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Stories and photos from Powell River, BC.

A Sourdough on the Sunshine Coast: Coming Home From the Sea

Posted by on Oct 29, 2017

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the Starduster

Our boat, the Starduster

Alert Bay on Cormorant Island in beautiful British Columbia is located just south of Port Hardy on Vancouver Island.

An Island here, an Island there, everywhere an Island! With a population of approximately 1,500 persons year-round, this is a sleepy coastal community. I am pleasantly surprised as we pull up to the docks to enquire about moorage, brightly coloured sea going vessels of all types have converged here. The dock holds an eclectic combination of fishing fleet, live a-boards and shiny plastic yachts. Brilliantly clean washrooms with showers at the top of the ramp are always appreciated!

We make this stop to visit old friends who have lived onboard their 42-foot Sailboat for many, many years, formerly in Nanaimo. Alert Bay on this date still allows the practice of living onboard. The stigma of ‘live a-boards’ has caused many a marina to ban this practice of living on the water. Unfortunately, after living onboard our old wooden yacht, The Audrey Eleanor, we met several reasons why the practice has acquired a bad reputation.

A brightly coloured fishing boat in Alert Bay’s marina.

Being a ‘Sea faring gypsy’ is a life that I love.

Arriving at a different anchorage or port as the mood dictates or storm strikes is a wondrous way to live. For the most part, your new neighbours are living their lives to the best of their ability, looking to make the most out of each day and generally minding their own business and watching out for their neighbours… but there is always one in a crowd, or two or three. The light-fingered ones that have no respect for themselves and consequently no respect for their neighbours’ belongings. Focus is on the dollar value their neighbours’ goods will fetch to secure the next hit of what it takes them to escape their present reality. I suggest a good brisk walk, for miles in the opposite direction as a better alternative.

Collections of marital refugees, clinging to their dreams of sailing the world and forfeiting the matrimonial home and possessions that ‘weighed’ them down, often don’t leave the hold of their ship, never mind the Harbour. This collection of ‘she got the mine, all I got was the shaft’ population at a marina grows its own peculiar garden of gloom. The alcohol and drug abuse mostly ends in nastiness and problems that the rest of the world doesn’t want to deal with. Who needs anymore drama? A new law gets passed that evicts all members of the live aboard community, the one bad apple concept is hard at work again! Now there is no one
living on board, and there is no one to look out for their neighbour’s welfare.

Mounted on the docks, at the mercy of the elements, electronic devices with dead wires and broken parts replace the old keepers of the docks. The long-time neighbours that you could count on to tie up your boat as it attempted to escape in a winter storm are fewer and fewer. The long-time neighbour you could call as you reached your destination a million miles away and ask in desperation if they would please check that the seacock in the head was in fact closed! The old keeper of the dock who called up Ralph to say that his pride and joy has a severe list to the port side. The electronic device with hours of recorded data is apparently a much better neighbour should it maintain its stance on the pole.

totem pole - alert bay

Totem Pole in Alert Bay

Poles, lots and lots of Totem poles.

Alert Bay has a most incredible collection of Totem poles, including the tallest in the world, very difficult to take a picture of a pole that reaches vertically up to the sky at 56.4 metes. This pole is unique in that it is not representative of a single family, but represents a few of the tribes of the local Kwakwake’ wakua, this is not unusual.

I am amazed at the workmanship of these sentinels, it is exceptional. Totem poles with stark staring eyes make the hair stand up on your neck. Tall and mysterious, short and colourful, mythical creatures intertwined with sea monsters, they watch out to sea, waiting for something we have yet to know. Quietly standing guard over this piece of Coastal Paradise, they emit a presence and life of their own, I wonder what they wait for? Who are they watching for? In the meantime, I have a hinky feeling that someone’s watching me, I walk quickly back to our boat, the Starduster!

A fork set in the road, a fork in the sea. Our friends on the sailboat have lived in close quarters for a VERY long time and need a diversion. It is suggested that Captain Rick and the second Captain will maintain course through the Octopus Islands and head for our home port of Saltery Bay. The First mate and myself will take the car and drive to Powell River. By car and two ferries, we will be in Powell River by late afternoon; it will take the Captains three more days to reach the same destination!

alert bay

I am not happy to have come so far and not complete the trip, but these friends need a break and a fresh outlook on life and their relationship. This needs to be done off their boat and in separate quarters. We left Kitimat almost 20 days ago, averaging 4 knots, it has been a long trip. I bring this point up, as once we reach Saltery Bay another Sailor friend, Reg Cooper Captain of the 42 foot ferro cement sailboat, Spera, comments on our 20-day tour, “oh, that’s how long it took me and Aggie to get from Mosquito Cove, North Vancouver to Hawaii!” Puts things in perspective, doesn’t it?

alert bay

We agree that once The Starduster reaches South Harbour in Powell River, I will get onboard and finish the final leg of the journey to our destination at Saltery Bay. I am very, very happy to see the Captain and the Starduster approaching Powell River! I have spent last three days and nights cohabitating with an Amazon sized lady who is suffering terribly from depression. An expectation that the end of the world as we know it should have come; and has gone without incident, at the end of the Mayan calendar. She is not at all happy that the earth is still revolving around the sun. We had been sharing the very cramped space in the Avion RV at Stillwater, I spent three long nights wishing I had a solid door to bolt.

Festivities! A small crowd has gathered at the Saltery Bay dock awaiting our arrival.

We pick up Reg Cooper and a few family members in Powell River. Reg doesn’t get out to sea as much as he’d like anymore. The rest of the family and a collection of friends greet us at the Saltery Bay docks. From the docks we see others up on our deck at our house. Oh my, it is a fall down deck, connected to a fall down house!

You literally MUST walk along the nails pounded into the support beams to ensure you don’t fall through the rotted cedar planks. I indicate with my head to the Captain the possible calamity of the deck party, he smiles. Chairs are positioned to have ‘support’ beams under at least part of their structure… guests are informed that we have no insurance should they fall through and crash to the ground. Everyone laughs and suggests that if we celebrate with enough home-made wine and beer, no one will feel it, so we better get started!

my grandsons - future sailors

Future sailors, my grandsons, who are the very best of friends. From Left: Everett Kostelnik and Lucas Morrice, AKA Lukie Lou. Ready to drop the sails on the Starduster at Saltery Bay.

The mast of the Starduster bobs in the wake of boats arriving from Nelson Island.

Green, green grass frames the blue of Ocean and steel blue of mountains. Apple trees hold round red globes of promise for the fall harvest. Hummingbirds startle our guests as they aggressively defend their feeding stations. Looking around at new friends and old, I miss my kids every minute and every second (I will soon be missing my grandsons, who for the moment, are only the twinkle in the eyes of their parents) and old Yukon friends forever, but somehow arriving at our new fall down house by the sea, this feels a lot like coming home.

‘Where do you go after Yukon’, croons Hank Carr? I think this is where you go, Hank. Thank you by the way.


You can view more tales from A Sourdough on the Sunshine Coast here.

Sunny Dawn Kostelnik

Sunny Dawn Kostelnik

Author at The White Girl
"Sunny" Dawn Kostelnik is a published author that has written two books, The Adventures of the Audrey Eleanor and The White Girl. She contributes regularly to the Whitehorse Star, A Sourdough on the Sunshine Coast and currently writes The Sourdough Chronicles for North of Ordinary Magazine. She has moved to the Sunshine Coast from the far north and still can’t believe that she lives in this paradise!
Sunny Dawn Kostelnik

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