Cruising into Tranquility

An exploration of Drury Inlet and Actaeon Sound was a welcome waypoint during a summer of adventure.

We timed our arrival at Stuart Narrows near high slack because we wanted to avoid the 7-knot current that can flow through the narrow pinch point. Slack occurs 15 minutes after high and low slack at Alert Bay. We guided Easy Goin’ through the narrowest point and swiftest portion, staying clear of Welde Rock, a large, flat, drying rock, in the center of the narrows. It was covered during our passage, but kelp identified its location. The rock dries at about an 8-foot tide.

Drury Inlet is a scenic inlet, but in a different way. Most inlets along the British Columbia coast are steep and fjord-like, but Drury is surrounded by low, rolling hills that run east and west and are covered by second-growth forest. As a result, portions of the inlet are susceptible to prevailing summer westerlies. Beyond the scenery, Arlene and I are attracted to Drury Inlet because we find it less traveled than the neighboring Broughton Island area.

Inside Drury Inlet, the most popular anchorages are Richmond, Jennis and Sutherland bays. An anchor trip line is recommended, because logging debris may clutter the bottom and could foul the anchor.

RICHMOND BAY
Our destination was Richmond Bay, just inside the inlet on the south side. Prior to entering the bay, we set the prawn traps at a location suggested by Chris Scheveers, Sullivan Bay Marina’s manager, a few days prior. The inlet is known to be rich in these large, sweet crustaceans.

Once we were past the north side of Leche Islet, we turned into Richmond Bay, where we gave a wide berth to rocks and an islet in the center of the bay. The bay includes two anchorages. The first, in the extreme southwestern corner, was taken, so we set Easy Goin’s hook in the second anchorage, in the southeastern portion of the bay, up against the western shoreline for some protection from the wind, in case it decided to kick up.

A short time after we got the anchor securely set in the mud bottom, I launched the dinghy and did some lingcod fishing. Once the tender was loaded with a rod, tackle, a net, a depth sounder and safety equipment, I was off across the bay and through a narrow opening between a small island and the mainland. I stopped in 100 feet of water and dropped a two-ounce jig tipped with a large white rubber worm over the side. As the offering approached the bottom, the rod doubled over and it was fish-on. Less than 30 minutes after my departure, I was back on Easy Goin’ with an 18-pound lingcod for dinner.

Late in the afternoon, a large school of pink salmon appeared in the anchorage as drizzle began to fall. Fish were rolling and jumping everywhere. With all the rings on the bay’s surface, it looked like it was raining hard. For a couple who likes to fish, it was difficult not to don the foul weather gear and go fishing, but we had all the fish the small refrigerator and freezer could hold, so for the balance of the day we “oohed” and “aahed” at mother nature’s show.

After breakfast the next morning, we headed out of the bay to pull the traps and continue our exploration of the inlet. The two traps had a total of 180 succulent spot prawns. With that kind of success, we decided to rebait the traps and return them to our little honey-hole before heading to Jennis Bay.

JENNIS BAY
Anchorage is good in Jennis Bay, with room for three or four boats, but our plan was to stay at the small, rustic and remote wilderness marina (jennisbay.com). Upon our arrival we were invited to the daily potluck happy hour. Thankfully, we had cruised the area many times before, so we knew that having appetizer ingredients on board is standard procedure, because such gatherings are a regular occasion at the area’s marinas. Everyone is asked to bring an appetizer to share and a favorite beverage.

When the weather cooperates, happy hour is held on the dock, but on the evening of our visit, with the weather threatening to cut loose, everyone gathered in the cookhouse, a 100-year-old logger’s floating home.

The marina offers hospitality, 350 feet of moorage, Wi-Fi, cellphone service, a washroom and a shower. When the weather permits it, the owners host a campfire ashore, complete with s’mores, and an occasional sing-along.

Ashore, adventuresome boaters will find miles of logging roads that crisscross through the forest. They are definitely worth exploring. Our hosts were quick to warn us about bears. They suggested we wear a bear bell — the hope being that any bear would hear us coming and head the other way. One road leads to Huaskin Lake, and both are like a history museum thanks to the varied remnants of the area’s logging history. An old steam donkey that once used to move logs lies abandoned and rusting away in the woods. If this equipment could talk, what stories it would tell.

MUIRHEAD ISLANDS
The next morning, we said our goodbyes and continued our exploration, setting a course for Sutherland Bay, which offers good holding, but by the time we arrived, four boats were already in the large anchorage. We would have had plenty of room to anchor, but we decided to move back into the Muirhead Islands. We set the anchor in a small notch behind an islet at the northeast end of the group, where we were surrounded by a cluster of rocks and islets — exactly the sort of place we like to drop the anchor and explore by dinghy.

ACTAEON SOUND
The following day, at near low slack, I set out in the dinghy to explore Actress Passage and Actaeon Sound. I always like looking for possible anchorages wherever we go. The narrow and twisting Actress Passage has several drying rocks and strong currents that make for an exciting transit, even in a dinghy. The cruising guides suggest making passage during slack water.

Once I was through the passage, my first stop was out of the current in Skeene Bay, which is a beautiful and protected anchorage with a view of Mt. Bullock to the northeast. The next stop was the classic tidal basin of Bond Lagoon, so I motored up the shallow channel that leads to the massive lagoon. Cruising guides suggest there is good anchorage in the lagoon and insist that entrance at high slack is a must, but I don’t believe I will attempt to take Easy Goin’ through the entrance, because in the channel, to starboard, is a large uncharted rock that lurks just below the surface.

After touring Bond Lagoon, I continued my cruise of discovery up Actaeon Sound. I checked out Hand Bay, which offers no protection for anchoring, and Creasy Bay, where there was a logging operation. As I continued up the sound on the north side, a short distance before England Point, in a drying cove, I found a decomposing barge that offered evidence of past logging activity.

Actaeon Sound ends at the entrance to Tsibass Lagoon. Expect to find serious tidal rapids from here. Aside from a few minutes of slack water at high tide, the passage into Tsibass Lagoon is not navigable — a seething whitewater river, narrow, shallow and encumbered by reefs. The rush of outbound water has such velocity that it covers the head of the sound with a thick foam.

The clouds rolled in and the wind began to kick up, so I started to make the six-and-a-half-mile run back to Easy Goin’.

We swung on the hook for two days in our cozy anchorage. All the while, we enjoyed the scenery and explored the many islands and islets that make up the Muirhead Group. Finally, it was time to point Easy Goin’ eastward through Stuart Narrows and out into Wells Passage. We had more exploring to do.

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