Thursday, July 31, 2008
CAMPBELL RIVER — The steady patter of raindrops on our camper roof greeted us this morning, and the rain has continued in varying intensities throughout the entire day. It was a day to do indoor things as much as possible, and fortunately we had a couple of things on our agenda to fill the bill.
Before the rain got too oppressive, we stopped at a small municipal park next to the shore where we had passed a collection of wood sculptures several times during our stay here. They are part of an annual driftwood sculpturing contest — although the wood being used appears to be more like large stumps from giant fir trees than driftwood! There were about 20 sculptures done with varying degrees of professionalism; in fact there were two categories of entries, professional and amateur. They reminded me of the snow sculpture contests we used to have during Winterlude in Ottawa. Once the sculptures are judged, they become the property of the town, and the outcome of previous years’ contests are on display throughout the town — eagles and mermaids, horses and bears, mythical creatures and fairytale characters.
We left the park and headed off to have a good look at the town of Campbell River, meandering down its streets and discovering that it is quite a bit larger than it seems when looking at the map. The land rises fairly steeply from the shoreline, so houses several streets back from the water still have a pretty good view, but beyond the slope are a number of neighbourhoods and subdivisions. The population of Campbell River is around 30,000, so it covers quite a bit of territory.
The Maritime Heritage Building was another "must-see". Its claim to fame is the original BCP 45, the fishing boat that was featured on the back of the Canadian five-dollar bill between 1972 and about 1986. A very nice gentleman named Boyd Van Engen was our volunteer guide, and because we were the only two in his party for the tour, we got an extended and expanded version of the normal spiel. Boyd is 73, sports a seaman’s beard and lively bright eyes, and brings a wealth of seamanship to his work as a museum guide. One of his colleagues kidded him at the end of our tour, saying once he learns to speak English he might be a pretty good guide. We enjoyed his Dutch lilt as he explained the painstaking work of restoring BCP 45 from the state of dry rot it was in when the community acquired it. The initials stand for British Columbia Packer, as the vessel was a salmon-fishing rig for a packing company. A team of six men, headed by the retired Buford Haines, set to work restoring the boat in 2003 with white cedar donated by a logging company and a lot of elbow grease and love. Haines passed away in 2007, just a year after this magnum opus was completed.
Boyd explained a lot more than the boat on our tour. We learned about the magnetic north pole, about tides in the Georgia Strait, and about the significant threat to shipping that a huge submerged rock presented in the early years in the strait. Some 170 vessels were shipwrecked when the swift current drew them into the narrow area where the rock was situated some seven meters under the surface. Finally, in 1958, a crew of engineers and miners plotted the destruction of Ripple Rock with great precision and lengthy preparations that involved tunneling through the rock to place explosives in such a way that the rock would be destroyed, but the resulting debris would not impede subsequent navigation. CBC television cameras positioned in several places along the shore recorded this explosion that, at the time, was the largest non-nuclear explosion the world had ever seen. We were able to view this massive display on a TV screen at the museum. The project was a great success and the now-open Discovery Passage has been a boon to the ever-growing shipping industry ever since.
Our tour, which was supposed to be a mere half-hour, lasted three times as long, and we enjoyed every minute of it! We thanked Boyd for his generosity and headed out — still in the drizzle — to the camper for a bite of lunch. Next to the Maritime Heritage Building is the Discovery Pier, that stretches out and runs parallel to the shore several feet out. People can rent fishing rods and fish from the pier, and a photo album near the rental office shows pictures of the amazing catches that have been had at that spot — salmon up to 40 pounds or more! On our visit, we saw some impressive wads of seaweed coming up at the end of some fishing lines, but that was all. I picked up a cup of hot chocolate at the snack stand to warm my hands and insides, while other customers walked away with newspaper cones filled with steaming fish and chips.
We thought we might take in a movie on this rainy afternoon, but after finding the theatre, which we had passed earlier in the day, we discovered that on weekdays in July and August there is only one matinee at one o’clock and we had arrived in time to see people leaving the shows. Oh well.
After a rest back at our campground, we donned our rain gear and walked over to the Salmon Point Pub and Restaurant for a lovely dinner of salmon with crab and shrimp sauce, baked potato and colourful veggies, followed by a Tiger Brownie (white and dark chocolate) drizzled in caramel and chocolate sauce and hot mugs of tea. A nice final dinner before we wrap up our holiday tomorrow, heading back to the mainland and flying home on Saturday.