The Gryphon Chronicles:

Broughton Archipelago

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I had learned the very basics of sailing on Lake Erie. A few weeks of summer camp left me with a dozen stories of ways I managed to capsize my boat and half as many stitches in my foot to tell the tale. I could never have guessed that a decade later I would scramble through a far larger sailboat ensuring all our dishes were stowed and cupboards properly fastened as my world tipped once again on its side. My boyfriend Rob laughed from above as he assured me it would take a far greater wind than this to capsize Gryphon.

Looking back towards the mainland, the Vancouver skyline had already shrunk into the mountainous landscape of coastal British Columbia. I double checked the extra 30 gallons of water we had crammed under the floor panels had their lids fastened tight. Two full days of sailing left us tied to the dock at Campbell river, enjoying our dinner in the cool summer evening.

“Red at night, sailors delight,” Rob said. 

We chuckled, hoping the skies were an omen of good weather to come the following day through the notorious passage of Seymour Narrows. Tidal currents could reach up to 15 knots, while Gryphon could only reach 6 at motor. Timing with the currents and the tide is critical for this pocket of the pacific northwest. With a fridge stocked to the brim and a boat full of fuel, we were ready to begin our 10 days off-grid in the Broughton Archipelago.

An early morning left us passing through Seymour at the switch of the tides. But with the tide flowing with us and the winds against us, we bashed into the waves, failing to make any significant progress forward. Luckily we had purchased the Dreamspeaker Series boaters guide for this area, which proved an invaluable resource, and tucked away into Browns Bay marina as it suggested to wait out the winds. The following morning brought calm winds and rushing currents as we sailed north. With the peaks of Vancouver Island to the west and the peaks of the midland to the east, we coasted up the Johnstone Strait and found ourselves surrounded by a superpod of pacific white-sided dolphins!

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We nestled into Port Neville and explored the inlet at low tide. Grizzly and black bears sauntered along the shoreline in search of clams under the mud. The Kwakwaka'wakw First Nation have called this land home since time immemorial, their historic occupation clear from the clam garden covered in white shells at the far end of the inlet. I tried my hand at steering the dingy, a far more delicate task than I had initially thought. Looking back towards Gryphon and the mountains beyond, I snapped this picture. This evening was the first night we truly felt alone in the wilderness.

The next day we had the Broughtons in sight. The Broughton Archipelago is British Columbia’s largest marine park consisting of a group of islands between mainland BC and the north end of Vancouver Island. Kayakers from around the world venture to these islands for their protective waterways, remote landscape, and abundance of wildlife. As a wildlife enthusiast, I could not contain my excitement as humpbacks fluked and dived into the depths below, steller sea lions basked on the hot rocks on sunny afternoons, and eagles dove in the currents with talons open in search of dinner. World-class research facilities are found in the area to study the wildlife such as Orca Lab and the Salmon Coast Field Station.

Life on a sailboat requires restraint. We rationed 2.5 gallons of water a day split between dishes and the bathroom sink that stretched into a showerhead. Meals were cooked over a propane stove or oven. Fridge space was reserved for meats, cheese, and veggies which we layered in plastic baskets for somewhat easier access. Some great food tricks are using alternative milk, such as oat milk, which can be stored away in cupboards until opened. Learning to cook lopsided was a game in and of itself, so sandwiches and soups are great to have for quick meals. Cell service was available in many of the southern anchorages to check weather and wind updates, and we brought along solar power banks to recharge phones and cameras. A GPS is a must as rocks and small islets scatter the area and some submerge at high tide.

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With both an inflatable rowboat and a dingy along for the journey, we spent a great deal of time exploring islands while at anchor. Tide pools are brimmed with life at low tide with creatures such as anemones, limpets, crabs, barnacles, and fish. We spent a night at Mound Island, Goat Island, and Eden Island within park boundaries. Later we ventured north to Simoon Sound where we were the only boat in the entire inlet. Avoiding the summer rush, June proved a wonderful time to seek solitude in the Broughtons. In addition, the abundance of sunny weather let us forget that this area is a coastal temperate rainforest!

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Turnbull cove was our final anchorage before the journey south. We watched the fog roll over the cedar and douglas-fir trees, listened to the sound of distant creeks, and stretched our restless legs hiking up to a freshwater lake. We stayed up late, already deep in discussion on how we could come back next year.

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