We made it to the Broughton Archipelago a week ago. This is much farther than we went on Arctic Loon last year and we are so excited and proud to be here.
It is now day 45 of our sailing trip. We have covered 485 nautical miles. We have spent 35 nights at anchor, 9 nights tied up to the dock and had 15 rest days.
It took us 3 days to get to the Broughton Archipelago from Refuge Cove and a bit of planning beforehand so we could navigate the various rapids and narrows safely.
We left Refuge Cove early on the morning of June 25th to head up through Lewis and Calm channel to the Yulculta Rapids, Gillard Passage and then through Devils Hole at Dent Rapids in Cordero Channel. We had made friends with another couple on SV Aeolian back in Lund and they met us in Refuge Cove the day before to head up to the Broughtons with us. We choose this day to head up through the rapids because slack current (when the flow of water changes direction) was late morning and because it was during a neap tide cycle so the max ebb and max flood would not be as strong and the period of slack tide would be longer. Together Ellery and I checked the currents, tides and the weather to come up with a plan. Ellery went even further to figure out time gates so we knew whether or not we were on time. Our planning worked out well and we went through the rapids when they were almost glassy.
We finished this day in Shoal Bay, which had a large grassy lawn that the girls could run around on and Maddie tried flying her kite. We also joined a group of cruisers who were playing music and singing on the dock. I love spontaneous moments like these and I know Maddie loved hearing the music.
The second day, we had to make it to Greene Point and Whirlpool rapids near slack to go through safely. These two rapids are ten miles apart but slack current happens at nearly the same time for both. This meant we had to hit Greene point rapids an hour early pushing into an opposing current, then at Whirlpool rapids we were an hour late and got pulled through with the strengthening ebb current. We anchored in Forward Harbour that night and rafted up stern to bow with our friends Todd and Maya on SV Aeolian. We spent the afternoon at a beach near the boat with the girls and they were so happy just throwing rocks in the water and looking for treasure.
The third day of our transit up to the Broughtons would mean going north up Johnstone Strait for 12 miles and then transitting the narrow and shallow Chatham channel, followed by the Blowhole (another narrow and shallow pass), which would take us to Lagoon Cove for the night. Lagoon Cove Marina had a neatly manicured grassy lawn with a few games to play and a swing so the girls were happy to have some more freedom to move their bodies.
We anchored in Lagoon Cove for one night and then headed to Village Island the next day. This is when we really felt like we were in the Broughtons, it felt very familiar from our days of sea kayak guiding.
Village Island is the former location of a First Nations community called Mamalilaculla (‘MI’MKWAMLIS) during the late 1800s and early 1900s it was a thriving village with a schoolhouse. The village has been continually inhabited for many thousands of years as is evident by the large midden. However in the 1920s most of the village relocated to Alert Bay. It is very overgrown now and the totem poles have fallen over but from the water we could still see the old house posts. We did not go ashore because we did not see anyone around to ask permission from first. We did enjoy exploring the area at low tide in the dinghy and listening to all the bird songs and raven calls.
The evening we anchored it was still raining and I used the opportunity the scrub the decks. It had been bothering me for a while that they were dirty but it never seems like the right time. It was so peaceful and calm while it was raining and I was scrubbing the deck, when I heard a blow, the sound a whale makes when it exhales at the surface. I turned and saw the large back and small dorsal fin of a Humpback Whale. I quickly called Ellery to tell him to come up but the whale never surfaced nearby again. It felt like a gift, seeing that whale. It reminded me why we came to this area and what we want our girls to experience too.
From Village Island, we headed to Echo Bay on Gilford Island, another place we had been before. Echo Bay was occupied by First Nations people for thousands of years until the smallpox epidemic devastated the community and those who survived moved away about 150 years ago. Around 1910, pioneers and their families came and settled here, building a store and fuel dock. Today there is a busy marina with a store selling groceries, which is one reason why we came here.
We planned to anchor in Echo Bay but on arrival we realized how small and shallow the bay was and saw a sailboat washed up on the beach with a ‘no anchoring’ sign so we thought we better not chance it. We tied up to the cliffside dock at Echo Bay, which was slightly cheaper than the main side because it was not connected and we had to dinghy across. We were not bothered by this and were actually happy to be further away from all the hub-bub. While alongside Echo Bay we did some laundry, used the wifi and bought some fresh fruits, veggies, dairy and eggs.
Another reason we came to Echo Bay was to visit Billy’s Museum. Billy Proctor is 84 years old and has lived on Gilford Island his whole life while working as a commercial fisherman. He has collected a lot of stuff, or ‘junk’ as he calls it, over the years and has a museum for people to come and visit. Ellery and I had visited together about 10 years ago and we were excited to go back and see Billy again.
The morning that we planned to leave, we got up early and hiked about 25 minutes (toddler pace) over to Billy’s Museum. He wasn’t there when we arrived but we were able to look in a Trapper’s cabin that he had built and a cabin made to look like the old Echo Bay schoolhouse. Billy arrived as we were having our morning snack, we chatted with him and then went into his museum to explore. We found the history interesting and Maddie enjoyed looking at all of Billy’s junk. She has recently started collecting her own treasures everyday, she puts them in a yogurt container and pulls them out everyday to look at them. It must have been amazing to see all the stuff Billy has collected over his lifetime.
A sailing friend of mine said her husband tends to ‘work the marina.’ What she means is that her husband goes to help other boaters tie up their boat and then gets chatting and doesn’t return to his own boat for quite awhile. At the time I didn’t think Ellery did this but I realize now that he does in his own way. Ellery will see a boat he likes and then go chat with the owner. He loves to get invited onboard. If this happens, then Ellery can be gone for awhile. I have figured this out and now ask him to take Maddie with him, which actually seems to get them invited on more boats!
Ellery really wanted to do a spinnaker run so he suggested we head up to Tribune Channel and sail downwind to Kwatsi Bay. We had not planned on heading further north but we also love the fjords up here with the steep mountains that plunge right into the ocean. We had a lovely downwind sail with the spinnaker almost all the way to Kwatsi Bay. At one point Ellery jumped in the dinghy while we were sailing along and zipped around the boat a short distance away to take some photos of Arctic Loon under sail.
We were pleasantly surprised to see our friends on SV Aeolian tied up to the dock in Kwatsi Bay. We decided to anchor in the bay with a stern tie ashore but we went for a dinghy ride to the dock after dinner to say hi.
After Kwatsi Bay, we sailed into the wind back through Tribune Channel tacking back and forth into a fresh westerly breeze with full sail up. We wanted to anchor in the enticing Burdwood Group but there was just too much current running through the anchorage which made for tricky anchoring. After two tries we changed course and headed into the shelter of nearby Shoal Harbour for a peaceful night at anchor.
The following day we motored through Arrow Passage to the open waters of Queen Charlotte Strait. We were hoping to sail down to Hanson Island but the wind died just as we were approaching open water and we were left motoring on glassy calm waters. This enabled the girls and I to hang out on the bow of the boat while Ellery navigated. It wasn’t long before we were seeing blows from Humpback Whales all around us. We kept watching and finally they were close enough that we could see their backs with dorsal fin when they came up for air and we were able to point them out to Maddie. We saw a couple tail flukes and that was easier for Maddie to pick out so she was happy to see those! Amelia was more interested in walking around the deck. After seeing quite a few Humpback Whales, we headed to Hanson Island where we planned to anchor for a few days. We were in need of a couple rest days and hoped to see more whales.
The morning of our first rest day we had a slow morning before heading out in the dinghy to explore around Hanson Island. We saw a couple of Dalls Porpoises not far away but when they did not come closer Ellery started up the dinghy and we headed back to Arctic Loon. Then out of nowhere, 2 Dalls Porpoises started bow riding and surfing in our wake. It was amazing! We could clearly see them swimming in the water under and beside our boat. Maddie was pretty excited about this and afterwards kept asking, where are the Dalls Porpoise? Like they were going to be with us for ever now!
In the afternoon we circumnavigated Hanson Island in the dinghy. The first 15 minutes or so the girls were pretty fussy and would not sit still but then they fell asleep and napped for a hour while we enjoyed the beautiful Broughton Archipelago.
It is noticeably cooler up here and we have enjoyed returning to our boat and turning on our diesel heater to warm up the cabin.
Our second rest day, we took the dinghy across Johnstone Strait to Telegraph Cove in the morning. I had really wanted to go to Telegraph Cove with the girls because we have been there many times before and I thought Maddie would really enjoy seeing the Whale Interpretive Centre. We did not want to take Arctic Loon because it is a very small harbour with little room to manoeuvre and we would have had to call ahead to see if there was a slip available big enough for our boat. It was just as easy to dinghy the 5 miles over there and the wind was calm so it was a pleasant ride. Amelia napped almost the whole way.
Telegraph Cove was almost the way we remembered it. We tied up to the dock and called the Dockside Marina to see if that would be ok. We ended up paying to tie up for 4 hours so we could do laundry, have showers and dispose of our garbage. It worked out super well because at the top of the ramp, there was the Seahorse Cafe, which had a kids area with a bunch of toys! I got a coffee and watched the girls while Ellery did the laundry.
We all went over the Whale Interpretive Centre and I am so glad we did. They had done a bit of a reno but they still have quite a few cetacean skeletons, including a large Fin Whale skeleton that hangs from the ceiling. Maddie was interested in all sorts of things. We were able to show her the skeletons of the a Dalls Porpoise and a Humpback Whale, which we have recently seen in the wild.
Then in the afternoon, we went to a beach not far from where Arctic Loon was anchored and made a campfire on the beach. It was such a good time. Maddie collected treasure (mussel and crab shells, rocks) and tried catching fish in her net. Amelia threw rocks into the water and tried to chew on some driftwood. Ellery stoked the fire, while I got out the snacks. Ellery and I took turns chasing Amelia because she kept trying to walk a bit too deep into the ocean (she was wearing her life jacket of course) but we did not want her to get too wet.
We had already found some garbage on the beach and picked it up when Ellery had an idea that every beach we go to, we should do a mini beach clean up. I bought a children’s book for Maddie in Lund called Ocean Champions by a local author Michelle Mech and the book is about the problem of plastic garbage in the ocean. We ended up finding a fair amount of garbage on the small beach. Maddie now wants to pick up garbage everywhere!
Check back in to hear about our adventures as we continue to head north to Port Hardy.