Never Gets Old

The Broughton Islands are a World of Wilderness, Wildlife, Adventure, History, Small Marinas and Solitude.

After breakfast I went fishing, hooking and releasing a few rockfish. Then I hooked something big, but it took the line down into the rocks and broke off. I quickly tied a new lure on, dropped it to the bottom and immediately hooked a rockfish. As I began to reel it up, a huge lingcod grabbed the rockfish. I fought the mammoth lingcod to the surface. I got it alongside the dinghy, three times, but it was so large I couldn’t get it into the net. It finally released the rockfish, and the biggest lingcod I’d ever seen disappeared into the depths of Stopford Bay.

During our first trip to the Broughton Islands in the summer of 2011, rain fell almost the entire time, but that didn’t dampen our spirit, and Arlene and I have returned many times since. What draws us back are the navigational challenges, the isolation and need for self-reliance, the wilderness and wildlife, the grandeur of dense green forests sloping into the sea, the whitecapped mountains, the abundant anchorages and the interesting people we meet along the way.

We made our most recent visit during the summer of 2018 when we allocated five weeks of our three-and-a-half-month summer cruise for exploring the Broughtons. We planned to take it slow and visit marinas we hadn’t visited in a few years, stop at a few we had never visited, spend time on the hook in some of our favorite coves and nooks, and explore new anchorages. After taking a month to cruise the Gulf Islands, the Sunshine Coast, Desolation Sound and the Discovery Islands, we entered the Broughton Islands in mid-June. Our first stop, as is our custom, was Port Harvey Marina on East Cracroft Island. It’s always our last stop, too, before making the run south in Johnstone Strait. George and Gail Cambridge greeted us warmly and we enjoyed a nice visit with them. Sadly, George died in his sleep a couple of weeks after our return stop. He will be missed by the boating community. As of press time, Port Harvey’s future was undecided.

Lagoon Cove

Last year marked our first visit to Lagoon Cove since the Rayan Family purchased the facility from Jean Barber in November 2016. We were happy to discover the Rayans have continued the longtime tradition of providing fresh shrimp and prawns at happy hour, while guests bring their favorite refreshment and an appetizer to share.

The following day we made our way southwest through Clio Channel and up the appropriately named Beware Passage, a rock-infested passage where skippers need to pay attention to the chartplotter and depthsounder. Our destination was Beware Cove at Turnour Island, chosen for its protection from a southerly wind. We hadn’t been settled for an hour when Arlene spotted a black bear about 100 yards away. After that always-special sighting, we launched the dinghy and set crab traps between two islets in 30 feet of water, then took the dinghy to the head of the cove for an afternoon of exploration.

The following morning, eagles perched in the trees above the cove and called back and forth. Easy Goin’ was surrounded by a large school of eulachons brightly flashing below the water’s surface. I checked the crab traps — there was one nice keeper — before we pulled anchor and headed for Waddington Bay via Spring and Retreat passages.

There was only one other boat in the bay — a far cry from the height of the season — and the sun broke out as we set the anchor. By midafternoon 10 boats were anchored in the bay, and it was beginning to look a lot like summer. We spent the afternoon in the dinghy exploring the many islets that surround the anchorage, and I spent all evening consumed with researching the next day’s destination: Monday Anchorage.

Overnight it began to rain, and it continued into the morning. Six weeks into our trip and we were experiencing our first real rain, but we expected it; the area is known as British Columbia’s Rain Coast.

In the morning, we weighed anchor and made the short five-and-a-half-mile cruise through narrow Arrow, Blunden and Misty passages to Monday Anchorage. The clouds lying low on the surrounding island hillsides made the vast space almost intimidating. We set the hook in the lee of the easternmost island and had the anchorage all to ourselves. Launching the dinghy, we went ashore to check out one of the area’s largest middens. The morning’s low tide had changed the area’s appearance, exposing even more of the midden and a couple of new sights: three drying rocks on the eastern end of the anchorage and a tombolo extending from Tracey Island to one of the islets to the north.

Let the Foraging Begin

We departed Monday Anchorage and were visited by a pod of white-sided dolphins on our way to Laura Bay. They surfed and jumped in our bow and stern wakes and provided a precious opportunity for some pictures.

There was only one other boat in the anchorage when we arrived. Before setting the hook in the lee of the islet, we set the prawn pots in 300 feet of water in hopes of catching some succulent shrimp. At 4 p.m., it was time to check the pots, and the haul of only three spot prawns was disappointing but didn’t discourage us — OK, one of us — so we reset the pots in a more promising location. An after-dinner rainstorm produced a vibrant double rainbow, one end of which dropped into our anchorage. Was it a sign that our pots were filling with prawns? We would have to wait until morning to find out.

The pots, upon morning inspection, yielded a mixed limit of 200 spot prawns and striped shrimp. The double rainbow last evening was a premonition of things to come. We refreshed the bait and sent the pots back to the bottom.

Back in the anchorage, a young bald eagle perched in the single stunted, gnarled tree on the islet watched us clean our catch. We believe he was looking for a handout, but the tails were for us and the heads for the crab trap.

An afternoon check of the prawn pots rewarded us with half of a limit, and when we pulled the crab trap, it had seven Dungeness crabs in it.

Back into the Wilderness

After a two-day visit at Pierre’s Echo Bay Marina, we purchased a few provisions, said our good-byes and cast off for Vinner Sound. Both mooring balls were occupied when we arrived, and the balance of the area was populated with commercial crab lines, which left us nowhere to set the hook. Our backup plan was to head for McIntosh Bay in Simoom Sound. The first bay had six boats rafted in it, so we moved to the west, found the other two bays empty and set the hook in the bay farthest to the west.

Once the engines were off, we could hear the babbling of two creeks in the forest at the head of the cove; they later made for a soothing night’s sleep. The sun made an appearance in the late afternoon, and we were able to enjoy happy hour and the scenery from the cockpit for the first time in a few days.

Oh boy, did it rain hard overnight and through the following morning. Even in the rain, though, the place was beautiful. Everything was lush and much of it green, from the gold-colored seaweed exposed at low tide to the hills and mountains thick with evergreen forest. This morning the hillsides were mysteriously covered by clouds that hung just 100 feet above the water’s surface.

We got underway early and headed for Moore Bay. On the way we spied several waterfalls on the surrounding hillsides that were running as a result of the previous night’s rain. When we arrived, the eastern cove had a log boom stretched across it at the 35-foot depth line, and it dropped off quickly from there. Over in the west cove everything looked good, so we dropped the anchor. Once again Easy Goin’ and its crew were all alone with the sound of cascading water coming from the forest. We launched the dinghy and set the crab trap in the eastern bay in hopes of catching dinner and three hours later had a keeper Dungeness.

Turnbull Cove

The next day broke as one of those beautiful Broughton mornings, with a marine layer and not a breath of wind. The boats at anchor reflected a mirror image. Arlene spotted a couple of deer walking the shoreline, but it was another moving day, so we headed toward Turnbull Cove with our hopes high for finding some prawns.

We spotted an ancient First Nation pictograph before we entered the cove and set the prawn pots on some promising marks on the depth sounder. Entering the cove, we were surprised to find no other boats. That just doesn’t happen in July. We assumed that all the boats in the area were at nearby Sullivan Bay Marina getting ready for the following day’s July 4 celebration. We have spent more than one July 4 at Sullivan Bay, but we decided to anchor out this time in hopes of having a popular anchorage all to ourselves. I love it when a plan comes together.

After lunch we launched the dinghy, motored over to Roaringhole Rapids, which was ebbing at full force, and captured a few pictures. The water from 6-mile-long Nepah Lagoon flushes through the shallow, narrow rapids and creates quite the sight. Late in the afternoon, we pulled the prawn pots and had modest success, just short of a limit.

We spent the following day tending the prawn pots and were rewarded with two limits. After dinner, thunderheads formed and treated us to a lightning storm that was followed by a brilliant sunset. It was our own July 4 fireworks show.

Sullivan Bay Marina

On the morning we headed to Sullivan Bay — we had to take on water and provisions, purchase dinghy and generator fuel, top off the propane tanks, offload burnable garbage and check email — the clouds hung heavy on the surrounding hillsides once again. Sullivan Bay Marina is a quaint floating village and marina on the north side of North Broughton Island, whose shoreline plunges sharply into the deep water and leaves no space for roads or buildings.

An hour after our arrival, a powerboat named Beach House appeared from around the point. Arlene and I were happy to see the boat, because aboard it were our Anacortes-based friends Wally and Brenda. We enjoyed happy hour aboard Easy Goin’ and shared tales of our respective trips thus far and then went to the restaurant to enjoy the Friday night prime rib.

The following morning Wally and I set the prawn pots and did a little fishing. We caught several rockfish but nothing worth keeping. Later in the day we enjoyed happy hour at the community center with the other visiting boaters, and then Wally and I participated in the hole-in-one contest, which Wally won with his first shot. He received one night of free moorage and had to wear the colorful hole-in-one blazer for a day. We decided to wait until morning to pull the prawn pots.

Shoal Harbour

Our plan for the following day was to do some exploring on the way to Shoal Harbour, another new anchorage for us. No other boats were anchored in the harbor when we arrived, and as we roamed the harbor looking for a spot to set the hook, Arlene spotted a black bear on the beach. He was rolling over rocks and eating crustaceans, so we moved Easy Goin’ in close to capture some pictures. The bear didn’t appear to be bothered by our presence, and once the photo session was over we set the hook north of the small unnamed island.

During a peaceful night of sleep in the calm and quiet of Shoal Harbour, I awoke at 2 a.m. to check on things. The harbor was engulfed in a light fog. I could see the anchor lights on the other two boats and the float home across the harbor, but that was all. By morning the fog had dissipated but a marine layer persisted. After breakfast, we weighed anchor and headed to Bootleg Cove — where we discovered three lines of crab traps that made it uncomfortable to anchor.

Culture & History

Because of our interest in the history of the First Nation people, we decided to move on to the ancestral village of Mamalilaculla to see the remains of middens and totems from the lost native culture that thrived in these islands well before the first European settlers arrived. We guided Easy Goin’ around the reef that protects the one-boat anchorage and placed the hook in 14 and a half feet over a good-holding bottom.

About an hour later we received a hail on the VHF from Beach House. After a short discussion, they decided to join us and raft up. Wally and I took the dinghy into Knight Inlet to get cell service and called the Band Office to ask for permission to go ashore. As we stood on the dock, a boat pulled up to it. Two First Nation individuals had come to clear brush that had overtaken the village; they were preparing the village for a three year archeological survey to learn more about the people who once lived here.

In the morning we weighed anchor and the two boats made the short cruise to the village of New Vancouver, where we would learn more about the area’s First Nation history and culture. In the afternoon Amy and Alex, two granddaughters of the founder and chief of the village, gave us a tour of the small settlement.

Turn for Home

Easy Goin’ and Beach House departed New Vancouver in a stiff northwest wind and headed for Lagoon Cove, then to Port Harvey the following morning. On our final night with Wally and Brenda, we enjoyed happy hour aboard Easy Goin’, knowing that in the morning we would be parting ways, they headed for Desolation Sound and we the Discovery Passage area.

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