The Inlet

From the open, storm–tossed Pacific to the head of the Inlet it was only 21 kilometers. The first 14 kilometers was good harbor entrance followed by good harborage, then a channel with large tidal flats leading to the mouth of the mile long Narrows.

by Bill Moore
....The Inlet, we had learned, had been hand logged of some big Sitka spruce during the First World War. Of course that wasn’t really that long before my first visit to the Inlet because that gas-boat cruise happened 50 years ago in 1936.
....This tidal flats area was dotted with various sized islands. There was Middle Island – the larges – and Indian Island – the burial place of Indians from hundreds of years before. Then there was Crabapple Island, a pretty little mole of an island overflowing with wild crabapple trees and sitting in front of the Narrows.
....The long twisting Narrows was, in places, 45 meters wide, turning and twisting to the entrance of the inlet. At this spot was a sentinel, a well pla-ced upcropping of rock in the center of the channel that the small gas boats had to steer around with caution.
....The Narrows, at its best, flowed about four knots, enough to give a boat a fast ride on the last of the runnout, and enough to make a helm-sman sure watch what he does.
....The tidal rise and fall of these water-ways ranged up to about four metres and gave the Narrows a Jekyll and Hyde look. The latter a calm, scenic waterway appearance at high slack tide. The former, at the great lows in the late spring and early sum-mer, scared any first-timer at the wheel. At these long runnouts it simply looked as if there was nowhere to go at times, as the narrow channel dashed from one shore to the other.
....The shores of the Narrows were steep sloped on the port side as one navigated on into the Inlet, and gentler sloped on the starboard. At high slack tide, one could pick nice juicy huckle-berries from the bow of the gasboat where the channel cut so close to a rocky shore.

I will always remember my first look at the Inlet. We had carefully made our way up the Narrows – at high tide – and as we approached the entrance to the Inlet, noticed the big lazy floating kelp patch surrounding the sentinel below the water.
....There before us was the Inlet. At first a great widening of the shores with a large tidal flat on the port side. On this side there were steep slopes, going up to near 600 metres in elevation all the way to the head of the Inlet. These slopes were covered in Hemlock, balsam and spruce – a beautiful stand. In places the slope was broken by rock bluffs, small flat areas, and patches of big red cedars, some lurching into the sky with their dry spiked tops.
....The Inlet, once the Narrows is passed, is calm and lovely. As we moved up its five-kilometre length we could see on the starboard side a bay, an excellent site for a float camp and booming grounds. This side was not as steep but very rugged with broken ground covered in good West Coast trees.
....Half-way up the Inlet it suddenly narrowed from its usual 600 to 900 metre width to a short space where it closed in to about 150 metres. As we passed this spot we saw ahead of us the straight clear cut shores up to and closing off the head. All the beaches were rocks and boulders except for the head where the land dipped low and the beaches were pebbly and quite picturesque.
....This was an inlet, a fjord for the most part, not unlike hundreds of other inlets on our multi-thousand kilometer shoreline of coastal British Columbia. We moved the small float camp up through the Narrows and into the one good bay of the inlet in 1942. There were about seven or eight floats to the camp so only one float could be moved each day just before high slack. The move took a week and when everything was securely tied up and water lines in place and an electric wire strung between the buildings, we were ready to log.
....We were A-frame loggers with three old steam donkeys. Two 11 by 13 Willamettes and one really old-timer of a 13 by 14 Washington. One of the Willamettes was for cold decking piles of logs back from the beach. Sometimes this could be back from the tidal flats on fairly even ground, or it could mean moving the big monster up the steep slope of the 600 metre side to a small bench where a wooden spar could be rigged and decking could begin. One move, a distance of over 600 metres, took six days of very hard work.
....They were picturesque and hand-some those old devils of steam pots. One was always putting out small fires around them in the heat of summer and in the winter big hot cinders would land on your back as you worked around them.
....We logged the Inlet for nearly 10 years. It was never easy, but as they used to say, “you hired out to be tough.” The fireboxes of those steam-
A12                                                                                                                          British Columbia Lumberman July, 1986

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Bill Moore . . .
(Cont’d from pg. A12)

pots devoured the best of dry split hemlock if the fireman was going to keep up steam. And it was not un-common to use up a thousand board feet of number one hemlock per day to keep those darlings puffing! And that’s what they did – they puffed. Not your smelly barking of diesel, just a puff-puff and a pleasant cloud of white vapor that headed straight up to join the clouds in the sky. Steam donkey loggin’ – you bet!
....We built the big A-frame soon after moving into the Inlet. The float was made of full length spruce, each 40 metres long. The float had a width of 39 metres with four spruce crosspieces that had butt diameters of at least 1.8 metres. All lashed with 1 ¾ inch cable.
....The A-sticks were two big spruce sticks 36 metres high with ten guy lines back and front to hold her in place. It took four of us three months to build the A-frame and there was no fat on our wrists or bellies when it was all over.
....We moved the old 13 by 14 Wash-ington onto this nice clean solid float and with her big capacity main and haulback drums she performed well. That is, until three years later when the boiler inspector told us her days were over and we moved her off the A-frame   onto  a  small  grassy  area  of beach to stand guard on the Inlet.

....One of the Willamettes took her place but age had caught up to her too. So at the end of 1947 a nice new diesel donkey, not yet smelly, joined our ranks and a wood-splitter and a fireman were out of work. It was not too long before the other two steamers were also on the beach, each in a different place, doing guard duty. It was the day of cold decking piles of logs and swinging them by skyline. This we did up and down the Inlet. There were extremely steep slopes that had great spruce growing . The fallers would often have to use ropes to climb from one tree to the next. Some of these giants would slide a thousand feet or more to the salt chuck, but others would not and we would of course have to pull our lines up there to get them.
....We changed in the Inlet, from steam to diesel and things became easier. No water lines to string out, for it was sometimes a thousand metres to get water for the boilers. No more wood-logs burned up in a firebox, but sent on to market as a number one log. More production as the diesel donkeys moved about faster and our friend the boiler inspector quite ignored them.
....It came time to move out of the Inlet we had grown to know so well. It had dozens of faults. Ice in the winter that could stop a crew from getting to work until you carefully broke it up. Very little sunshine got
into the Inlet except at mid-day. And always the narrows to get in and out of. It’s a long time ago, but I remem-ber just about every boom of logs I towed down those Narrows from the Inlet, to a tie up grounds in the safe harbourage. But that’s another story. One thing bothered me when we left that quiet Inlet, and that was the piles of wood debris we had left on the rocky beaches under the steep slopes. And I remember the nice pebble beach at the head of the Inlet also being covered in broken branches and wood pieces.
....It was a time before the environ-mental issues and there was really very little we could do about it except wish it wasn’t there.
....Post script – I took my friend Viv Williams for a boat ride up through the Narrows and up to the head of the Inlet a while back. I pointed out old logging areas and we talked of inlet logging as we have both known it. Every piece of rocky beach was bare of debris, and our pebbled beach at the head was exactly as I first saw it 50 years ago. The two Willamettes are visible but, there on that grassy upper beach spot, sits the old Wash-ington guarding the Inlet. I think she puffed at us as we sailed by!

Keep out of the bight,
Bill Moore

British Columbia Lumberman July, 1986                                                                                                                          A13