A pig. America and Great Britain nearly went to war over a pig. They didn’t of course, otherwise we’d surely have read about it in some history class or we’d be drinking a lot more tea right now.
On Friday, as we dropped the hook in Garrison Bay off English Camp on San Juan Island, we could see the white buildings of the park standing in stark contrast to the bright green parade ground and lawn. A blockhouse stood at the edge of the beach. And behind the former camp rose Mount Young, a tall, forest-covered hill that was surely a good lookout point for redcoats watching for Yankee ships.
The brief history of the near fracas — cleverly dubbed the Pig War — came about when England and America signed the Treaty of Oregon in 1846, effectively drawing a neat line for the two at the 49th parallel and giving England all of Vancouver Island. The treaty wasn’t so tidy, though, as it gave passing reference to a channel that separated Vancouver Island from the mainland. But alas, there are two channels, one on either side of the San Juan Islands. The islands, therefore, remained a bone of contention between the two countries and both decided to occupy San Juan Island — the English at Garrison Bay on the northwest side of the island and the Americans on the southeast tip near Cattle Point.
There is more to it, but suffice it to say, the formerly peaceful joint occupation of San Juan Island was broken when an American farmer shot a British pig that was continuously rooting in his garden. Go figure. After nearly coming to blows over the hungry hog, cooler heads prevailed and in 1871 good ole’ Kaiser Wilhelm I of Germany tipped his cap in favor of the Americans in arbitration and the San Juan Islands have flown the Stars and Stripes ever since. Phew.
So there we were in Garrison Bay for the weekend to visit English Camp. It was fun to walk around the grounds and read about all the history of the area. And it seems until the farmer popped the porker, the relationship between the two sides was civil, if not downright friendly. With the boys in tow, we hiked to the top of Mount Young, which provided spectacular views of San Juan Island, British Columbia, the Strait of Juan de Fuca and Olympic Mountain range.
Besides the exquisite history lesson, we found out our good buddy Mark was on the island and after a quick exchange of texts headed to his family’s nearby home (where we also spent Thanksgiving) for appetizers, drinks and dinner. As is the case with life aboard, we took the kayak to shore, hiked through the woods to the parking lot at English Camp and Mark pulled in right as we arrived. Porter was his usual gregarious and now talkative self and we had a great time catching up with everyone. We made it back to the kayak just as darkness fell, and Yahtzee was ready and waiting on a still night out in the cove.
As an aside: we had pork chops for dinner on Monday night and we are not on the brink of war with anyone over it. At least that I know of.