2022 Alaska Flotilla – Leg 1B, Day 1 – Port McNeill – Big Frypan Bay | NW Explorations


2022 Alaska Flotilla – Leg 1B, Day 1 – Port McNeill – Big Frypan Bay

And just like that, Leg 1: Part Two adventures are a go!

With our new crew settled into their vessels and skippers ready at the helm, leaving Port McNeill was an exciting departure. Our lead crew took to the docks for our early morning start and welcomed everyone into the new day, tossed each crew their lines, and saw them off with grace. We then quickly followed up behind the fleet and took the lead into Broughton Strait. Right out of the harbor we were greeted by flocks of seabirds awaiting patiently for the tides to turn, utilizing the current’s strength to help them catch their fishy prey. This was a great time to start getting accustomed to some of our bird friends as we will quickly become very familiar with them throughout our trip.

Cruising north into Broughton Strait, we took Malcom Island on our starboard side and chatted a bit about its history. At 15 miles long and 2 miles wide, the ratio of coastal stretch alongside the island made for ideal fishing camps. The Kwakwaka’wakw First Nations had a seasonal village site here for fishing, clamming, and harvesting native berries. However, even with their community finding abundant resources here, and 480 acres being set as a reserve in 1916, they never established long term residence. There is an oral tradition passed down from the Kwakwaka’wakw First Nations ancestors that accounts them having watched Malcom Island rise from the sea, making it inevitable that the island would then be reclaimed by the sea. Thus, the current community stands in respecting its imminent return, and uses their reserve for logging operations.

Pulteney Point Lighthouse, sitting at the northern end of Malcom Island is a very quaint but effective lighthouse. Its placement warns primarily of a concealed kelp patch along the other side of the point’s sandy spit but is also equipped with an imperative foghorn. This lighthouse was established in 1905 due to mariners expressing a need for a visual warning in place of not only the point’s jutting spit but that rounding the northern corner was a passageway into open waters fed by Queen Charlotte Strait. In 1915 they installed the foghorn and given they keep this lighthouse staffed, they also constructed lodging and utility quarters for their maintenance crews.

We then said a quick hello to an opening of Queen Charlotte Strait before tucking into Goletas Channel, getting a quick feel for how our crossing will treat us. Exploring the intricate Gordon Islands and the northern shores of Vancouver Island, we spotted a few Dall’s Porpoise playing in our wake. They joined us in our cruise through Browning Passage and it was an exciting wildlife sighting to initiate our 26 nautical mile journey across the strait.

Queen Charlotte Strait was named in 1786 by James Strange in honor of Charlotte Sophia, daughter of the Duke of Melbourne, who wedded to King George III. Our crossing was impressively calm and made for an easy afternoon, which we were all very thankful for. We spent 3 hours in the open waters and got to say hello to Mickey Mouse as a Disney Cruise ship was entering the strait starting their crossing just as we were finishing ours.

We took our time into Big Frypan Bay and were all very much looking forward to hunkering down for the night. With some of our fleet joining us in a raft and others anchoring out, we quickly settled into our spaces. Most vessels launched their dinghies for fishing and exploring the neighboring coves, while a handful of us jumped into our kayaks and slowly meandered around the quiet shorelines.

Once our anchors were in place and the raft was taught, we answered questions of how to maneuver within these newfound close quarters and offered some tips in how to hone these skills efficiently and effectively. One of our favorite parts about being on the water with both skippers and crew who want to learn, is having the ability and time to teach from our own experiences. It’s incredible to watch the fleet apply our instruction all while using their own past vessel piloting experiences to grow into exponentially more confident skippers during our time together.

Big Frypan Bay is a protected cove from major winds and ripping currents and due to the ability for fragile life to find solace, it was a lovely area to explore aboard our kayaks. From sea snails, sea stars and sea cucumbers to rock crabs, barnacles and limpets, there was a myriad of life to poke around for through the many cracks and crevasses filled with thick rock weed among the low sloping cedar branches.

Officially settled into our raft and anchorages after a fun afternoon of taking in and exploring our surroundings, each crew nestled into their own and the sunset lulled us into a much-needed good night’s rest after our lengthy 72 nautical mile journey. What an incredible way to start off Part Two of Leg 1 on our 2022 Alaska Flotilla, good work fleet!

P.S. Is Alaska on your bucket list? We can take you there! Email us to reserve your spot on our 2023 Mother Goose AK Flotilla. charters@nwexplorations.com 

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