Cruising The Broughtons

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. Cruising The Broughton’s is an extraordinary experience. They are far enough north to be challenging, yet close enough to be accessible from Comox.

Once you leave the broad open spaces of the Salish Sea and enter the channels of the Inside Passage, you’ll be struck by the intimate closeness of the mountains, steep-walled fjords and the colder wetter climate.

On this cruise, you’ll find fewer services, more rocks, reefs and tidal rapids. It’s a world of fewer cruisers and more Orca and Humpback whales, porpoises, Pacific White Sided Dolphins and bears. You’ll fall in love with the beauty of this truly pristine wilderness.

Cruising the Broughton Archipelago means negotiating a series of tidal rapids through the Central Vancouver Island area. The kind of vessel you charter, sail or power and negotiating slack waters at the rapids will determine how much time you need to get to the cruising area.

With a full displacement power yacht or larger sailing yacht plan on 3 to 4 days travel each way. This will give you ample time to stop and explore and allow for easy cruising days. You can do the trip faster if you take the direct route and cruise at a faster speed. This would allow for more time to experience the Archipelago.

TIDES AND CURRENTS

The tides flowing around the ends of Vancouver Island, meet in the middle, which is the Desolation Sound area. It is important to note that just north of Mittlenatch Island, the ebb and flood change direction.

In Comox, the EBB tide flows south and the FLOOD tide flows north. North of Mittlenatch Island, the EBB tide flows north and the FLOOD tide flows south.

When planning your passage remember that the optimum time to arrive at the 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 (flooding south but becoming minimal), then catch the EBB going north. Then you can carry on for a number of hours on the north ebb tide.

FOG

Fog is common during the summer months on north Vancouver Island. The relatively warm moist westerly wind blowing over the cool water created fog that forms in Queen Charlotte Strait and funnels eastward into the sounds, channels, passages and inlets.

On most days the fog clears by midday. If fog is forecast, it would be best to seek refuge before it begins to threaten visibility, particularly in busy Johnstone Strait. Do not attempt to travel with poor visibility throughout this area.

PASSAGE PLANNING-OPTIONS FOR NEGOTIATING TIDAL RAPIDS & CURRENTS

There are essentially three ways to travel north or south through the mid Vancouver Island area.

OPTION #1 GILLARD PASSAGE, DENT/YUCULTA RAPIDS east route (1st choice)

Cruise to Squirrel Cove your first day and plan to catch the next slack tide turning two Ebb (north) at Gillard Passage. When travelling through Gillard Passage and the Yuculta/Dent Rapids respect the currents.

Timing is extremely important even for a fast boat. Due to the strength of the currents in these areas, you should not attempt to navigate any of these passages at any time other than at slack or near slack water.

Strong tidal streams with overfalls and sometimes intense eddies, whirlpools, will develop in the period between 2 hours after the turn to flood and 1 hour before turn to Ebb. Once through this double set of rapids you can carry on to Greene Point Rapids or stop at Shoal Bay or Blind Channel Resort and negotiate Greene Point and Whirlpool Rapids on the following day.

OPTION #2 SURGE NARROWS (BEASLEY PASSAGE), OKISOLLO CHANNEL middle route (2nd choice)

On your first day travel from Comox to Rebecca Spit anchorage or tie up at Heriot Bay, Quadra Island.

Be ready to catch the slack tide turning to Ebb (north) at Beasley Passage (aka Surge Narrows). Then you can negotiate the Okisollo Channel through to Johnstone Strait.

OPTION #3 SEYMOUR NARROWS/JOHNSTONE STRAIT west route (not recommended)

If the tide works out to be a middle afternoon slack, turning to ebb at Seymour Narrows, depart Comox early on your first morning and head to Campbell River. Get through Seymour Narrows and stop at Brown’s Bay Marina. Once there, you must read the sailing directions before going through the narrows. We recommend being there 1 hour ahead of time to catch the ebb going through.