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Old 07-02-2010, 06:28 PM   #1
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Real boaters

I read this true story awhile back in a history of the BC Raincoast, the nickname given to that portion of the BC coast from about Campbell River/Powell River on up to Prince Rupert.* I thought it was pretty good illustration of how, just about the time we think we're hot stuff for doing something we think is a journey in a boat we learn that we're pansies compared to the folks who came before.......

During the Depression, work was as hard to come by on the BC coast as it was anywhere else.* Minstrel Island, a small, semi-floating*community partway up Knight Inlet was the hub of activites in the huge maze of islands, bays, and fjords* between Desolation Sound and Queen Charlotte Strait, an area known locally as "the jungles."* Floating logging camps, canneries, fish camps, etc. all used Minstrel Island as their "blowing off steam" place with its hotel, tavern, post office and*store.* Minstrel was a regular stop for the Union Steamship fleet that served the coast between Vancouver and Prince Rupert and many people out in the jungles picked up their mail and newspapers at Minstrel Island.

One winter when the Depression was at its height, *two out-of-work men found themselves at Minstrel Island pretty much at the end of their ropes.* No money, no jobs, and no prospects.* Between them they owned a large rowing skiff, but that and their clothes*was the sum total of their possessions.* Then news came in on an arriving steamship*about work to be had in Prince Rupert, some 400 miles*up the coast.* The two men couldn't afford tickets on the ship and it sailed without them, but then a fellow said that if they would deliver a package that had missed the steamer to Prince Rupert they would be paid ten dollars.* He also offered to front them some supplies for the voyage.

So in their skiff, in the mist,*rain, sleet, and wind, the two men set out for Prince Rupert.** They rowed steadily all day, every day, stopping for a few hours at night to pull their boat onto the shoreline and grab some sleep on the bottom boards before setting out again.

It took them the better part of three weeks to get to Prince Rupert, what with following the twisting Inside Passage and fighting the currents half the time.* And all this time they rowed exposed to the wet and the wind.* They had no charts, they simply followed what looked like the most likely pathways, although the main channels of the passage had markers and sounding boards they used as guides when they could see them through the mist and fog.

They arrived in Prince Rupert, delivered the package and were paid their ten dollars.* But when they went looking for the work that was supposed to be there, they discovered it had all been a rumor.* There were no jobs in Prince Rupert either.

With no reason to hang around, they they spent some of their ten dollars on supplies, got back in their skiff, and rowed the same 400 miles*back down the Passage to Minstrel Island.

The thing I found telling in this was that when they got back, not only did they not make any big deal about what they'd just done, but nobody else did either.* It was just part of life on the Raincoast.* Rowing hundreds of miles through nasty weather wasn't considered special, it was just something you had to do if you had to do it.

When I read this story I couldn't help but recall the couple we'd met at Refuge Cove in Desolation Sound who spent most their time there complaining bitterly to anyone who'd listen about*how their trip*in their 50' yacht*had been turned into an epic of*inconvenience because one of the burners on their electric stove had quit working.

Given*the choice, I think I'd have much preferred the company of those two guys in the skiff.
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Old 07-02-2010, 08:17 PM   #2
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RE: Real boaters

Love it!
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Old 07-02-2010, 09:39 PM   #3
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RE: Real boaters

A lot of that was done in those days. I once heard a story (by an Alaska Magazine editor) about a guy at a camp fire telling about his trip rowing to Juneau. The editor was eager to tell about his plans but another guy there beat him to the punch and told a story about his third trip. As I recall he just turned into a listener after that.

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Old 07-03-2010, 08:27 AM   #4
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RE: Real boaters

Great story Marin!
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Old 07-03-2010, 07:07 PM   #5
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RE: Real boaters

Very cool story.
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Old 08-07-2011, 10:54 AM   #6
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RE: Real boaters

Good story.
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Old 08-07-2011, 11:17 AM   #7
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Real boaters

Enjoyed the story.* It points out an ethic that seems to be lost today.

On the anecdote about the couple on the 50' boat, I have found that complaining about small things can be an indirect way of bringing attention to themselves and bragging about what they have.* By not having anything else interesting to talk about they are showing their self absorbness.* They don't realize that either way it is boring.

While docked on the Mega Dock at Charleston City Marina we were surrounded by mega yachts.* A "gentleman stopped by our boat, and asked if he could come aboard to look at it.* He said that he was in the process of ordering a 42' Sabre.* He looked at it and said it was nice, but that he was ordering the single stateroom version.* He said that that they would not need the two staterooms as they would be towing it behind their 125' yacht.* If Lou had not been a true Souhern Lady,* she would have put that guy overboard.* There is no accounting for behavior.



-- Edited by Moonstruck on Sunday 7th of August 2011 11:20:35 AM


-- Edited by Moonstruck on Sunday 7th of August 2011 12:21:59 PM
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Old 08-08-2011, 06:28 AM   #8
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RE: Real boaters

For more stories of that era on the wet coast of BC try "Spilsbury's Coast" by Jim Spilsbury.* The trawler connection is the "5-BR" which was his home, sales office and radio repair station as he travelled up and down the coast in the 1940's and early 50's.* There's some good stories - no marathon rowing that I recall but good stories nonetheless.
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Old 08-08-2011, 09:35 AM   #9
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RE: Real boaters

In what way do you think it's an "ethic" Don? Looks to me like it's just the way things were and the way things are. They had their attitudes too I'm sure but they revolved around vastly different circumstances. If I had only $10 or maybe $50 to go boating I'd be there boating in some old row boat or be building my own and I may even get more out of it than I do now w my present 10 boats. I'm known on one forum as "many boats". Good thing I don't have more money.
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Old 08-08-2011, 09:40 AM   #10
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RE: Real boaters

If you havent read this book: Bijaboji: North to Alaska by Oar, you should.


Betty Lowman was 22 years old in June 1937 when she climbed into her beloved red dugout canoe Bijaboji and set out on a journey from Puget Sound to Alaska


Probably a bit nuts to try it in an open canoe, but she makes the 'Real Boater' list.

1937, back before women were 'liberated'
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Old 08-08-2011, 09:47 AM   #11
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RE: Real boaters

Quote:
nomadwilly wrote:
In what way do you think it's an "ethic" Don? Looks to me like it's just the way things were and the way things are. They had their attitudes too I'm sure but they revolved around vastly different circumstances. If I had only $10 or maybe $50 to go boating I'd be there boating in some old row boat or be building my own and I may even get more out of it than I do now w my present 10 boats. I'm known on one forum as "many boats". Good thing I don't have more money.
*Fair enough question, Eric.* Very few people today know what real labor is.* They don't even know that the human body was designed to work.* When things turn for the worse, most just lay down and wait for others to get them out of it.* They didn't come from where we did.* Remember about half the people alive today do not even remember the Vietnam War.*

When I came in from the mountains Sunday, I found my son who is my business partner sweating with his shirt off getting a unit ready for closing. Why was he doing it?* Because we will do what it takes to get the job done.* If that means coming out of the air conditioned office so be it.* That is the way we have always worked.* There are homeless people passing this site every day.* They won't take a labor job.* They go down to the shelters and kitchens for hand outs.* We are losing our work ethic.
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Old 08-08-2011, 10:24 AM   #12
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RE: Real boaters

I'm retiring my work ethic after 50 years or so. Don't want to find it again I think.
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Old 08-08-2011, 05:27 PM   #13
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RE: Real boaters

Quote:
dwhatty wrote:
I'm retiring my work ethic after 50 years or so. Don't want to find it again I think.
*Congratulations, David.* The difference is that you prepared yourself, put in your time, and have prepared for the future.* Well deserved.
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Old 08-09-2011, 09:15 AM   #14
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RE: Real boaters

My dad in 1938 hopped the freight train from Saskatchewan to Vancouver BC with his bother as find work.* My dad finally found a job in Ocean Falls BC which is about way between Vancouver and Prince Rupert. ***
*

Most locals had boat under 20 ft, some had small out boards, but most rowed. I have memories of my dad, mom*rowing in the fog and rain with only a compass and some general directions looking for natural land marks. **Luckily there were a large number of *locals living off the land/ocean that we could stopped for directions.* I know people use to row to Bella Bella and/or Bella Coola which was about 30 miles by water. My dad and friends rowed to Bella Coola as it was the closest dirt road/trail to main highway about 200 miles away.* *All they had was a compass and general directions.

*

*
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Old 08-09-2011, 12:23 PM   #15
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RE: Real boaters

Quote:
Moonstruck wrote:Very few people today know what real labor is.
I would probably modify that statement to read "Very few people in the US know what real labor is."* As I've described in OTDE, I have seen plenty of people and cultures outside the US who not only DO know what real labor is but are willing and able to do it.* Which, in a nutshell and in my opinion, is the root cause of why our credit rating has been lowered, our economy is in the tank for good, and tens of thousands of jobs have been lost (with more to come) that will never come back.* The notion of the president and congress doing something to "create jobs" would be laughable if it wasn't so pathetic as mostly what they have been doing for the last decade or more has been creating the conditions to drive them out of the country.

So in terms of this country I think Don's observation is right on the money.

As to the earlier reference to the book "Spillsbury's Coast," I agree it is an outstanding portrayal of life along the BC raincoast in what many people consider its heyday--- the 1920s, 30s, and 40s.

Another great one, of course, is "The Curve of Time."

And if you can find the bound series of the "Raincoast Chronicles" they contain a wealth of stories about the BC coast.* Probably the best single source of historic and entertaining information about the region I've come across.

In the story that started this thread I mentioned the Union Steamship Company.** For decades they were the link that tied the whole BC coast together.* Their "pocket ocean liners" visited just about every community in the maze of islands, channels, huge tides and swirling currents, and their captains and crews did this without the aid of tugs, bow thrusters, radar, or GPS.* There is a book about the company, called "Whistle Up the Inlet."* It's not fabulous writing but it tells the story of one of the BC coast's most endearing images.* For years it has been in the back of my mind to retrace all the Union Steamship routes in our GB someday (if we ever get the time).

Here are two of my favorite images from that time.* The "Cheslakee" was one of the company's earlier, smaller ships.* The later ones were easily twice the size but visited the same tucked-away places.
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Old 08-09-2011, 12:30 PM   #16
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RE: Real boaters

Quote:
Marin wrote:Moonstruck wrote:Very few people today know what real labor is.
I would probably modify that statement to read "Very few people in the US know what real labor is."*

*I can buy that.* That's the main reason we have so many immigrants both legal and illegal coming in.* The are willing to do labor.
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Old 08-09-2011, 10:34 PM   #17
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RE: Real boaters

Marin

We'll be spending a few days at the Union Steamship Marina on Bowen Is next week. I assume this one of the major Union Steamship hubs from yore?

*
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Old 08-09-2011, 11:56 PM   #18
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Real boaters

Yes.* In fact if I recall what I read in "Whistle Up The Inlet" correctly, Bowen Island, or at least part of it, was owned by the Union Steamship Line and they operated a hotel/resort there for years.* They had regular runs back and forth from Vancouver and in its day it was a very popular place for city residents to go.* The Bowen Island resort and steamship run to it was a major contributor to the company's income for many years.

It was a destination, however, not a hub.* The HQ and main docks for the Union Steamship Company were in Vancouver.* The Bowen Island runs were out-and-back, as I recall.* Their other runs were "whistle stop" runs, going from community to community up the Passage.* Not all the runs went from Vancouver to Prince Rupert. Some went partway up and then back.*

The title of the book came from the company's practice of blowing the whistle as they got a few miles from the next destination to let people know the ship was coming.* The sound of the whistles echoing in amongst the islands and inlets became the signature sound of the raincoast.


-- Edited by Marin on Wednesday 10th of August 2011 12:12:29 AM
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Old 08-10-2011, 12:37 AM   #19
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There have been kayakers who've done it. In fact a good friend who teaches at Virginia Tech and who went to Alaska and the Yukon with me in the 70s sent me a book by one of these folks, a girl I think. I have yet to read it, however, and I can't think of the title.

In the days before radar a common means of determining one's position relative to the shore at night or in fog was to use the echoes from the whistle. "Sounding boards" were erected on some of the more dangerous reefs, rocks and points of land along the Inside Passage that were not high enough to return an echo. Like billboards without the bill, the sounding boards were a major component of BC navigation before WWII.

Shot of the Union Steamship Company's pier in Vancouver.

*


-- Edited by Marin on Wednesday 10th of August 2011 12:48:29 AM
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Old 08-10-2011, 10:28 AM   #20
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RE: Real boaters

Don,

Finally found my way back here. OK work ethic. In the 80s I remember people taking EVERY sick leave day off and very few were ever sick. Mexican workers don't take sick leave. People take time off work for this or that trivial thing and wonder why they get layed off. I'll bet they did the same thing in Rome and the same thing is going to happen to us that happened to Rome. What is a job? Biggest buzz word today is "create JOBS". Those politicians don't even know what a job is. It's a need to get something done but other people are getting the jobs done these days. Basically you don't create jobs. Jobs are an assemblage of forces or elements that bring about industrial activity. When these elements of industry line up jobs are created. Raw materials, natural resources like water, farmland, climate, minerals and other things including labor create jobs. Most all these things can't be created by ranting on the political stage. This is really very simple. We had our heyday but now other people are better at jobs. Kids in Asia STUDY SERIOUSLY. Our kids do study but after chicks, cars and being cool in their own micro culture. And then they take the summer off. Kids in the rest of the world study the whole year. We can see our education system is failing and still nothing is done. We adults think some president will come along and make it all better again. But it's other people that will belly up to the bar and make the necessary sacrifices just like it's other people that will give their back yard for a sanitary waste site or a halfway house. Not me they say.......I have my rights!. Your'e right Don work ethic is lacking and even general ethics but wev'e also been farming, mining, logging and fishing on the same real estate for 200 years and the old gal is'nt what she used to be. We don't take care of our things. Lots of people don't even change their oil. Remember when we used to give our cars lube jobs, rotate our tires and adjust our brakes. Sure we sorta had to but we did it but now people wait for something to go wrong before any action is taken. Same w our roads and bridges. We have foreign aid to do and enemies are swarming over our shores so we need to go blast them before they tarnish our McDonald's or do something unsightly in front of our children while they are trying to be cool. Soon we will #15 instead of #1 but the slide will be greatly lengthened if we stop being so stupid.
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