the Gulf Islands the Inside Passage

Biding Time in the Southern Gulf Islands

Saturday, September 21, 2013S.V. CAMBRIA

Yesterday we moved a whopping 2 nm from our anchorage off Portland Island to Russell Island . . . and out of the ferry wake. 

Many of the Hawaiians who came to Canada as workers contracted by the Hudson Bay Company decided to stay once their employment was up.  Why leave the tropical paradise behind in favour of a much colder, maritime climate?  Good question (one I ask myself regularly at this time of year).   Apparently there were fears stemming from the possibility of American annexation of Hawaii and tensions between new residents and locals that kept them away.  One such Kanaka, as they were called, purchased Russell Island in 1886 and it was bequeathed to his only heir, Marie Mahoi, in 1901.

Mahoi moved onto the island with her second husband, George Fisher, the son of an English father and Cowichan mother.  Together they built a house on the northwest side of the island for themselves and their 13 children.  The island stayed under family control until it was sold in 1959, but it was purchased by the Pacific Heritage Legacy in 1997 and is now part of the Gulf Islands National Park Reserve. 

The family homestead.

David, Sally and I jumped in the dinghy and went to shore to have a look around.  A well-maintained trail leads to the family home, which is still standing and in good condition, where we found a family tree of the Mahoi/Fisher Clan.  The name Gardiner features prominently.  We don’t know if there’s a relation, but the chances are good.  All but one branch of the Gardiner family tree immigrated to Eastern Canada in the late 1700s.  From there they migrated west and south into the US:  According to David, like bugs they infested the place.   

We continued along the trail through a forest of Douglas fir, arbutus, oak and pine and came out at a small, but beautiful shell midden beach.  It was a really nice way to spend the afternoon and the island, along with neighbouring Portland Island, rank high on my list of destinations in the Gulf Island Group – it’s all about the beaches and trails for me, and they both have plenty of those!

Sally taking a walk down to the water while David looks on.

The forecast is deteriorating and there’s a strong wind warning in effect with winds predicted to increase to 20 to 30 knots from the southeast tomorrow morning.  The holding off Russell Island is good and the anchorage offers protection from the south; but it’s a little too exposed for our tastes, so it was time to seek out an all-weather cove to drop our hook.  Before we could do that though, we had to visit nearby Ganges on Saltspring Island:  David is running low on pipe tobacco!

A lot of people love Ganges: the farmers’ market, the restaurants and shops.  But we’ve never been able to see the appeal.  To us, it’s just another dirty and busy island-town that lacks character (though there are plenty of characters milling about).  So it was a quick in and out before moving on to nearby Prevost Island and the protection of James Bay where we’ll spend the next two or three nights while the weather moves through the area. 

Located at the northern end of the island, James Bay cuts a half of a mile inland and offers excellent protection from southerly weather.  The shoreline is varied – steep rocks, low hills, forested cliffs and flat beaches dotted with a couple of campsites.  Also part of the National Park system, it’s somewhat picturesque, but not unlike many anchorages in the area.  Still, we’re not here for the scenery.  It’s now blowing 23 to 27 knots outside the anchorage and there’s barely a ripple on the water, which is exactly why we’re here.

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