Shoal Harbour to Forward Harbour, and on to the Broughton Archipelago

Entry to Waddington Cove (I think). At any rate, somewhere in the Broughtons
May 19-20, 2015

Tidal schedules and our pre-ordained stopping places had kept our daily distances relatively short for several days, and this day would be no different.  Shoal Bay to Forward Harbour covered only 20 miles, but necessitated another wait of several hours (at Whirlpool Rapids).  An easy day, warm and sunny (and another swim for Mathias).

We got through Greenpoint Rapids easily, but reached Whirlpool 2 hours past slack water, the tide flooding against us.  I thought we might be able to sneak through on the strength of Ripple's 9 horse iron jenny, and we easily crept up to the rapids in the back eddies off to the side.  We pulled into the slipstream of the rapids at full throttle and got almost to the nav marker on the shore that marks the narrowest point in the rapids.  Speed over ground dropped quickly to zero, and we peeled off and circled back to the side where we dropped the hook and enjoyed the sun for 3+ hours.

Our destination for the day was a scant mile or so past the rapids, so it was a bit frustrating to be stuck on one side, but it isn't as if we could have gone much further than Forward Harbour in any case, as there are no other plausible anchorages between there and Johnstone Strait.

Johnstone is a minor crux move for Ripple.  The typical weather pattern is winds from the north that are funneled by Queen Charlotte Strait into the venturi tube created by Vancouver Island and the mainland.  As with many marine weather patterns, winds are more likely to be light in the mornings and increase through the day as the sun injects energy into the morning calm, but Johnstone can be nasty early and often.

Coming straight up Johnstone through Seymour Narrows is far shorter, but far more exposed. Our route through the tidal gate channels above Desolation are longer and a bit complicated, but are popular because they reduce the total exposure on Johnstone to 12 miles (and obviate the risks associated with Seymour Narrow).  Tack on another 5 miles to that 12 to get from Forward Harbour to Johnstone, and you have a 17 mile sprint to get up the strait and duck into the protected waters of Havannah Channel.  It is not uncommon for 25 knot winds to be the best conditions in a Johnstone day, and I hate to think about working Ripple up 12 miles of that, especially in wind-over-tide conditions.

With all of this in mind, we soaked in the sun and quiet at Caterer Point near Whirlpool Rapids, biding our time to get to Forward Harbour.  FH is a well-protected anchorage, and we were quite snug there, alone in the anchorage with a large powerboat of 60 or 70 feet.

We were up before dawn, 0430 or so, and were departing Forward Harbour by 0500, eager to have a crack at Johnstone as early as possible.  The strategy was successful and we turned the corner at Broken Islands at 1000, glad to have put the beast behind us.  Once inside, the going was easy, and interesting.  There is a midden beach along the route (white 'sand' beaches in the Inside Passage are almost always accretions of broken shells from First Nation villages, ghostly reminders that others lived productively in these waters for millennia). A long, range-marked waterway (Chatham Channel) requires close attention in a narrow channel that can be heavily travelled, and by ferries of significant size.  Our own escort along this stretch was a Sea Lion porpoising through the channel near us.
Range markers for Chatham Channel.
There is a set at each end; when they are aligned, you are in the channel
We reached Lagoon Cove by 1300, a welcoming and pleasant marina -- my favorite from my previous trip to the Broughtons with Terry.  We did not want to stop so early, though, so we refueled and pushed on.  We hoped to get as far towards the northwest sector of the Broughtons as we could, trying to be strategic about staging our rounding of Cape Caution.  The day turned into one of the longest of the trip.  We finally selected Waddington Cove as our home for the night, and by the time we dropped anchor in this quiet, well-protected anchorage we had been moving for 13 hours plus, more than 60 nM.

Unhappily, in our concentration on setting the anchor, fatigued as we were (and still a bit green in the teamwork department), we backed over the dinghy tow line, fouling the prop.  The sun was fading behind an overcast sky, temperatures dropping, the water forbiddingly cold. We tried bumping the engine in forward, in reverse. Every action seemed without benefit, or worse.  We're in a remote cove, seemingly beyond radio or cell communication.  Disabled.

At some point we realized that food and a good night's sleep were better allies than random stabs at freeing the prop.  Still, there isn't much good to be said about crawling into one's berth on a disabled boat in a remote, if beautiful, cove.


  1. I know that feeling of going to bed with a disabled boat. It doesn't make for a restful night's sleep. We had our engine quit pulling into Neah Bay after a 12 hour day, and went to sleep exhausted, not even knowing what the issue was yet.


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