Thursday, July 10, 2008

Lost in Paradise on Boughton Island

Have you ever been to a deserted island? Did you know that PEI has its own?

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Boughton Island is located in the Georgetown Harbour, between Georgetown and Launching in Eastern PEI. It is a relatively small island, a few kilometres across. Seventy years ago it was covered in rich farmland and lobster canneries. Several families lived there. It had its own post office, it's own schoolhouse. You could ride a horse and buggy over the sandbar to get to the mainland at low tide, or take a dory across at high tide. Those who visited recall a happy, peaceful, beautiful place, full of life and energy.

Today it is covered in thick forest. Its beaches are deserted. The only trace of human habitation is the infrequent clearings, full of thistles now, and the odd foundation stone to mark where houses and barns once stood. How could so much change occur over this period of time? Nature has almost completely reclaimed this (literally) deserted island.

We made it our mission to go on an adventure to Boughton Island, to explore and discover this almost forgotten island. We left bright and early Monday morning to catch the 7'o'clock low tide. We crossed the sandbar and, leaving our gear at the edge of the forest, plunged into its depths, following the remnants of the old road and discovering "clearings" of tall grass and thistles, rosebushes and various less painful flora, where sometimes we found a basement complete with chimney and rusted skillet, sometimes various forgotten farm equipment, sometimes only the remnants of foundation stones. The mosquitos were relentless but we battled on, hacking with axes at the branches in our path. We were only in there a few hours but it still felt like we'd reached the promised land (at least to me) when we saw the glimmer of daylight through the trees that promised we had made it across to another edge of the island... and beach.

We hiked along the beach, which was rapidly receding due to high tide, to retrieve our gear and then returned, among perilous rocks and dead trees, seeking the far tip of the island to make our camp. Quick ocean dips refreshed us in the searing sun, and gave us the strength to continue. Farther and farther we went, until at last we could see the island's tip, and the wide, promising stretch of beach that would become our permanent campsite. Afternoon catnaps lent energy for the evening, as we explored a bit farther, to the very tip of the island and the lone pond in the centre of its thinnest point. The boys built things- a clothesline, a "fridge", a fire - and we set up the tents. The island was ours, and ours alone. We heated canned food in the fire and fed on hotdogs and beer. We could swim, we could lie in the sun, we could rest in the shade. We could explore. We could sit and ponder. We could watch the herons at their fishing. It was quite possibly paradise. It was peace.

Check out pics from our adventures here and here.


Anonymous said...

We live in Ottawa and discovered Boughton Island a few years back. You're right, it is paradise. We'll be visiting PEI at the end of July and will definitely be visiting the island. It's our favourite spot in PEI!
Shirley & Neil
P.S. Loved your pictures. Can hardly wait to get there!

Anonymous said...

Hi, Karri.

I was very interested to find your post because Boughton Island was the site of my greatest childhood adventure--I was marooned there when I was 8! It was front page news.

Seriously. This was in 1964, maybe '65. We were visiting my mom's cousin Lou Roper in Montague, and he had a converted lobster boat/cabin cruiser.
One fine day he took a gang of us out the river to picnic on Boughton Island. Lou anchored a couple of hundred yards off the beach, and stayed with his boat, while the rest of us rowed ashore in a little 10' tender. We did the maritime picnic things, digging clams and boiling them (man I loved those vacations), meanwhile the wind blew up. Suddenly we realized there was a problem--the surf was too rough for our little flat-bottom punt. Two of my cousins tried to launch it, and were so tossed about they had to give up the attempt.

So there we were, stuck, as the weather got worse. We had to get practical. At that time there were still a couple of intact fishermans huts by the beach. I remember all we had left to eat was hard candies, and we--including my rather starchy conservative relatives--huddled up in a hut with whatever musty old blankets or ragged pieces of net we could use for bedding. Remember, I was eight. How great was this? Pretty damn great. It got better. About 1 a.m. a light shone in the doorway of the hut, and we were rescued by the RCMP and the Coast Guard! It seems the old saw is true--tell someone where you're going. Just as we were pulling out from the dock in the morning, Lou had yelled to his neighbour that we were off to Boughton, and said neighbour became concerned when the weather got worse and we didn't return. (He spent the night riding out the storm on the boat, got beat up but no worse.)

Our rescuers took us on the trail to the sheltered side of the island, where the Coast Guard cutter waited to take us back to the mainland in style. i can't emphasize it enough cause I have a big smile now--this was the most fun I ever had as a kid!

I think it was after we got home to Ottawa that one of the rels sent us a copy of the Montague paper--top story above the fold was "Eight stranded on Boughton Is."

I'm going down east for a few days starting Saturday, with my kayak, and I do believe this is my chance to see Boughton I again.


Anonymous said...

My great grandfather grew up on Boughton Island.

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Perry Gotell said...

Boughton Island is a very special place to many people. My Grandfather was raised there from the young age of 7 years and my Dad was born and raised there. I spent many summers digging clams and playing on the beaches there. These days I now take people to Boughton Island to experience bar clam digs for themselves . Its a very rewarding job being where I love to be and meeting new people who fall in love with the Island also. Enjoyed reading your blog,cheers Perry