Betty Lowman Carey’s Dugout Canoe, “Bijaboji”,
with Bijaboji at the
Sandspit Air Terminal where the canoe was on
display for 10 years.
In September 2008, Betty Lowman Carey and Neil Carey
of Sandspit, Queen Charlotte Islands, attended the celebration
of the return of Betty's famed dugout canoe to her hometown
in Anacortes, Washington. Betty was 18 when her father
gave her the canoe found adrift by the Coast Guard. Growing
up with four brothers in the 1930s, Betty was an ardent
tomboy, intent on rowing the canoe solo to Alaska. Her
father, who was against the idea, eventually gave in
with the proviso that Betty be able to swim the 10-miles
between between Anacortes, Guemes and Cypress Islands
to the northwest—a channel that carries heavy current.
Betty passed the test and in June of 1937, four days
after her graduation from the University of Washington,
she set out to row, not paddle, her canoe to
Alaska. Sixty-six days later, she reached her 1500-mile
goal in Ketchikan. Then, twenty-six years later, at age
49, Betty reversed her adventure, this time rowing south
from Ketchikan to Anacortes. Although three other women
in addition to Betty were honored at the 2008 Port Townsend
Wooden Boat Festival for having rowed the Inside Passage
to Alaska (Dale McKinnon, Robin Clark and Susan Dandridge),
Betty is the only one to have rowed both north and south.
in front of the Anacortes Museum in September
2008 during the celebration of Bijaboji’s
Neil and Betty initially moved from
Southern California to the Queen Charlotte Islands where,
in 1965, they built a cabin in a remote cove on the west
coast of Moresby Island. For three decades they explored
nearly every mile of the islands’ coastline, documenting
their discoveries, writing about their life and helping
scientists and the rare boater who ventured their way.
Neil’s A Guide
to the Queen Charlotte Islands has been a classic
since the publication of its first edition in 1975. Puffin
Cove©1982 (Hancock House) describes their life
as homesteaders where the only access was by boat or
Betty tells the full story of her original
canoe voyage in her book, Bijaboji1: North to Alaska
by Oar ©2004
(Harbour Publishing). In the Epilogue she writes: In
the fall of 1993, when both of us were in our seventies,
we left Puffin Cove and our life at sea. We had enjoyed
nearly three decades of life free of crowded highways
and tight schedules, but full of varied activity and
endless surprises. . . . All of this has happened
because as a teenager I had an overwhelming desire to
get to Alaska, and my father gave me the best birthday
present of my life—Bijaboji, a superb Indian dugout
and, to me, the world’s best and most beautiful
sea-going vessel . . .
1. Named after her
four brothers: Bill, Jack, Bob, Jimmy
Notes: Beginning in April 2009,
Betty’s canoe will be on permanent
display in the W.T. Preston Heritage Center at Cap Sante Harbor in Anacortes.
The Careys still live in Sandspit, Moresby Island, QCIs. Neil and Betty have
been friends of Don and Réanne Douglass for many years and have helped
in providing information for the Douglass’ Exploring the North Coast
of British Columbia.
Photos courtesy of Neil Carey.