2022 / #8 Port McNeill to Broughtons

by | Apr 25, 2023 | 2022 Posts

Tuesday, September 6

We were tempted to stay another day but there really isn’t much to do in Port McNell.  The main diversion is to take the ferry to either Sointula or Alert Bay and be a tourist.  But we decided against it so after fixing, I hope, a minor plumbing problem and filling our water tank we bid farewell to Port McNeill.

The solid cloud cover failed to prevent this from being a red letter day.  We started by seeing a humpback right out of the Harbour then a group of 6 or so a bit later.  And as we were heading for a pass between some islands one rose out of the water right in front of the boat.  We stopped and waited for him to swim away from us before continuing on our route but he fooled us and doubled back underwater, rising less than a boat length away.  It was thrilling and frightening at the same time.  If he was bothered by our presence he gave no indication of it. He kept right on fishing.

We continued on to the Broughtons scattering hundreds of Phalaropes that were feeding on the surface of the water and passing a reef with dozens of Stellar’s Sea Lions hauled out.  As we were about to enter the islands we got to see the Alaska Ferry passing behind us while a pod of 6 or so Dall’s Porpoises were in a feeding frenzy in one small circular area, no doubt where they had corraled a school of bait fish.  It was too bad they were so busy because they often like to ride the boat’s bow wave when they are in a playful mood.

When we passed by Alert Bay we did a close approach by the cemetery.  Alert Bay is a First Nations community and in addition to a major museum of potlatch relics its cemetery is spectacular for its large number of totem poles, the First Nations equivalent of head stone grave markers.  And it happens to be right on the waterfront.

Since we’re forever hopeful we decided to spend the night in the Crease Island anchorage because of its reputation for good crabbing. And the day is never over till it’s over.


Wednesday, September 7

Success at last.  When we checked the crab trap this morning there were two large male crabs in the trap.  So it’s crab for lunch and dinner today.  Yum!

We decided to reset the trap and stay another day.  But because strong winds are forecast coming out of the head of the bay we decided to more our anchor closer to the shore which should make it a little bit smoother – and less rowing to the trap as well.  These are Northwest winds which is usually an indicator of fair weather and after the morning fog and low clouds burned off it was beautiful.   Even though the waters around us are calm we haven’t seen a boat since last night’s companion left in the morning.  After we pull up our trap we’ll go somewhere else tomorrow, just for a change of scenery.

A day without travel is also a day for boat chores and we have both caught up a little on those.  I even managed to do a couple of the work items I had listed for after we return.  So I’m getting a head start on my winter to-do list.


Thursday, September 8

Nothing in the trap this morning except for a single starfish grasping the bait container.  Typical.  It was somewhat breezy as we got underway but the sun was out from time to time so we were happy.  Traveling among the islands of the Broughton Archipelago could be a navigational challenge – lots of islands and rocks that all look the same, winds from all different directions and unpredictable currents. Thank goodness for GPS and especially for chart plotters.

We decided to take a tour of some of the anchorages here just to see if we liked any enough to stay the night.  We went to Waddington Bay first and it was totally calm despite a wind blowing right outside.  It would have been a perfect choice except there was a boat there already and we’ve gotten pretty spoiled.  We checked out a couple more bays, went through some narrow passages between the islands and even stuck our nose out into Queen Charlotte Strait where the wind was blowing 15 knots and had raised a swell (among the islands the wind was light and the water calm). We ended up in Laura Bay, anchoring behind a small island in calm water.

As we were settling down for some serious relaxation we noticed a light spot in the water, within swinging room of our anchor.  Now our chart plotter showed clear water and the paper chart, which was pretty small scale at 1:80,000, hardly showed the anchorage at all.  But the sailing directions indicated a rock and my iPhone app showed the existence of Zulu Rock.  So we rowed over to it and measured the depth to find a whole small reef that would be awash at tomorrow’s low tide.  So we decided to run out a stern line to a tree ashore to prevent us from swinging into Zulu Rock.

Stern tying is one of those boating activities that can be “interesting”.  In this case it went pretty well despite a wind that came up just as I started rowing the line ashore.  But we got it done and finally got our overdue down time to finish yesterday’s crab and watch three Harlequin Ducks that were feeding nearby.  And we are the only boat around.

We saw a total of four other cruising boats today, a far cry from when we came through here a couple of weeks ago.  We are definitely into Fall.


Friday, September 9

It was cloudy and calm in the morning and we made a slow start.   It took a few extra minutes to remove our stern tie and finish the process of weighing anchor and then we were off for more exploring, starting with Simoom Sound.  The clouds parted and the sun arrived on our way there.

Simoom Sound is dominated by Bald Mountain on one end and tapers to low land at the other.  When we were here 15 or so years ago it was the site of several active logging operations on the water and clear cuts on the hills above.  Now the logging is over and the clear cuts are green with new growth so the Sound is much more attractive.  We toured several places to anchor but all suffered the same problem – not enough swinging room for the depth.  They would not likely be busy, even during high season and would provide good stern tying practice.

We’ve been seeing large flocks of birds gathering, birds we normally see only in very small groups.  Surf Scoters, Western Grebes, Red-necked Grebes and Phalaropes all seem to be gathering for a major event.  We heard loud squawking sounds and then saw a large flock of Sandhill Cranes fly overhead in a classic V formation.  It would seem migration is in the air.

We checked out Echo Bay Resort, the central focal point of boating activity in this area of the Broughtons and found it closed, for the season presumably.

We pulled into Waddington Bay to spend the night in its calm waters and found two sailboats already there as befits a great anchorage in a central location.  Plenty of room for us though; our nearest neighbor was 200 yards away. Our journey south has begun.

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