Desolation Sound Yacht Charters

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Broughton Archipelago Itinerary

More pictures of the Broughton Archipelago

The Broughtons are far enough north to be challenging, yet close enough to be accessible, particularly when you start out from Comox. Leaving the broad, open spaces of Georgia Strait and entering into the channels of the Inside Passage, one is struck first by the sudden closeness of the mountains, steep walled fjords, and a colder wetter climate. North of Desolation Sound you will find fewer services, more rocks, reefs and tidal rapids BUT you will also find fewer boats, Orca and humpback whales, porpoises and dolphins, bears and Indian ruins within the beauty of this truly unspoilt wilderness.

Cruising to the Broughton Archipelago means negotiating a series of rapids through Central Vancouver Island. The kind of boat you charter, sail or power, and negotiating slack water in the rapids will determine how much time you need to get to the cruising area. Typically, on a full displacement power yacht or larger sailing yacht, you should plan on 1 1/2 to 2 days travel, each way. Faster power yachts would take 1 day each way and, of course, a small sailboat would take 2 to 2 1/2 days each way.


Tides and Currents

The tide flowing around the ends of Vancouver Island meets in the middle, which is the Desolation Sound area. This is what causes the warm waters of the Sound. But it is important to note that just north of Middlenatch Island, the ebb and flood change direction.

It is important to remember when planning your passage, that the optimum time to arrive at narrows (rapids) is just before the current turns in the direction you want to travel. For example, you would make passage northward and time your arrival at Seymour Narrows late on a flood tide (flooding south but becoming minimal), then catch the ebb going north and then you can carry onward for a number of hours on the north ebb tide.


Fog is common during the summer months on North Vancouver Island. The relatively warm moist westerly wind blowing over the cool water creates fog which forms in Queen Charlotte Strait and is then funneled eastward into the sounds, channels, passages and inlets. On most days the fog will burn off and clear by noon. If fog is forecast, best to seek refuge before it begins to envelope your boat and threaten visibility (particularly in busy Johnstone Strait). Do not attempt to travel with poor visibility through this area.

Passage Planning - Options for Negotiating Rapids

There are essentially three ways to travel north (or south) through mid Vancouver Island. Seymour Narrows in Johnstone Strait (west), Surge Narrows and Okisollo Channel (middle) and Yuculta Rapids, Dent Rapids, Greene Point Rapids, and Whirlpool Rapids (east).

Option # 1 Seymour Narrows West Route

If the tide works out to be a middle afternoon slack TURNING TO EBB (NORTH) at Seymour Narrows, you can depart Comox early on your first morning and head to Campbell River, get through Seymour Narrows and stop at Brown Bay Marina, or anchor at Gowland Harbour, on the other side of the Narrows. You must read the Sailing Directions before going through the Narrows but we recommend being there about an hour ahead of time to catch the ebb going through.

Option # 2 Surge Narrows & Okisollo Channel Middle Route

If slack tide does not work out so you can leave Comox your first morning and make it through the rapids by the afternoon slack, then another option is to go through the middle route. Travel from Comox to Rebecca Spit anchorage, or tie up at Herriot Bay, on Quadra Island your first day. Then be ready for an early rise to catch slack tide TURNING TO EBB (NORTH) at Surge Narrows. Then you can negotiate Okisollo Channel to Johnstone Strait.

Option # 3 Gillard Passage East Route

Sail to Squirrel Cove your first day. Then plan to catch the morning slack TURNING TO EBB (NORTH) at both Yuculta (prounced yew-cah-taw) and Dent Rapids. When travelling through Gillard Passage and the Yuculta and Dent Rapids, one must respect the currents. Timing is very important, even for a fast boat. Due to the strength of the currents in these areas, one should not attempt to navigate any of these passages at any time other than at or near slack water. Strong tidal streams with overfalls, and sometimes violent eddies and whirlpools, will develop in the period between 2 hours after the turn to flood and 1 hour before the turn to ebb. Once through this double set of rapids you can carry on to Greene Point Rapids, but if you can't make it, plan to stop over at Cordero Lodge or Blind Channel Resort or Shoal Bay Marina. The next day, plan to negotiate Greene Point Rapids and Whirlpool Rapids.

Sample Itinerary Circle Route - (Middle North / East South)

Based on Early Boarding and a 13 Day Charter and 7-8 knots cruising speed

Day 1

Arrive in Comox and Early Board your yacht. Systems, groceries, and last minute checks.

Day 2

Depart early for Quadra Island and anchor at Rebecca Spit.

Desolation Sound Yacht Charters

Port Neville

Day 3

Transit Surge Narrows at early morning slack and carry on through Okisollo Channel to Port Neville. Anchor in the bay or tie up at the public wharf. Explore the Port Neville Post Office, one of the first on the coast and now a museum.

Desolation Sound Yacht Charters

Havannah Channel and Franklin Range

Desolation Sound Yacht Charters

Lagoon Cove

Day 4

Plan to leave Port Neville on the morning ebb tide andgo to Lagoon Cove on East Cracroft Island. This is where you move out of Johnstone Strait into Havannah Channel, through the Blow Hole to Lagoon Cove Marina. Arrive at Lagoon Cove just in time for happy hour. The Marina provides fresh prawns and marina guests bring happy hour snacks. Make sure to bring your marshmallows for the fire. Lagoon Cove Marina has moorage, fuel, propane, power, washrooms, showers and the Internet. You can burn garbage here.

Day 5

Be ready to go early this morning to catch the ebb tide through Clio Channel and Beware Passage. Anchor in the bay at Mound Island in the Broughton Group. Passage is about 16 nautical miles so you should be there by early afternoon. After securing the anchor in the cove behind Mound Island (watch the rocks near the shore line) you can go exploring. From the anchorage you can see 14 depressions in the earth which were sites of Indian big houses. Inland, on the western end of the island, there is a forest trail that leads to an old growth forest that was once an Indian burial site. Remember, they used to bury their dead in boxes called mortuary boxes and put them up in the trees. This is why people are still finding many Indian artifacts throughout the Broughton Group.

Desolation Sound Yacht Charters
Desolation Sound Yacht Charters


Day 6

Leave Mound Island about 0900 hours and head 4 nautical miles to Village Island and Mamaliliculla. Anchor in the bay north of the village and go ashore to explore the ruins if the weather permits. At Mamaliliculla the last of the totems have fallen and are rotting away. The houses are collapsing and the hospital is empty and haunting. This is the site of the last great potlatch. Heavily overgrown, the berries attract lots of bears.

Then up anchor and continue on to Pierre's at Echo Bay Marina, about 12 nautical miles away. Happy hour is a 5pm every day at Pierre's 'when the shadow crosses the yardarm'. Bring a drink and hors d'oeuvres!

Desolation Sound Yacht Charters

Pierre's at Echo Bay
Moorage, fuel, grocery store,
water, washrooms, showers, Internet,
Billy Proctor's Museum and hiking trails.

Desolation Sound Yacht Charters

Echo Bay

Desolation Sound Yacht Charters

Matilpi Bay

Day 7

Sleep in, lounge around, get up early, do whatever you want today. It's a lay day. Find out what Pierre and Tove have planned for the nights you plan to be there. Make reservations in advance to avoid disappointment. Hopefully you can time it for the Pig Roast ($20 pp) on Saturday night. Bring a potluck dish and enjoy! But don't imbibe too much. Big day planned for tomorrow.

Day 8

Leave Echo Bay early this morning. Partially circumnavigate Gilford Island through Tribune Channel, on your way back down to Burial Cove or Matilpi, depending on the weather, on East Cracroft. Total distance today is about 42 nautical miles. On the way, stop at Lacy Falls, near Kwatsi Bay, for a photo opportunity. Kwatsi Bay is a stunning anchorage. The Marina has moorage, water, showers and the Internet. Lacy Falls, west of Watson Cove, washes down a smooth black rock wall into the sea.

Arrival time should be around 1700 hours. Burial Cove is pretty and, though open to most winds, is well protected from seas and has a good bottom in 4 fathoms. Matilpi is an abandoned Indian village site. There is a beautiful anchorage with a white shell beach backed by a dense forest. Anchor behind the northern of the two islands or between the islands. Protection is excellent.

Day 9

Leave Burial Cove or Matilpi on the early morning flood tide. Head to Forward Harbour about 29 nautical miles away. So go back out Havannah Channel into Johnstone Strait, into Sunderland Channel to Forward Harbour. Anchor in Douglas Bay, a pretty, sheltered anchorage, in Forward Harbour; eta is about 1500 hours.

Desolation Sound Yacht Charters

Forward Harbour

Day 10

Up early and ready to go for early slack at Whirlpool Rapids in Wellbore Channel. The entrance to the Rapids is narrow but unobstructed. Push through to the Greene Point Rapids for slack. Choices for overnight are Blind Channel or Cordero Lodge, both of which have excellent restaurants, or Shoal Bay, closest to Dent Rapids. Passage of 19 nautical miles to Shoal Bay. Shoal Bay has a public float with good anchorage off the starboard end. Moorage is available on the dock with no services and you may have to raft. Shoal Bay Lodge has a pub, free wireless, washrooms, showers and laundry. For exercise you can hike up to the gold mine (could be challenging) or maybe just have a beer at the pub.

Day 11

Desolation Sound Yacht Charters

Shoal Bay

Desolation Sound Yacht Charters

Shoal Bay at low tide

If you stay at Shoal Bay, get up early to catch the early morning slack water at Dent Rapids. Then move through Gillard Passage and the Yuculta Rapids. Squirrel Cove is our destination for tonight; a passage of 28 nautical miles.

Day 12

Because we planned an extra day to take care of weather or other delays, you may or may not have an extra day here. If you find yourself with the extra day, then you could travel 11 nautical miles to Laura Cove and anchor overnight. Have a swim, enjoy.... Or travel to Toba Wildernest and enjoy the views up Toba Inlet or... or... lots of choices.

Desolation Sound Yacht Charters

Sunset at Henry Bay

Day 13

Leave Desolation Sound and head to Henry Bay, on Denman Island. A bit of a boat clean up and BBQ for your last night onboard.

Day 14

Leave Henry Bay early and refuel at the Gas 'N Go fuel dock in Comox. Be around to your slip by 0800 hours, leaving time to unload and be clear of your boat by 0900 hours (9am). Now head for your next adventure!

More pictures of the Broughton Archipelago

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