............THE FOREST






“Max’s Story – Part 2”

J ust before and right after the turn of this century our capital city, Victoria played host to many hundreds of people whose dreams were built around a 160 acre pre-emption of land on the north end of Vancouver Island. They came from Scandinavia, Ger-many, Holland, England and many other places, to find their quiet corner of the world where they could raise a family, farm and live an undisturbed life, far from crowded war-threatened Europe.
....Such was the Botel family of Ger-many, that I wrote of last month, and in particular young Max Botel who was 10 years old when his father took up their pre-emtion at Topknot Point on the very north west tip of Vancouver Island in 1913.
....The Botels lived for five years on this very rugged piece of land. Their horizon was the ocean, with a pounding Pacific surf at their doorstep – so close that the first home had to be moved further back from the beach after a big storm washed away some of their foundation.
....By 1918, the Great War was over and the homesteaders of the Cape Scott area, as the north end of Van-couver Island was called, realized that their promised railroad from the south would never come. As youngsters like Max grew up they needed jobs and Cape Scott simply could not provide that.
....Gradually the exodus started, with one family after another making the decision to leave the area and head for some new territory where their survival would be a little easier. It was not until the late thirties that the last settlers moved out.
....So it was good-bye to Topknot Point as the Botels headed for the more protected environs of Quatsino Sound.
....They eventually found some land near the village of Quatsino. The entire area of Quatsino Sound was coming


The Lu Ann II – one of Max’s boats.
to life at this time in 1918. The Whalen family, entrepreneurs from what used to be called Port Arthur – now Thunder Bay – had come west in 1910 and by 1918 had acquired two pulp mills – Woodfibre in Howe Sound and Swanson Bay south of Prince Rupert. Their third pulp mill would be Port Alice on the southeast arm of Quatsino Sound.
....The building of the pulp mill brought jobs and prosperity to the area. Along with the pulp mill several logging camps were placed about the Sound to log the heavily wooded area. The camps were log float type with single shiplap bunk-houses adjoining a blacksmith shop and cookhouse. Men brought their own blankets to camp and if you were lucky, you were put in one of the camps that had mattresses instead of straw for your bunk.
....The Sound was also coming alive with fish processing plants and a fleet of small fish boats to harvest the heavy runs of salmon, herring and pilchards. Jobs were everywhere and a real boom was on, that no doubt attracted many away from the impossible dream of Cape Scott.
....Let’s continue Max’s story:
....I got a job on a pile driver that was making up booming grounds all over Quatsino Sound. There was camps everywhere. We started in at Mahatta River and drove a booming ground of piling. Then they decided to drive a lot of green piles in a bunch and deck them in with planks. It was sort of a big platform

out off the beach aways. Then they put a steam donkey up on it with a woodyard and everything and they pulled logs into the water from a spar tree ‘way out in the woods.’ “By golly, I tell you that platform didn’t last long, cause it all fell down with the heavy pullin’. See, it was just the start of spar trees and the high lead system.”
....Max and the crew went up the inlet near Holberg and drove more pilings for booming grounds.
....“It was 1918 and the Port Alice pulp mill wasn’t quite finished. This camp near Holberg had a big plank flume going back up a hill into the woods. They’d yard logs with steam donkeys to the head of the flume and then hand-buckers and hand splitters would split the blocks up into sort of cordwood and let her go down the flume.
....“They had a crazy sort of log house cage in the water under the flume to catch the cordwood. And when it filled up they would tow it down the inlet to the pulp mill. I guess a lot of sapwood sunk.
....“There was logs everywhere on the beaches of Quatsino Sound. Nobody looked after anything. So my father and brother, John, and I started beachcombing and we did that for a year or so. We got two or three dollars a thousand.”
....“There sure was lots of work though. I got on a crew that was moving a big cannery building from Quiet Cove up to Port Alice. It became the Jones’ Hotel. We moved it off the land at Quiet Cove onto a big scow and then had to move it way up on the shore at Port Alice. It was some move and we never cracked a window or bust a red brick loose from the two big chimneys.”
....By the time he was 20, Max and his brother John bought out a handlogger of all his tools and took up handlogging the beaches and steep cliffs along the Sound. It was tough


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work and they made up a couple of booms of logs.
....“We got paid seven dollars a thousand for the first boom – it took us months to make. Then we finished the second boom – the Whalens went bust and they never paid us a nickel for the logs. I guess that was about 1925. Well we’d had a pretty good run at loggin’ for seven years, so John and I decided to go fishing.”
....Max began his fishing career then and had a small troller built for himself in a Vancouver shipyard. It was inter-esting to note that the complete hull of his 32 foot troller cast $750.00
....In 1931 he married Lucy Ras-mussen, whose family had originally settled in the Cape Scott area in 1889. They, like the others, had eventually moved from their home in Sea Otter Cove to the more friendly soil of Quatsino Sound.
....They bought a small floathouse and towed it to Winter Harbour and Max and a few others fished out of there. His friends Bud North and Conrad Meyers decided to build permanent homes ashore, so all three figured out the requirements for lumber, doors, windows etc. and Bud took off for Victoria to do the purchasing and ship the load to Winter Harbour on a small coastal freighter.
....“When the boat came in with all the lumber and stuff, and anchored out in the bay, we loaded it all on log floats – carefully separating out each one’s lumber – and towed it to shore. You see there were no docks, no houses nor any cleared land in the village yet – just trees right down to the high tide mark. We used my little A-frame float and 24 horsepower Fordson donkey to clear the land for the three houses. It took us about a week to frame each house and we all helped on each other’s. Then we built the boardwalk over the beach bulkhead logs that eventually stretched the full length of the village – like it does today.”
....Theirs were the first homes built in Winter Harbour, but soon others would follow, along with a logging camp, that moved in 1936 further up the inlet.
....In 1945, Max built a boatshed a short distance from his house. Again he cleared the land and to show the obstacles he faced, he felled and pulled into the water – with the little Fordson donkey – a sitka spruce tree that measured five feet in diameter at 90 feet in length.
....He had always had a yen to build his own 40 foot west coast troller and with the boathouse built and ready, he


decided to try it. He had spent quite a bit of time in the winters poking about the boat-building places in Vancouver and he felt he could tackle it. He had very ordinary carpenter tools and a small portable light plant for power and light. It was to be a big task.
....I asked him, “Max, you didn’t get much schooling – you didn’t have good tools, your lumber often had to planed by hand and you’d never built a boat in your life. How did you do it? What does a man do when he wants to build a 40 foot west coast troller?”
....“By golly, you get to work, that’s what you do! I took a cedar block of wood about two feet long and I whittled it out to a model of what I wanted the hull to look like. I made the model three-quarters of an inch to the foot.”


....“Yes, but Max, didn’t you have plans – you must have had plans?” “Yea, I jotted down some stuff on a piece of paper, then I took some flat sheet lead and made it form to the model. I would straighten out the lead and get the measurements of the ribs and such. I can’t tell you how I did it – I just did it.”
....And make it he did. The Lu Ann II was and still is a beauty of a boat, with lovely lines and excellent workman-ship. It took Max three years to build it, as he fished the summer months. He later built another 40 footer for his son, Carl and a 40 foot tug – the Macjack – for the logging camp up the inlet.
....I asked him to recall his biggest problem in building his boats. He thought about that.
.....................(continued on page 40)



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Continued from p. 27

....“I guess getting’ all the papers from the government after I had them built. That was lots of rigamarole, I tell you.”
....Today Max and Lucy still live in the house he and his friends built in Winter Harbour. Their kitchen stove is wood-fired, because Max likes to chop wood. He has a big woodshed full of drying firewood, and he often catches a passerby for a chin wag as they go by his woodshed.
....Lucy was postmistress of the tiny post office in the village for years, but has lately retired and just helps out now. I sat with them in their kitchen talking about the old days and of their young life at Topknot Point and Sea Otter Cove.
....“Tell me what you remember best about that life – what was a really big event to you then?”
....They looked at each other and eventually Lucy said, “It was the storms, ‘cause after a storm we kids would run up and down the beaches in sort of a game, looking for things that washed ashore. We would find pieces of pumice stone – that you never find today – And once we found a wooden case of canned milk – that was really something.”
....“But the thing we liked to find the best was the paraffin wax – sometimes in balls, and sometimes in shapes like loaves of bread. We don’t know where they came from, but they gave us light, for we made candles from them. It was the only light we had.”
....Max agreed – the storms brought them lumber to build houses and any amount of curios from storm tossed ships and from far away shores. The Japanese current covers a huge area of the Pacific and it dips onto the northern end of Vancouver Island depositing any amount of things.
....So that’s a bit of Max’s story. There is so much more – and – if you were passing by his woodshed one day I’m sure he’d be pleased to chin wag with you about his young days in the forest around the north west coast of Vancouver Island.
....Logger, boatbuilder, carpenter, fisherman – that’s Max Botel. One of the quiet people who help form a society of hewers of wood.

Take care, and
Keep out of the bight,

Bill Moore