Log #61c Port McNeill to Hecate Strait

July 16, 2016 in Log Series 60-69, Logs by Series, Series 61, The Logs

Log #61c Port McNeill to Hecate Strait

Haida Gwaii, B.C.

July 8, 2016

Hi Folks,

We have spent two weeks on Haida Gwaii, and hopefully will be leaving tomorrow for Shearwater where I hope to send this log. I refer to Shearwater as I mentioned it in the log as we resupplied there before going further north. My next log will be about Haida Gwaii.

This log gets us from Port McNeill to Hecate Strait where we crossed in an overnight passage over to Haida Gwaii. I have pasted many pictures in the log of scenery and locations we visited en route. Please let me know if you are able to see them OK, as I am still having problems with Windows 10.

I am pasting below the maplet of the passage from Port McNeill. Let me know if it does not show up in your computer.

Port McNeill to Hecate Strait

All the best,



Log #61c Map 3


Log #61c
Kostan Inlet, Haida Gwaii, B.C.
July 2, 2016

We departed Port McNeill at 1130 June 15 heading north to round the infamous Cape Caution. Again we motored most of the way, with a half hour motor sailing with the genoa out. We have not hoisted the mainsail yet this year. As we were heading NW towards the mainland, we saw a pod of humpback whales frolicking 100 metres off our starboard bow. They put on a display for several minutes, including a couple of full broaches, slamming their bodies out of the water with momentous splashes as they landed back in the sea on their sides.

We anchored for the night at East Cove (50 58.519N, 127 27.296W), just east of Wescott Point to find it a most suitable anchorage for our departure next day to round Cape Caution. It is a sheltered cove which we had all to ourselves. It is closer to Cape Caution than is Blunden Harbour, which is a favourite anchorage for boats heading north around Cape Caution.

We departed East Cove at 0705 next day and rounded Cape Caution by 1020, with no problems, other than having to motor through a bit of fog and drizzle. The seas were calm. This was the third time we have rounded Cape Caution, and have had no problems doing so, in spite of all the cautions of adverse weather the pilot books have given.

After a 40 mile passage we anchored for the night in the popular Fury Cove (51 29.194N, 127 45.602W) with 16 other boats in the large sheltered anchorage. On weighing anchor next day, our deck wash pump was not working, and I had to assist with a bucket on a line to sluice the mud off the anchor chain as it was hauled in. On our way up Fitzhugh Sound we saw another pod of humpback whales cavorting just south of Allenbroke Island, before anchoring in Pruth Bay on Calvert Island after a 21 mile passage (51 39.267N, 128 07.659W).
We are making good time to head north, not spending more than one night in any one anchorage. Wending our way through another archipelago starting off in dense fog, we saw another whale, and in one of the channels saw a young deer swimming through the water. We passed the deserted fish plant/settlement of Namu to starboard.   We stopped by there last year to find it fully deserted as it still seems to be. After a 40 mile passage we arrived to anchor off Shearwater (52 08.991N, 128 05.130W), a WW II seaplane base and now a good resupply stop and resort near the First Nations settlement of New Bella Bella.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAHeading out early at 0700 next day we did a long 64 mile motoring passage to anchor in Swanson Bay by 1823. Leaving Shearwater, we went out and up Princess Royal Channel which separates the large Princess Royal Island from the mainland. We did that section of the indented mainland last year, enjoying the area known as Fiordland, appropriately named for the long fjords that stretch for miles into the mountains. As we entered the Tolmie Channel we passed the Boat Bluff light station at the base of Sarah Island.

This is an important light station as the narrow channel is a main route for ferries and cruise ships going up the Inside Passage to Alaska.
  Vancouver to Prince Rupert ferry

Seattle to Alaska ferry

This series of relatively narrow channels, including Tolmie Channel, Graham Reach and Fraser Reach has some spectacular scenery and waterfalls making this area one of the highlights of the Inside Passage.








We stopped at Swanson Bay on Graham Reach, as we did not think we could make the next good anchorage before sunset. Swanson is a shallow indented bay on the mainland side of Princess Royal Channel with marginal holding along a narrow band of shallow water in which the anchor could be dropped. We circled the bay a couple of times to find a suitable anchoring spot not too close to the shore. During the evening another power boat came in and anchored off the shore opposite us. When we came to leave at 0630 next morning we saw the other boat had dragged its anchor and had drifted out into the main channel. We were going to head over to it to warn them, but saw that someone was at the bow hauling the anchor and getting under way.

The problem with the bays along this stretch is the shorelines are steep to, with no suitable shallows in which to anchor. We knew the former fish cannery at Butedale was closed and its bay not suitable for anchoring. We did not know if it was still abandoned. It wasn’t. As we approached Butedale we saw another power boat heading out from the bay. We called on VHF to find out there is a floating dock that will accommodate boats for $0.50 cents a foot. The deserted cannery and its outbuildings could be explored. Had we known that the night before we would have headed there instead of the poor anchorage at Swansons Bay. We toyed with the idea of going alongside for a few hours as I enjoy exploring deserted ruins, and considering what life would have been like when they were active.

However we wanted to make time to get up to Hartley Bay to refuel, and so continued on after taking a few pictures of the cannery as we passed it.

At Hartley Bay we were able to refuel and went alongside their town docks for the night. Small world department: we noticed another American registered sailboat, Denize II, flying an American flag on their starboard spreader and a Turkish and a New Zealand flag on their port spreader.

Flag Etiquette

The convention is to fly the vessel’s national flag at the stern (in the case of Denize II the U.S. stars and stripes) and the flag of country visited (the Canadian Maple Leaf) on the starboard spreader. The port spreader may be used for unofficial flags such as yacht clubs, sailing organizations such as the Canadian Power and Sail Squadrons, or the nationalities, states, or provinces of crew aboard. Some boaters fly what I consider silly flags such as the wine glass indicating a good drinking crew, or worse yet in my eyes, the skull and crossbones pirate flag. I guess I am just fussy about flag etiquette.

Anyhow, the Turkish and Kiwi flags properly flying on the port spreader of Denize II drew my attention, and we met the crew, Peter from New Zealand and Banu from Turkey. We had them aboard for drinks and in conversation found that Banu knew Hasan, the former manager at Kemer Marina in Turkey where we spent three winters and from which we went on the East Med Yacht Rally which at that time (2002) went from Turkey to Cyprus, Syria, Lebanon, Israel and Egypt. We worked closely with Hasan on that rally. Banu is in regular contact with Hasan, and we asked her to extend our regards to him next time she was in contact.

Hartley Bay is a First Nations community that we visited last year. An interesting aspect of this community is that all the homes are linked by board walks, no roads. ATVs are used to get around.

                                                                               Hartley Bay board walks
We left in drizzle and rain next day but were favoured with a whale sighting late morning. We actually were able to sail with just the genoa out for a half hour, only the second time we have sailed with the engine off this season. After a 31 mile passage around the southern tip of Pitt Island we anchored in the delightful inner basin of Moncton Inlet on the southwest coast of Pitt Island. The basin was landlocked with towering mountains on all sides, an enjoyable, quiet, cloistered Valhalla, and no other boats around.

We were working our way up the outer islands getting ready for our 75 mile passage across Hecate Strait to Haida Gwaii. At 0850 next day June 22, we set off and motored 34 miles up to anchor by 1415 (2:15 pm) in Keswar Inlet (53 38.412N, 130 20.518W) on McCauley Island from which we were to depart. The distance from Port McNeill on Vancouver Island to the entrance to Hecate Strait was 302 nautical miles, and took us eight days. This was also to be our furthest north this year. We had to calculate how long the 75 mile passage would take, and what time we should leave in order to arrive in daylight hours. Calculations include an average speed of five knots which would take 15 hours to reach our destination across the strait. As the weather was quiet we decided to leave that same afternoon at 1630 (4:30 pm) in daylight, anticipating to arrive in Haida Gwaii by about 0730 next day. For the first time this year we unfurled our main sail, and motored out of the inlet into the open waters of the strait.
  From Port McNeill to Hecate Strait