In 1969 Craig Murray signed on to crew an 1898 sailboat from Gibraltar to Barbados, a voyage that ultimately lasted 45 days due to adverse weather, including several severe storms. He had never sailed before. Thus begins the tale of Craig Murray, someone who might hear about a job prospect across the continent, sell everything, and go. In 1971 he was working as the night auditor at an Ontario Holiday Inn when he met Abe Wells, a guest who’d come to Toronto for an insurance sales conference.
“We were standing on opposite sides of the counter when Abe said, ‘if you ever want a change of scenery come see me in Victoria,’ ” recalls Craig. “So, one day in ’73, I sold my possessions and hopped a train to B.C. Only problem was, Abe didn’t have any work for me. But he told me to go see a guy named Arnie in Port McNeill, so I headed north with thirty dollars in my pocket and a guitar strung on my back. Arnie, who ran the local pool hall, didn’t have any work either.”
Stranded and broke on the western edge of Canada, Craig was optimistic, figuring Port McNeill would be an ideal location to build a sailboat.
After he’d hung around town for a couple of days, Arnie gave Craig the name of a man who might provide work at a nearby logging camp.
“That guy didn’t offer any work either, but he let me sleep in the TV room of the camp,” Craig says. “Eventually I told enough lies to get hired on as a boom tender, someone who stands on the logs to sort and assemble them at the log dump. I could start building my sailboat.”
Craig grew up in Ontario. He spent holidays and summers at a family cottage in Algonquin Provincial Park where he developed a love for, as he calls it, “the outdoor lifestyle.” He graduated from Ryerson Polytech with a degree in hotel administration. Upon graduation, he harbored no dream of creating one of Canada’s premier wilderness lodges, a resort that would one day host the 43rd President of the United States. Instead, he departed for Europe.
By 1974, when he wasn’t working at the log dump, Craig was building a boat shelter out of plastic sheets and 2x4s. And a boat.
He finished his 31-foot sailboat in 1976.
“We launched it and, to our amazement, it floated, so I began exploring the inlets, bays and islands in Queen Charlotte Strait. I moored my boat in East Bay, but I would go into Port McNeill on Friday nights whether or not I needed supplies. One Friday I heard there was a new waitress working at the coffee shop so I went in to meet her. Her name was Deborah Davis.”
According to family lore Craig told Deborah they were going to get married within a week of meeting her. A year later his prophecy came true when in Toronto. The newlyweds returned to Port McNeill where Craig resumed work logging for a small contractor. Fraser arrived that same year, followed by Clifton in 1979.
The young father set his sights on a new project.
To be continued…
Words: Crai S Bower