Pacific Northwest Liveaboard Sailors Cruise the Canadian Inside Passage and explore the old fishing canneries at Butedale Cannery
We arrived in Sitka, Alaska from Hawaii on our 45ft sailboat Distant Drummer in June 2016 and enjoyed a fabulous summer cruising in SE Alaska and northern British Columbia. Butedale, on Princess Royal Island, was one of our favourite stopovers on our southern migration through the Canadian Inside Passage.
Butedale was one of the fifty or so canneries dotted along the coast of British Columbia, built to provide fish processing to the fishing fleet operating at the turn of the century. As larger vessels were built and refrigeration technology improved the multitude of canneries was no longer required and many were closed down.
The Butedale cannery operated from 1911-1967 but now the buildings are gradually falling down and slipping into the sea. The only person living there now is Corey Lindsay, the caretaker, who showed us around the dilapidated houses and explained the uses of the industrial machinery which is overgrown with weeds.
In its day there were five bunk houses accommodating hundreds of labours but now the roof of the last remaining bunk house has fallen in. It is possible to enter the old cook house and see the range and the long wooden tables where the workers were fed; it has a very poignant atmosphere.
Behind the cook house two of the managers cottages are still standing; one is used by the caretaker and the other is available for guests. Corey let us sit on the porch and connect to the fastest WiFi in the Inside Passage!
Two water powered generators are preserved in the power house which straddles the creek; one has been restored and provides electricity to the cottages.
While at Butedale we walked up to the lake in the valley above the cannery ruins to a fishing hole where we were told we could catch cut-throat trout. The fishing spot was at the centre of the log jam with huge trunks 1-2m in diameter and often more than 30m long. We were a bit tentative at first but quickly got the hang of balancing on the logs and soon were leaping about like lumberjacks. We didn’t catch any fish (as usual) but had a great time trying!
There is space for five or six boats at the dock at Butedale and anchoring is possible but the bottom may be foul with the infrastructure which has tumbled in.
According to the Waggoner Cruising Guide (2016) it is officially closed but Corey and his gorgeous dog Buddy gave us a wonderful welcome. The owners plan to build a marina in the bay and restore some of the old buildings.
I hope they preserve some of the shadowy nostalgic aura of faded glory which so charmed us when we visited.
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