Episode 3: The Northern End

From Alert Bay it was a short jaunt to Port Hardy, the end of Highway 19, the road that was commemorated by a giant wooden carrot planted in Carrot Park to bear witness to broken promises by past governments to build the road to connect the north island to the rest. We checked in at the Quarterdeck Inn by the waters edge and soon settled in to our new comfortable surroundings. Carrie, Alyssa and Susan took great care of us and a special thank you goes out to Carrie for making our stay possible. When our plans had changed at short notice and we needed a spot in Port Hardy she came through without hesitation with a couple of very comfortable rooms indeed. She was a sweetheart. The fact is we were really starting to appreciate the warmth of the people around the island.

The Quarterdeck...sweet spot

Carrie and Alyssa at the Quarterdeck

Maze of masts at the Quarterdeck

The next day we spent exploring gravel roads that led us through Holberg, Winter Harbour and on to San Josef Bay. Holberg has its roots in logging which is still going on, Winter Harbour's roots were in water, but the Halibut fishing season had wound down, but San Josef Bay hadn't, fair enough there were only six people on the beach, but that was the point. San Josef is one of those pristine places you go to to be with nature. Shimmering waters, expansive beaches and rock towers were the ideal backdrop for another of Dominik's great paintings. And no cell phone signal, very fitting.

Tree limbs...

San Josef Bay

Another beauty

From there it was back to Port Hardy and the Quaterdeck Pub for a great meal and couple of pints. Great day, great food, great digs. Thank you Carrie.

The following morning we had a short 13 km rip over a gorgeous road to Coal Harbour, a 'Whale of a Town!' The name comes from coal discovered back in the day, the welcome sign at the edge of town from whaling days that succeeded coal. The town sits on Quatsino Sound and what a picturesque setting it is. We checked in at the Dolphin House B&B where Ann the 'Tea Lady,' and Frank the 'Coffee Man' graciously put us up for a couple of nights. They were quite the pair, hilarious, she hailed originally from Liverpool, England, and Frank from Brazil....and they ended up in Coal Harbour no less, and loved it! Their hospitality was wonderful and we had a blast listening to some of their stories from both sides of the 'pond.' According to Anne black bears can move like Jackie Chan!  Their B&B was right on the water and provided an incredible opportunity for Dominik to paint at waters edge. It was quite the experience filming him as float planes ripped overhead while a lone sea otter paddled gracefully by.

Ann and Frank at the Dolphin House B&B

Painting from the B&B

Apart from coal and whaling Coal Harbour was also a Canadian Air Force base. The base is long gone but remnants remain and one local, Joel Eilertsen, has put to very good use a former RCAF hanger. Among other things Joel has created the 'Joey's History of Coal Harbour Museum' which is one of the neatest museums one could stumble upon. It deals with all aspects of Coal Harbour's past and there are great exhibits such as the old fire truck, a cutaway of a radial nine cylinder engine from a Beaver aircraft, Joey has three parked outside, chain saws, telephones, whaling paraphernalia, a single cylinder air compressor airlifted from the forest and his own personal workshop tucked away in the back of the hanger. The workshop was of particular interest as it was purpose built by Joey to help overcome a medical condition left behind by Guillain-BarrĂ© syndrome. Joey almost succumbed to the illness, he was on a respirator for 85 days and couldn't talk for 110. All in all he spent a year in the hospital, and we found him tinkering in his hanger. The bench in his workshop was built by Joey to aid muscles left weak after his illness, it was a thing of beauty. Joey's story was a fascinating one and the one thing that hit me hardest, after his illness that is, was the reasoning behind his restoration projects. He created the museum as a way to prevent pieces of history going to the wreckers. History was important to him, Coal Harbour was important to him, and those that had worked there and what they'd worked at were also important, in Joey's mind, these were people and places in time worthy of remembrance. Oh, and if you happen to have a 'data plate'  for an Ingersoll Rand compressor like the one in the picture below Joey would love to talk to you. He's also after a 'Vivian' single cylinder manifold. Any information please e-mail me and I'll forward the particulars.

Single cylinder compressor

Last whaling station on the west coast of Canada

RCAF 'Catalina' plaque

Joey's workbench...sweet!

When our visit with Joey was over we headed to Anne and Frank's neighbors for the Tuesday night Coal Harbour Ceiledh Band Jam. It was a real treat to see them in action, John on his Newfoundland 'Ugly Stick' while Allan belted out a couple of his own songs about the north island.

The Coal Harbour Ceiledh Band

John on the 'Ugly Stick'

Coal Harbour was an absolute gas and the next morning as we left for Campbell River Frank gave me a hunk of coal to remember my visit.

Great folks, great town, great spot at the Dolphin House B&B. Thank you.