Hesquiat. July 12, 2016
29 July 2016 | Posted at Hakkai, Fitz Hugh Sound
Photo: Hesquiat Village. July 13, 2016
Long low swells on a rippled sea rolled Osprey gently as we motored north from Hot Springs Cove. It was perfect weather to visit the Hesquiat Indian village on the east shore of Hesquiat Peninsula. We go there to visit Dave and Dianne Ignace, who with their family are the only remaining occupants of the village. But stopping there isn't possible on every trip; it requires a light northerly. To avoid rounding Estevan Point and the Hesquiat Peninsula in the strong winds forecast for the next day we planned to visit Hesquiat in the morning, then go on to Friendly Cove in Nootka Sound that afternoon. It would make for a long day. Thinking about it made me tense. It seemed to me we had been hurrying too fast up the coast.
We anchored off the village behind a short spit. From Osprey's deck, I looked south toward the open ocean: miles of sea with nothing between us and the full force of the ocean. Anchoring here feels like anchoring on the edge of the world. I turned to look at the village where just two small houses stood against a background of dark spruce and cedar. Over the years that we had been going there, the houses, occupied by the Ignaces and their family, had blended more into the background, their paint fading as the vegetation grew. It made a pleasant sight.
We took the dinghy across the shallows following a line of small buoys to a concrete breakwater jutting out from the beach. More a groin than a breakwater, the breakwater afforded protection only at high tide. We hitched the dinghy painter to a cable and climbed out. A young man walked toward us.
"Are Dianne and Dave home?" I asked him.
"Yes," he said shyly, pointing toward their house, the larger of the two houses.
We walked up the breakwater to the beach and then up a short path to the house. As we rounded a corner Dianne stepped out, her round face smiling as she held out her arms to hug us.
"We thought we saw your boat a couple of weeks ago, a green boat like yours. 'Is it them?' we asked. But the people just came ashore and played with their children on the beach without coming to the house."
We walked up outside stairs to the back porch, then into the kitchen where Dave greeted us, his face breaking into a smile as he shook our hands. While Dianne made coffee, the rest of us carted chairs out to the back porch where we could get some relief from the sun baking the roof. From where I sat I could look through the living room and out the window toward the sea; a view worth millions in a city.
As I sat in my chair with coffee in my hands and listened to them talk about their life in this remote place, I relaxed. Dianne told us she had been preparing oregano from her garden for drying. Their grandson, the young man we'd met on the breakwater, was looking for the source of a leak in their water line. Steve commented on how healthy they looked and Dave showed us his hand that had been cut badly, then repaired. He was flown to Nanaimo by helicopter; it had taken only two hours. The story gave me a different perspective on Hesquiat; not so far to civilization if it was an emergency.
The subject veered to fishing, a perennial subject on the west coast of Vancouver Island. It was bad, Dianne told us and there weren't any crabs or clams either. Surprised, I told them that Wayne Adams, in Clayoquot Sound had told us the opposite.
"They don't have sea otters there yet," she replied.
I had been thinking I would like to buy one of the kelp baskets that Dianne weaves and sells from a small shop in her basement. She reached behind her and pulled one of a shelf. It had a kelp bladder serving as a handle. I liked it and decided to buy it. We then went downstairs where Steve purchased a hummingbird carving made by her son.
As we motored the dinghy back out to the boat, a light wind was just building. There was still plenty of time to make it to Friendly Cove. It had been a good visit. I was glad the weather had allowed us to stop.
We came to the West Coast for adventure, but we return for the people.