Buildings Don’t Sail – The Improbable Voyage of Nimmo’s First Lodge
Each spring and fall floating lodges join humpback, grey and orca whales in their migration through the Inside Passage, a ritual so familiar to wilderness inn keepers as be almost routine. However, like resident orca pods, not every lodge arrives in spring and departs after the season. The original Nimmo Bay floating house was to become one such permanent member, requiring a single voyage to its preferred habitat. This excursion was anything but smooth sailing.
Craig had found the float house in Scott Cove and had it towed to Port McNeill, where he constructed a new float to convey the building to Nimmo Bay. Peter Toby had agreed to tow the structure behind his tugboat, the Noble Baron. They departed on April 30th.
Vancouver Island’s Nimpkish Lake, located 32 miles south of Port McNeill, is famous for its steady winds. In winter this blow can form a squamish, a buildup of a very strong flow. They don’t appear in spring, except on April 30th, 1981, when this wall of wind banged up against a giant wooden cube, a lodge that was destined for Nimmo Bay, or so that was the plan.
“We had wrapped the house in sixty-six-foot boom sticks,” explained Craig, “But because the float was constructed above the boom sticks they started smashing into the brow logs. The whole float was in danger of ripping itself apart due to the wind and the subsequent waves. Fortunately, I had brought along a big chainsaw, my Stihl 090, so I climbed out on the float and cut all the brow logs off.”
Sure, there was damage inside the lodge but it hadn’t sunk to the bottom of the strait, the float remaining mostly intact. They moored on Dickson Island that night, tightened the logs and towed the lodge through Mackenzie Sound, arriving in Nimmo Bay by late afternoon. They spent the remainder of the day hooking the Nimmo’s first lodge into shore.
“We tight-lined the float and got it into place where we wanted it,” Craig muses. “Then Peter Tobey left and I thought, ‘What the hell is going to happen next?’”
Craig and Deb Murray had secured their floating lodge, though slightly damaged from its encounter with the Nimpkish Wind. They also owned a skiff.
The first guests would arrive in mid-June, six weeks away.
To be continued…
Words: Crai S Bower