Setting the Hook In The Broughtons

Make sure to visit these five anchorages when cruising the Broughtons.

  The Broughtons in British Columbia are a beautiful cruising ground located at the north end of Johnstone Strait. Rich in history, with an abundance of protected anchorages within a maze of islands, islets and passages, this increasingly popular area has much to offer the adventurous cruiser.

After spending a couple of nights at Port Harvey Marine Resort and Lagoon Cove Marina aboard Easy Goin’, our discussion turned to anchoring out. Arlene and I enjoy visiting the quaint and friendly marinas in the area, but what really gets us excited is setting the hook in one of the many excellent anchorages the area has to offer. So we planned to visit five of our favorites during the following few days.

After our morning coffee, we set course for Potts Lagoon and enjoyed a leisurely cruise in the morning sun, stopping just outside of the lagoon to set the prawn pots in Clio Channel. The plan was to pick them up the next morning as we departed.

The passage leading into the basin, between West Cracroft and Kloaitsis Islands, is wide and deep and has a few well-marked rocks to starboard. The narrow passage straight ahead is shallow with patches of kelp leading into the main basin. The lagoon offers anchorage to the southeast of a small island marked “41” on the chart over a good-holding flat mud bottom. This scenic anchorage is well protected and safe in all winds, although westerlies can occasionally sneak around the small island. Six floating homes occupy the southern portion of the lagoon, and an expansive marshland and meadow lie beyond the navigable depths of the lagoon, which make for excellent dinghy or kayak exploration.

We discovered several boats already tucked in behind the small island and the balance of the basin was peppered with crab-trap floats, so we opted for the East Basin. The approach to the East Basin is unobstructed and has plenty of depth. The basin is very well protected from any potential weather, with the exception of westerlies, during which some chop may curl around the point. But best of all, we had this secluded little basin all to ourselves.

That evening as we were sitting on the bridge enjoying the peacefulness, a beautiful full moon rose over the cedar trees.

The following morning we weighed anchor and slowly guided Easy Goin’ out of the lagoon toward the first prawn pot. The pots didn’t yield the bounty we were hoping for, but we did have enough prawns for a good-sized happy hour appetizer at our next anchorage.

We traversed Beware Passage and proceeded up Village Channel, passing Goat Islet to port and weaving between the kelp to set the hook over a good-holding mud bottom between Crease Island and Goat Islet. The anchorage provides excellent protection from summer westerlies.

We launched the dinghy and headed out for a couple of hours of exploration. Our objective was to locate the Chief’s Bathtub on the north side of Berry Island in Village Channel. The site is marked by a pictograph of the Hanasta, or cannibal spirit, to protect it from evil spirits and unwanted visitors. We spotted the heavy eyebrows of the Hanasta about six feet above the high-water mark. The painting seemed to retain its power to bless or curse. Incoming chiefs were required to sit in the this bath four times a day for four days as the cold waters of the tide washed in.

That evening as we sat on the back deck enjoying the anchorage, the last of the setting sun and discussing the day’s adventure, a couple of Pacific white-sided dolphins entered the anchorage and approached within 20 feet of Easy Goin’. They passed back and forth off the stern a few times and provided a memorable experience.

The entrance to Waddington Bay is located south of the southernmost island of the Fox Group, between Islet “46” (to starboard) and Islet “52” (to port). Then follow the fairly straight waterway west into a surprisingly large and well-protected anchorage. There’s a small island that partially hides the head of a shallow mud bay that shoals.

Our favorite way to enjoy the bay and surrounding area is fishing from the tender, setting the crab traps and exploring the maze of islets. Many of the islets are covered in fragrant wildflowers. While we were fishing from the dinghy for that night’s dinner and crab bait — filets for us and carcasses for the crabs — a pod of dolphins played within feet of us. What an experience, to be so close that when they surfaced we could see and feel the mist of their exhale.

Each evening after feasting on crab cocktails and dinner, we took our evening drinks to the bridge to absorb the anchorage’s tranquility.

It’s locally known as Mud Bay, but we prefer the name Let Her Rip Cove, which is the name given by some cruising guides because of the protection provided from westerlies off Queen Charlotte Strait. The name appeals to our adventurous side and provides fuel for our imagination. The approach is straightforward with the exception of a small islet and a couple of drying rocks, all lying south of the cove. They are well marked on the charts, making for an easy and safe entrance.

We dropped Easy Goin’s hook at the head of the cove over sand and grass with good holding. The cove provides ample anchoring and swing room for three or four boats, and the setting is pristine, with a tree-draped shoreline and a shoaling headwater at low water.

After a quick lunch we launched the dinghy to explore the bay and the numerous nearby islets in Trainer Pass. At the head of the cove there was plenty of evidence — large logs washed up to the high-water line — that the cove is exposed to southerlies, as suspected. But the drift makes for a great resting place with a tranquil view of the anchorage.

During dinner we were joined by another boat for the night. Our evening entertainment was watching a group of harbor seals round up small fish and then fire through the school for a meal. As the sun set, the snowcapped peaks turned shades of red and pink while a waxing moon rose over the bay’s fir trees.

The following morning, after a good night’s sleep in our quiet, calm hideaway, we weighed anchor and set course for our next destination, Cecil Island.

The weather was calm and clear when arrived at Greenway Sound. We guided Easy Goin’ southeast of Cecil Island toward the reversing rapids of Broughton Lagoon. We set the anchor and backed Easy Goin’ between two drying rocks and ran a stern line to a tree on Broughton Island, securing us in a cozy nook. The anchorage provided a wonderful view of Cecil Island and the entrance to the sound.

Broughton Island supports three named lagoons, which are guarded by tidal gates where turbulent, fast-flowing water, hazardous rocks and restricted space for maneuvering make things difficult. Taking a powerboat or sailboat of any size into any of them would require local knowledge, nerves of steel and good judgment (some will say poor judgment). On the other hand, many mariners, including us, cannot resist exploring lagoons by dinghy, so we checked the tides and current tables before launching the dinghy. It was perfect timing, because it was the tail end of the ebbing tide.

On the inside, the lagoon opens up to become a quiet, secluded, uncharted saltwater lake approximately three miles long. We were surprised to find a commercial prawn boat working the waters — a vessel so large must know the rapids well.

It is possible to stay inside the lagoon for about 30 minutes before returning. We nearly spent too much time in the lagoon prior to transiting out the rapids. The tide had already begun to flood and the waves at the entrance had begun to build. It took three-quarter throttle on the 8 hp outboard to power through the turbulence, which made for a thrilling ride. The following day we headed for the docks at Sullivan Bay and re-provision for our next round of gunkholes.