Destinations & Sample Yacht Charter Itineraries
Sample Yacht Charter Itinerary for the Pacific Northwest: British Columbia, Desolation Sound and the Broughton Archipelago
By m/v Pacific Yellowfin
Please understand that this is just a sample itinerary. While cruising in the Pacific Northwest, tidal streams, weather conditions, and wildlife determine our routes and destinations.
Vancouver Island, British Columbia, Canada
Desolation Sound, the largest and perhaps best-known archipelago in British Columbia, is considered by many boaters to be one of the top three cruising grounds in the world, along with Fiji and New Zealand's Bay of Islands. The waters of Desolation Sound are calm, sheltered and warm with lots of protected anchorages, and plentiful oysters, clams, prawns and salmon. The archipelago consists of more than 14,000 acres of high land and 6,350 acres of shoreline and water. There are also numerous lakes and waterfalls in Desolation Sound, and the warmest salt water north of Mexico (75 - 82° Fahrenheit!) awaiting swimmers in Pendrell Sound.
Captain George Vancouver who first sailed here in 1792, saw a silent and remote coast. He named the area Desolation Sound. The shoreline varies from low rolling hills to 4500-foot peaks with many protected anchorages tucked into bays, coves and inlets.
The sheltered waters, islands and bays of Desolation Sound are suitable for exploration by small boats, kayaks and canoes with many opportunities to enjoy swimming, fishing, picnicking and hiking.
Highlights / Options:
- Stops in Desolation Sound and enjoying the warmest water north of Mexico. Pacific Yellowfin has all the toys onboard.
- Shoot the rapids at Yuculta and head into Johnstone Strait.
- Do some prawning and enjoy the rewards on the back deck.
- Visit Sointula, envisioned as a utopian community by Finnish emigrants in the last century, now a quaint fishing harbour lined with Victorian Homes. Contrast with Alert Bay native community across the channel with its huge totem poles and Kwakuitl (People of the Raven) Museum.
- Go tide pooling at low tide. Witness and touch some of the most abundant, and slimy, life anywhere on the planet.
- Head into Johnstone Strait and Blackfish sound by tender or, if you really want some adrenaline, by kayak to view magnificent Orca Whales. Listen in on their conversations through the hydrophone.
- Cruise the shoreline early in the morning at low tide, the best time to see black bears patrol the beach for breakfast.
- Take a tender to Glendale cove and watch black or grizzly bears fishing for spawning salmon.
- Speaking of salmon- grab a rod and meet on the back deck.
- Look for glass beads on the beach at Karlukwees, village site for Kwakuitl Natives for 6000 years. Check our petroglyphs on the way back to the boat.
- Enjoy a book or movie in your stateroom, or peruse the charts on the bridge and plan tomorrows adventure.
- Meet with local inhabitants.
Arrive via charter seaplane to the Pacific Yellowfin at anchor at Taku Resort on Quadra Island. Champagne reception and lunch. Assist the crew in checking the prawn traps previously set, hopefully we will be having prawn cocktails that evening. Depart for Manson’s Landing.
Enjoy breakfast aboard followed by a walk to the lagoon to view sand dollars in the tidal pools. Should it be high tide we can do an easy introductory kayak ride. Hike on the old school house trail with a visit to Cortes Museum, showcasing past island life. At all times keeping our eyes open for bald eagles. After lunch, cruise to the sheltered waters of Squirrel Cove for a guided kayaking tour. If the tides are right we can shoot the falls into a tidal lake.
In the morning cruise to Teakerne Arm before heading north keeping a lookout for harbour seals and Dall’s porpoises. Visit the oyster farm and chat with the resident oyster lady, aka the real female version of Crocodile Dundee. Visit her oyster floats and have a marine biological extravaganza with all of the wildlife that live on the floats: sea urchins, sea slugs, sea anemones, and lots lots more. Visit Cassel Falls and take a leisurely hike through the forest followed by a swim and rock diving in Cassel Lake. Afternoon cruise to Mink Island. Resident minks still run free on this island, as it was once a mink farm in its past days.
Enjoy stunning views of the provincial marine park on a morning cruise to Pendrell Sound. Swim in the Sound, also known as the Mexico of the north, with waters reaching 28 degrees Celsius (82°F) in the summer. Spend the afternoon playing in the waters on the Pacific Yellowfin’s water trampoline and slides. If speed is what you are looking for we can take the Seadoo for a ride on the flat waters of this massive fiord. In late afternoon cruise to Black Lake for a hike to see the beaver working her dam.
After breakfast, take a short cruise to Refuge Cove. Visit the general store and grab an islands-style Starbucks. Continue on to Von Donop Inlet where we cross the reef to a protected anchorage under an amazing bald eagles nest. This nest is always active with chicks. Grab our swimming gear and do a leisurely hike through the rain forest to a mountaintop lake for a refreshing swim. Back to Von Donop where we can wakeboard, water ski, tube, hot dogs, or kayak until dinner on board. Roasting marshmallows over and open fire is always good way to end the day.
Cruise to Thursten Bay in Nodales Channel. This journey goes through the largest rapids on the coast, the Yuculta Rapids, Dent Rapids, and Gillard Pass. This transit must be made at slack water and once we are through we are now in prime Orca whale watching territory. This area is the beginning of a home to 250 orca whales that cruise the Johnston Straits area. While at anchor in Thursten Bay, a sharp eye has to be kept for bears foraging on the beach.
NOTE: We can see orca whales at any time from here to end of the charter. We also see Pacific White Sided Dolphins (last year in a school of 70-100).
Day seven is an all day boat journey cruising through Johnstone Straits to reach the Broughton Archipelago, which is home to many First Nations bands. We will have the opportunity to visit a few sites. Most routes pass old native sites and pictographs (ancient rock paintings). From the Pearce Group we take a small boat crossing to Swanson Island, 15 minutes away. This is an excellent opportunity to see black bears foraging on the beach for crab at low tide. Very close encounters from the safety of the vessel. These bears are mainly concerned with eating and don’t mind the company. Mink whales are common on the islands north shore and some grey whales, which have only returned to the area in the last five years, could be seen as well.
We are under way to the next island to visit Cormorant Island, the village of Alert Bay, which holds the largest First Nations population in B.C. This community recently reclaimed their historic carved crafts which were seized by the Government under the Potlatch Laws and dispersed to museums across North America. They are now housed in a new, award winning showcase museum, the U’mista Cultural Centre. From the waterfront approach, Alert Bay is very colourful against the brooding back drop of old-growth forests. Gaily painted houses have now become a summertime attraction for the Vancouver-Alaska cruise ships. An ecological walk through these ancient forests reveals a boardwalk, which crosses a swamp at the summit of the Island. This area is biologically diverse and hosts a multitude of bizarre science fiction views.
Or, we can go to Telegraph Harbour, only 30 minutes away. A rejuvenated sawmill town set on a small cleft in the coastline. Most of the wooden buildings are originals, set on piles over the waters edge, connected by boardwalks. This is a rare glimpse of how British Columbia’s coastal communities were construction in a land with very level ground. Very colourful and quaint, the village showcases the Whale Museum. This old building is now an interpretive centre housing biological samples, whale skeletons, and other displays.
Visit the Polkinghorne Group for excellent kayaking opportunities with a picnic ashore. These islands stand alone in the Queen Charlotte Sound because they each have a different flora and fauna showing a distinctly different feel. We continue north to Carriden Bay, a voyage of only one hour to arrival. The anchorage is a large bay ringed with cliffs and mountains, Ansell Adams type scenery, and great views of snow-clad Mt. Stevens. Try some small craft exploration to Embely Lagoon for bears and an overflow basin with a waterfall and tidal rapids at Neph Lagoon. Hike to a freshwater lake above Turnbull Cove to see the massive cliff faces in Mackenzie Sound. This area would easily take a minimum of two days alone to see the significant features by small boat.
Without retracing our path we will cruise to our point of departure, Port McNeil. On the way we will visit Numas Islands where one may find vintage Japanese glass fishnet floats. Rendezvous with your chartered seaplane flight back to Vancouver.
m/v Pacific Yellowfin
Remember, there are many variations to this sample itinerary. Your charter will be customized to fulfill the dreams of your charter party. That's the beauty of a crewed charter yacht sailing vacation.