June 25, 2008 Cutter Cove to Sointula

We departed in the early morning calm and steamed through the Knight Inlet toward Mamalillaculla, an abandoned Native town.  Along the way many dolphins surprised us by leaping out of the water all around the boat.  By 10AM we anchored off the village and pulled on our rubber boots to explore.  Mamalillaculla has an original long-house frame, made of massive cedar posts.  The town is built on top of 12 feet of broken oyster shells, a testament to the amount of time it was inhabited by humans!  We also found rotting totem poles in the woods, and many decrepit old wooden houses that the missionaries built.  The village was extremely overgrown in a thick mat of thimble-berry bushes.  We clawed our way through the 8′ deep thickets humming loudly with bees.  There was plenty of bear scat around, and many places where the ground had been excavated by a bear clawing for grubs, so we made some noise.  We could only see a few feet in front of us as we swam through the bush.  Suddenly we realized that the whole entire village was writhing with thousands upon thousands of snakes!!  Literally everywhere we looked were several snakes.  They heaped up into big snake-balls and tangled coils with each other on the warm rocks and the rotted timbers of the old buildings.  Colleen thinks the snakes are ghosts of the Natives.  I think they are the ghosts of the missionaries.  After each step we took, we could hear the snakes whispering off into the tall grasses.  We left Mamalillaculla and returned to the boat, leaving the village for the bees and snakes to rest and rot in peace.  In the afternoon we passed by the town of Sointula, on Malcolm Island.  Sointula was founded by a group of Fins looking to build a utopia, and the name means “harmony.”  The town looked very attractive through the binoculars, and I had a strong impulse to turn in there for the night.  However, we were pressing for Port Hardy 25 miles further along, and I ignored my intuition.  I should have listened!  Out in the wide open Queen Charlotte strait a fierce NW wind licked up an ugly steep chop against the current, halting our forward momentum while at the same time thrashing the boat.  Soon we were making very little distance to windward and the bow was plunging into each steep wave.  After some deliberation we fell off the wind and flew back to Sointula.  We were only 8 miles to Port Hardy, and back-tracked all of our hard-earned hours in the Strait.  It was a tough decision, but entirely the right one.  Prudence is rewarded at sea.  The waves continued to grow steeper and chased down on our stern back to Sointula.  The wind increased well into the evening and it felt great to be all tied up in a snug harbor, while we watched the Strait turn into a smother of whitecaps.  We spent the evening exploring Sointula on foot.  I’ve never seen a town with so many incredible carpenters!  Every house had a stack of prime lumber beside it, and the sounds of various saws and woodworking tools issued from many backyards and garages.  Sointula is a beautiful community with incredible gardens and finely crafted homes.  I couldn’t help thinking about the thrashing we’d be getting still if we hadn’t turned back when we did.

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