In January 1920 prohibition banned the manufacturing, transport and sale of alcohol in the United States. For the next 13 years, Americans had to find crafty ways to bootleg and hide illegal alcohol, which gave birth to the rum-runners of the Pacific Northwest who, thankful for Canada’s close proximity and the openness of the ocean, were able to smuggle Canadian alcohol into Washington State.
The Runners used a small, unassuming cove in what was then known as Canoe Bay as a shipping point and safe haven for their rag-tag fleet of fishing boats. Alcohol was hidden on board and transported across the line to San Juan Island and other locations in Puget Sound. By the end of the 1920s a sheltered marina had been established and was the beginning of what is now Canoe Cove Marina.
Photo Credit: Puget Sound Coast Guardsman standing with captured rumrunning boat, 1920s Courtesy Coast Guard Museum Northwest
Hugh Rodd, a British immigrant and entrepreneur, settled in the Cove in the late 1920s. He and his brother established a boat building operation there and another in Victoria. They were builders of pleasure craft, specializing in wooden construction, through the 1930s.
Hugh built his family home at Canoe Cove in a private setting surrounded by gardens. The English-style manor was made from locally quarried stone with decorative leaded windows, fir floors and hand-hewn beams. This historic home remains and today operates as The Stonehouse Pub & Restaurant.
In 1958 the Cove was sold – the new owners established Canoe Cove Manufacturing and continued to build a complete line of wooden boats, including sailboats. The last wooden boat was launched in 1964 heralding a succession of popular fiberglass powerboats branded Canoe Cove. In the decades that followed, the company produced a very successful line of pleasure craft and commercial vessels for a variety of government agencies.
During that time, the marina continued to expand and in 1965 was the first boatyard on Vancouver Island (and the second in BC) to install a Travel Lift – a 12-tonne unit, which paved the way for the custom-built lift at the Cove today, the largest on Southern Vancouver Island.
The current owners first invested in Canoe Cove Marina in 1964 and, in 1974, purchased the business outright -excluding the boat building operation. As the popularity of pleasure boating increased over the years, so have the facilities and services offered. Today Canoe Cove Marina & Boatyard is one of the largest marina and boat repair facilities in BC.
In the 100 years since the rum-runners first established their illicit operations at Canoe Cove, the community has grown to include over 20 businesses who share a passion for boating and the West Coast lifestyle. With long-standing regular customers, a seasoned crew of mechanical and servicing experts, great dining facilities, chandleries and a growing list of new activities such as kayak rentals, boat charters and eco-tours, this small, unassuming cove has become a destination for anyone looking to step back and enjoy a slice of BC’s history.