Jonah Richter conducts some research at the Cambpell River and District Museum and Archives. Photo submitted

Stranger in the woods

By Jonah Richter,

Guest writer for the Museum at Campbell River

Note: This article has been and has been researched and written by eleven year old Jonah Richter. Jonah lives at Blind Channel with his family and is the fourth generation living there. Prior to 1970, where this article makes its start, Blind Channel had a varied past, hosting at different times a sawmill, cannery, saltery and post office (est. 1917).

This is a shortened version of the article, the full version can be found on the Museum’s blog

Miles away from civilisation, on a remote island called West Thurlow, there is a small bay called Blind Channel. It was named Blind Channel because Captain George Vancouver overlooked the small channel (Mayne Passage) that separated East and West Thurlow Island.

The Richters, a family of immigrants from Germany, were preparing to boat out of Vancouver up the coast in 1970. They owned a 30 foot boat called the Pamar. It was handmade by Edgar Richter in their backyard. The members of the family that were cruising included Edgar, his wife Annemarie and their children Trudi, Phil, Alfred and Robert.

Several weeks into the voyage, the Pamar had journeyed up Johnstone Strait and was heading to the Broughtons. They were running out of fuel and had nowhere to buy it. They checked the charts and discovered Blind Channel which had a fuel dock. They turned into Mayne Passage and came into Blind Channel. It was raining heavily that day. The owner came down to the dock and sold them fuel. About five shacks littered the beach, and the property looked like a hurricane had come through it. Despite this, Edgar saw its value. He immediately wanted to buy the property and the kids agreed, but when he asked Annemarie she said “You can buy that place over my dead body.”

When the Richters came home to East Vancouver, Edgar and Annemarie were still arguing about Blind Channel. This went on for a month and a half until they finally agreed to see it again, but if it was raining, it would not be bought.

Edgar and Annemarie took a float plane to Blind Channel and it turned out to be a beautiful day. They took a walk with the owner and made up their minds to buy Blind Channel, and they did!

The Richters then sold their comfortable home, boxed up all the furniture for loading onto a freighter and once again set out on the Pamar. Their neighbors in Vancouver were very bewildered when the Richters left their very comfortable, renovated home. They wondered why Edgar and Annemarie would drop everything and go into the woods. Annemarie’s parents Wilhelm (Opa) and Therese (Oma) also came to Blind Channel a couple of weeks later.

Edgar and his family spent two years cleaning up Blind Channel. They burned down the shacks, fixed up the store, hauled the school house off the beach, cleared brush, salvaged fallen logs for building and cleaned up scrap metal. Edgar had a background in mechanics and carpentry, so he was a skilled fixer.

All the locals didn’t think they would make it out in the wild. They were shocked when Edgar got rid of the outhouses because if your pipes froze, you couldn’t use the toilet.

There were two ways to get supplies and food up to Blind Channel. You could go for a three to four hour cruise to Campbell River and come back with the boat so packed you could hardly see out of it. Or you could type a note on a typewriter and send it in the mail, to a coastal freighter to bring supplies and food to Blind Channel. Usually, it took a couple of weeks for the ship to get to Blind Channel and by that time the vegetables and fruit were often rotten and the milk was almost sour.

Things have changed since those days. Blind Channel is now a thriving business, occupied by a new generation. I always think if it was raining that day in November, none of this would have ever happened.