Island living beckons – close to town, way off grid on Humboldt Bay

A whale mandible and dilapidated shed grace the house's front yard. Photos by KLH | Union

A whale mandible and dilapidated shed grace the house's front yard. Photos by KLH | Union

Kevin L. Hoover
Mad River Union

INDIAN ISLAND – It’s closer to Eureka than Arcata, or even Manila, yet totally remote. It’s secluded, but open to stunning views of Eureka’s postcardy waterfront. It’s private and exclusive, but without walls or gates. Though occupied since at least 900 A.D., it’s not widely known as a residential area. Homes range from Sunset magazine-worthy to unsafe to enter. It’s woodsy, watery, full featured, off-grid and while hardly a household topic, holds history that weighs heavily on every Humboldter’s heart.

Now, a slice of it is for sale.

Indian Island, also known as Gunther Island, is mostly beheld as the drive-over patch of land seen from the Samoa Bridge. The State Route 255 bridge passes near the Wiyot Indians’ historic Tolowat Village area, while the southwest shoreline hosts a handful of homes, and some intriguing ruins.

APN # 405-021-009 is a .27-acre parcel with the unique address of 1 Humboldt Bay. The 50- by 360-foot, quarter-acre slot of land is one of 11 of varying sides along the channel facing Woodley Island, 10th from the end looking northeast.

The dock is long gone, but the boathouse remains, and comes with a complimentary rowboat. A dilapidated walkway with chunks missing leads lengthwise to the property’s far end, or would if fallen trees didn’t block the route. No matter, as winding trails lead one through scraggly, overgrown foliage to a remarkably well-preserved house graced by a massive whale bone in the front yard, and a more distressed shed off to the side.FacebookLikeButton.THISONE

Complete with abalone shell-lined porch rail and sheltered entryway, the three-room house needs some spit and polish, but seems basically sound. Its two wood stoves and propane lamps promise cozy shelter from any storms, of which it has weathered quite a few.

According to property owner Paul Shoghi of Napa, the house was built in the 1950s by Axel Johanson, his grandfather’s fishing buddy. Johanson willed it to his grandfather, a commercial fisherman who started Eureka’s first fishermen’s union. It has been used as a family fishing cabin since the ’50s or ’60s.

“It’s mainly a camp,” Shoghi said. “You go there, you sleep there, then you fish.”

The front door opens into the 12- by 14-foot kitchen. It boasts multiple cupboards, one of which contains a retro badminton set. The stainless steel double sink has taps, long dry since the loss of a rainwater tank. An antique Wedgewood wood-burning stove looks ready to use after a good scrub, or maybe two.

The adjacent great room is the same size, but sports only some corner shelves and another woodstove, its flue not connected. Off this room is a tiny, seven- by 10-foot bedroom that looks out onto a wooded backyard. There, a listing Monterey cypress tree looms over a dirt path that residents use to visit each other.

“We as neighbors are very close but give each other privacy,” said former Eureka Mayor Nancy Flemming, a 32-year resident. “We whistle or sing or otherwise let each other know when we are on the path between our homes. We rely on each other and help each other out.”

There’s even a sort of Neighborhood Watch among the islanders. “We watch over each other’s property when one of us is gone,” Flemming said.

While detached from mainland amenities, live music from Old Town Eureka events – concerts, Arts Alive! – wafts through the woodsy remove. Flemming said residents want for nothing, and are better off for the extra effort island living requires.

“The wildlife all around us is just part of our daily experience and we never tire of it,” she said. “The experience of dealing with and being intimate with the tides and the weather is a challenge and so good for learning to live in the moment. Island life is a challenge because you are totally independent. That is the challenge and the reward. You work hard and earn every reward you have in that lifestyle. Dealing with a boat and lines, hauling firewood, carrying everything back and forth from the mainland, from groceries to building supplies, all these activities keep you fit and active.”

“Not many realtors would take this listing because they don’t have a boat,” said Charlie Tripoldi, a seaworthy realtor, as he heads out to Indian Island on his 21-foot vessel, the Cast A Way. “You’ve gotta be able to shuttle yourself across,” he said.

The property’s appeal, he notes, is that it’s “so close and yet so far.” With regard to the propane lights and other funky features, he says, “It is what it is.”

What it also is, is stable, exclusive and unique. “The properties rarely turn, except with a death or generation change,” Flemming said. “This is probably the only deep water frontage island property with a commercial grade dock in California or maybe the West Coast.”

The Land Man, as Tripoldi’s business is known, lists the property online for $170,000. Yearly property taxes are $116. The home is zoned NR – Natural Resource. Contact Tripoldi at (707) 476-0435 or via humboldtlandman.com.

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