2023 / #3 Broughtons to Blunden Harbour

by | Jun 12, 2023 | 2023 Posts

Tuesday, June 6. It has been windy, especially in the afternoons, so we have kept our journeys short and among the islands. We’ve encountered current and wind but no waves. Our first stop, Waddington Bay is one of the most popular anchorages in the Broughtons and we had four other boats with us overnight, still practically empty by midsummer standards. Next we dropped the hook in a very small bay among the Pearse Islands which was luckily empty when we got there. It’s really just a wide spot in a channel between the islands but there is room for a couple of boats to anchor and there are nice views of snow covered mountains on the mainland. There would have been good dinghy exploration if there had been less wind and less current but the dinghy engine (me) didn’t want to work that hard. The last time we tried that here we got stranded a few islands away and had to wait several hours for the current to abate before we could row back to the boat. This whole time the weather has been wonderful, with lots of sun though a bit cool, yesterday’s high was 58.

The weather forecast looked promising so we decided to re-provision in Port McNeill before making the jump around Cape Caution. That meant fuel, groceries, laundry, washing the boat and getting the water maker ready to go. The next full service stop is a long way away. I thought I would pick up some more books and looked all over for a book store. Several stores had a few books, mostly romance novels, but the best selection turned out to be at the local thrift shop and the price couldn’t be beat, $1 per book, Canadian. Karen went to Dirty Jacks, the local computer repair store, to get her phone repaired but the message she got was the charging circuitry had been fried and her phone was toast. Now she’s regressed to the dark ages – before smart phones. What a difference a day makes, the forecast changed from promising to foreboding with strong winds and 2 meter ocean swells. Definitely not our cup of tea. So it’s back to the Broughtons and protected waters until things improve. Being at a dock is certainly convenient and very useful but we miss the solitude of a quiet anchorage. Wednesday, June 7. Port McNeill was nice – we even did some last minute shopping in the morning before we left. But the weather was good, sunny and calm, and with continued poor forecasts for the Cape Caution area, we headed back to the Broughtons. As we cleared the harbour we found around 50 sailboats, all bunched together with their spinnakers flying. It was the Van Isle 360 race taking place right in front of us, in slow motion; their AIS showed they were doing about 3.5 knots, including a 2 knot current.

We saw our first sea otter today. It was diving for shellfish which it ate on the surface while floating on its back. The water was 140 feet deep. Later we crossed some tide rips and saw Pacific white-sided dolphins feeding in the distance. It’s definitely beginning to feel more remote. In our role as field correspondents for Waggoner Guide we thought we would check out Echo Bay Resort, which changed hands a couple of years ago. When we passed by it looked closed; there were no boats, no people, the buildings were all closed and half the docks had been removed. If true, that would mean there are now only two marinas in the Broughtons; ten years ago there were eight. We decided to spend the night in Viner Sound. The sound ends in a long narrow neck with two small bays near the end. According to the book there are mooring buoys, two in each bay. In the south bay we saw only one but it was above water at all tides; that’s a good thing. We chose the north bay and tied to the only buoy we saw. When the tide rose to 8 feet the buoy was just underwater. We watched as it sank further and further below the surface. With our mooring line extended full length we went to bed hoping it was long enough to reach down to the buoy at the 4 am, 15 foot high tide.

Friday, June 9. Our line was long enough. Inspired by Andy Cross’s article in the May 48 North we decided to explore Greenway Sound. We were looking forward to the hike to Silver King and Broughton Lakes. But the BC Forest Service dock and ramp had been removed and the trailhead looked a bit overgrown. In addition there was a new clear cut right above the trailhead. So we took a pass and anchored behind Cecil Island South and rowed over to the entrance to Broughton Lagoon to inspect the rapids. It was sunny and calm with very clear skies and despite the temperature being a mild 70 degrees we were hot. A late afternoon breeze helped cool the boat off and we slept good with our down comforter.

There continue to be high winds forecast for the Cape Caution area, getting steadily worse for the next four days with next Tuesday being 30-40 knots. So we decided to hide out in a sheltered location for a few days and chose Turnbull Cove. This large cove is almost completely surrounded by high hills and is about as far from the Strait as you can get in this area of the Broughtons. In season it is very popular but when we arrived we were the only boat so we anchored in the center of a little nook. It has a short hike to a lake where a float provides convenient access for swimming, if it’s warm enough, and when we got back there was a black bear exploring the rocks along shoreline behind our boat. Cool. We even put down our crab trap, just to test the waters, so to speak.

Sunday, June 11. We spent three days in Turnbull Cove and the strongest wind was just enough to ruffle the water; most of the time it was glassy calm. Despite an overnight soak our crab trap came up completely empty. We took advantage of the calm weather to pump up our inflatable kayak and go for a paddle around the cove. The hills around Turnbull are very steep, so steep they show the scars of landslides that started high above and ended in the water. One of them occurred only a week after we were here in 2005 and must have made a sizable tsunami for the anchored boats. I’m glad we missed it.

A mile from Turnbull Cove an inactive logging road comes down to the water so we rowed over to go for a hike up the road. Judging from the state of the clear cuts, logging must have ended only a couple of years ago. It wasn’t a very scenic hike but it was good to stretch our legs. The road was cut with many swales, put there when the logging company left in order to control erosion. It can make for difficult hiking since the sides of the swales are steep, loose rocks. After 2.5 miles we were glad to get back to rowing. The long range forecast calls for a change in the weather later in the week. We are hoping it is a favorable change. Monday, June 12. It was totally calm in the morning and we decided three days in Turnbull Cove was enough so we got underway, heading out towards Queen Charlotte Strait. The forecast wasn’t particularly good but we thought we would peek out and get our toes wet, so to speak, figuring we could turn around if it was nasty. But conditions were good for traveling so we headed north. If conditions held we were planning to go to Allison Harbour, which is only a short way from Cape Caution, but after 40 minutes or so the wind picked up and so did the waves. By the time we were near the entrance to Blunden Harbour, less than half way to Allison, the waves were 3 feet with whitecaps and the wind was blowing 16 knots and increasing; time to call it a day.

Blunden is a large, well-protected anchorage but is surrounded by low land so it still gets quite a bit of the wind. We pulled into the most protected spot we could find, surrounded by islands and reefs, and dropped our anchor then set it particularly well. We wanted to be sure we didn’t move during the night when the wind was predicted to increase. Since it was a beautiful day with the temperature only 62, it was perfect for cleaning the salt spray from the boat and doing other outside chores. It felt good to be on our way north again.

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