June 2nd, 2011
Our plan for the day was to take a walk around town before heading on. Ocean Falls is an interesting place; it’s really a ghost town. In its heyday, it was a Crown Zellerbach paper plant town, complete with hotel and cafes and high school, hospital and Olympic size swimming pool and fire station and houses. Now it’s mostly falling down, as Crown Zellerback departed in 1980 or so, and only a few hardy souls hang on. The owner of the dam/power company just sold it to a Quebec company, and was doing re-facing work on the dam, so we wanted to see that as well.
I was over doing some more recycling when the folks from Zucchini asked me aboard to chat about destinations and whatnot. Bob found me there about a half hour later. We chatted in their comfy pilot house and got some ideas about more places to go, and we recommended Elcho Harbour to them. They were waiting for Herb Carpenter, the Harbourmaster and owner of the Marine Ways, to come by to say hi. We were still aboard when he arrived, so we were able to spend some quality time with Herb. He is amazing – great sense of humor, incredible stories to tell (the bear and Cosmo Mike was my favorite) – we had a blast. He is originally from Kodiak, AK, but now makes his home in Ocean Falls. He bought the Marine Ways and has rebuilt it, and his wife Lena has a small gift shop there as well. Lena was not around, but Herb opened the shop for Diane and I to peruse. Lena has great artistic talent, most of the things for sale are items she made, knitted and/or painted. After spending some money, all four of us (the Zucchini team was there with us!) got a room by room tour of the Marine Ways. I think Herb said it was 20,000 square feet. One room after another had treasures to see – boats, engines, woodworking shop, apartments, and even Herb’s version of a “Man Cave”, which is a great room with a kitchen and a screened in porch overlooking the harbor where he entertains his buddies on Wednesdays.
On the 2nd floor is the “museum” that houses all the stuff from Ocean Falls that Norman Brown (a.k.a. Barely Normal Norman, a nickname I think is proud of) has found in the years he has lived there. It seems as if the prior residents left tons of stuff behind when the town was deserted. There are old signs and dinnerware, and a totally cool 1940’s egg boiler and timer that still works, as well as old bowling pins, jewelry, toys…you name it. A lot of fun to look at, all lovingly found and cataloged by Norman.
Team Zucchini headed back to their boat, and we decided to walk up to the dam and Link Lake above it. The views are amazing of the dam and the water pouring over from Link Lake. The lake itself is massive, and we only saw a small portion of it. On our way back we walked past the old Garden apartments that are totally unsafe, the old Co-op, the old hotel, the old high school, the church (it’s in better shape), and a lodge that is where the dam repair crew is being housed. Under the growth, you can see the entire infrastructure that exists in this town, from curbs to sewers. You can almost hear the voices and bustle of the town in its heyday. Right now, you need a lot of imagination.
When we got back to the boat about 1:30, a large blue-hulled motor vessel was at the docks where Zucchini had been. It was the 57’ Blue C’s, and I recognized this boat from last year in Alaska, when we were anchored in Takatz Harbor. We introduced ourselves to Carl and Carol (the “C’s in Blue C’s), and had a great chat. They shared some route plans with us, and we sat in their pilothouse for a while and chatted, and Bob got a tour of the engine room. By the time we left so they could walk the town, it was 3:45pm and we decided to stay another night!
Bob made halibut tacos and we watched another round of his favorite Comedy Channel shows and did a load of laundry. Another peaceful night.