Port McNeil to Pruth Bay
19 May 2017 | Vancouver
Port McNeil - North Island Marina 50' 35.51" N, 127' 05.43" W
Port Mcneil was a convenient and practical place to stop. The Port Hardy airport is only about 1/2 hour away and made it easy for Beth to fly home to visit her mom. While this harbour not particular cute, in the Ganges sort of way, Port McNeil has fuel, laundry, groceries, marine shops, several banks and a good coffee shop all within a few minutes walk from the marina. Steve and Jessica, the young owner/operators of North Island Marina are super friendly and helpful, even letting us borrow their van to run some errands.
God's Pocket Dive Resort on Hurst Island 50' 50.41" N, 127' 35.59" W
We left Port McNeil in wet and blustery conditions with 15-20 knots SE blowing us up Queen Charlotte Strait. With only the genoa for power we still made quick progress up the Strait. Just short of our destination the wind changed from SE to NW over the course of about 30 seconds! Oh well - time to put away the sail anyway, we're almost there! We dropped the hook just in front of the resort in about 50 feet of water in calm conditions. We found the bay pretty tight and were concerned about staying there overnight with only 3:1 scope.
God's Pocket is a little indent on the north side of Hurst Island. It was named by fisherman at the turn of the century who used it for refuge when storms churned up the seas out in the Strait. It then became a steamship stop and then a fishing resort. The present owners, Annie and Bill, bought the place about 20 years ago and changed it into an eco oriented dive and kayaking resort. They greeted us upon arrival and we quickly learned that we both had family on Mayne Island. Small world!
There were no guests when we visited. Annie and Bill were having a short break before the summer season started. They invited us to wander around. We loved the funky character and brilliant colours of the various cottages and out buildings. We are tropical water divers, but for those with dry suits and other cold water gear, this looked like a fabulous place to hang out for a while. The diving is reported to be some of the best on the BC coast.
See photo gallery.
Harlequin Bay - Seeking Refuge 50" 50.43" N, 127' 33.90 W
With a frontal system forecast to produce NW winds of 25 knots around midnight we both agreed that God's Pocket was too sketchy for an overnight anchorage. We liked the look of Harlequin Bay on the SE side of Hurst Island so pulled up the anchor and motored around the island to check it out. Weaving through a minefield of rocks we found a nice spot in the lee of the island where we could lay out lots of scope. We saw no harlequin ducks but did spot some furry sea otters! The forecast was accurate - it started howling at about midnight. While the anchorage provided good wind protection, swell from Queen Charlotte Strait wrapped around the headlands making for a lumpy night and not much sleep.
Passage Across Queen Charlotte Sound to Fury Cove 51' 29.67" N, 127' 45.58" W
Once of the challenging legs of this trip is getting across the open ocean area of Queen Charlotte Sound, located between the northern tip of Vancouver Island and Calvert Island where protection can be found again. The prevailing winds are NW so we decided to work our way up Goletas Channel and then exit into the open salt chuck through Shadwell Passage. This would give us the best wind angle across the Sound to Fury Cove and it turned out to be a good strategy.
The morning of departure was clear and crisp with a fresh NW breeze of about 25 knots kicking up galloping horses in Queen Charlotte Strait. So we motored our way up the more protected Goletas Channel in lighetr 15 knot winds and flat seas, waiting for the wind to settle down as forecast. Once through Shadwell Passage and out into open ocean the wind backed to a moderate westerly, setting us up for an amazing close reach all the way across the Sound. The sky stayed crystal clear all day giving us great views of the endless chain of snow capped peaks along the coast. But all good things must come to an end. After an epic sail the wind died just before landfall. We motored into the well protected inner lagoon at Fury Cover and anchored in about 40 ft. Once again, we had the anchorage to ourselves!
With a small sandy beach and many tree covered islets we found it a beautiful and restful spot after a long day of sailing. The warmth of the sun gave an encouraging hint of the summer weather to come. Happy hour was on the foredeck, followed by dinner in the cockpit! Great to finally be outdoors in the evening!
See photo gallery.
Pruth Bay and West & North Beaches 51' 39.28" N, 128' 07.44" W
Pruth Bay is located on Calvert Island about 20 miles NW of Fury Cove. This makes for an easy morning trip passage, leaving the afternoon to explore the fabulous west coast beaches. We were lucky to have the rare combination of SE wind and sunshine, making for a great downwind sail up Fitz Hugh Sound. When we rounded Wedgborough Point into Kwakshua Channel the wind died and temperature went up. Enjoying the sunny and calm conditions Norm untied the dinghy on the foredeck to get ready for going ashore. That was a mistake! As we approached the end of the channel strong wind gusts off the ocean nearly blew the dinghy off the deck! He won't do that again. We anchored in about 50 feet just east of the substantial dock of the Hakai Marine Institute.
A few years ago this bay was the site of a private fishing lodge. But it is now a privately funded marine research and teaching centre. The good news is they do not mind cruisers walking through the grounds to the beaches on the west side of the island, and even have a designated dinghy dock for visitors!
A well marked trail took us to a massive white sand beach. Dotted with tiny islands, crystal clear water, surf rolling in, West Beach was an idyllic west coast paradise. And it was all ours! We strolled north along the beach and found the trail to the North Beach. This 15 minute hike was a little more gnarly with muddy sections and a few climbs, but there were boardwalks and stairs here and there. The trail opened onto a huge, calm crescent shaped beach. It was well protected from the SE wind making it hot and sunny! Time for T-shirts and a few yoga stretches on the beach!
See photo gallery.