the Discovery Islands the Inside Passage

Shoal Bay, East Thurlow Island

Monday, August 09, 2010S.V. CAMBRIA

The view from Shoal Bay Lodge looking up Phillips Arm.

My favourite anchorages have a story to tell, as is the case with Shoal Bay. In the late 1800’s it was the most populated place on the coast, supporting 5000 inhabitants, and home to a thriving gold mining industry, logging camp, and fishing fleet. The incorporated town was located along the waterfront where there's a 600 foot pier that was built in the 1920s when there was a viable town here with hotels, markets, a brothel, and a school. The pier and dock are virtually all that remains; there are no other indicators of the town that once thrived – not even the brothel!

Over the years, industry in the area died out and the town along with it. Eventually, a fourteen room resort was built aptly named Shoal Bay Lodge. Mark MacDonald bought the property in 2000 and moved everything he owned up to the island, not an easy task considering the only access is by boat or float plane. Within weeks of finishing, the lodge caught fire and burned to the ground – destroying everything he owned. Mark stuck with it and over the years has been rebuilding his dream with the help of friends and strangers. To date there's a pub, his personal home, a cottage, a laundry room with showers, a generator shed/workshop, veggie garden and a chicken coop. During the summer months, people come by boat and lend a hand with the endless projects and chores: building, clearing, ploughing, and laughing along with Mark. And what began as a business opportunity ten years ago has grown into a community of strangers who become friends: a place people can call home when they need one.

Blues Power is still here, and Kelly took us up to introduce us to Mark at the new deck they're building for the upcoming music festival. Within seconds of meeting us, Mark invited us to for dinner at the pub. David brought his guitars with him and he and Kelly sat down to play before we ate. Now, we've been together for eleven years, much of that time for 24 hours a day, and it takes a lot for David to surprise me with his talents, of which there are many, but tonight he did. I can honestly say that I've never heard him play that beautifully before. The melodies rolled off his fingertips and straight through the Fender. Maybe it's because he and Kelly complement each other so well or that he's been practising more since buying the Strat last November. I'm not sure. But what I do know is that he was brilliant and I was very proud.

Risking the over use of superlatives yet again, dinner was incredible – freshly caught salmon provided by Mark's godson, Oliver, who is visiting from England – and a table full of new friends: Christina, Terri, Doug, Roger, Oliver, Kelly, Linda, Bill and, of course, Mark. It was amazing to sit down with strangers but, yet, feel like you're at a family meal – something that we often miss by living and travelling on Cambria.

After dinner, David and Kelly pulled out the acoustics (both Martins – great minds think alike!) and started to play again. People came up from their boats to buy drinks at the pub and were both entertained and entertaining. There was singing, dancing and laughter making for a perfect end to a fantastic evening – the best we've had all season!

The weather, by the way, is beautiful here. Bright, sunny days with blue skies, light breezes and cool at night. We may have just found a little piece of heaven on earth!


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