I haven’t written much in the way of description of our area but, of course, the picture at the top of the blog and my constant reference to forests, oceans and everything being set at an angle probably gives a sufficient picture to the casual reader. But, as I read other books on wilderness, off-the-grid living, it seems the authors dwell on such matters quite a lot. And so, in the absence of any recent major injuries, interesting humans or charming animal visitors to report on, I thought I’d give this descriptive thing a try.
We live on an island. It is about 15 miles long, three to five miles wide depending on where you measure. The island is about thirty miles from the nearest town but half of that distance (by time spent) would be logged by boat. The other half is on another island and some of the time a 4×4 is necessary to cover that portion. A conventional automobile can do it when the weather is good and the road has been recently graded but, in the winter and with a heavy load, the 4×4 is pretty much essential.
Our island has no amenities. No store, no real road, no piped-in water or electricity and relatively few people. Sixty square miles of island and usually about 60 people living here at any one time. In the summer, the population might climb to 90 and, in the winter, it sometimes drops to under fifty. We seem to have two to four people join the community every year and the same amount leave. Without doing a tally, I would roughly estimate that there are about 12 to 15 young people (under 25) and perhaps that same amount of young to middle aged adults. The balance of 30 to 40 are well over 50 and the bulk of them are over 60.
Our island is the ‘gathering’ island for several others. This is because we have a community centre and some community buildings, because of its central location and it is because of it’s accessibility to ‘connecting points’ with the more populated on-the-grid island just next door. All in all, we draw from three other islands with a total population of approximately 200 or so people. Maybe 250.
Probably six or even more of the residents in the area are total recluses (hard to count recluses – by definition). Virtually all are extremely independent. No one relies on anyone else for anything significant of any kind. Family members are excepted, of course, but even at that, most of those people are much more independent than their counterparts in the city. One young man, for instance, was asked to navigate a large yacht complete with a crew from the Atlantic to Victoria because the owner was so impressed with his sea-going abilities and competence. The young captain was under 25. That guy is exceptional but, to a lesser extent, so are all the young people.
I am not saying they are better – I am saying they are more independent minded. Generally.
The population, tho minimal, seems to have representation from all socio- economic stratas of the larger society. We have professors and people who have less than a grade 12 education. Rich businesspeople and failed ones. We have pensioners and workers, unemployed, underemployed and unemployable. We have craftsman and labourers, doctors and writers, inn-keepers and lawyers. One thing we don’t have is more than one or two of anything. This is a no-competition zone.
As stated before, the area is heavily forested and it has all been logged at least once over the past hundred years. And, sadly, logging continues in the rapacious manner of yesteryear. It has also been fished and, even more sadly, fishing also continues but it has been depleted to below the commercially attractive levels and so the big boats don’t come anymore. Only prawns and oysters are in some abundance and this year, it seems, prawns have been knocked out. Oddly, oysters are not a regular food item on the dinner plates of the nation and so oysters are still at healthy populations.
The reason the logging and fishing industry have depleted the area to the extent they have is simple. Location, location, location. Even though we are considered off-the-grid and remote by modern living standards, we are close and convenient by resource exploitation standards. A commercial prawner can be here in a few hours and back home on weekends or even more frequently. Same for logging.
This close-but-still-remote situation makes it ideal for the adventure tourism businesses although, to be fair, adventure tourism in BC is not an ideal business due to it’s short season and high capital requirements. Outdoor adventures have a six month window at best and only three of those months can be relied on. We have kayaker outfitters, luxury tenting, mini-cruises on large, beautiful yachts and no-star to five-star resorts. They all do well in July and August and the better ones are full from June through September. (If any reader wants a recommendation please contact me and I would be happy to describe and recommend the right one for you).
This is the west coast of BC. It rains. But, for eight months, it is light-to-moderate, infrequent and easy to take. The four months of winter are a bit more harsh. It can get a bit bleak at times in January and February.
There is no question we live in a temperate zone. We get below freezing for say, a week a year. We might hit ninety once in August for a few days. Generally speaking the summers are warm, the shoulder seasons moderate and winter is just a bit cooler and somewhat wetter. I consider it all ideal but, then again, I grew up in Vancouver with rain as the default weather pattern.
There is plenty of interesting wildlife and I find that to be amongst the most appealing aspects of this lifestyle but, to be honest, they don’t just show up like clockwork. The wildlife populations seems plentiful and healthy to me but I live here. Visitors often stare hungrily from the balcony expecting a Sea World display just after breakfast or just before dinner and it just doesn’t work that way. The wolves howl when they want to, the Orcas go by but much of the time they are underwater (duh) and so it goes. The only wildlife sightings you can count on are beach creatures and birds. Other than that, it is a world of glimpses. But still wonderful.
I may do a vegetation piece some time. Suffice to say, we have a lot of Xmas trees. But the flora is quite interesting and so I may give it a go in the future. But that is enough description for now, don’t you think?