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Cruising the remote Broughton Islands on a Nordhavn 55

by Peter Janssen 24 Aug 2019 08:28 PDT
Nordhavn 55 Red Rover © Peter Janssen

Kevin and Allison Jeffries just spent a month cruising through the majestic wilderness of the Broughtons, an archipelago of more than 200 uninhabited islands off the coast of British Columbia, on their Nordhavn 55 Red Rover with their two shelter dogs, Zoe and Max. They found a cruising paradise there, with a way of life that could be hard to preserve in the future.

The Broughtons are flanked by an often snow-capped coastal mountain range on the mainland side and the upper reaches of Vancouver Island to the west. Most of the area is a Provincial park with protected Indian lands and some floating settlements. It's filled with deep channels, challenging tidal rapids and scores of isolated coves and inlets. It's also filled with bears on land and seals in the water. What it's not filled with it other cruising boats, particularly when compared to the popular San Juan Islands, about 250 miles away down in Washington state.

The Jeffries are lifelong boaters, starting with a ski boat and moving up to larger cruisers. They decided they wanted a Nordhavn after seeing a video of the 2004 Nordhavn Atlantic Rally, and they bought Red Rover, a 2005 model. Their children are grown, so they sold their house in Seattle and moved aboard Red Rover full-time in 2016.

They've put more than 5,600 nm under the hull since then, cruising the West Coast from San Diego to Glacier Bay, Alaska, writing about their experiences in their blog, comeonrover. They just spent July in the Broughtons, and wrote that what makes them so special is a series of small marinas, usually holding only eight to ten boats, "owned and operated by rugged families. These marinas are in the wilderness. They run on generators and everything, literally everything, must be grown on-site, built by hand or brought in by boat or seaplane. Each marina has its own personality and each is a completely unique experience. When you step off your boat to tie up, it is generally the owner who greets you, asks your name and shakes your hand."

One of their favorites was Lagoon Cove, run by a small family, which holds a happy hour every evening on the upper dock. Every boat brings an appetizer to share, while the owners bring a bushel of fresh spot prawns, caught that morning, and everyone sits around and chats. In a memorable experience, when the Jeffries left Lagoon Cove they came across a pod of several hundred white-sides dolphins, which played in their bow wave.

Running up channels surrounded by towering mountains, they arrived at the rustic Kwatsi Bay marina, where the owners had pieced together handmade docks. Every other night there is either a happy hour or a potluck dinner. They arrived for a "fantastic" potluck dinner.

Then it was on to Pierre's Echo Bay, another family-owned marina, with floating buildings, a small grocery store, and a special home-made dinner every night - spit-roasted prime ribs on Monday, when they arrived; fish and chips and Wednesday, a pig roast on Sunday.

At Echo Bay, the Jeffries hiked over to Billy Proctor's museum filled with local artifacts. Proctor has lived in Echo Bay for 80 years and worked as a logger, fisherman and trapper; he's also written three books about the area.

The Jeffries worried about how the nature of the Broughtons will change when Proctor and some of the other families there are gone. "Many of the small marinas are for sale," they wrote, "as it must be challenging to make a living on what truly amount to two months of business. We hope that they find new owners and new energy to keep the traditions alive." Read more:

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This article has been provided by the courtesy of the Cruising Odyssey.

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