Welcome to Bird Cove, Read Island, British Columbia
If you have ever considered a working retreat on a beautiful place, then this may interest you. Read Island is an “off-the-Grid” island in the Discovery Islands group of British Columbia.
Bird Cove is on Read Island, and there is always a need for work to be done. The projects are involved. Doing work on an island with no ferry service requires determination and resourcefulness. The Bird Cove property is comfortable, modern and well established and the island itself has many attractive features. Vacationing here can be great fun. If you are interested, read on.
This page will give you an overview. The Site Contents tab guides you to more detailed pages on the property, island attractions and some of my upcoming projects. Advice, information and questions on projects are also welcome.
The Discovery Islands were charted by the Spanish in the 1790’s (surprise, with island names such as Quadra, Cortes, Sonora, Maurelle and Texada). The Discovery Island group is tucked into the straights between the upper north half of Vancouver Island and the British Columbia mainland.
Read Island is part of the Discovery group (the Spanish missed Read – the British named it) and Bird Cove is on its east side. So what’s so unique about Bird Cove? Well nothing, and yet everything – partly it is just that this is my corner of the globe and I like to show it off.
Everything is here at the doorsteps of Buildings designed and built with living off the grid in mind and with the Pacific Ocean and Rocky Mountains out the front door. It’s not completely isolated, after all you can visit the Surge Narrows store and have a coffee.
There are things to do – you could swim at quiet Lambert Beach, 5 minutes walk away or in Rosen Lake near the park. You can hike and mountain bike on the island roads or canoe along deserted shores.
There isn’t a great deal of accommodation available on Read. I Believe there is a seasonal Bed and Breakfast on the west side of the island. Tenting is great in the summer. Aside from the buildings this Bird Cove property has two excellent tenting sites near the dock and I’ve seen people tenting at Lambert Beach about 5 minutes from here.
I understand, also, that there is tenting at Read Island Provincial Park – though I have never been there. Consult their website. I believe accommodation is also available in conjunction with Coast Mountains Expeditions activities at their lodge at the north end of Evans Bay – just up from Bird Cove.
As for a little more background the island is little known and not easy to find. Be aware there is no ferry service, only one small but well stocked general store, no TV reception and only bumpy gravel roads. Cell phone reception is spotty. Read Island is small, about 19 kms long and roughly 4 kms at its widest point and is about 200 kms north west of Vancouver along the British Columbia west coast.
The Google Earth view of this area is interesting but too low-resolution to make out much detail. The geological survey contour map of the island gives a more complete picture.
The Bird Cove Property
Development on the Bird Cove property was started in 1992 on 10 acres of shore front among West Coast rainforest. The property was developed by a Taoist group and set up as a retreat called ‘Silent Ground’ . The attention to serenity, utility and quality are everywhere. Now I have it and I use it for enjoyment.
Today the property includes a workshop, greenhouse and garden, garden house, kitchen house, bedroom house and quarry and dock and cove. Being off-the-grid, the site has its own energy systems, water systems and sewage systems.
Read Island, Community and its People
The main focus of the island is Surge Narrows which includes the Government Dock, Post Office, Store, School and Community Hall. Aside from us retired folks the main livelihood is logging and shellfish leases (Read Island has no pollution – its clean beaches produce some of the best shell fish anywhere). Life is good.
The island is a small community of about 50 people year-round exploding to about 100 during the summer. The summers are warm and August can be quite dry. Winters are wet. The firs, maple, hemlock and cedars can be huge – like the cedar outside the kitchen house window. The islanders are friendly, helpful, hardy and always resourceful. The ‘ups’ and ‘downs’ of outer island living are excellently described in an excerpt– from a Shorelines short story written by a former Read islander.
Advice is always welcome however should you decide you want to visit we have to do some planning. First we have to get around to know each other. My wife and I have traveled through most of Europe. My wife loves Italy most and speaks French and Italian. I like Eastern Europe.
Other things to consider are how to get here, what food to bring and what is already here and what to wear. Also, be prepared to do some cooking and do some cleanup after yourself.
Learning about the area
I invite you to look around this website. The Site Contents tab gets you most everywhere on the site. Become acquainted with Bird Cove and Read Island. It has been fun building this website (plus I now have a lot more respect for people who do this for a living). This site is only a pale representation of the real island and its neater aspects but it’s the best way I could think of to share it with you.
Perhaps you are one of the many boaters who enjoy sailing the coastal waters around here If you do, you may want to stop in. If you are on the west side of Read then please drop into the Surge Narrows store. If you’re on the east side then drop anchor near Bird Cove and come-on in, I say ‘near’ because for about 5 hours a day (at low tide) the waters in the cove is too shallow for boats to move.
I always enjoy hearing from old friends and, potentially, making new friends. Have a good day and feel free to let me know what you think.
Excerpt from a Shorelines short story
(from “ShoreLines – Memories & Tales of the Discovery Islands” – edited by Jocelyn Reekie and Annette Yourk)
… Excerpt from a short story by Burton Wohl entitled “Outer Islands”
“Fact is, living on the outer islands is a mix of few rewards and masses of hard work. Work like coming back from a periodic commissary junket in Campbell River carrying two or more tanks of propane, each weighing 25 kg., down a steep ramp (the tide is always low and the ramp is standing on its nose whenever you come back from town).
So far you’ve got one round trip, car to boat and back, per tank. Now come 20 kg. containers of gasoline – say three or four. Next groceries — anywhere from three to a dozen 20 Kg. boxes, depending on the size of the family. There may be; there probably is laundry, and lots of it because the old washing machine back on the island went belly-up over a week ago and Poppa couldn’t get to fixing it because he didn’t have time because he had to put a new cylinder-head gasket on the outboard engine, which also went belly-up that week;
He had to buck up a windfall hemlock, clean and reset the carburator on the chain saw so that he could reduce the tree to blocks, split the blocks with an axe and/or maul into stove-size billets after shaving a new axe or maul handle (a full morning’s work) to replace the one busted during the summer by a 16-year old guest who needed to show his Aunt Betsy what heavily muscled woodsman he was and then splintered an $18 axe handle with three wildly inexpert blows
If you get short of breath while reading that sentence I’ve made my point. Quality of life on the outer islands is directly proportional to the amount of skill and effort you are able and willing to provide. Actually, even to live badly is hard work and then one’s sense of oppression is weighted even further by the discomfort of smoky chimneys, cold draughts, mounds of garbage, leaky boats, balky engines, sputtering lamps, overdue library books – and spam. Only the resourceful survive, only the resolute remain.
You’ve seen your outer islander lugging all those propane tanks, gas containers, laundry sacks, boxes of groceries and oh yes, let’s not forget a 25 Kg. sack of dog food and oh yes, those three sheets of plywood, and the hummingbird feeder – my God! we forgot the hummingbird feeder – he and the family have lugged down the ramp and stashed in the boat. That’s the easy part.
The hard part happens when they all get home (assuming the battery in the boat didn’t drop dead while cranking a colicky engine). Now they’ve got to bring all that stuff up from their own dock, trekking up their ramp across the rocks, up the path to their own back porch; dropping off a box here, a bale there, the sack of dog food – does it surprise you? – on the dog himself.
Altogether then, the difference between living on an outer island and on a more developed infrastructured island is not unlike variations between life-styles in one and anther geological age.”