Friday, October 23, 2009

Chapter #9 Wallace Island, Canover Cove...

As I mentioned in the closing of the last chapter, there was a delightful surprise awaiting us in Conover Cove, one of the most popular destinations of the Gulf Island. But before we go there I want to open this chapter with a look at the indigenous people of this area as represented by this artwork I photographed on the Alaska-Marine Highway.
The Hul'qumi'num people of southeastern Vancouver Island, the Gulf Islands and the lower Fraser River are made up of six First Nations: Cowichan, Chemainus, Penelakut, Lyackson, Halalt and Lake Cowichan. They are a Coast Salish people who have lived in, travelled and fished the waterways of the Strait of Georgia and the lower Fraser River for thousands of years. The way of life for the Hul'qumi'num people is rooted in the land. Traditionally, extended families lived together in longhouses. Settled in many villages with populations between one hundred and several thousand people. Each longhouse sheltered extended families, including grandparents and other relatives, all of whom had their own designated space. The Northwest Coast is rich in Salish ancestors' heritage. Over 1,000 archaeological heritage sites have been recorded on southeastern Vancouver Island and the Gulf Islands some date back over 5,000 years, contemporary to the Old Kingdom of Egypt. Many other heritage sites have not yet been dated or recorded.

As I have mentioned in previous chapters, this September was the busiest I've seen since I started cruising these waters in my own boat in 1995. As we cruised southward along Wallace Island we looked into the other anchorages and they were pretty full of boats. That didn't bode well for finding an open slot in the popular Conover Cove further south on the island. This is where that surprise comes in. On the final approach to Conover Cove we noted a motorboat go into the anchorage, apparently look around and come out. As that vessel departed we drew near enough to the point we could see into the cove. There on the leading edge of the small marine park dock was the MAGGIE K, but no other dock space available. I had just started considering where to anchor when Eric hailed us from his boat. The motorboat directly behind MAGGIE K was leaving and sure enough a few moments later we had AQUILA portside tied to the Wallace Island, Conover Cove, Provincial Marine Park dock. Indeed a good stroke of luck.

Image #3 shows the MAGGIE K & AQUILA on the outside of the dock with three other sailboats in the inside. It made for a very nice, cozy neighborhood.

Remember to double click on an image to see a larger version. You can right-click to "Save Picture As". All FIREWATER photos are copywrite but you are welcome to save & use for non comericial applications if credit is given.

Wallace Island Marine Provincial Park is only accessible by boat. The park lies in Trincomali Channel between Galiano Island and the northern tip of Saltspring Island, off southern Vancouver Island.

A bit of local history: after World War II, David Conover purchased the island and moved here with his wife Jeanne. The couple developed a successful holiday resort and Conover became a successful author, writing four books - “Once Upon An Island”, “One Man’s Island”, "Sitting On A Saltspring" and "Finding Marilyn, A Resource". In the first two books he described the couple’s struggles and joys after their purchase of the land in 1946. Their resort, the Royal Cedar Cottages, was advertised as having "a modern well-stocked store, cabins, recreation hall and boat rentals." In the mid to late 1960's, Conover sold the majority of the island to a group from Seattle. Disagreements among the owners led to litigation and the property was again came up for sale. Wallace Island was purchased through a court ordered sale and became a provincial marine park in 1990 through the cooperative efforts of local activists, the provincial government and BC Marine Parks Forever.
The S/V AQUILA carries a copy of 'Once Upon an Island', which both Catherine & I have read.

Given that you've been introduced to the local history its now time to meet some of the locals. Photograph #4 is just one such family. A momma and her three kits. Did you know that Vancouver Island and it's environs have their own subspecies of raccoon? 'Procyon lotor vancouverensis' being 'island locked' is somewhat smaller than it's mainland cousin. And believe me that take advantage of their 'slighter' size. Momma and her kits were out for a late afternoon walk, stretching their legs, practicing their sprints and probably mimicking unbuttoning sunbrilla covers. For when darkness fell they were on the prowl at one of the most prosperous hunting grounds - the Conover Cove docks. These procyons are not shy. They will board a boat with sleeping dogs nearby. And their not slow. Eric tells the story of sitting about on this very same dock and playing music into the night. One musician heard a noise, looked up and saw a raccoon climb out his boat's forward hatch with a full sized, foil-bag, loaf of garlic bread. The barefoot boat owner broke into a sprint down the dock yelling at the coon. But human was too slow and the raccoon family had garlic bread with their pasta that night. And indeed they boarded us all on our first night dockside in Conover. In fact Catherine awoke to a noise looked out the screen covered, open portal above our berth and saw a very young raccoon staring back at her. She drew in a big breath and blew right in it's fuzzy face. You could hear the claws clicking across the fiberglass as that young critter dashed off the boat after seeing the monsters who lived inside. We were laying in the berth laughing out loud. AQUILA was shut tight against such a midnight boarding party. Although a nearby motorboat wasn't. The coons managed to get inside his enclosed cockpit, climbed the ladder to the fly-bridge and found a very old bucket of rotted bait. What a pleasant surprise to waken too. We could hear the yells of the owner and the barking of the miniature poodle and the giggles of the departing raccoons all at the same time.
But before all the animal antics began we could be found at the Conover Cove dock picnic table with our friends Eric & Cathy as they picked and sung their way through a number of folk songs.
Later in the evening we were joined by another guitarist who brought a different flare to the jam. But it was the crew of MAGGIE K who held the night on the docks, in the depths of the Gulf Islands under the early autumn stars.

We awoke the next morning with smiles. Our heads still full of the soft melodies of good homegrown music. A shared chuckle or
two regarding our furry visitors and well refreshed from a long, gentle rocking sleep. A fresh breeze was easing in from the norwest but the day held the promise of sunshine. Lots of it. We had barely finished brunch and the beginning of another Scrabble game when Catherine decided it was time to rig the Walker Bay dinghy for sailing. It took her a couple of passes to get the feel of it but a few moments later she was out the gate, through the entrance to our cove and into the channel beyond. I followed along in the Eaglet and caught these pics of her sailing in fine form.
Our friend Cathy is a paddler with a kayak carried aboard MAGGIE K. Catherine offered to let her take the sailing dinghy out and Cathy was all for it. Here's a photograph Catherine caught of Cathy at the helm.
Sailing aside, the Scrabble game finished, a salmon and bree cheese lunch washed down with crisp white wine and we were ready for some landbased adventures. There are several miles of hiking trails on the island and the sculpted sandstone shoreline makes very interesting bouldering, especially at low tide. This was not our first visit to Wallace Island or Conover Cove. In fact when the S/V AQUILA first visited this island in early April of 2006 we had left our vessel name plaque along with hundreds of others in an old cabin remaining from the Royal Cedar Cottages Resort of the Conover days. See image below.

This old cabin is roughly 20' X 20' in size and literally chock full of boat name plaques, memorabilia, homegrown art & craft work, notes-in-bottles, carved planks and shells, all rather haphazardly tied, nailed, tacked, wedged and strewn about. It is pretty interesting to wander through reading the various bits of this & that. Occasionally we find the names of some acquaintances vessels (we've rehung one that had fallen to the crowded floor). Our AQUILA plaque is representative of some of the hundreds in the cabin. The oldest we found was from a drilling barge that was anchored nearby in 1945. If you ever get to Wallace Island this is one sight you don't want to miss...

In photograph 10 Catherine is seen holding a couple of gull feathers and perched inside the old goat pen. This stacked rock and cedar topped relic is part of the old complex of cabins and structures left over from days gone by.

And speaking of 'days gone by' check out my new wheels, at least what hasn't vanished into the mire below this old truck. There's probably hundreds of photos of yokels like yours truly who have climbed behind this wheel for a mug-shot. Come to think of it as popular as this anchorage is I'd bet more folks have sat in this rig since it's become a relic as had ever done so when it was a working truck. Just a reminder of that old Steve Miller song, "Time keeps on ticking into the future"...

Our second night of music with Eric & Cathy took place below decks to avoid that cool northerly that had kicked up again that evening. Being in the shelter of MAGGIE K's cozy cabin allowed Eric to bring our the dobro and add a whole different flavor to this night's music. Catherine and I were quite honored to be guests on MAGGIE K three nights in a row. Thank you Eric & Cathy!

I'll close this 9th installment with a photo near & dear to my heart. Not because it reflects such fine evenings in Conover Cove, which it does; and not because it is such a fine photo (its okay). Nope this photograph is special to me in that it is the last bottle of my cousin Larry & Jane Pearson - Spilya Cellars, Mountain House White, from their Taptiel Vineyard. For more info and great wine go to:

S.O.S. to Tapteil - "H.e.y-c.o.u.s.i.n.s-c.o.m.e-s.a.i.l.i.n.g- B.r.i.n.g-w.i.n.e"...


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