Photo: Old buildings at the abandoned cannery town of Namu.
"This is our last season here," Rene, one of Namu's caretakers, and an operator of the marina at Namu, told us. "We're moving the whole thing to Lizzie Cove" (in Lama Passage). She gestured to the moorage floats, potluck shelter, floating homes and floating green houses. "We'll tow it up in September."
It was sad but not surprising. In 1999, when we first visited Namu, the talk on the dock had been of the new investors who planned to turn the old cannery town, abandoned in the 1980s, into a fishing resort. They would expand the moorage, reopen the café, the fuel dock, and the stores, and renovate some buildings for a hotel. But when we returned in 2006, only the moorage float expansion had happened. The buildings now looked beyond renovation and the boardwalk on which we had walked up to a lake to go swimming was fenced off with a sign saying, "danger." When I wrote about Namu in Glaciers, Bears and Totems, I had ended by saying that the air of decay depressed me. And this year I had debated whether to come here at all. But now I was glad we had as it gave us one last chance to see and photograph the old town. Without the marina operators to mark dangerous floorboards, it wouldn't be safe to walk in the town.
As we walked through the town I saw decay everywhere: roofs and stairways collapsing, machinery rusting, a sense of danger with every step (was that plank safe to walk on? Would the roof over our heads collapse?) Interspersed among the decay were gardens. Rene and Pete had created a masterpiece with vines climbing old walls, flowers blooming in old wheelbarrows, green bushes lining streets where workers had once bustled. But it wasn't enough.
Photo: A garden at Namu
"What will happen with Namu?" I asked Rene.
"We don't know. The owners don't tell us anything."
That night winds howled around the marina and the floats rocked in the waves from a strong southerly as rain beat on Osprey's cabin roof. I remembered that the bay is called Whirlwind Bay. It seemed a fitting name. I thought about the fleets of fishing boats that had once moored here. They must have had some tough nights. But still they had come in droves.
The next morning as we got ready to leave, a small fleet of gillnetters came in to take the place of the recreational boats leaving. Some of them hauled their nets on the floats and began working on them. There had always been fishing here. Archeological digs found remains of a fishing economy 10,000 years old. There will still be fishing in the bay's waters, but the last of the facilities for the boats themselves will be gone.
"We'll have to try out their new place in Lizzie Cove," said Steve as we left.
Photo: The marina at Namu as seen from the Namu dock.