After rounding Cape Caution and enduring a mix of challenging conditions, we’ve found our reward in the peaceful tranquility and easy sailing of the Central BC Coast, from Fitz Hugh Sound to the tiny towns of Bella Bella and Shearwater.
The Central Coast usually refers roughly to the BC coast between Cape Caution and McInnes Island lighthouse. It’s quite a large area, with hundreds of good anchorages. Many boats only stop at the 3 or 4 most popular ones though. A couple of those popular ones are justifiably spectacular (Pruth Bay), but it’s also easy to get off the beaten track and find amazing anchorages that no other boats visit regularly.
It’s a remote, magical place that is hard to describe if you haven’t been here. I struggle to find anything to compare it to – it’s not quite like Barkley Sound, Clayoquot Sound, Desolation Sound, or any number of other great BC destinations.
[This post covers May 15-19, 2018]
The Central Coast is probably also the most navigationally challenging place we’ve sailed. Entry to the numerous sounds is often littered with rocks and reefs. We’ve sailed through rock gardens not much differently from being in a sailboat race – except the rocks are always the stand-on vessel and we must always give-way.
After leaving Millbrook Cove in Smith Sound, and motoring past a minefield of rocks and reefs, we were able to sail all the way to Fury Cove, mostly downwind. A northwest wind in Hecate Strait bends around Calvert Island and becomes a southwest wind for the initial part of Fitz Hugh Sound.
Fury Cove is one of the very popular anchorages, but we had only one other boat there. It’s popular because of the shell midden beaches and fantastic views. We had happy hour on the beach, paddleboarded, did beach yoga, and played with a hyper chocolate lab that some other boaters came over with in a skiff.
Pruth Bay, Calvert Island
After Fury Cove we went to Pruth Bay – see our previous post for that. I got so many good photographs there that it was deserving of its own post.
Spider Group, Triquet Island
The Spider anchorage group, northwest of Hakai passage is prime gunkholing grounds. It’s filled with small islands, islets, rocks, tidal lagoons, and a few sandy beaches. This is the kind of place you come to when you just want to relax and soak in the beauty of nature.
It’s a bit tricky getting in as it’s surrounded by rocks – some visible by waves breaking on them, and some submerged. There was also a lot of floating logs (debris) and kelp to watch out for.
We rowed to a lagoon, paddleboarded, and checked out the small sand beach.
Cultus Sound, Kayak Cove
The next day we headed to another outside anchorage that no boats are exploring this time of year. We expected to have to motor the ~10 miles, but after waiting till 12:30 and navigating out a rock minefield, we found 7-8 knots from the southwest was enough to sail in the 2-3 foot swell. We had to stay at 120-130 degrees though, so it ended up being about a 16 nm sail.
Kayak Cove is named as such because it’s popular with kayakers in the summer. It has a really nice sandy beach. The only negative as an anchorage is it can get a little rolly from swell reflecting in from the Sound.
The next morning I went paddleboarding at low tide and saw one of the best sea life arrays yet – two dozen spiny sea cucumbers, countless purple and orange sea stars, anemones and sea urchins.
Observations on Central Coast Cruising in May
As we noted in Johnstone Strait when we saw 6 motor-yachts northbound, we jokingly termed those the “Broughtons Brigade”. They were the most cruising boats we’d seen since departing Shilshole on March 28, and we assumed they were heading to the Broughtons since from past experience we knew the Broughtons has a lot of powerboats in July.
But we were wrong – all the boats this early are heading to Alaska. The Broughtons were empty (of cruising boats) when we were there. So perhaps we should’ve called it the “Alaska Armada”.
On the Central Coast in May we’ve noticed cruising boats here don’t cruise like boats normally do in other areas, exploring different anchorages and taking varied routes. Pretty much all the boats are making a beeline to Alaska, traveling on a schedule, most on the same route, and visiting only 3 or 4 of the most popular and convenient anchorages / ports in each area.
This leaves dozens of anchorages and outside waterways that are basically unexplored, at least this time of year. Some of the Alaska bound boats have crew to pick up or drop off at certain spots, or they stick to a schedule because they know Alaska is a lot of distance to cover, and it will be nice there in June and July. So it’s totally understandable. But it’s something we didn’t expect about the Central Coast – that so many boats would be following a prescribed route.
Another interesting thing is that the traffic tends to clump – meaning the popular anchorages may have 5-10 boats one night and then everyone clears out the next morning at 7 to 9am and you could have the busy anchorage to yourself for the next two nights if you want. Partly this happens due to chance (there aren’t many boats overall up here in May) and partly because some boats are traveling in pairs or flotillas.
Finally, we’ve observed that 95% of the Alaska bound boats are motoring there, even the sailboats. They move on a predictable schedule – early in the morning, when there’s no wind and maybe fog, and travel in the most protected, lowest wind channels. This leaves a ton of empty territory open to a sailing boat if you want to sail. Every day has had enough wind to sail, and the outside routes where there’s better wind have no boats on them.
We wrote this post in Shearwater, but then didn’t have any cellular connection for 1 1/2 weeks. We’re now in Queen Charlotte City, Haida Gwaii, after making the 70-80 nautical mile jump across Hecate Strait.