how goods were transported from shore to the military compound on the island. A BC Parks sign had been erected to indicate that this was a protected historic provincial park. Halfway up the hillside we saw a moss covered water cistern off in the distance. The trail sloped up gradually and was only a slight challenge for an elderly couple that had joined us. They just took their time and we made frequent stops along the way.
At the top of the hill we were all surprised to see the size of the military installation overlooking the ocean. Bunkers and brick buildings had been constructed decades ago and were now lying abandoned. A maze of passageways wound around showing where old cannons once were mounted, complete with passageways where shells and other ammunition could be brought in and loaded for the high powered guns. Fortunately this military base saw no action during World War II. Apparently boredom was one of the biggest challenges for the more than 100 men that had been stationed here, first in tents and then in buildings.
I peered over the edge of a landing from where a gun had once pointed out to sea. There just below, was an apple tree. Perhaps one of the many remnants on the island that sprung up following a discarded apple core. Yorke island has some beautiful views of the ocean and was the reason it became a strategic military post. All ships coming down the inside passage would need to pass to one side or the other of this historic island.
After peering into a few of the bunkers with a name and year painted on the wall of each, we had some time to reflect on the history of this island as we took a 5 minute walk back down the hill to our waiting ship. It was a remote, quiet and impressive stop.
During lunch we made two more close together logging camp stops at West Cracroft and Bocket Point before reaching Pott’s Lagoon, a bustling logging operation. Once again we watched as large machines sorted logs of all shapes and sizes. A crane moved heavy logs before a loader grabbed a dozen and placed them on the edge of the shore. Within minutes they were bundled up and tipped over into the ocean below. A tug boat operator scuttled the bundles into log booms like he was corralling a herd of cattle. It was also here that the ship’s wifi Internet service became clear and allowed me to send and receive messages from home.
Throughout the day, little windows of Internet connectivity would come up and down as I scrambled to communicate messages to and from work. Perhaps the life on a boat being disconnected from the outside world most of the time is not so bad. After all, while on vacation, maybe we are supposed to leave work behind.
In the evening we saw our first glimpse of blue sky on the horizon. The sun was finally peaking out from the clouds. The low sun lit up the dining-room as it set, providing us with a beautiful sunset to enjoy over dinner. Salad, Lamb and Cheesecake were the temptations of the evening as everyone sat around the dinner table talking with each other. Exhausted from a long day, everyone seemed to head to their cabins rather early, leaving me to type alone in the dining room, my memories of the day.