“After we had proceeded about ten miles from Point Chatham, the tide made so powerfully against us as obliged us about breakfast time to become again stationary in a bay (Knox Bay) on the northern shore in 32 fathoms of water. The land under which we anchored was a narrow island which I distinguished by the name of Thurlow Island.” Captain George Vancouver, 16th July, 1792
And so the island received it’s white man’s name, after a Lord Chancellor of England. It was later discovered that Thurlow consists of two islands, and the narrow passage between them was given the name Blind Channnel, perhaps because Captain Vancouver had missed it. We can forgive him this oversight, for many a mariner has since roared past and wondered later where the turn-off was. The channel was later renamed Mayne Passage, but the community which formed on the east end of West Thurlow Island was stuck with the name Blind Channel.
By a 1910 Thurlow Island Lumber Company sawmill was established at Blind Channel, and the B. C. Directory lists nine lumbermen, six woodsmen, a blacksmith, and the mill manager. Notches in the sides of big old stumps scattered here and there remind us today of the labouring woodsmen with bucksaws, and the wide shoes of workhorses attest to the method of delivery to the mill.
By 1918, the population had grown to 120, with Union Steam Ship freight and passenger boats stopping regularly, and for the next few decades the area bustled with activity. Blind Channel was home to a cannery, a shingle mill, and two large dance halls. The area continued to attract people looking for opportunity and an independant way of life, with the population peaking in the 1940′s.
In the 1930′s, nine bootleggers were competing in Blind Channel, mostly providing their own distillations with a very high alcohol content if not the most refined flavour. For those who preferred the taste and guaranteed safety of the approved product, two of them specialized in government booze.
In the ensuing decades, the area felt the same inexorable pressures of centralization influencing the rest of the industrial world, and one by one the families moved out. By the summer of 1969, when the Richter family was cruising in the area, an elderly couple (the Gisslens) owned the property. They ran a general store in the front half of the former cannery foreman’s home, and lived in the back.
A boardwalk hugged the water between the store and a small government dock, where passing boaters could top up their fuel by having it hand-pumped from a barrel. Signs of the area’s recent history rusted along the shore and rotted in the encroaching brush and forest. Still, there was a secluded peacefulness, the ever-changing rapids flowing past, the mountains relecting the afternoon sun. Captivated, the Richters moved up from Vancouver, took down the For Sale sign, and began the long, slow task of creating the resort which stands here today.