As we head over the top of Vancouver Island, we look forward to what is to come on the outside and back at what a great time we had exploring the amazing Broughton Archipelago. The people, though few and far between, were friendly and welcoming. The wilderness was raw and awe-inspiring. And the adventures have been exceptionally memorable. That said, we’d like to offer up some tips on provisioning and self-sufficiency for those who are yet to come through the islands over the course of the summer.
When it comes to provisioning stops in the Broughtons, your options are limited. Near or on Vancouver Island you have Telegraph Cove, Alert Bay, Port McNeill and farther down the road, Port Hardy, but once you get into the islands themselves and don’t want to go back south, as we did, you’re left with just two options: Echo Bay and Sullivan Bay. Other pit stops have come and gone over the years, but at the time of this writing, these were our only options. (If we’re missing something, please share in the comments). And though amenities here may be limited, the plethora of places to tuck in, drop your hook and enjoy the world around you is almost unparalleled. Enjoy!
This tiny cove on Gilford Island is home to Pierre’s Echo Bay Lodge & Marina, which has plenty of room for transient boaters (VHF 66A), showers, laundry, water, diesel, gas and propane, a small store, WiFi, famous Saturday night pig roasts and a helpful dock staff.
The bay itself has an interesting history — which can be read in Bill Proctor and Yvonne Maximchuk’s great book “Full Moon Flood Tide: Bill Proctor’s Raincoast” — and is home to Echo Bay Marine Park. The float adjacent to the marina is the best way to access the park or you can pull up onto the white shell beach. When we visited, the dock had signs saying that it was closed, but work had clearly been done on it and fellow boaters said that it was open but to proceed with caution. It seemed fine to us. And we were later told that it is for boats 26-feet and under to use.
We spent time hanging out on the beach in the sun, playing on the playground, exploring the old community hall and then walking the path through the park to Billy Proctor’s homestead and museum. Billy’s museum is the main reason that boaters go to the park and it is well worth a visit. He’s a local icon who has lived in the area his whole life and has worked as a fisherman, logger, and trapper, amongst other things. The museum is widely known for all the, as he calls it, “junk”, and it’s fun to chat with him and see all the artifacts that he has collected over the years.
As far as provisioning goes for boaters, the store is generally well stocked during the busy season of July and August but they don’t have liquor or beer. Also, you can leave aluminum cans, but they DO NOT take garbage.
A little farther afield, but just as lovely a place to visit, is Sullivan Bay on the north side of North Broughton Island. Sullivan Bay is a nice floating home community with friendly residents and staff. There is lots of space on the guest floats and the dock master (warfinger) can be reached on 66A.
Sullivan Bay has a fuel dock, store with beer and liquor, laundry, showers, WiFi, restaurant (open Mon. Wed. and Fri.) and nightly BYOB happy hours. You’re also encouraged to bring an appetizer to share. They will take burnables, wine and beer bottles, cans, and plastic water/pop/ juice bottles. They DO NOT take garbage.
Delicious pastries can be ordered at the store in the evening and collected the next morning at 0900. Water is available on the docks, but signs warn that it should be boiled before consumption. According to the locals who have been drinking it for many years, the water comes from a nearby lake and hasn’t been tested, but is fine to drink at your own risk.
Though we were here with only a couple boats, we had happy hour on the porch with a few other cruisers and enjoyed great conversation. A staple of happy hour at Sullivan Bay is to head out to the seaplane dock to hit golf balls at a float that is anchored about 150 yards off the dock. Everyone gets to hit two balls and the closest to the pin gets a free apple turnover from the store the following morning. Hit the pin and you get free moorage, which is easier said than done. I came just inches from hitting it and enjoyed the apple turnover as a consolation prize.
Unlike Echo Bay there is no park near Sullivan Bay, but the cruising in the area is beautiful and varied. Greenway Sound and Kingcome Inlet are to the east, Drury Inlet is to the west and MacKenzie Sound is to the north.
Planning Notes: Because the Broughtons and points farther north along the Inside Passage are wilder than their southern counterparts, there aren’t as many cruisers visiting the area per year, which was especially true in mid to late June. This means that you need to be more prepared and self-sufficient. Here are a few notes on doing just that.
Garbage: Plan to pack in and out all your garbage, except for bottles and cans. You can dispose of garbage in Alert Bay, Port McNeill and Port Hardy.
Power: If you need to have shore power to charge batteries or electronics, be ready to pay. Power isn’t cheap and can run as much as $25 to $50 dollars per night. We have solar panels and a wind generator that are more than adequate for our power needs, so if you are thinking of making that upgrade before heading north, we’d highly suggest it.
Water: Water in the area is either from a well or a lake and is generally not tested by the Canadian Government. That said, the locals have been drinking it for many years without a problem. If you’re comfortable with that, go ahead, if not, carry extra jerry jugs of water or consider a watermaker.
Food: It’s a good idea to stock up on non-perishable foods well in advance and to buy as much perishable food as you think will last just before getting here. While the stores in the Broughtons are adequate during the busy months of July and August, they can be less reliable in the early or offseason and you may be at the mercy of when food is arriving by boat or plane. It’s all part of the fun!
Fuel and Propane: Getting reasonably priced fuel and propane is not difficult. When we topped up on fuel and propane in Echo Bay, the diesel was a cent cheaper than the fuel prices in Port McNeill.
Cruising Guides: Every boater has a preference on what cruising guide works best for them. What you need to keep in mind for the Broughtons is that information about marina amenities seems to change frequently, so don’t put too much faith in any one resource.
Cell and WiFi service: A perk of cruising this area for many people is getting away from the noise of cell and WiFi service and we really enjoy that too. But being that I work from the boat, I have to be plugged in for a certain percentage of my week. Marinas tend to have good WiFi and coverage from Telus, Rogers and Bell is decent the closer you are to Queen Charlotte Strait. If you’re relying on cell data, it’s a good idea to check your provider’s coverage maps when planning your anchorages and routes.
Bring Music! We’re big fans of having music aboard and due to the lack of available radio stations and WiFi or cell service to stream music, we relied heavily on tunes that we’d already downloaded. This was fine for a while, but after two plus weeks, we were getting tired of the same old stuff and wished we’d downloaded something new to break the monotony.