Blog - Pirates, Sechelt Feature

Pirates at Sechelt


Have ye ever been to Sechelt?

Smuggler Cove, Secret Cove, Pirate Rock, Buccaneer Bay (oops! not that one) owe their names to rum-runners and smugglers who used the captivating landscape along the Sunshine Coast as hiding places. Leather, livestock, liquor, opium, and people were smuggled from British Columbia to Washington State. One of the most famous true tales tells us that Smuggler Cove owes its name to Pirate Lawrence (Larry) Kelly, “King of the Smugglers”. Kelly came up to Canada after fighting in the American Civil War. When the building of Canadian Pacific Railway was complete, many unemployed Chinese workers tried to emigrate to the United States but were forbidden official entry. Pirate Kelly ferried them across the border for a fee of $100 each. His horrific insurance against detection was to have them agree to be roped together and tied to a large hunk of crude iron. In the event of apprehension by U.S. customs, he would throw the iron and his clients overboard. (Whether he actually did it or not is uncertain.)

Larry Kelly smuggled opium and people from 1865 until he retired in 1911 evading arrest (sometimes) by hiding in Smuggler Cove. He was known for his skill at the helm of a sailboat, and was well acquainted with most of the jails in Washington State.

Pirate Kelly’s main ‘trade’ was opium; legal back then, but taxable. He would run opium in an illicit dash through the San Juan Islands to Pt. Townsend, where he’d land at night and let opium down the chimneys of Chinese laundries.

The “King of the Smugglers” married Lizzie Cootes/Katz in 1878 and had a tumultuous relationship, not helped by Larry’s frequent visits to various jails. When the final break-up occurred, Lizzie and her children moved to Anacortes, Washington. Eventually Larry was believed to have moved to Louisiana but no record of him has ever been found.

Or maybe he paid a visit to Davey Jones’s locker?

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