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Tod Inlet - Wandering Minstrel
By Marilyn Guille

Tod Inlet on Vancouver Island
Photo M. Guille

Tod Inlet, near Butchart Gardens, has been dubbed "a mini-Princess Louisa Inlet" by Bill Wolferstan, author of The Cruising Guide to British Columbia, because of the steep cliff-sides at its entrance, and the peaceful solitude that awaits the cruising boater who anchors there. I can see the likeness, and I understand the comparison, but Tod Inlet holds an even greater fascination for me. It's one of our favourite places to cruise to, and we try to get there at least once every summer.

Last summer, we had the privilege of swinging from the hook in Tod Inlet on Canada Day. Of course, nearby Butchart Gardens is well-known for its summer fireworks displays on Saturday nights, but we arrived there the day before, and had many treats in store for us long before darkness fell on the day.

We were awakened on the morning of July 1st by the sound of bagpipes. From another boat somewhere in the anchorage (we never did determine where) came the unmistakable sound of Oh, Canada! and as a true-blue Canadian with Scottish roots, I don't have to tell you that it was one of the finest moments I've spent on a boat anywhere. As if that wasn't enough, when Oh, Canada! ended, Amazing Grace began - and I never heard one single silencing yell anywhere, even though it was only eight a.m.

A few hours later, I heard yet another musical sound, this time coming from the shore. Following the sound, we saw, on shore, a fellow playing some kind of horn. I have to describe it, because to this day, I've never been able to determine with certainly exactly what instrument it was we were serenaded with that day.

The horn was probably made of wood, about 12 feet long, and the fellow had propped the outer end or 'bowl' of it on a rock on shore while blowing out of the other end, which he held in both hands. While we listened, absolutely in awe, we were serenaded by the most amazingly beautiful, yet haunting, sounds I've ever heard. The music bounced around the anchorage, reverberating off the banks and the forests around us - and again, not an oar was dipped until that fellow was done. (As a writer, I was personally torn between racing to shore in the dinghy to get 'the story', and just enjoying the moment - which choice inevitably won out!)

As I've since described that Tod Inlet musical interlude experience to others, I've been told two different stories ... The first is that it was some sort of alpine horn, and not all that uncommon. The second is my preferred story... I'm told that the horn was a replica of a horn commonly used as long back and far away as the time of the Icelandic Vikings. And that, long before modern-day foghorns, this horn was used to call men home from the sea, as it could be heard out over the water for miles. That story is VERY believable.

We've been back to Tod Inlet a few times since, but our wandering minstrel has never re-appeared. Should he do so, I'll be sure, this time, to dinghy in and get the story!

Marilyn Guille
The Wind Walker
British Columbia
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