Princess Royal Channel The Central Coast

Butedale

Thursday, June 27, 2013S.V. CAMBRIA

The decision’s been made: we’re moving north.  As to how far, we have absolutely no idea.  All we know at this stage is that we want to transit Hiekish Narrows and enter Princess Royal Channel, one of the most scenic stretches of the Inside Passage.  So that’s exactly what we did this morning.

The run up the channel was as beautiful as promised – cascades, waterfalls, glacial domes and snow-capped mountains line the shore.  Unfortunately, we didn’t have much time to enjoy the scenery because we had to keep our eyes glued to the water.  There’s been a lot of debris over the past couple weeks, a result of recent flooding and the highest tides of the year, so we expected a long day of dodging logs along the way.  And we got it.  By the time we reached Butedale, some 33 nautical miles later, we were tired and ready to call it a day. 

Butedale in its hey day

Butedale was once the site of a successful salmon cannery where hundreds of people lived and worked from 1911 to some time in the1950s; it’s now a ghost town.  Like so many other canneries along the Inside Passage, it grew redundant with the introduction of refrigeration aboard fishing vessels and had to reduce their operations until, finally, closing altogether.  There have been several attempts to resurrect parts of Butedale over the years but, despite the efforts, the site continues to rapidly deteriorate.  Most of the remaining buildings are beyond repair and are now falling into the sea; others have already made the journey. 

Cambria tied to the ramshackled dock

The dock for visiting boats, though rundown, continues to be maintained and appears safe enough, so we tied up.  Soon afterwards, we were greeted by Lou Simoneau, the “Mayor” of Butedale, who looks after the property year-round for the owner.  Lou’s known to be a social man with a colourful story or two to tell, but it began to rain so we missed out on one of the highlights of visiting the site.  I did have the opportunity to speak with him later when I went up to pay our moorage – CA$30 for the night, a bit pricy for the “facilities”.  He told me about his dog who passed away recently and showed me a video of a Kermode, or Spirit Bear, that had visited the head of the bay last year.  But he was cooking dinner, so our conversation was short. 

Ghost towns can be interesting experiences.  It’s fun to imagine days past while walking the grounds.  But Butedale is in such a state of disrepair that its finer moments are beyond the scope of our imaginations:  The pilings still stand at the head of the bay where, presumably, the fishing vessels came to unload their cargo, but the wharf is gone.  Most of the remaining buildings, with very few exceptions, are too unsafe to enter.  The power house, which used to generate enough power for all of the homes and cannery, is now only hooked up to a car alternator that powers Lou’s house and two outdoor lights, which he never turns off.  And the shore is littered with rusted machine parts and planks of wood.  Butedale’s days of being a charming glimpse into the past are long gone . . . at least for us. 

This isn’t necessarily the adventure we’d been craving, so we’ll be moving on tomorrow with the tide for Bishop Bay Hot Springs where we’ll decide what’s next: further northing, circumnavigating Princess Royal Island or Gardner Canal, reputed to be the most beautiful fjord in British Columbia. 

Butedale today

Butedale and Butedale Falls

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