Friday, June 23, 2017


Lovely Promenade along Port McNeill Waterfront

Departing Port McNeill and making our way eastward between Vancouver Island and Malcolm Island (Broughton Strait/Cormorant Channel) brought some pleasant surprises.  
Sointula seen from Port McNeill along Broughton Strait
Just off Sointula on Malcolm Island we were met by a pod of Orca whales.  Humpback whales and Gray whales are more commonly seen in our Pacific Northwest waters, while Orca seem more allusive so it was a special treat to encounter a pod of Orca.  
Orca Whale in Broughton Strait
We shut off the engine and watched as they moved gracefully past us in the opposite direction; it appeared that a mother had two calves by her side.  Orca whales or Killer whales are the largest member of the dolphin family and can move at speeds up to 35 miles per hour.  They often cruise along the surface of the water but also spend time under water navigating and hunting in complete darkness using sound or echo-location much like sonar.  
White Markings of the Orca Whale
Orcas consist of three major groups identified as residents, transients, and offshores; these groups have different social behaviors and vocalizations.  We assume the Orca we witnessed were transients.  Transients live in pods of three to seven and tend to be very quiet and vocalize only after a kill.  
Scars and other markings help identify individual Orcas
Orca or Killer whales are highly intelligent and often cooperate in hunting and feeding and will sometimes ‘spy hop’ to look above the water surface.  Going our separate way, we continued along the south shore of Malcolm Island and spotted lovely Mitchell Bay with a dock and a bright red net shed.  
Mitchell Bay Public Dock and the 'Red Net Shed'
As noted in the Waggoner Cruising Guide, Mitchell Bay located near the east end of the Malcolm Island is a good summer time anchorage, protected from easterlies and northwest winds.  But what about the dock?  There was no signage on the dock, which at first glance appeared to be private. 

Beautiful Views from Mitchell Bay Docks

Upon closer inspection we determined the dock was public with a self-registration payment box at the head of the ramp.  Turns out this dock is managed by the ‘Malcolm Island Lions Harbour Authority,’ same as the docks in Sointula.  The public dock at Mitchell Bay offers approximately 150 feet of linear moorage in an L-shape configuration.  We tied-up and went ashore it investigate the pebble beaches, the quiet country road, and the bright red net shed.  The net shed houses a collection of antique items and other collectables available for purchase.  
Antique Shopping at 'The Red Net Shed'
We met Tina and Robert Turner who run the shop and have lived on the island since their youth.  They are both descendants of pioneers who first settled on Malcolm Island.  They seemed to enjoy having visitors and were happy to share their stories of growing up on the island.  In the early days, there was no road connection between Mitchell Bay and Sointula, transportation was by boat only.  Port McNeill was just a small logging camp and Alert Bay on Cormorant Island was the hub of activity with fuel, groceries, and housing.  Electricity didn’t come to Malcolm Island until the early 1960’s and the completion of the ‘Carrot Road’ to the north end of Vancouver Island soon changed the dynamics of Port McNeill and Port Hardy.  
Nice Beaches and Views at Mitchell Bay
The little community at Mitchell Bay, however, remains as one of the last quiet, peaceful stops for visiting boaters.

No comments:

Post a Comment