Cruising in the Broughton Archipelago
The Broughton Archipelago Cruising area is a beautiful maze of islands offering excellent boating, kayaking and wildlife viewing opportunities. This multitude of islands provides boaters sheltered waters and anchorages with a backdrop of the magnificent coastal mountains to the east and the waters of Queen Charlotte Strait to the west. The Broughton Archipelago was named in 1792 by George Vancouver in honour of William Robert Broughton, the captain of the expedition's second ship, HMS Chatham.
Now a BC Marine Park, the Broughton Archipelago is rich in native culture. These islands have been utilized by First Nation peoples for generations and there is ample evidence of their extensive use of the area. Boaters can easily "discover" white midden beaches, culturally modified trees, clam "terraces" and even a petroglyph while exploring the park. A visit to Alert Bay offers boaters a unique opportunity to experience the rich cultural heritage of native and non-native residents. In the late 19th century and early 20th century, this area saw some settlement by Europeans and there are still signs of their activities and presence, including overgrown homesteads.
The Broughton Archipelago is an important ecological area that acts as a nursery for millions of fish. It's also abundant in wildlife, including bears (use good bear sense), eagles, deer, otters, seals and sea lions, whales and seabird colonies, all feeding off its plentiful waters.
For those wishing to view Orcas in their natural habitat, the best opportunities within this park are along its western boundaries. Boaters and kayakers frequenting this area may also see Humpback or Minke whales. Smaller species like porpoises and dolphins may also be seen throughout the park, and there are several sea lion haul-outs within the Broughton Archipelago's boundaries.
Many of these species are easily disturbed by the close proximity of kayaks and other vessels. As a general rule of thumb, vessels should not approach closer than 100 metres to these wildlife species. With seals and sea lions on shore, vessel operators should ensure they do not force the animal into the water. Every time a sea lion or seal is forced into the water it loses body temperature and energy; repeated incidents can endanger the animals' health.
Boaters should be aware that there are no moorage buoys within the park, however, there are a number of good anchorages, depending on the weather. There are also numerous wonderful private marinas sprinkled throughout the Broughtons, with a wide range of services for cruisers, that are well worth the visit.
Cruising through the Broughtons requires experienced operators as strong winds and rough waters can pick up quite suddenly; boaters should always be aware of weather changes. It is imperative that skippers understand how to use current and tide tables in this area! Dense fog can also be very common in this region during the summer months. All boaters should be aware of tide changes, but with a bit of planning, cruising the Broughtons can be an extremely rewarding and exciting experience.