Photo: Shawl Bay Marina at dusk.
"You can start with these and I'll get another batch going," said the marina worker, setting down a huge platter on a table. The aroma of pancakes wafted through the shelter as wisps of steam arose from the golden stack in the morning air. The small crowd of boaters who had been milling around while sipping coffee, immediately gathered around to fork pancakes onto their plates.
As I poured thick syrup over my pancakes, I marveled at the scene. It couldn't get much different from an Alaska marina. Alaska marinas are commercial; designed, built and operated for fishermen. They often lack restrooms and showers and never have shelters or happy-hour tents. Not that boaters in Alaska are deprived. Marinas there are all in towns and a short walk inevitably leads to a commercial laundramat with showers -- and of course a fishermen's bar.
Broughton Island marinas, on the other hand, are resorts; designed, built and operated for pleasure boats and located in wilderness settings. Most have restrooms, showers, laundry facilities and some version of a happy-hour tent or shelter, where marina patrons gather every afternoon for potluck appetizers and drinks. Marinas compete with each other by hosting special events: pig roasts, chowder nights, deep-fried turkey nights, and in the case of Shawl Bay, pancake breakfasts every morning. Many boats cruising the Broughton Islands make a regular circuit of the marinas, traveling only a few short miles from one marina to another and enjoying a different event almost every day. Others, like several of Shawl Bay's customers, spend whole weeks at one marina before moving on. It's a lifestyle that's the antithesis of the "get places and see things" mentality of Alaska, and one that could quickly break a cruising budget. Because they have only a few short months to make their year's profit, marinas in the Broughtons must charge more than do Alaska marinas which operate all year. Shawl Bay at $0.65/ft is one of the Broughton's more reasonably priced marinas. Charges of $1.00/ft are not uncommon elsewhere in the Broughtons compared to $0.49/ft at Juneau, SE Alaska's most expensive moorage.
When we go through the Broughtons, we generally pick one or two marinas and stay just one night at each. That way our budget isn't stretched. The rest of our time there (two or three days) we spend at anchor.
For the last two years on our way home, one of our stops has been the Shawl Bay Marina.
. We like its unpretentious atmosphere, quaint floating shops and houses and comfortably worn (but not worn down) docks. The Shawl Bay Marina also has Carol, who calls herself The Bead Lady, and her shop. Carol sells bead necklaces, earrings, purses and hummingbirds plus carvings, scarves and -- my books! (see last year's blog
for more pictures and information about Shawl Bay and Carol's beadwork).
The boating cultures of Alaska and the Broughton Islands couldn't be more different. But that's one of the advantages of cruising to Alaska from Seattle. You get to experience not only Alaska, but all the places in between.