Photo: the old store and post office at Port Neville
Neither currents nor wind were being friendly to us on our trip south through Johnstone Strait. The tide would be ebbing most of the day when we wanted a flood and the weather forecast called for southerlies when we wanted northerlies. The best thing to do, we decided, was to go as far as we could before the current and/or wind became too strong to continue. Port Neville was the logical place to stop. It was only 12 miles away from our anchorage at Burial Cove in Havannah Channel, but at least we would make some progress. And once the tide turned, we could go on.
We had stopped at Port Neville twice before but had never gone ashore; wind and current had discouraged us from landing on the dock. Perhaps this would be the time to go ashore. We wouldn't have to tie up at the dock; we could anchor off and take the dinghy in. We had read that the old store building was unoccupied, but we could still walk around and look in the windows.
We anchored as planned and were putting the outboard on the dinghy when a large red inflatable with rows of passengers in orange survival suits roared into the bay and pulled up to the dock.
"Maybe there will be a tour and we can tag along," said Steve.
But when we arrived on shore we found no one in the house and the passengers sitting at picnic tables eating sack lunches.
"I guess we can't get in," said Steve to a man standing on the porch, assuming the man was a tour guide.
"Oh, no. I've got the key," he replied, opening the door for us. He explained that the owners no longer lived here. He was leasing the property from them. Anyone who wanted to see the building could look for him in the red log house to the south of the store
We wandered through the old buildings which still contained lots of memorabilia: empty cans on the shelves, old irons and coffee grinders, a Victrola with whole shelves full of 78 rpm records, a kitchen table with an oil cloth cover and lots of spider webs. I noted that the walls were bare, no paint or wallpaper hid the rough hewn lumber walls.
Photo: scales from the old store and post office.
The building dated back to 1924, although the family that owned it had lived in Port Neville since the 1890s. It had ceased being a store in 1960 and closed as a post office in 2010. Fast boats with access to nearby towns and fewer people living here made it redundant.
Back at the dock we found two more tour boats plus a power yacht at the dock.
"Do you do this every day?" I asked one of the tour operators.
"We usually do whale watching tours; this is a special history tour."
"They had come all the way from Campbell River for a day tour to see this old building that we considered just a waypoint on our trip south.