29 Aug

Life in the Wild

We are now in week four of our trip to the Broughtons and will have to start heading homeward sometime in the next week or two. It’s been grand, and the people, the countryside and the whole ethos of the place are simply stellar.

But that’s not to say it’s any more a Garden of Eden than the next destination. There are always some snakes in the grass.

Major Concerns

Most of these issues can be dealt with by a quick trip across Queen Charlotte Strait to Port McNeill, but a sailboat like ours isn’t fast and the Strait is one of those bodies of water that isn’t always cooperative. So we left that trip until after our third week here.


The biggest issue for us, in that this year the opportunities to get rid of garbage and recycling are extremely limited. Most marinas will take burnables, but if you didn’t pre-sort that’s a bit of an icky challenge; and, frankly, most burnables are recyclables these days and we’d like to try to pack most of that out. And even the burning has been iffy with the dry summer this area has been having this year.

A few places wouldn’t even take pop or beer cans. It’s just too trouble much for them to haul them, and the Boy Scouts are no longer picking up.

Although it’s frowned on, we did get rid of a few organics like chicken bones overboard, but that still leaves enough that after four weeks I am running out of space in the aft locker.

Storage is always at a premium onboard.

Water is also a bit of an issue. We started the trip with a full tank of potable water, but eventually it ran low. Last year in June the spring water at Sullivan Bay was great, but apparently the dry spell meant it ran dry in early June and they have been on filtered lake water ever since. Port Harvey was limiting water altogether. Shawl Bay’s water was clear but still posted with a boil water notice

Most of the places we’ve visited have a filtration system and a mix of people who will and will not drink it. Most places also have to use ground water that is colored by cedar bark tannins and is an odd and, to some, unpleasant tinge. So once you’ve filled your tank, you are going to want empty it before adding anything potable.

There are boil water warnings at all the marinas. Talk on the dock is that they have to post the warnings even if the water is good because provincial rules demand frequent samples and testing (which must be done in Vancouver) and it’s virtually impossible for these small, isolated marinas to comply. At least that’s the talk.

Fresh Food
Expensive and rare. And you need to time it right so you hit a marina right after they’ve made a run for the best choices. Oh, and only a few marinas like Pierre’s Port Harvey and Sullivan Bay have a store. The rest stock pop or candy bars if you are lucky; otherwise you are on your own.

Fresh food means it’s time to get cooking again.

Sullivan Bay and Port Harvey boast restaurants. Pierre’s has scheduled potluck pig roasts and prime rib nights. Other marinas will also occasionally throw potlucks like the deep-fried turkey night we encountered at Shawl Bay. So there is always food to be found.

Bread and Wine
A corollary to the above point about fresh food is the availability of some luxury items. Bread is at a premium, with availability very sketchy. Port Harvey bakes pretty much every day so if you pre-order you can get some there, and Shawl Bay had fresh bread, buns and pies for sale in the morning. But liquor was available only at Sullivan Bay, and the $32 price tag for the two six-packs of beer made me choke a bit.

We found English muffins and raisin bread to be our favorite baked goods since we always toast them and they last longer than even the famous Wonder Bread. As for booze, well, we just had to start rationing.


Fuel is available at Pierre’s and Sullivan Bay, which are inconveniently close to each other and Lagoon Cove which is a bit south. Given the lack of wind, we have done too much motoring for our druthers, but that’s summer in the PNW. Luckily both Pierre’s and Sullivan Bay occupy bays that are sort of crossroads in the NE part of the Broughtons so we passed them a few times during the trip.

Lagoon Cove

Gasoline for the outboards was actually a bigger concern. A lot of exploring and a dearth of places to store jerry cans has meant we had to keep close track of our fuel levels.


The other thing to be aware of is the high cost of things that come cheaper in the south. Overall moorage is cheaper, ranging from $0.95 to $1.25 per foot. But the extras are all much higher. Some 30-amp power can be as high as $20 a night and showers can be upwards of $7.25 each. Washing and drying were frequently over $5 or $6 each, making a load of laundry cost over $11.


Because all the water is scarce and the power generated, these costs are not unreasonable, but we have taken to showering aboard and doing without shore power if we have just been on motor or when we know we will be motoring the next day. These decisions have helped when we’ve been at marinas several days in a row.


But there are lots of perks. The people are terrific, always bending over backwards to help. Freshly made cinnamon buns & danishes can be found at most of the marinas, and Shawl Bay even offers free pancakes every morning. Happy Hours are a tradition on the all the docks with everyone bringing appies, and potlucks, as I mentioned, pop up here and there.

And the anchorages are sublime. There literally dozens if not hundreds of small private coves that offer stunning vistas and peaceful sunsets. The anchorages are the number one reason to visit, and when you get tired being by yourself the hospitality of the marinas is a welcome relief.

Just remember, none of this should deter anyone from considering the Broughtons a premier destination; it’s quickly becoming one of my favourites.

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