The sun rose in a cloudless sky on our first full day in Queen Charlotte City. Renting a car, the crews of Koa Lanai and Hele Mai set out to explore the northern towns of Masset, Tlell, and Port Clements, while others stayed closer to the boats, exploring the museum and totems in Skidegate, the shops in Queen Charlotte City, and strolling under the giant arching branches of old-growth cedars and spruce. There are many stands of old growth on the island, the oldest amongst them already ancient and dripping with moss as the Normans fought the Saxons in medieval Europe.
These wild islands on the edge of the world shape the people who live here- characters all. White-bearded old men in logger’s boots and denim shirts with wide red suspenders expertly pivot their ramshackle boats onto the dock, back with dinner from an afternoons fishing trip, an old woman sits knitting on a sunny park bench as local kids shoot hoops on a small court just above the high tide line. The fuel dock is open a few hours in the afternoon, or whenever the tide is high enough to allow boats to get there. The sign for the grocery store blew down in a storm a few years ago and nobody seems in much of a rush to replace it because, as one local observed, “Well, everybody already knows where it is.”
Instead of the traditional advertisements for hardware stores and local restaurants, the baseball field here is hung with slogans opposing oil-tanker traffic and petroleum pipelines in the archipelago, all signs of the tight knit community here that is deeply connected and invested in the health of the place they call home.
Blackberries and Salal berries grow along the roadsides and provide a welcome snack as we walk around town. A number of small restaurants are within walking distance to the harbor, which draw some of us up the steep ramp to the wharf, while others cook aboard as the sun again set dramatically over the emerald mountains and the nearly full moon rose in the east over the calm waters of bearskin bay.