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The Floating Cabin

The Floating Cabin

April 1st, 2008  · stk

We thought we'd introduce you to our floating cabin, which is situated on the wild, rugged and wet western coast of Vancouver Island. It's located in Julia's Passage in the Barkley Sound and a stone's throw from the world-famous Pacific Rim National Park Reserve.

The floating cabin is located off the west coast of Vancouver Island. Not far is the Broken Group Islands and the Pacific Rim National Park. It's a pristine, wild, wet and wonderful land; a kayaking mecca with many coves, beaches and small islands. The wildlife is amazing: black bear, bald eagles, killer whales, sea lions, seals and sea otters, among other creatures. If you like sea food, you'd love this place. Clams, oysters, prawns, crab, salmon, halibut and cod - it's all on the menu.

Over Easter weekend, we took the new boat down for a 4-day trip. It was our first trip to the floating cabin this year and quite an adventure, piloting our "new" boat, which was christened "Blue Yonder" - this happened inadvertently, when Scott radioed to our cabin friends, using the off-the-cuff call sign. It was an hour and forty minute journey down the long inlet, from Port Alberni, to the floating cabin. Traffic was light, but the seas were heavy and we bounced along, singing the theme song to Gilligan's Island.

We had a nice holiday with our friends, Candace and Richard. The weather was especially nice, even though it snowed a bit on the last night. Blue Yonder handled well, although she needs a few repairs and extra gizmos that we'll need to plunk into this particular 'hole in the water'. We're looking forward to sharing this special, wilderness floating cabin with some of our more adventurours guests that may come to visit.

To learn more about the floating cabin, see satellite images of the area, as well as photos ... read on. If you're coming up for a visit, you'll find this post a good primer about "what to expect". If you're likely not ever going to visit, then you'll gain a glimpse of this truly unique, wonderful and diverse area.

A Special Place and Special Times

We feel very lucky to have access to such a special place. The unique location, special nature of the cabin - hey, it floats! - and the bond shared by like-minded people makes a trip to the cabin an adventure.

Normally, we prefer to travel to different locations, rather than go to the "same 'ole place", time and again. We had never purchased a cabin for this reason. This cabin location is so unique and diverse, however, that it changed our outlook. Our daughter, Alex, will grow up having fond childhood memories of her experiences at the floating cabin. Already, she loves going and hops aboard boats like a salty old dog!

There's also a sense of community down at the cabin, for despite the picture, it isn't the only cabin in Julia's Passage. There are about three dozen other cabins, scattered through the long and skinny passage. We thought it would be fun to be a part of this tight-knit community and develop long-lasting friendships.


The Dime Tour of the Floating Cabin

This little cabin has been floating for 50-something years. All were built during a less regulated era. Originally, they provided access to recreation, although now, a few people make their cabins a year-round home.

(Julia Passage Satellite View: Interact here or View a Larger Map)

I've pasted in a zoomed, Google satellite image of Julia Passage. If you have javascript enabled, you can explore the map (zoom out, pan, change from satellite to map) and get an appreciation for the remote location of the area. While there are logging roads on the nearby land, they don''t carry much traffic - believe me. Julia Passage is remote and it''s this isolation that binds neighbors together with a sense of community that you don''t find in most neighborhoods. If anyone is in need or trouble, a quick shout on a marine radio brings ample resources and man-power to help.

The 50-year-old cabin is small, but cozy. It floats on large styrofoam blocks and large beams. It sits atop a cedar plank wharf, larger than the building, so there's a walkway, all around. There's a small patio in the front, which roughly faces south, so it catches the early sun and is a warm place to sit on sunny days.

Inside, there is a single "great room", which holds a small sitting area (the living room), a corner kitchen and a dining area. In the back are two (very small) bedrooms. Each has a bunk bed and barely enough room to turn around. There is a bathroom, with a shower and portable toilet. Heat is provided by an stove-oil heater; cooking is done on an old, 4-burner propane stove and oven; there's a full-sized kerosene refrigerator and water can be heated with a small propane water heater. On a cold day, it's very cozy and comfortable inside. In fact, if one doesn't watch the oil-stove heater, you'll be opening windows on even the coldest of days.

Outside, there are four different wharfs that are tied around the perimeter of the cabin. Two are industrial, grated aluminum wharfs, garnered from fish farms. They're great, though they tend to be a tad too bouyant (we don't scrape the mussels, algae and barnacles off these docks, as the extra weight allows them to settle into the water a bit). The other two wharfs are both made of wood and are settling into the water too much - they're sinking! Both of these need to be replaced.

Also attached to the cabin is a small work-shed, on it's own small dock. This holds empty fuel containers, a few tools, some fishing supplies and provides a bit of extra storage, when occupying the cabin. There's also a fish-cleaning station and build-in generator (for watching a movie or a hockey game on television, running power tools or powering the half dozen or so electric lights). Running the generator is noisy, so we tend not to run it, unless absolutely necessary.

There's a rough trail, on shore, which heads back into the woods. There's not much else ashore, as the woods are quite dense, but it's sometimes nice to stretch your legs after being cooped up in the cabin for a couple of days.


Cabin Activities

There's lots to do at the cabin, although one of the best features about the cabin is the solitude and enjoying peace and quiet. On a warm sunny day, it's fun just to sit out on the porch, listen to the call of seagulls, feel the cool ocean breezes on your face and read a good book.

If you like sea food, you'll be tempted, at low tide, to wander out along the shore to dig for manila, butter or razor clams. If you like eating oysters, they can be plucked from rocks and along the beach. You might even find a pearl! (There's a jar in the cabin that contains the pearls that have been found so far. Though most are small and irregular in shape, there's one round beauty in there!)

Boat rides out of the Passage and into the nearby waters that surround the Pacific Rim National Park are usually in the offing. You might spot a black bear, foraging along the shoreline, or see bald eagles swoop down from their nests to pluck fish out of the water.

Of course, fishing and prawning are always fun activities. We fish for salmon using down riggers, after setting a few prawn traps out, leaving them for a few hours at a time. Cod can be found closer to shore, along the rocks. Sometimes, a crab will find it's way into a prawn trap, which provides a nice dinner appetizer.

We don't have them yet, but we're planning on purchasing a couple of recreational kayaks, so that we can explore the sheltered waters inside Julia Passage and neighboring islands and shores. Day tripping to Alma Russell island for a picnic lunch is always fun.

Longer explorations into the islands of the Broken Group provides stunning scenery, photography and adventure. Heck, you might even be lucky and spot a orca or migrating whale. We spotted a pod of killer whales on our first visit to the cabin, just over a year ago, during the 40-minute boat ride over from Toquart Bay.

While you're reading that book in the sunshine, on the front porch, you might as well toss a crab trap over the edge of the dock. Who knows what manner of sea creature you might catch. It might even be dinner! Don't get too engrossed in your book, otherwise you might miss spotting a passing eagle, sea otter, boat or harbor seal! (Bear have even been known to pass by along the shore).

Social activities at night don't center around the television, but rather games, talking or summer evenings outside with a porch fire (there's even an outdoor fireplace on the porch)! Neighbors tend to visit and gather to watch hockey games or other sporting activities. A night boat ride to a neighboring cabin is a nice way to meet new people and see a million stars, shining above.

The fresh air manages to amplify one's appetite, for some reason, but not to worry - there's plenty of fresh seafood on the menu. On our last night there, we ate the last of the crab, prawn and fresh clam chowder ... a veritable bounty of the sea!

The cabin has a certain magic about it, there's no doubt. If it sounds good to you, then just make mention about heading to the cabin on your next visit to the Hutton House. If you'll miss the mall, the telephone and web browsing ... maybe you should give it a pass. (The cabin isn't for everyone, we recognize, but we don't let it stop us from calling you "crazy").

(It reminds me of a comment made by one of my old oil-patch friends, Louis Klonsky, who once said, "My idea of roughing it is a night at Motel Six"! I don't think that 'wild-man' Louis would be keen on a night at the floating cabin, nor catching crab off the dock, even though he's more than welcome and has provided us a humourous glimpse into some people's idea of a wilderness adventure! :(


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1.flag Gary Comment
WOW ! and wow again:)

That is amazing place you have got there, you must have more wildlife on your door-step than we have at our local Zoo ! I mean Bald Eagles and killer whales not to mention bears!

It sounds FANTASTIC and looks like you all had a GREAT time. You don't even have to pack food, its all around you. (although I would starve, I really don't care for seafood at all, but hey, that's my problem huh?)

Nice post Scott, I enjoyed reading it and nice photo's. Look foward to future posts after other adventures.

Gz ;)

2.flag stk Comment
Gz - Just let us know when you're arriving and we'll give you and your family a wilderness trip to remember!

And (PS) ... being from the desert, I'm having to develop a taste for the seafood. However, I'm happy to report that I now love prawns, crab, BBQ/baked salmon and New England Clam chowder!

(Oysters, not so much). :p
3.flag Gary Comment
Lol, thanks for the offer, glad you have a taste for the seafood now, not sure I like the look of that thing in your hand in the photo above. (Sunflower Star) ;) It might be alright on a pizza !

4.flag Karen Comment
You are right Scott, Alex will have wonderful memories and your photos are great. Makes me think I'm there. I did notice however, that you are wearing longsleeved shirts. Not so here, it's in the 80's after a few days of 90's. This is why we live in Arizona. Enjoy your summer!
5.flag stk Comment
Karen - LOL @ long-sleeved shirts. You are back by a month, however (not that we'd be wearing much else), but all the shots were taken @ Easter.

Have you seen our new dock?
6.flag Sieg Comment
Very cool trip. You all look like you have it made in the shade. And the bald eagle photo was tops.
7.flag alto Comment
hi scott
a wonderful place to be ... you have your priorities right ... great adventures for you and your children ... they need as much of nature as they can get ... good on you dad and mum!

cheers from alto
8.flag stk Comment
Alexis - Thanks for the kind comments!

I'll have to spend some time down-under, checking out FAB Radio. Sounds like a great project and resource for families. :D

Right now, however, I'm sitting down with Alex, to read her a bit from "Raggedy Ann Stories", published in 1918 and given to my mother in 1941, on her 7th birthday.

9.flag alto Comment
yeah, raggedy ann ... that is a story i have not yet read ... i know other kids just loved raggedy ann ...
10.flag Willi Sperlich Comment
Looks very peaceful...Looks familiar too..I was just out there, taking a boat from Port to Ukee....spent the night onboard in Juliet passage...very peaceful...might be great place to retire to