On most maps is its colonial name: Howe Sound. It’s a triangular body of water northwest of Vancouver, its longest side about 40km, scattered with islands. Here’s a map. The Sound and its islands are mostly named after 19th-century British naval officers, which in 2023 I find loathsome. It’s time to lose the dead limeys and revive the Indigenous names. The area was peopled by the Squamish; they used more than one name, but these days “Átl’ḵa7tsem” seems to be what people (and officials) are using. It may be hard to spell but it’s not hard to say.
I recently took a boat ride around Átl’ḵa7tsem’s southern reaches; here are words and pictures. (Used to be, there were regular blog fragments here along the lines of how I went somewhere and took pictures and had thoughts. But what with the social climate and long-Covid in the family and decarbonization, we don’t go places much anymore. I miss it. And I miss photographing and writing about it.)
What’s “remote” mean? · Our family has the good fortune to own a cabin on Keats Island, which isn’t big enough to be named on that map linked above, but if you move your focus south to where the Sound meets the broader Georgia Straight, you can see Keats, named after another dead Brit, and a cluster of smaller islands to its south.
Bowen Island is essentially a suburb of Vancouver; you can live there and commute to school and work. The rest have a thin sprinkling of year-round residents, and mostly-empty-except-for-summer cabins around their edges. The vast majority are owned by people from Vancouver, where the money is. The word “remote”, when applied to an island, measures how long it takes to get there from Vancouver.
Thus, that sprinkling south of Keats is considered very remote, which is kind of ridiculous to apply to anything that’s less than two hours motor transport from a major North American city. But in fact they feel and look remote.
What happened was… · We had our friends Tom and Lisa over to our cabin a couple weekends ago, and Tom was looking at one of our many, uh, Home Improvement Opportunities, and said out of the blue “When are you and I going to come over here for three or four days before I have to start teaching again, and sort that out?”
I initially didn’t take him seriously, but Lisa pointed out that Tom doesn’t get enough chances to work with tools and probably really meant it. So, last week, Tom and I spent Tuesday to Friday at the cabin and wow, did we ever get a lot of stuff done.
This isn’t a home-improvement blog and lord knows I have nothing to teach on the subject, so we’ll skip the details, except to remark that this Ryobi mitre saw is a freaking awesome piece of gear.
After working hard for two and a half days, Tom and I boated to the nearest town for dinner and then went on a marine tour of those remote southern islands; Tom piloted and I snapped pictures.
This is I think part of the shore of Pasley Island. It’s an interesting story; the whole island, on which there are 30 cabins, is owned by a corporation with 30 shares, one for each cabin owner. They employ a caretaker, who (I’ve read, but can’t find the source) will run you back and forth to a place you can drive to on Bowen Island; waterfront cabin, no boat required! It even has a tennis court.
Think it looks beautiful? Me too. Look close and there’s a bright green spot, apparently painted on the rocks. I don’t know what it means.
Out at the very edge, past Pasley, is Worlcombe Island.
It’s a tiny little shred of land, a couple or three cabins clustered around sheltered bays at the east end, then the rest of the island (above is its west end) in a state of nature.
Would I want a cabin on one of these out-islands? Our view on Keats is very beautiful, but we have sometimes-noisy neighbors and there are a lot of boats going back and forth; it’s hardly secluded and sometimes un-peaceful. These would definitely be closer to nature.
But… you’d be 100% responsible for your own power and water, which would mean a combination of solar, a generator (don’t forget to bring fuel), a cistern, water purification, and during drought years I guess you’d have to import every drop. And if you fall over and break a leg, or have a survivable heart attack, 911 ain’t gonna come fast.
I said to Tom “Would you like to have a cabin here?” and he answered “No, but I’d like to have a friend with a cabin here.”
I saw at least two islands with just a single cabin. Hmm. And then there are solitary rocks, undisturbed except for the occasional summer kayaker.
Looks like a nice picnic spot except for I bet it’s always windy.
Certain rocks are have been decorated idiosyncratically.
It was a terrific outing, and thanks to Tom for the excellent piloting, and for pitching in on the cabin improvement, and for being a decent human being. He has 47,501 photos on Flickr and if you keep your eye on his stream you’ll probably see some pretty decent Átl’ḵa7tsem vistas.