My plan for a grand voyage across the Atlantic, crewing for a friend’s Saga 43 in the early summer of 2021, was laid to waste by the ongoing saga of COVID 19. Cate and I soon came up with a new plan for a voyage on our own Chantey V – the often passed by but never visited (by us) Broughton Archipelago. We borrowed a copy of the Broughton Islands Cruising Guide by Peter Vassilopoulos, which was invaluable in planning our route. The general plan was to follow the east side of Georgia Strait going north, make a clockwise circuit through the Broughtons and return home on the west side of the Strait.
Getting Under Way
We set out on August 9 with the residual effects of my 70th birthday celebrations the previous day just beginning to fade. On-board were the ever-faithful Admiral Cate, her brother John (a Chantey V veteran), River the Labradoodle, and the newest member of Chantey V’s crew, Bridey the Sheltie. Our first destination was popular Montague Harbour on Galiano Island. We went for a full hoist of the main and our new 130% Genoa right away. Alas, the forecast southerlies were only a tease and ultimately we motored most of the way. We were pleased to get the last available mooring ball at Montague – this would speed up our early departure in the morning.
Next was the dinghy run ashore with the dogs for a walk around the park and the beach. We have a new electric outboard this year – an E-Propulsion Spirit 1.0, which roughly approximates a 3 hp conventional gas outboard. The motor and battery pack each weigh about 20 lb and as they are passed down easily into the dinghy individually, the need for a block and tackle is eliminated. We are delighted with the new outboard, with its near silent operation and no need to carry gasoline fuel.
Even with our first-light start, Porlier Pass was now a few hours after slack and we had close to 4 knots adverse as we approached. It got a little exciting as we passed the white-water sections, but we got through OK. Taking this pass paid off as we now had a decent sailing angle to cross Georgia Strait to Vancouver. Fortunately, there was a reciprocal slip at the False Creek Yacht Club, which is located conveniently across from the ever-popular destination of Granville Island, with its market, pubs and great restaurants. The folks at Bridges were kind enough to allow our canine companions to join us while we dined on the patio. Later that evening our Bluewater Cruising Association friend, Blake, arrived and took us for a pint at the Wolf & Hound Irish pub in the Kitsilano area of Vancouver.
A Pleasant Diversion
We decided a side trip to Indian Arm behind Vancouver would be worthwhile. We timed our departure from False Creek to catch the slack under the First Narrows Bridge. Transiting Vancouver Harbour is delightful, with spectacular views all around and a happy blend of commercial activity, tourism and residential enjoyment of the land and seascape. Half an hour later we were calling for the Second Narrows railway bridge to be raised and allow us to access Indian Arm. We carried on up to Deep Cove where the local Yacht Club kindly gave us a reciprocal berth for our visit. We walked up above the village onto a trail that parallels Panorama Drive 500 feet below. We returned to the boat and made a hasty retreat to the Vancouver bridges then onward to Bowen Island.
The Union Steamship Company operates the marina at Snug Cove, with a well-stocked store right on the docks. We were overjoyed to find a cafe offering a full English breakfast and took full advantage of a hearty meal before setting out for Smuggler Cove Marine Park. After suffering under very lumpy seas for most of this leg, we were very happy to anchor inside the park, despite the tedious ritual of deploying our stern line to the chains set up around the perimeter of the marine park. We took turns kayaking to the rocky islets within the park and decided that, whatever the hassle in storing the kayak, it was well worth bringing it along. Because we spend so much time keeping our boats well clear of the shoreline, it’s a real novelty to be get in so close and rub rocks without fear.
Closing In On Desolation Sound
Powell River was the next stop. I was happy to find a Magma kayak rack at the local chandlery – these have been out of stock for months in Victoria and Vancouver. The rack mounts on the life line stanchions and simplifies the launching, recovery and deck storage challenge of having kayaks aboard. We walked through this historic pulp mill town and visited the Patricia Theater, listed as the oldest still in operation in all of Canada. We were up early next morning to position ourselves on the fuel dock to top up before we left.
As we progressed up the coast towards Desolation Sound, Denis and Rosario’s boat Counting Stars appeared on our AIS. This was all the excuse we needed to make an impromptu stop for coffee and snack at the famous Nancy’s Bakery in Lund. We tied up on their floating breakwater (which they use for overflow) and dinghied to the main dock. It’s a very popular spot for good reason but we almost lost both dogs here! Just as we were untying our dinghy to leave, Bridey followed another dog up the ramp and was almost all the way back to the bakery before we found her. Next, River jumped unseen onto a neighboring boat just as John was untying the lines on the big boat for our departure. We were a half mile away when the phone rang – we have your dog! Fortunately, John’s phone number was inscribed on River’s collar.
We arrived in Tenedos Bay without further incident and stern-tied near Nasty Habit, a J35 belonging to our friends Gerry and Alessandra. There is a freshwater lake just a short hike to the shore from here and we enjoyed a dip, even though it was brisker than we had hoped for! Gerry kindly dropped off a bag of spot prawns and we soon had a gathering for happy hour aboard Chantey V. The prawns made an excellent addition to our BBQ steak dinner. The next day was a short run up to Pendrell Sound, which gave time for Cate to kayak and for me to dinghy a mile or so to visit another friend’s boat across the bay. It was slow going for sure at 4 kn but the smoothness and silence is so wonderful, it’s worth it.
The clouds began to roll in as we got under way, and we arrived at Pendrell Sound in a downpour. The whole point of this stop was to swim in the warmest salt water in BC, but no one was keen to do this in the rain. We turned around and went to Walsh Cove instead, which put us in a better position for starting out the next day. A welcome bonus on the shore run here was the abundance of oysters. We filled a pail and had them shucked and pan fried in no time, to accompany happy hour that evening.
Continuing Up the Coast
The next day’s challenge was to navigate and time our arrival at Yuculta, Gillard and Dent rapids en route to Shoal Bay. These rapids run at speeds up to 9 kn with significant turbulence and can only be transited safely by most boats at slack water when the tide turns. These times are published, but I have come to rely on an app called “Aye Tides” along with Navionics for this purpose and they served us perfectly once again.
There was no room to tie to the Public Dock at Shoal Bay and the normal practice of rafting up to 3 boats deep was not in effect due to COVID concerns. We had to anchor in the very kelp-ridden basin west of the dock, which always causes me concern. Sure enough, our anchor had dragged while ashore for a walk and we hauled up a massive ball of elephant ear kelp. Two resets later we were secure for the night. (Thanks a lot, COVID!)
Our plan to reach Port Neville next day was scrapped in favour of Blind Channel Resort, due to the NW gale forecast for Johnstone Strait. This created a bit of time pressure on our journey, as John was leaving us at Port McNeill to return to Victoria. Our visit to Blind Channel was extended by yet another day when the winds would not abate. As making Port McNeill in time was now out of the question, we arranged for John to get to Vancouver Island by water taxi to Rock Bay, just across the Strait. Despite the rough conditions, John made a successful rendezvous with his sister Mary at a very tiny boat launch at the end of a logging road. Thank goodness for Google maps!
Into the Broughtons
Armed with advice from Don and Leslie on Saracen, we decided on a new destination of Forward Harbour. We departed with some hesitation due to the ongoing strong winds. This hesitation proved justified, as 2 hours later we were motoring into 30 kn headwinds with some gusts up to 39 kn. With the short steep sea that was kicked up, we were barely making 2 kn speed over ground much of the time. Another sailboat, Alons Y, was a mile ahead of us having an equally rough time when we saw that their towed dinghy had separated. Just as I was making a radio call to inform them, they spotted it and turned around. They had a floating painter line and as it trailed the dinghy very visibly, they were able to retrieve it quite easily with a boat hook. I have now changed mine to the same thing! We were so happy to drop the hook in Forward Harbour. We visited the equally relieved crew on Alons Y and the success was celebrated with a wee dram of Bowmore they kept aboard for special occasions!
Next day we had Chatham Channel to deal with on our way to Lagoon Cove. Our attempt to motor through 4.5 kn adverse current was unsuccessful, so we turned around and anchored for 3 hours at Hadley Bay. Happily, we arrived at Lagoon Cove in time for their sponsored happy hour. This is customary at most marinas in the Broughtons – usually at 1700h boaters are invited to gather with a potluck or tasty appetizer. We enjoyed some good hikes in the area before we left.
The following morning, we set out for the First Nations village of New Vancouver, which was somewhat exposed to the prevailing northwesterlies. We were welcomed by Simon from the Tsatsisnukwomi First Nation and signed up for a tour of their longhouse slated for 1300h. This proved to be very worthwhile.
We set out for Echo Bay, under sail for the first time since leaving Desolation Sound. We spoke with Glen and Cheryl on Indigo Wave in Fife Sound, who advised us that there was almost no one in the Broughtons. The COVID-related closure of the Canada-U.S. border has had a devastating impact on all the small marinas that depend on the Americans for most of their business. We pressed on, and soon dock master Jackson was taking our lines in Echo Bay. Their restaurant was closed and there were limited supplies in the store, but we were grateful to be able to refill a propane tank. We hiked over to Echo Bay Marine Park and the famous Billy Proctor Museum. Billy, at eighty-seven years of age, is a BC legend and was in attendance to show us around. What an amazing life he has lived entirely in this area, fishing and logging. His book Heart of the Raincoast was a fascinating read and made the Broughtons come alive for us.
It was a short trip to Laura Cove anchorage the next day, which afforded us the luxury of fishing along the way. Sadly, no fish were caught. Our only catch was a shallow seamount called Trivet Rock, which cost us a flasher, weight and hooks, as well as my beloved McDeep Buzz Bomb fishing lure! Laura Cove was a tight fit with 100 feet of chain out and a stern line to shore. I had a kayak paddle around the cove with Bridey. She is becoming a great little boat dog! Crabbing was productive here and we caught a huge Dungeness crab right below the boat. Low tide at Laura was something to behold, with only 7’6″ below the stern, and we draw 5’6″! We caught another crab while waiting for the tide to provide enough water to depart, and then set out for Sullivan Bay. There were very few boats here, but we were happy to top up the fuel and get a few supplies as the restaurant was, once again, closed for the season. Later, we had a pleasant happy hour on board with our boat neighbours from Myscape. The day rounded out with route planning to Kwatski Cove and Glendale Cove on Knight Inlet. We woke up to a thick fog with visibility down to a few hundred yards. It lifted by 1100h, which still left enough time to visit Watson Bay and get to Kwatski Cove by 1600h. We planned to stay at the marina listed in the Waggoner cruising guide, but found that it has been permanently closed. We moved on and anchored in the bay.
Grizzly Bear at Glendale Cove
The following morning, an early start got us all the way to Glendale Cove, known for its grizzly bear viewing opportunities. A nearby lodge provided us with the regulations around viewing as the shoreline is generally not accessible to visitors. They did indicate a small area where the dog could briefly go ashore, cautioning us to do it at half-tide to provide some sight distance from any potentially emerging bears. That plan worked well for that evening. Next morning, I took the dinghy and was walking Bridey in the same spot when suddenly I spied a bear lumbering out of the forest onto the beach! I quickly hoisted Bridey into the dinghy and high-tailed it out of there! No more shore trips after that. We found a floating wharf that worked just as well behind some derelict pilings.
Leaving the Broughtons
A strong ebb helped as we retraced our steps down Knight Inlet under sail. We tied up at the now-abandoned Minstrel Island and toured the ruins while awaiting slack at Chatham Channel. Taking the channel an hour early, we made it to the dock at Port Neville by 1700h. The charming old farmhouse, grounds, beach and sturdy dock make this an excellent stop-over on Johnstone Strait. Next morning, we hoisted a full main in anticipation of a fast downwind ride to Blind Channel. It was fast all right, with gusts to 25 kn apparent, and now clearly over-canvassed, I had to get a reef in whilst downwind. No way I was turning back into that nasty sea! Patience paid off – I got the reef in by degrees and things began to settle down. We were safely tied up in Blind Channel Resort by noon, with lunchtime drinks on their deck! This is an exceptional stop for provisioning, doing laundry, hiking and enjoying the fare at their excellent restaurant.
The next day we prepared for Johnstone Strait Part II with our usual first-light departure. Following local advice we hugged the North shore all the way down Blind Channel. This strategy worked well and we had our reef in before we engaged with Johnstone Strait to Okisollo Channel. We were a few hours early for the slack at the Okisollo Rapids so did some trolling – our reward was a nice Coho salmon. There was just enough time to clean and filet it before the rapids. Soon we were anchored near the beautiful Octopus Islands on the east side of Quadra Island. Exploring the scenic little islets was a breeze with the new electric outboard motor, and dragging it up and down the rocky shore was very easy with its light weight.
Our next leg involved transiting the rapids at Beazley Passage, which can run up to 9 kn in either direction. By now this was routine and we found a couple of knots before slack no problem. We entered lovely Rebecca Spit on Quadra Island and anchored in the lee of the top of the spit. Here we met Vagabond. Her crew shared their fascinating story of building this 50 ft motor yacht from scratch at their home, and equipping it for trans-oceanic passages with a range of 6000 NM!
Strait of Georgia Southbound
It was an uneventful run down to Comox next day – what, no rapids?! We called up the Comox Marina and, as luck would have it, we were assigned a slip next to our friends David and Sandy Turenne’s Aloha 34, Khadine II. We had previously planned to meet at the Blackfin Restaurant for dinner, but never expected we’d have a raft up as well! After dinner we retired for nightcaps on Chantey V. David is a veteran of Chantey V, having made the passage from Bermuda to Saint Martin a number of years ago. Cate’s sister Teresa joined the Chantey V crew at this point for the trip down to Nanaimo. It was another glorious, sunny day as we cruised along the very picturesque route between Denman and Vancouver Island. It was a good passage, although the easterly swell made for an uncomfortable couple of hours as we passed Parksville and Qualicum Beach. We got a slip at Schooner Cove and enjoyed homemade scones and appies on board, courtesy of friends Jos Bot and Janet Toohey who live nearby. Next, was on to Nanaimo Yacht Club, which kindly provided us with a reciprocal slip. After a coffee visit with friends, a wonderful Greekfest awaited us with our family, Mary, Merv and their new miniature Australian Shepherd puppy, Jasper. With an overcast but dry next morning, we were under way early to be on time for Dodd Narrows at 0800h slack.
We had two options for our last stop, Maple Bay Yacht Club or a rendezvous with our friend Rick Gill on Tumbo Island, if weather and sea conditions allowed. We kept both options open by skipping Porlier Pass and staying in Trincomali Channel. A text exchange with Rick revealed they had relocated to Narvaez Bay on Saturna Island – which now became a great choice for us! There is a fast back eddy on the west side of Saturna that would save us an hour or so. We tied up with Rick on Afterglow in a raft of 4 power boats, ranging in size from 50 to 65 feet, and toured the fleet. It turned out that Rick was boating with 20 of his buddies, lads who had grown up together in Victoria and were still good friends after all these years. The party was well established when we arrived, with lots of cheer and laughter going on. The very enjoyable reunion made a great finale to our journey. It was an uncharacteristically late start next morning, but the strong ebb made for a quick trip homeward to our berth at Cadboro Bay.
And so concluded Chantey V’s voyage to the Broughton Archipelago. These are excellent cruising grounds but we had to do quite a bit of motoring. Bridey the Sheltie performed superbly as the newest recruit, and justly deserves the official title of Ship’s Mascot. The new electric outboard transformed the dinghy experience and has made it a real pleasure to use. The kayak is a great addition to our fleet, not only for anchorages but inland lakes as well. In a little less than a month, Chantey V travelled 672 NM in 26 legs with the boat and her systems working dependably all the way.