A Pit Stop at Refuge Cove

From June to September, the Cove is open to the public, and twenty families live and work there together. In the off-season, the number decreases to 12 residents and fuel and water are only available three days a week. In the words of another local, “Refuge Cove is for the sort of people who max out after three months of socializing.
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“It doesn’t matter what you do, just do something.” The comment itself wasn’t terribly novel, but the source certainly was: a fellow named Dave who lived on a garbage barge roughly in the middle of nowhere. We were on charter with Desolation Sound Yacht Charters in British Columbia, and had sailed into Refuge Cove on Redondo Island. As with most of Desolation Sound, it was too deep to anchor, but there were a dozen spots to dock. Because this is the only place around to get water, fuel and propane, these fill up quickly.

Ashore, the community looks like a life-size Lincoln Log village, with wooden walkways connecting the small buildings. One houses laundry and shower facilities; another sells locally produced sweaters, art and honey; a third offers provisions; a fourth contains a bookstore where books can be purchased on the honor system. 

From June to September, the Cove is open to the public, and twenty families live and work there together. In the off-season, the number decreases to 12 residents and fuel and water are only available three days a week. In the words of another local, “Refuge Cove is for the sort of people who max out after three months of socializing.” 

Across the cove, we found Dave on a small barge with a dinghy dock, a house and a pile of garbage. Refuge Cove didn’t accept garbage, but Dave did. As we dinghied up, he greeted us warmly and accepted our trash for five bucks. The man’s nasal glands must have dried up years ago; he seemed blissfully unaware of the stench as he trotted around in his stocking feet. When his barge fills up, he told, us, he drives to Campbell River on Vancouver Island, dumps the trash and donates the money from the recycling to the local schools.

There on his garbage barge, Dave practiced what he preached: “It doesn’t matter what you do, just do something.”

Top Photo by Andrew Prince

Bottom Photo by Terry Kotas

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