Having a layover day in Port McNeill allowed us to sleep in and enjoy a leisurely morning. It was a warm, sunny morning, and we were happy to have nowhere to be. The layover day also gave us an opportunity to do some chores. We fueled up the boats, took care of laundry, enjoyed shore showers, and re-provisioned. Discovery headed out midway through the day. Change of Latitude worked on putting their boat back together after their guests left.
Port McNeill is a small town and everything is in easy walking distance from the marina. The North Island Marina is a fun place on its own. It is run by a young couple, Steve and Jessica, and they work hard to create a friendly, community oriented atmosphere for everyone who stays with them. Their dogs run around the docks and greet all the boats that come and go. They’ve also built an outdoor kitchen where groups can grill out and eat together.
Doreen, Marta and I decided to take the ferry over to the town of Alert Bay. This is a community of the Namgis First Nation people. The people are very proud of their heritage and culture and they welcome visitors. We toured the U’mista Cultural Center which has an amazing collection of ceremonial masks, robes and other artifacts. There is also a beautiful burial ground near town that is marked with totem poles of all sizes and shapes. We had a good time touring the local art galleries and talking to the townspeople.
Much of the Cultural Center was focused on potlatch ceremonies. The word potlatch means to give in the native Kwakwaka’wakw language. These ceremonies are held for major events such as weddings and funerals. The host of the ceremony gives gifts to all of the attendants. This gift giving was a way to elevate one’s status in the community. These ceremonies may last for multiple days and include elaborate dance rituals and feasts. It was fascinating to see the workmanship that went into creating the masks and blankets and to learn about the significance of each.
Most of us ended up at Gus’s Pub for dinner. Patos, Victoria and Change of Latitude all had dinner together. One of the great things about cruising in a group like this is the people that you meet and get to know over the course of the trip. It is wonderful to get to share the experience with others and to learn from one another.