Little did I know an invite to sail with Islay Mist Sailing Charters would include the best prime rib I’d ever tasted — under the shadow of a nomad’s yurt, no less — the opportunity to see a world class museum in the middle of nowhere and a pan-pan alert I’d later write about.
A pal and I met Skipper Jim MacDougall — a former Calgary police detective who spent more than 25 years arresting bad guys — at the Port McNeill dock one Friday in September. (In full disclosure mode, Skipper Jim and I are friends and met in Calgary while I was a reporter there.)
MacDougall, who’s now based out of Sointula, is a stickler for safety and makes sure everyone who comes aboard the Islay Mist — his 1971, 39-ft Pearson sailing vessel — is aware of them all.
We soon jumped aboard and crossed the Johnstone Strait and Blackfish Sound as we made our way to Echo Bay, a former forest ranger station on the north side of Gilford Island.
That’s where we met host Pierre Landry, whose bushy Nordic-style beard is almost as famous as his Saturday pig roasts and prime rib barbecues. Landry uses the low and slow style of cooking method and his prime rib was, in a word, magnificent.
Dinner at Pierre’s works like this: Landry cooks the meat and charges a modest price for doing so. The guests, most of whom come by boat, each bring a dish which is shared communally. (We brought brownies, supplied by Skipper Jim’s wife and business partner, Ivana). Guests are also invited to bring their favourite beverage and the entire event morphs from a meal with strangers into something akin to a Sunday potluck at grandma’s house, with plenty of laughter and great food.
The three of us slept very comfortably aboard the Islay Mist that night, aided by the gentle rocking of subdued waves.
The next morning after a great breakfast — meals are included in the price and hey, who knew skippers could cook? — we cast off and headed to Proctor Bay, a nearby place on Gilford Island I’d heard only a little about.
What I’d heard, but frankly didn’t believe, was that an old guy built an amazing, world-class museum.
It’s true. Billy Proctor has been beach combing and collecting an impressive collection of artifacts for most of his life.
What he’s amassed is truly amazing. Visitors will see things like the trading beads used by Capt. George Vancouver and Capt. James Cook during the 1700s.
There are old bottles that washed to shore, coins, old cookware, tools, machinery and several smooth stones that appear to have runes carved into them. Still, the thing that fascinated me was the one-room shack Proctor built from a single cedar log, in the fashion of old time loggers who would be dropped into remote areas with only a few items and an axe. These hardy men would find a cedar log, pull planks from it and build work cabins. Even the bunks and tables inside would often be made from the single log.
Proctor had exactly replicated one.
We left this fascinating man too soon and headed to Port Hardy to drop me off.
There was no wind that day, and we kept a leisurely pace with the help of the motor below decks.
I took the opportunity to catch a few Zs and can say I don’t believe I’ve ever had a nicer midday nap than the one that day on the Islay Mist. I chose to lie on a sofa under a heavy quilt where the the soft throb of the diesel lulled me to sleep.
I awoke refreshed and somewhat shocked to see the day had turned foggy.
It was a bit eerie pulling through the calm waters watching different shapes fade in and out of view. Even floating seagulls took on an ethereal visage.
We were visited by a couple of Dahl’s porpoises that made their presence known by way of their blowholes, before slipping underwater again.
It was about then we heard the pan pan about a couple of fishermen who may have overturned their craft.
I learned later that’s exactly what happened and the men were saved by a fellow who was the safety officer for the Port Alice mill.
It was a great couple of days and I truly cannot wait to sail aboard the Islay Mist again.
To book your charter call 250-973-6975, or email the MacDougalls at firstname.lastname@example.org.