Saturday, September 18, 2010

Exploring Eureka

There is a beautiful, Victorian “Old Town” in Eureka which runs four streets up from the waterfront and about 10 blocks long. The locals have put a lot of effort into restoring it and it really looks nice.

Old Town, Eureka, Street Scene

Old Town, Eureka

You can see that there used to be quite a lot of industry around the waterfront, but most of these areas are no longer functioning and they are being cleaned up and turned into parks.

Eureka Waterfront in Transition

There is still a lot of work to be done around the periphery of the downtown core. Our marina is about three blocks from Old Town and the intervening area has an abandoned railway maintenance depot that hasn’t functioned in many years. There are quite a few homeless down-and-outers who seem to live in that fenced off area and, each day we walk into town, we see them sitting on the streets. They are mostly men and all of them are ravaged by drugs/alcohol – a pretty sorry bunch. I find them a little intimidating, but have found if I look them in the eyes and greet them, they are cordial and leave me alone. The harbormaster tells us there have been few problems with them.

The town is full of restaurants and cafes, as well as a spectacular library and 3 museums. There are many little shops and boutiques, old bookstores, curiosity shops – even two knitting shops. This link will take you to the Carson House, the most magnificent house in town: ( which gives you an idea of how ornate some of the buildings are. Interestingly, William Carson, the local lumber baron who had this house built was a Canadian from New Brunswick who was enticed out here by the gold rush. His wife was also from NB. He became the richest man in town within a few years, though it was lumber that made his fortune in the end, not gold.

Carson Mansion

Up until 1850 no European even knew this area existed. There was some reference to a large bay from the early 1800s, but no one knew how to get there. The three native tribes, who trace their indigenous roots to the Algonquins, lived here undisturbed. Unfortunately for them, they were totally unprepared when the men looking for gold showed up, followed closely on their heels by the white settlers and lumbermen. By 1860 the whites and Wiyots (the group who lived by Eureka, were at each other’s throats (one local account says the Indians were used for target practice. One night, in February of that year, when the Wiyot tribe were celebrating their annual ceremony on an island in Humboldt Bay, a group of white vigilantes armed with knives and clubs rowed over after dark and proceeded to massacre them. This atrocity was reported as being “deserving” and no one was charged. It decimated the natives and the group which numbered over 3000 in 1850 had less than 100 members by 1900. Today, the tribe has survived and it is in recovery, supported by the town, governments and many others. Their sacred island has mostly been restored to them and they are respected by the locals.

Wiyots in Dance Regalia

Things didn’t go much better for the Chinese who lived in Eureka. Also attracted by the gold rush, they formed their own community banished from the town in 1885. Apparently the Chinese “tongs” were organizing their countrymen and one of them shot and killed a local white businessman in a dispute. The reason for the dispute is not recorded, but the outcome devastated the oriental population who were forced to leave immediately. Underlying this event was the resentment of the local white population who believed the Chinese were undercutting labour costs and causing unemployment. History repeated itself in 1904 when Chinese labourers were again purged because of the economic threat to the canning industry.

Chinese Expulsion 1904

In the 1920’s the fishing industry went into full swing and the combination of fishermen and lumbermen made this a pretty swinging town for numerous decades – many brothels and bars. Today it still looks like a resource town that is in the process of reinventing itself.

Things have changed in Eureka since this early cattle drive.

We enjoyed visiting the Clarke museum ( is housed in a former bank. It was founded by a local teacher who came from a wealthy family, and contains a great deal of artifacts from the town’s history. They have interesting memorabilia, including a recreated Victorian parlour and bedroom. There is an entire section of the museum devoted to the local native people and many, many examples of incredible baskets and weaving. It is obvious that the local historical society takes great pride in their town’s history and culture.

Examples of Native Basket Weaving

On another day, we took the local bus to the shopping centre and scouted around. We’ve had a problem with our propane regulator, which is on its last legs, and the only place that can replace it is an RV place on the outskirts of town. Doug cleaned it up and it has been working lately, but we want to have another for its inevitable demise. Propane fuels the stove and, as I said in a previous entry, a lot of the comfort of our lives aboard revolves around this appliance.

Our Magnum inverter is also acting up. (This is the equipment that gives us AC power on the boat, allowing me to power my computer and use the coffee grinder). Doug bought it a couple months before we left Comox, so it is still under warranty. The company agreed to replace the entire unit after going through a whole trouble shooting adventure, and it just arrived here this morning by UPS. Doug is installing it as I write this. Tomorrow he will need to UPS the old one back to them.

There is a Costco here which we explored yesterday afternoon – about 8 blocks away from the marina! American Costcos also sell liquor and we were able to buy a bottle of 12 year old McCallum for 32 bucks! Robert Mondavi’s Woodbridge wines run about $5 so we will have to be careful! A couple of blocks in the other direction is a huge Co-op which sells mostly organic and local food. It is an amazing grocery store and I have been able to make some very nice dinners aboard Ka’sala as a result. I bought myself one of those flat, cast iron grilling pans for the Force 10 and does it ever work well! It’s a great substitute for the BBQ if the wind is too strong. I also got myself an excellent fish cookbook and am learning how to cook fish. So I’m having fun in the galley.

Eureka Co-op

We also cancelled our Canadian Telus cellphone. What a struggle that was – not easy to do and we had to get quite nasty about it. It was one of those things where you call, get a person, they say they can’t help you, put you on hold for a very long time – you give up, try another line and, meanwhile, you are paying for the minutes. Anyway, it’s done. We now have a new phone with AT&T. It’s called a GoPhone and all you do is buy minutes in advance – no contract, no nothing. It costs 25 cents a minute no matter where you call in the US or Mexico and no roaming charges.

Oh, and I can’t forget the local brewery! It’s called “Lost Coast Brewery”.

Doug has decided that their Indica IPA is the greatest – he even bought the T-shirt.

I’m not so sure. I liked the AlleyCat Amber but was tempted by the Raspberry Brown Ale too. Too many micro breweries, not enough time!

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