British Columbia Desolation Sound

Prideaux Haven, Desolation Sound Marine Park

Friday, September 09, 2011S.V. CAMBRIA

Our pal, Morgan, on the trail between Laura and Melanie coves.

It's not difficult to pass time in Prideaux Haven, and today was no exception.  Having done enough work yesterday,  David took the day off and we went kayaking in the morning and later joined Bill and Sylvia for a hike. 

Melanie and Laura Coves were once home to the legendary "hermits" of Prideaux Haven: Andrew “Mike”Shutter, who lived in Melanie Cove, and Phil Lavigne, who lived in Laura Cove. The coves are still linked by a well-used trail which they blazed and after lunch we dinghied down to the head of Laura Cove to hike the trail with Bill and Sylvia, but the story really begins in Melanie Cove.

Up until his death in 1931, Mike Shuttler was well known to everyone who visited Prideaux Haven.  In his heyday, he loved company and, armed with a posy of flowers, he'd row out to visit boats anchored in the bay.  He was born in Minnesota where he was in a brawl when he was a young man.  His opponent left him for dead and, when he regained consciousness several days later, he decided if that was all there was to life, it wasn't worth living so he was going off somewhere by himself to think things through. 

Although he left school at an early age to work, he was intelligent and educated himself by reading voraciously from the works of classics such as Marcus Aurelius, Epictetus, Plato and Emerson.  Like many others who came to Desolation Sound to make a life, he grew his own vegetables and fruits, selling the excess to the store in Refuge Cove, kept goats and logged trees when he need the money.  In 1931, he became ill and was moved to the hospital in Powell River where he died in December.  His long-time neighbour, Phil Lavigne, wanted a memento of his friend, so he built bookshelves around his bed and moved Mike's library to his cabin in Laura Cove: Phil was illiterate.

Phil arrived some time after Mike, likely in the early 1900s, and is said to have killed a man in Quebec.  If true, he was probably not wanted by the authorities because he corresponded with his family back home with the help of neighbours.  Before his old-age pension of CA$20 a month kicked in, he made his living from his garden and from fishing.  In 1945, Phil got sick and was taken to the hospital in Powell River.  He died in August of 1946 and was buried in an unmarked grave in the Cranberry Cemetery, just like Mike. 

Remains from either homestead no longer exist, so the hike didn't yield the sense of adventure and history that we were hoping for – the closest we came was the outhouse placed by BC Parks in Melanie Cove said to be on the site of Mike's former cabin.  So, after a short break, we turned around and made our way back to Laura Cove. 

We were almost there when we saw a couple climbing up the hill and were ready to yell out that it wasn't worth it when the man shouted, "Dr.Livingston, I presume."  It was Rick, Gerri Lee and Morgan (the dog), our friends from Campbell River.  David had sent them an e-mail last week telling them where we were planning to go and they stopped by to see if we were still here before going up Toba Inlet tomorrow.  Not really interested in the hike themselves, we all walked down to the beach and made plans to meet in one of the lagoons for a swim.

On the way back to our boats, Rick and Gerri Lee's outboard stopped working, so Bill and Sylvia towed them while David and I went back to Cambria so he could pick up some tools.  While he went to see what he could do to help fix the outboard, I put on my swimsuit and kayaked down to the lagoon to cool off and clean up.  Sylvia's more afraid of swimming in the ocean than I am, so she took a pass, but Bill and I enjoyed the refreshing (i.e. cold) water.

Fixing anything on a boat always takes longer than you'd like or would expect, so I made a tray of nibbles and threw some beer in a bag and went down to About Time for "Happy Hour".  I should have known from the laughter travelling down the channel that they were already done working and were sharing a beer themselves, but better late than never.  And even though David didn't get out of working altogether, it was another excellent day on the water with everything falling into place from the spectacular summer weather to spending time with friends in one of the most beautiful places on earth.  What could be better? 

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