Inside Passage Blog

By Linda Lewis



May 27, 2007 – The Story of a BC Community - Hartley Bay


We are currently in Ketchikan, AK, (May 27) where I can finally catch up on our cruising emails. I will be sending several while we are here and we hope that you continue to enjoy them.
This is a picture story of a First Nation's community in British Columbia called Hartley Bay. In 2006, when the BC Ferry "The Queen of the North" hit a rock in the middle of the night and sank at nearby Gil Island in Wright Sound - with about a hundred people on board - it was this community that responded to the call for help.
The following website has a short overview of the community and of the rescue efforts (with links to other sites for more on that story):,_British_Columbia
This is Bob Hill who is the Chief Councilor of the Gitk'a'ata Tribe of about 200 people who make up the Hartley Bay community.

Bob remains mystified by people making such a big thing over the help the community gave in the sinking episode. Their attitude was: "Of course! You always help whenever needed. It is the way of a sea-faring community."
He was kind enough to tour us around the village and the community center building. This is really a longhouse enclosed in a modern building that functions as a community center.

This is also the place where many of the passengers from the ferry were brought after the sinking. The sinking took about an hour because the boat was hung up on a rock for a period of time. That detail allowed the evacuation and rescue and saved many lives. Bob is very proud of his community, especially his young people who apparently sounded the first alarm (after midnight).
The inside of the building has decorated walls...

and wonderful totems...


It also has a fire pit that can actually be used (very cautiously) for special ceremonies.

Bob says that in the near future the community will gather the elders and listen to what he calls a "historical scan." That was an interesting term for what I would still call "oral history." The community does not want to lose its traditions, so they will try to capture and write down the knowledge as it is spoken. The sense of respect for elders is very strong here.
Here is a monument to a very special elder, erected as a tribute to all elders for passing on the culture of the tribe. The picture on the right allows you to see the inscription honoring Ambrose Robinson. It says: "Teach us to number our days that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom." Psalm 90

The community is receiving some nice attention from the BC Ferry because of their help with the rescue effort and is now able to upgrade some of its dock ramps and create a playground. Here is the new ramp ready to be put in place.

And here's another thing about Hartley Bay that is unique in BC. Boardwalks.

The boardwalks really took me by surprise. Here is the school.

Bob told us just how unique the boardwalks are. This is the only boardwalk community in British Columbia. Alaska has several such communities (Elfin Cove and Pelican come to mind), but this is certainly the only one I've ever seen in BC.

For cruisers approaching Hartley Bay from the water, this marina looks a bit iffy because the actual harbor is so hidden behind the breakwater at the right. For boats our size, we need to know that there is space for us behind the breakwater.

We cruised in far enough to look down the fairway next to the breakwater and could see there would normally be lots of room for us. However, the large barge with the new ramp was clogging things up pretty badly and we couldn't see past it. We decided to go to Coghlan Anchorage and anchor and come back for a visit in the dinghy. I'm really glad we did.

Here is what is hidden from view. Two very large bays for side ties.

Next time we'll come all the way in and dock. Perhaps by our next visit they will have not only the ramp in place, but also their planned new marina with grocery store and laundry and showers will be in progress. For now, just a nice dock and a walk through the community is worth a stop here.

Linda & Dave
M/V Royal Sounder




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