A Gordon Henschel original painting.

A Brush with Henschel: Low tide – Nimmo Bay

Not all paintings flow as successfully as this one but you can attribute it to the locale.

Painting from a skiff is not my favourite thing and I usually hurry as much as possible with my sketch; mostly because I get all stiffened up from sitting in one position but also the wind turns you so that each time you look up to see your subject, it’s somewhere else. For this painting there was another reason to hurry: it was low tide and I needed to get the shoreline nailed down before I lost it.

The boat came around the bend and headed in a direction that was distinctly annoying; straight for me! I was in a hurry and, as much as I like people, the timing was wrong for a chin wag. Ignoring my obvious disinterest, they pulled alongside.

“Whatcha doon”? The question was at once irritating and meaningless. I felt like telling them I was writing a letter but decided to be nice. They were, after all, genuinely interested so I took the time to explain that I was painting the Bay. “Well, when you’re finished with the painting we’d like to buy it. Here’s my card so you can get in touch.”

I was suddenly very interested (funny how that works!) and later sold the sketch to them. The painting you see here is a much larger work done from the sketch; also sold, but later reproduced as a print on canvas and now being shown in galleries as far away as Arizona.

Not all paintings flow as successfully as this one but you can attribute it to the locale: Nimmo Bay itself. It is of course synonymous with the resort for if Craig and Debbie Murray had not had the dream we would probably never have heard the name. The realization of this lodge is the perfect example of success stories.

Nimmo Bay, really a cove, is hard to find tucked away among the twists and turns of the huge waters of Mackenzie Sound; one of the reasons why it appealed to Craig and Debbie as a possibility for a lodge. Lying at the foot of Mt. Stephen, the three-peaked behemoth, among the mountains of the Coast Range, can be seen all the way from Beaver Cove to Port Hardy, the location was ideal, for its glacial fed waters feed a huge waterfall that empties into the ocean at that point. The waterfall now provides electric power for the lodge during most of the year. One of their showpieces is the hot tub that sits directly in front of the falls, providing the bather with a visual and aural feast while immersed in its steaming cauldron.

The resort was, for a dozen years, a floating one but has since been supplemented with on-shore cabins, as pictured in the painting. For anyone visiting the resort and viewing its facilities, there is no doubt about the quality of the buildings and their accoutrements: among the hand- crafted doors, tables and buffets and specially built sinks, nothing lacks the personal touch. The whole place is customized to fit the locale. Nimmo was one of the first resorts to use helicopters to take its guests anywhere from glaciers to Oceanside. It is a special place and the staff is trained to make guests feel special. That is the essence of the Nimmo Bay success.

Marketing has been a big factor in introducing guests to Nimmo but once they have experienced it they return again and again. They have been featured in a Visa commercial, Life Styles of the Rich and Famous, a major Sports TV show in Japan and every magazine that is involved with Sports or Tourism, including Airlines in-flight literature. The list goes on and on, too numerous to mention, but their message for any business is this: you don’t sit there and wait for the advertisers to notice you; you go out and get them. You have got to be pro-active!

What’s my message? Simply, if you have a dream, follow it with a passion. Aim high and work hard. Don’t believe that if the business or job isn’t forestry related it wouldn’t provide you with a decent living. You needn’t start a lodge to make it. There are dozens of tourist related services that are necessary; check with our local tourism organization, Vancouver Island North Visitors Association (VINVA) and the Chambers of Commerce for a list of ideas.

Having your own business is wonderful in its flexibility and freedom, but be prepared to work as you’ve never worked before. I went for a hike at Nimmo Bay, following the penstock (large tube) that comes from a small dam high up the creek on the mountainside down to the Pelton Wheel driving the generator. After a half hour of climbing up roots and windfalls I finally gave up the goal of reaching the dam and returned to the lodge. I asked Craig, “Who were the guys that did the incredible job of placing that penstock on the mountain?”

Came his reply, “Debbie and I, about 1980!”

Get the picture?

Comments e-mail: ghenschel@shaw.ca, or website: www.henschel.ca

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