Important News:

  • A suspicious, early morning fire has damaged Cafe Olga and the Orcas Artworks in Olga on Orcas Island (San Juan Islands). The Cafe and gallery will most likely be closed for repairs for the rest of the season.
  • A new coffee shop on the dock at the Port McNeill Fuel Dock & Marina named Exhalatte has coffee, sodas, baked goods, and sandwiches.
  • The small dinghy dock in Sointula, next to the ferry dock, is no longer in service. This is unfortunate, because you can no longer take your dinghy from the harbor to the town for provisions.
  • On July 23, there was a small fire near the main collection at the U’Mista Cultural Centre in Alert Bay. None of the masks were damaged or burned, and parts of the Centre were promptly reopened with minimal smoke damage. All facilities should be open by now.
  • August 3-4 is the first annual Sullivan Bay Salmon Derby.
  • August 3 – Rock the Dock dance in Snug Cove. Put your dancing shoes on.

We left off in Port McNeill on July 15 after a very smooth crossing of Queen Charlotte Sound around Cape Caution. It was then time to head back into the Broughton Islands.

July 16 – Port McNeill and Port Hardy

One of the amenities at the Port McNeill Fuel Dock & Marina is their courtesy car. For me, it provided an opportunity to go visit Port Hardy at 100 km/hour.

There is a breathe of new life in Port Hardy. The City Dock will soon look a bit more interesting as the formerly boarded up Seagate Hotel is going through a renovation with new owners. It may be open this fall and will certainly be open next season. The former grocery store, closed for several years, just up from the dock will be a living arts center. According to the new owners, arts and crafts will be sold along with participatory arts experiences. This redevelopment will be interesting to watch as it evolves. In the meantime, Cafe Guido, around the corner, is still selling some of the best baked goods in town. Try the fresh baked scones. Typically 5-6 varieties are baked daily, including one savory selection. The scones are moist and fresh. The coffee house is co-located with a craft gallery and the Book Nook bookstore. This is not the type of place you expect in Port Hardy. Worth a stop.

Port Hardy

We got a chance to join happy hour on the dock at the Port McNeill Fuel Dock & Marina with the Jackman family and other guests. It was wonderfully warm and shorts were the uniform of the day.

Port McNeill

Evening light in Port McNeill.

Later we dined at the Northern Lights restaurant in Port McNeill. The food is very good and the service friendly. Recommended. Reminder- The Sportsman’s Bar is still closed for repairs after an early season fire.

July 17-18 Port McNeill to Souintula and Nimmo Bay Resort

Steve Jackman and Jessica High are always innovating and adding a new surprise for visiting guests. How about a coffee shop on the dock? At 6:30 am this morning, a couple of us were first in line for the first latte at “Exhalatte Coffee,” managed by Jess. Coffee, tea, bakery, pre-prepared sandwiches, all there right on the dock. I think they will do well thanks to the convenience. Headed out for early morning fishing? Pick up your fuel, hot coffee for the morning, and sandwiches for lunch. Steve is pretty amazing. In between keeping customers happy by changing out batteries on a customer’s boat, he built a coffee stand and was in business in a couple of days! Ironically, Howard Behar, the well-known former President of Starbucks International, was staying on his boat in the marina and walked by and offered a few pointers. I believe Steve asked him if this might be competition for Starbucks. I think Howard honestly said, “I don’t think so”.

If you get a chance, read Howard’s best selling book, “It Is Not About the Coffee”.

Port McNeill

Port McNeill’s new coffee and snack shack.

Soon it was time to get back to work and head out for Sointula to meet Lorraine Williams, the Harbour Manager at the Malcolm Island Lions Harbour Authority. Sointula is a unique place with Finnish roots. It was formed as utopian village and has a very layed-back feel to it. The harbor is a mix of fishing boats and recreational boats. Visitors are welcomed. The town is about a mile away and comfortable cruiser bikes are sometimes available at the marina office. The marina is now also promoting its low winter rates, making it an excellent place to keep a boat in the offseason. A local boat watch service is available.


The Hamburger Hut in Sointula.

The “town,” per se, is small and cozy, with the Co-op grocery store the focal point. There are a couple of new changes. The bistro and bakery is no longer open, but new management has opened Paddlin’ Dragon Grill. The food is said by many to be good. Best of all, they provide shuttle service to the boat harbor (250-973-9998).

A few days earlier, I exchanged email with Fraser Murray and Becky Eert, the couple managing Nimmo Bay Wilderness Resort. I was not planning on stopping in since they had extended their hospitality for dinner last year. This resulted in a write up in the Waggoner Guide and a subsequent article this spring in Northwest Yachting Magazine. I was enthralled with Nimmo Bay last year. The food and hospitality were incredible, the best on the coast. It is one of those places where dinner at $125 (wine and drinks included) is worth it. The article and Waggoner Guide were very successful, and a fair number of Waggoner Guide readers have since stopped in for dinner, massages, and sometimes even lodging.

Fraser and Becky once again extended an invitation, and an invite to Nimmo Bay is hard to pass up.

The weather this evening was calm and sunny for my crossing back into the Broughtons. Along the way a mysterious yacht passed by – Serena, 439 feet long with two helicopter decks and even its own submarine. It is ranked number 10 in the world and owned by Russian oligarch Yury Scheffler, the former owner to the rights for Stolichnaya Vodka. He was cruising with his family and many Inside Passage cruisers had a chance to see this magnificent yacht.

I can’t say enough about Nimmo Bay. For the first of two nights I dined with the crew, a family setting with a tight knit group focused on providing superior service to their guests. The second day a spirited group, buddy-boating from the Tacoma Yacht Club, arrived. We decided to offer a talk during the cocktail hour on “Cruising North of Cape Caution.” With drinks in hand the talk went very well. See our restaurant review for more information on the dinner. It was excellent.

I also had a chance to meet with Nimmo Bay founder, Craig Murray. Craig has hosted movie stars, presidents and prime ministers over the years. Most importantly, he built Nimmo Bay from scratch with his wife Debbie and their family, and now works closely with his son, Fraser, to manage the operation. Craig was curious to learn more about the boating market. We talked on board my simple boat Sea Raven for about an hour. He is a special man—a simple, yet direct—and striving for the best.

Nimmo Bay

Dinner at Nimmo Bay.

Nimmo Bay

Nimmo Bay dock gathering.

I understood what was special about Nimmo Bay last year and wrote about it in my articles, but the second stay really made an impression on me. The social setting, from the cocktails while seated in Adirondack chairs at the dock, to the dinner conversation around the exquisitely carved tables in the dining room, to the conversations around the fireplace on the dock after dinner, are all a key part of the Nimmo Bay experience. I’ve met fascinating people there. I was seated for dinner next to young and very successful lawyer from Moscow, educated in the US and England. After dinner another guest and I discussed the merits of a Boeing 737 BBJ (Boeing Business Jet). He had flown one for a number of years as Captain all over the world, I had not, but dreamed of piloting one. As the moon came up over Nimmo Bay it capped a wonderful evening with great food, drinks and new friends.

July 19 – Nimmo Bay, to Sullivan Bay and Echo Bay

Nimmo Bay is a hard place to leave, but I was now off to Sullivan Bay. Like many of the marina resorts, Sullivan Bay is evolving, constantly working to make a better experience for their marina guests. Their restaurant was busy and they have a new floating workout room. They are planning on adding a smoker by the Happy Hour area, in case you want to smoke your freshly caught salmon. August 3-4 is the first annual Sullivan Bay Salmon Derby. They still have their moorage special—pay for 2 nights, get the third night free—in place until the end of the season. Debbie and Chris continue to run a first class destination marina resort. It starts with the cheerful greeting on the VHF when you arrive that makes you feel special and welcomed.

Nimmo Bay

Sullivan Bay Marina.

Later that afternoon, I was off to Pierre’s Echo Bay Marina. It was a total contrast to my visit in June. Pierre’s was hopping with every dock full of boats. This year the boats seemed larger than years past. By 4pm the only space left was over on the Cliffside moorage (formerly Windsong Village). Cliffside, at this time, has plenty of linear dock space with water. There is no power yet and Pierre is making plans to add power at some point.

Echo Bay

Echo Bay is a busy place.

That afternoon, Nikki van Schyndel of Echo Bay EcoVentures, gave a talk on nature in the surrounding area. Her tours are excellent and are worth considering. Dinner that evening was on the dock in the pleasant weather with good friends Pierre and Tova, along with Mad Dog Mike and his wife.

Writing and boat chores took up Saturday morning for me. Starting at 4:30 am Pierre began preparing the pig for the roast. It is slow roasted and basted all day at about 200 degrees to hold in the flavors. I gave a presentation at 3:00 pm and about 45 people showed up to learn more about cruising north of Cape Caution. It was a good group with a lot of excellent questions. Talking to a group like this allows me to do a better job on the Waggoner Guide. There is a lot of fear about crossing Cape Caution, and it deserves respect. I passed on some of my good tips for where to get good weather information and determining the best time to cross. I also shared the ultimate tip. If part of the crew is still apprehensive, have them take the BC Ferry from Port Hardy on a Tuesday or a Saturday and get off in Shearwater, walking distance to the Shearwater Resort & Marina. It costs about $115. The central coast area is not to be missed, even if a crewmember is skittish. Water falls galore and even more beautiful than the Broughtons and Desolation Sound.

Pig Roast

Pierre and his pig!

Pierre’s Pig Roast is quite the treat. If you have attended in the past, before the new meeting building, was constructed, it’s worth another visit. Pierre built the building between 2012-2013 and it takes the place of the big white tent. Many boaters bring a dish to share, pot luck style, and the Pierre’s Echo Bay kitchen comes up with quite a few side dishes also. The pig comes off the BBQ with a special flourish and the results are worth it. Succulent, slow-cooked pork, with plenty of food for all. Again the highlight of the evening are the people you meet. In my case, I was able to meet many people I had communicated with by email and phone during the year, when they called for tips on how to make their Broughtons cruise extra special.

July 20 – Echo Bay to Lagoon Cove and Port Harvey

Time to move on and begin my trip south. I left Echo Bay at 11:00 am and decided not to stop at Kwatsi Bay. Don’t get me wrong, I love Kwatsi Bay, but I could tell by the VHF calls to Anca and Max that they were very busy with incoming boats and they were booked for the next two days. I had been to Kwatsi Bay and met with Max in June. Max was in the process of upgrading part of the dock. Kwatsi Bay was as beautiful as ever in June.

One of our readers recommended on anchorage site behind Kumlah Island, just south of Trafford Point, where there are two spots where the bottom rises from 175 feet to between 25 and 45 feet with plenty of room to swing in the bay. This could be a pretty nice anchorage in an area with few anchorages due to the depths.

Lagoon Cove was my next stop for fuel. The summer has gone well and Lagoon Cove is still a vital stop for fuel when traveling through the area. Jean Barber now has Lagoon Cove listed with a real estate firm. It could be a fun business opportunity for the right people. The fuel business makes it a year round business opportunity to support the logging business in the off-season.

Port Harvey was the last stop for the evening. The dock was pretty full and I was the next to last boat in. The Red Shoe Restaurant was completely booked for the night, though I was able to squeeze in for dessert of Lemon Cheesecake.

July 22 – Port Harvey down Johnstone Strait to Seymour Narrows and Campbell River

The alarm was set for an early 4:30 am departure. Yes, before sunrise, to get a head start before heading out into Johnstone Strait. Slack at Seymour Narrows was at 11:30 am. I wanted an early departure because I knew the currents on this day of very strong tidal exchanges could be erratic – and they were. I wanted to get as far as I could when the winds would be at their lightest.

After passing the Broken Islands, conditions in Johnstone Strait were a 1-2 foot chop. Fanny Island was reporting worse. After a few hours, I approached Fanny Island and, as is typical, there were very confused seas, which quickly grew to 4-6 feet, just the point where it is uncomfortable. I pushed on and once past Fanny Island, the seas broke to flat calm. My friends behind me were ready to bail out and take one of the channels north. I suggested on the VHF that they hang in there for one more mile. They did and were pleasantly surprised at how the seas flattened out. At Helmecken Island, we had a choice: go north through Current Passage or south through Race Passage – known for more turbulent waters. Sure enough there were whitecaps all through Race Passage. In Current Passage I hugged the shoreline of Helmecken Island and found the back eddies and flatter water. Soon my friend in his faster boat understood the strategy: the back eddies either provide a current in the direction you want to go or the seas are flat leading to a more comfortable ride. Ground speed for our boats varied from 5 knots to 14 knots throughout this area due to the strong currents.

Soon we made it down to Browns Bay an hour before slack. My friends fished and I went to visit Brent at the Browns Bay Marina. At 11:15 am I started off and hit Seymour Narrows at 11:30 am – right at slack. No problems. My friend and fellow instructor, Captain Linda Lewis, an expert in cruising to Southeast Alaska, passed across the narrows headed north and we chatted about conditions on the VHF.

Now it was down to Campbell River, where I would leave the boat for two weeks. I had a few commitments in Anacortes as well as customer visits on Vancouver Island. Logistically, a car was needed. I rented one from Budget in Campbell River for about $340 per week. Even with the ferry fair of $68 each way, this trip would allow me to bring gear and crew back up with me. For those with limited time away from their business I recommend they consider all of the travel options to get back and forth to the boat.

The next day, I ended up driving from Port Hardy and Port McNeill and then down to our Nanaimo office. This still left me time to catch the BC Ferry for the 3:15 pm crossing, and home to Anacortes by 7:00 pm. A long day with a lot of productive stops by combining the use of a rental car and the BC Ferry.

Next Waggoner eNews will cover my trip south from Campbell River to Lasqueti, and then down into the Gulf Islands.

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