His Own Country
Squitty Island lies in the Gulf of Georgia midway between a mainland made of mountains like the Alps, the Andes, and the Himalayas all jumbled together and all rising sheer from the sea, and the low delta-like shore of Vancouver Island. Southward from Squitty the Gulf runs in a thirty-mile width for nearly a hundred miles to the San Juan islands in American waters, beyond which opens the sheltered beauty of Puget Sound. Squitty is six miles wide and ten miles long, a blob of granite covered with fir and cedar forest, with certain parklike patches of open grassland on the southern end, and a hump of a mountain lifting two thousand feet in its middle.
The southeastern end of Squitty—barring the tide rips off Cape Mudge—is the dirtiest place in the Gulf for small craft in blowy weather. The surges that heave up off a hundred miles of sea tortured by a southeast gale break thunderously against Squitty’s low cliffs. These walls face the marching breakers with a grim, unchanging front. There is nothing hospitable in this aspect of Squitty. It is an ugly shore to have on the lee in a blow.
Yet it is not so forbidding as it seems. The prevailing summer winds on the Gulf are westerly. Gales of uncommon fierceness roar out of the northwest in fall and early winter. At such times the storms split on Squitty Island, leaving a restful calm under those brown, kelp-fringed cliffs. Many a small coaster has crept thankfully into that lee out of the whitecapped turmoil on either side, to lie there through a night that was wild outside, watching the Ballenas light twenty miles away on a pile of bare rocks winking and blinking its warning to less fortunate craft. Tugs, fishing boats, salmon trollers, beach-combing launches, all that mosquito fleet which gets its bread upon the waters and learns bar, shoal, reef, and anchorage thoroughly in the getting,—these knew that besides the half-moon bight called Cradle Bay, upon which fronted Horace Gower’s summer home, there opened also a secure, bottle-necked cove less than a mile northward from Point Old.
By day a stranger could only mark the entrance by eagle watch from a course close inshore. By night even those who knew the place as they knew the palm of their hand had to feel their way in. But once inside, a man could lie down in his bunk and sleep soundly, though a southeaster whistled and moaned, and the seas roared smoking into the narrow mouth. No ripple of that troubled the inside of Squitty Cove. It was a finger of the sea thrust straight into the land, a finger three hundred yards long, forty yards wide, with an entrance so narrow that a man could heave a sounding lead across it, and that entrance so masked by a rock about the bigness of a six-room house that one holding the channel could touch the rock with a pike pole as he passed in. There was a mud bottom, twenty-foot depth at low tide, and a little stream of cold fresh water brawling in at the head. A cliff walled it on the south. A low, grassy hill dotted with solitary firs, red-barked arbutus, and clumps of wild cherry formed its northern boundary. And all around the mouth, in every nook and crevice, driftwood of every size and shape lay in great heaps, cast high above tidewater by the big storms.