Doglines……Beachcombing for Logs on Canada’s West Coast

As conceived, these stories are to be about the business of salvaging logs, one that should not be assumed to be a simple matter.  I write of my particular experience of it, conducted on the waters of Agamemnon Channel, Jervis Inlet, Georgia and Malaspina Straits.  I forayed on occasion as far as Squamish and through the Skookumchuk rapids up into Sechelt, Salmon and Narrows Inlets.  I made one trip up Johnson Straits to Port Hardy.

Those who recover logs adrift in Howe Sound, up the Fraser River or who venture up the coast past the north end of Vancouver Island or out on to its rugged outer coast will have their own tales to tell, their own working cultures, as it were.

To differentiate myself from those who scan California beaches in search of lost valuables and from the comedic cast and story lines of the long-running CBC Beachcomber television show, I called and characterized myself as a log salvor, as did many of those who made their living as I did. But I suppose, to most of the world that knows of us at all, we were and are ‘ beachcombers’.

The title ‘Doglines’ is taken from a newsletter I wrote much of and edited, as one of three founding executive members of the Western Association of Salvors and Handloggers (WASH). Yes indeed we wanted to wash ourselves free of the scummy reputation attached to our occupation and to place it where it belonged.

It was Gordy MacDougal, Shirley Weishuhn and I who, despite the disinclination of salvors to work together, got them do so for at least a year or two. Our principal objective was to expose the systemic undervaluing of logs we recovered by a marketing agency we were required to sell through, by the provincial government.  We put together solid documentation of it, characterized by the first B.C. Ombudsman’s staffer we spoke to as prima facie, proven on the very face of it.  The provincial inquiry into the marketing of our logs that we eventually generated, however, was undermined from the start by the Ministry of Forests and predictably produced recommendations of no value, either to us or to a badly served public.

Still, it was no mean accomplishment to bring salvors together to make the effort, colored as were our day-to day-interactions, when they occurred at all, by our fierce and often head-to-head competition for logs.

The hours were often long, the risks of negotiating the shoreline rocks and reefs, often right up onto the beaches, were ever-shifting and varied, and always present. It was a joy of course…the risk…the satisfaction of dealing well with it, the great pleasure to be taken from owning the tough, powerful boats we did, able to do with them the things we could.

The weather was friend and foe, as was the water that both buoyed us up and sought to sink us.  Ever present, calm or rough, was the blessedness of working, for the most part in solitude, in the constant presence of the beauty and power of nature.  Was it made all the holier for the often closely juxtaposed profanities and vanities of the world we humans seek constantly to overwhelm it with?  Probably.

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