Meet George Cambridge

Owner, Port Harvey Marine Resort

George and Gail Cambridge are the owners of Port Harvey Marine Resort, located at the head of Port Harvey and tucked in behind Range Island. The marina “in the middle of nowhere” suffered a major blow on Nov. 25, 2015, when the 73-year-old barge sank unexpectedly. In the subsequent months, there has been a community effort to rebuild the barge. Here’s George with an update on what’s been happening.

Sea: Can you tell us a little bit about the history of Port Harvey?
George: Port Harvey has always been a safe-haven anchorage for vessels needing to get out of Johnstone Straight. My wife, Gail, and I have always been boaters and spent several years cruising and looking for a place to build a marina. We saw the property and a house for sale in 2005, so we cruised up from Shoal Bay and anchored in Port Harvey and decided to purchase the property without even seeing inside the house. In 2006 we started applying for our water leases, and in 2007 we moved in and started to construct the docks on our front lawn. In 2007, we purchased a 65-foot barge that was a registered vessel built in 1942 and was used as a fish-buying barge for years up and down the coast. We moved it to our site and started a major renovation; we built a store on the ground floor and a pub/restaurant on the upper floor. In 2009 we opened for business and had 320 boats the first year. That built up to 1,020 boat nights in 2015. That was down in 2016 — to be expected.

Can you tell us what happened?
We were in Alberta on business and had a person checking in on things every few days and ensuring any water was pumped out. He had checked it the night before and it had no water. The next day it sank, which was very unusual, because it had a rubber diaper covering the hull, so there were no throughhull fittings. It sank quickly — one day it was OK, and less than 24 hours later it had sunk. After raising the barge, we still don’t know the reason it sank so quickly. We have had foam put under it so it cannot sink again.

What’s been one of the most difficult things so far?
Several government agencies — which saw our situation on our social media channels — cancelled our operating permits. They didn’t send a letter saying “sorry to hear what happened and this is what you have to do to go forward.” There was very little compassion; basically, just everything was cancelled. Very quickly we stopped feeling sorry for ourselves and started planning our rebuild.

What have you done so far to rebuild the barge?
In the spring, our neighbor from Burial Cove, Len MacAfee, raised the barge and it floated like nothing happened. I had a dive company put Styrofoam under the barge to ensure it would not sink again. We framed up a dining room on half the barge and then left it for the summer when we were busy. After the season ended, I started stripping all the old deck off the other half of the barge, repaired bulkheads and put a new deck on it. We will start framing the rest of the building on this section in the next month. The kitchen and dining room will be on the barge — only a single floor this time. The main feature is a new Italian wood-fired pizza oven we purchased.

We traded a 37-foot Silverton boat we had cruised for years for a 48-foot-by-48-foot float. It served as a platform for a big events tent that Pierre and Tove from Echo Bay loaned to us. It allowed us to host happy hours and socials under the tent. Steve Jackman from North Island Marina in Port McNeil came down with several of his workers to help erect the tent and was very supportive and helpful through the summer. Support from these people made it much easier to move forward; we can’t thank them enough. This winter we plan to frame up a 20-foot-by-40-foot building on the float, which will be used as a store. The balance of the float will be the outdoor patio for the restaurant.

How did the summer of 2016 go? How did you guys improvise?
Many of our regular guests and many others boaters came in to show support and help us by staying at the dock and using whatever services we offered. Many of the Port Harvey Yacht Club members, spearheaded by Colyn Welsh aboard M/V Sea Jay, helped in the spring to paint and clean up brush trails and any number of tasks. This support was greatly appreciated. We have a guest return rate of more than 50 percent; many have come every year since we opened, so everyone becomes good friends. This is why we love this type of work.

What can boaters expect for the summer of 2017?
We will continue to have great cinnamon buns, and the bakery should be putting out all the varieties we did other years. The restaurant should be back in full swing. July 1 we will have our annual Canada Day Celebration, which, for all guests at the dock, starts with a breakfast that is by donation only (helps with fireworks). Usually, everyone pitches in to decorate the building. Boats are encouraged to flag up for the day and make the marina colorful. In the afternoon, we have the International Ho-Shoe Tournament, which all boaters are encouraged to participate in, as it is a lot of fun. After the afternoon fun, Gail and I put on a free supper and dessert for all guests at the dock. We understand Capt. Charlie will be providing the musical entertainment and hopefully a dock dance while we wait for it to get dark. At dark we have a major fireworks display that lasts almost 30 minutes and features more than 100 fireworks.