Log: Broughtons and Discovery Coast

Sunday, July 15 Sullivan Bay 50º53’08’N 126º49.68’W

The winds in the bay which raged until midnight had abated by dawn. We put a reef in the main hoping for strong winds for the short, straightforward passage to Wells Channel. We had a good sail – for a very short time. The entrance to Wells Channel is one of my favorite vistas, with the still snow-bound peaks in the distance which disappear as the forested waterway closes in. We were distressed to see two fish farms on the north side of the channel not far from destination.

The sun broke solid as we reached Sullivan Bay and tied up across from a British boat. We wondered if it could be the same British boat that had come into Blunden and was still there when we left. It wasn’t and the S/V Nomad’s crew of one was surprised to hear there was another British boat in the vicinity. He’s been living aboard for 12 years. We’ve seen fairly few European boats this summer. Dutch boats at Comox and Sullivan Bay, Swedish and French boats at Prince Rupert, along with the odd anonymous mega yacht registered in the Caymans or the Bahamas.

Shortly after, a handsome Grand Banks pulled in, its skipper appeared, looking wistfully at Aurora, and making Jack proud. A marine biologist from Victoria, Brian gave up sailing and bought the 1967 wooden trawler with Hatomi (or Hiroko?) his Japanese partner. Oden is lovely and livable but not very seaworthy. In the evening went over and admired the teak deck, butterfly hatches, brass fittings everywhere, and enormous and accessible engine room. But Brian’s caution about what the boat can and can’t do is well founded. A good lesson for us.

With the sun, boats started pulling out of Sullivan leaving it all but empty, which is astounding given that it’s mid-summer. Debbie and Chris, managers of this floating settlement of high end cottages, work as though they owned the place; however, it does not seems to be doing well. At “Appy Hour” Chris said his smaller mom-and-pop boats (like us) had dropped off so now the place is catering to the high end and babysitting several 70+ footers whose owners fly in. They have 3000 feet of docks (and not being attached to land means people are constantly walking them). Chris also said that ⅔ of the diesel they buy every summer goes for power generation! And much of that is 50 amps for the big yachts, some of whom run their own generators while they are plugged in!

Most of the big boats had their own satellite and Internet but for everyone else it was bleak. Jack connected with AP (which he says is the most efficient app) just long enough to find out no sky has fallen and the silly presidential campaign still dominates the news. For the record, Sullivan lacks a public phone; they have a line you can use for $1.15 a minute. Debbie said that after two weeks without rain (!) their water supply, normally from nearby spring, may have to be repiped from a mountain lake. I asked why people were washing their boats; she was horrified to hear they were. Then there is the garbage situation. I was delighted that they could take some recycling: beverage cans and juice bottles and tin cans washed, labels removed, and flattened. You have to have your trash vetted before you can leave it. But when I asked about garbage and tried to present a tiny bag that had been stored in the bilge, the girl in the (scantily stocked) store said no. Food waste should be separated and “thrown overboard.” Ooooo. That explains the onion skin, green bean and cucumber slide I quickly spotted walking back to the boat.

I think we can stay elsewhere next time. None of the small marinas offer power or any kind of garbage or trash service and that is fine as we can manage that ourselves. Nearby Pierre’s has power, fuel and a store and the bare bones but convivial Lagoon Cove –  a day away for us – has power and fuel.  Does anyone have Internet?  You never know. It seems to be worse every year.

Monday, July 16 50º51’08’N 126º31.22’W Mackintosh Bay off Simoom Sound

We wanted to enjoy the sun and do something new so we made our first visit to Simoom Sound. This body or water cutting into the mainland is one of Vancouver’s extended anchorages with the HMS Discovery and Chatham. It’s quite easy to see how un 1792 the Captain could have settled back and enjoyed the view while his men in row boats labored on, charting this entire area. Under the command of Lieutenant Broughton, the Chatham explored Havannah Channel, the shallow Chatham Cannel near Lagoon Cove and Tribune Channel. This helped determine what was mainland – the mainland looks like Swiss cheese anyway – and what were islands. A good number of the islands were named the Broughton’s Archipelago, after the explorer. As for Simoom, it’s another British ship – I think one that never came here. (No Internet, can’t check.)

Despite his prodigious  production of charts, Vancouver seems to have run out of names. For the contemporary mariner, far too many points of interest are named after the ships Discovery and Chatham. And does North America really need two cities called Vancouver, neither located on the continent’s largest Island, also named Vancouver?

Tuesday, July 17 Port Harvey off Johnstone Strait 50º34’05’N 126º16.09’W

The friendly, rustic Port Harvey Marine Resort

Port Harvey is off Johnstone Strait after Port Neville the northernmost of the arms of the Y, the other leading to Havannah Channel and Chatham Channel. Gail and George have opened a new marina here. It’s a great location because it allows you to be out in the unpredictable Johnstone a bit after dawn. Waggoners describes the grandly named Port Harvey Resort as “rustic”, which is a forgiving term of endearment. It’s located on a wooden barge with a store downstairs, and amazingly, a licensed restaurant with a deck upstairs. George and Gail, who live year round on shore and are not too young, run the whole thing without help. Everyday they bake fresh loaves of bread that are better than any you can find north to Prince Rupert. This enterprise is their labor of love and we wish them well.

A couple of folks with a large fluffy poodle who tied us their dinghy at the end of the float came up to admire Aurora. Aboard their 1976 Vailiant for eight years, they’d done the Pacific, the Indian and the Atlantic. By the time they got to the Carribean they sold it, deciding it would be too much maintenance when they moved back on land in Powell River. Now they cruise the Inland Passage in an outboard with a hard top enclosed with a bit of fabric and a zipper. Their inflatable dinghy is more than half the length of their boat, which must be about 18 feet. We navigated Johnstone Strait alongside them yesterday, marveling at what experienced mariners can pull off and adding another small boat story to our inspiring collection.

Wednesday, July 18 Shoal Bay again 50º53’08’N 125º21.99’W

Great sail down Johnson Strait.

Environment Canada’s predictions for the coast have been so wild that is seems no one is moving. Outside of our miniature traveling companion, we saw only two boats in the Strait all the way south to Sunderland Channel. The rapids proved no problem. Over cold beer in the Shoal Bay Pub, everyone agreed the reports are always exaggerated and more so in the summer to keep unwary mariners out of trouble. We remember the same CYA tactics of Smokey the Bear, when contrived weather closed trails that should have been perfectly safe.

Shoal Bay is always breathtakingly beautiful and Mark and Cynthia the warmest, most-down-to-earth, smartest and best-looking people around. There are countless ways Shoal Bay is special. One for sure is that you exhale when you arrive because you have just completed one of three of the more challenging passages of the coast: Seymour Narrows to the west or Whirlpool and Green Point Rapids to the north or the Dent/ Gaillard/Yuculta complex to the south.

This year there is cold draft beer in the “pub” and a new trail winding up the creek, where the forest has come back so profusely in the past century that it looks like old growth to my amateur eye. Shoal Bay was founded in 1887 and had a relatively brief life as a mining settlement. Another addition is the decorated dome of a new pizza oven next to the spit on the platform on the foundation of the old lodge, which burned down the year Mark bought the place.

While Shoal Bay continues to resemble a laid back permaculture commune, their are now special evenings a couple of times a month. There are pizza nights when you bring your own toppings, a couple of pig roasts, and on July 31, a feast featuring a lamb raised in the Comox Valley. The rest is all pot luck and the donation jar, which spends the rest of the time sitting in the help-yourself garden, is usually quite full of cash.

Over cold beers, we chatted about wildlife with Roger, who for the past 28 years has lived aboard a splendid ketch, Sea Sail, that he built himself. He observed that East Thurlow used to have wolves because it used to have deer. Now there is neither but it’s all a matter of time before the first deer overpopulate a neighboring island and swim over. Then the wolves will follow. He’s from Campbell River and has observed these changes over the years.

We also met Christy and Paul, quite young ex-Victorians who “live aboard” full time either on their 36 foot Beneteau or on their 19-foot Mercedes Spider RV. They love sailing around La Paz on Baha but not the north and south passages so Shearwater X travels by international float-on-float-off barge with her mast in place! DockWise runs a service between La Paz and Nainaimo they urged us to check out. When discussing customs and formalities, they cautioned that for Mexico, crews should register with more than one captain (regardless of official coast guard status) and specifically not as co-captains. They know of situations where something happened to the captain, leaving no other crew member, or owner, authorized to take the boat out of Mexico. Valuable to know bout this technicality.

Thursday, July 19 50º19.48’N 124º47.73’W Toba Wilderness Marina

Toba Wilderness has its own micro-hydro plant.

Although we couldn’t sail one bit for lack of wind, this was one of our most memorable passages. We were seen off in the morning by a couple of particularly acrobatic Pacific white-sided dolphins. From Cordales Channel we watched the frothy waters ebbing out of Dent Rapids before going in at slack. And according to AyeTides, we were in the dead in the middle of Dent, Gaillard and Yaculta respectively at the precise moment when each turned. This is only possible going southbound and Jack’s careful calculations were in order since we were transiting on a low low spring tide with the narrowest of windows of safety for each channel. This is the time of the month when the most water passes leaves or enters in the few hours (5-7) before the tide turns again.

Once we emerged in the appropriately named Calm Channel, following the north shore, it was new territory. We turned north into Raza Passage, took a peak up Ramsay Arm, left past Deer Passage to our south, and headed west in Pryce Channel. The colors were fabulous and the weather was perfect, the range of snow-capped mountains clear as could be.

We gradually stripped off layers to bathe in the sun, along with a solitary seal on a drift log chaise longue! Tucked behind Double Island at the mouth of Toba Inlet is a small marina. Approaching we were struck by the bright blue water to starboard and bright turquoise water to port. The tiny Toba Wilderness Marina, which serves an area with a shortage of good anchorage, lies beneath a huge waterfall. A micro-hydro power generator maintained by the owners, Kyle and Victoria Hunter, provides electricity to the site.

Friday, July 20 and Saturday, July 21 50º07.56’N 124º42.36’W Tenedos Bay in Desolation Sound.

Lovely colors of water and land enroute to Desolation Sound

For a nearly a week, Friday was deemed the weather nadir, with conditions described as “stinky”. In the end, we were greeted by one roll of thunder while still at dock at Toba but then things got better, though the mountains disappeared and a very dark sky dumped a couple of showers on us.

Desolation Sound is spectacular as always. We’d been warned that two of the three popular anchorages “were like parking lots” but Tenedos was just fine. Although Desolation Sound is the most famous marine park in the Privince and relatively close to the cities, it’s wilderness. There are no dock, no buoys, no rangers, no signs telling people what to do. That works in Canada, where people are polite and organize themselves well. One of the ways they do this is stern tying. As the only US boat in this large anchorage, having to carry out this unfamiliar manoeuvre in front of those for whom it is second nature was a bit. See post “Stern Ties”.


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