2023 / #2 Strait of Georgia to the Broughtons

by | Jun 3, 2023 | 2023 Posts

Monday, May 29. Just before dawn there was a red stripe along the horizon in the eastern sky with gray clouds everywhere else. And Mark Bay was perfectly calm. By 8:00 it was getting breezy and time to check the forecast. It called for winds northwest 10-15 knots increasing to northwest 15-25 knots in the evening. But at about 11:00 the wind in the anchorage faded to light and the skies had turned blue so we thought we would give traveling a try. After lunch we raised anchor and headed into the Strait of Georgia. There were small waves coming from the Northwest and a light breeze, maybe 5 knots, from the Southeast. It stayed that way all afternoon. It’s always a good idea to test the forecast with a look at actual conditions.

During three hours of travel the only excitement was the long distance sighting of a lone humpback whale; we could see it in our binoculars with its accompanying whale watching boats. Our destination was Codfish Bay, the local name for a narrow nook on Jedediah Island with room for one or two boats. It’s somewhat open to the Southeast but the forecast was still calling for northwest winds so we set the anchor, put on our hiking clothes and rowed ashore. The whole island is a marine park but from Codfish Bay the main attraction is a boater’s trail to the top of a local hill called Mt. Gibralter. It’s about 500 feet high, rocky on top and has commanding views of the surrounding water and islands, well worth the effort. The round trip was all of 1.1 miles.

When we returned the first order of business was chasing the mosquitoes out of the boat, surprising for this early in the year. Next was dinner, reading and bed in that order.

Tuesday, May 30. Just as we went to bed last night the wind changed from Southeast to Northwest and grew in strength. But the waves were very small and we slept well with the gentle rolling action. When we awoke the boat had stretched out the chain in the opposite direction but the anchor was in the same place. We were secure.

We affected another leisurely start and headed out into Malaspina Strait in what we have come to think of as normal conditions. The strong winds overnight had left three foot waves for us and the accompanying 10 knot winds were making the waves very steep with whitecaps on the peaks. We headed right into the waves; the boat bounced up and down and covered the pilothouse windows with salt spray. We continued this way for two hours before turning in to Ballet Bay.

Ballet Bay is surrounded by islands, some big, some small, that together form a very protected cove. When we first came here 20 years ago there was one house, everything else was rocks and trees. Since then, houses have popped up on many of the smaller islands and underwater electrical cables cross portions of the bay so anchoring space is restricted from what it was. But when we got here there were no other boats so we took the best spot, dropped and set our anchor and settled down to relaxation, starting with lunch, which today was Karen’s pasta, walnut and feta salad. Relaxation also included washing the dried salt off the windows as well as writing the blog, going through the day’s pictures and even a nap in the sun. This cruising life is tough.

Wednesday, May 31. The forecast was for light winds and that’s what we had, both overnight and during the day. Light, though not calm, meant small waves and no spray so the continuation of our trip up Malaspina Strait was much more comfortable than the day before. There were lots of clouds around but they were concentrated over the mountains; the sky was blue where we were.

To break up the trip here are several possible stopping places on the way to Desolation Sound; Westview, Lund, Savary Island, Copland Islands are all possible. But we decided to continue on to Squirrel Cove, which has two attractions. There is a lovely anchorage with room for a number of boats and access to hiking trails and there is a public dock with a store that sells ice cream. The dock is usually filled in mid season but we were hoping there would be room to stop for a short time so we could refill our freezer with treats. And there was room so we got a couple of pints of Hagen Das to tide us over till the next market.

Anchoring was easy with lots of room, easy depths and few other boats. After getting the boat set we headed for the trailhead marked with a small sign and a large buoy hanging in a tree by a rocky “beach.” The four mile trail is called Norway Loop and goes through the forest between Squirrel Cove and Von Donop Inlet on the other side of the island. Unfortunately, the trail doesn’t actually include a view of the Inlet so we don’t know how many boats were anchored there. The trail went well, with only a couple of new blowdowns since we were on the trail last year. The loop passes by side trails to other attractions such as the Lagoon and Mud Bay but it was fairly late in the day so we didn’t go there.

When we got back to Squirrel Cove there were a few more boats bringing the total to eight, in the area that would see 20 or 30 in high summer, and we settled in for some serious relaxation, starting with hot showers and grilled scallops for dinner. We even decided on a bit of television and watched a DVD we had brought to improve our minds; it was in French but, thankfully, had subtitles for the less fluent. And of course, had some ice cream.

Saturday, June 3. We have made it to the Broughton Archipelago, the large collection of islands that is the last cruising ground before leaving the shelter of Vancouver Island. To get here required passing through some serious tidal rapids and venturing up the notorious Johnstone Strait.

We chose to go through a set of three rapids that are close together, Yuculta, Gillard and Dent, with Dent being the most serious having dangerous whirlpools and overfalls at times other than slack water. The first slack of the day was about 9 in the morning, which was just too early for us to make it there from Squirrel Cove, so we chose a different strategy. We would go through the first rapids, Yuculta, at the afternoon slack and spend the night at the Big Bay Community Dock then go through Gillard and Dent on the next morning’s slack.

The stop at Big Bay included a hike to Eagle Lake, so named because of the many eagles that rest in the trees around it when they are not fishing in the rapids. It is a rare treat to see so many eagles at one time. The hike wasn’t particularly difficult and well worth the stop.

The next morning we went through Gillard and Dent close to slack with no drama and continued north, though at that point the channels mostly point west, to more rapids. Two hours later we came to Green Point Rapids which was running 5.2 knots at that point, against us. We crawled up a smooth water path near shore; next to us was a whirlpool the size of our boat who’s center was a foot below our water level – definitely on our “must avoid” list. A couple more hours brought us to our last rapid of the day, Whirlpool Rapids. We were able to sneak up on it by approaching in an eddy along one side until we were almost at the narrow point and once out into the main flow there was no turbulence and we had very little distance to go.

Forward Harbour is the last good protected anchorage before entering Johnstone Strait. After anchoring the wind shifted and brought a chop to the anchorage so we picked up our anchor went to the other end of the harbour to re-anchor – same wind but with little fetch so the chop was almost eliminated. This end faces a large river delta and we were hoping to see bears, but no such luck. On the other end of the scale, we had a Rufus Hummingbird fly into the salon and try to leave via the closed window. It managed to find the doorway after a few minutes without me having to catch it.

Overnight the wind died and it was totally calm in the morning. But the forecast was for strong winds, up to 25 knots, for Johnstone Strait in the afternoon so we left early, something that is unusual for us; we were underway by 6:30. And just as the forecast said, it was calm all morning. The forecast also said chance of showers and sure enough we had one that lasted all of 2 minutes but left a beautiful legacy, a magnificent rainbow from shore to shore over the strait. Shortly after, we were surprised as 11 people on jet skis passed us heading West.

We headed into the islands with Mound Island our destination and got there early enough to take the dinghy to the local shell midden and do a bit of exploration on the island before the strong winds started in the afternoon. The forecast for Johnstone Strait is 20-30 knots for the next three days. We are glad to be among these islands where the wind is muted, the fetch is minimal and we can still travel.

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