We’ve been in the Broughtons for two weeks, and at the moment Odyssey is anchored in O’Brien Bay at the head (end) of Simoom Sound.
In a few weeks, the summer influx of cruisers will be arriving to fill the few marinas each night and anchor in the numerous idillic bays. Some, like us, have arrived early.
Despite the beauty of the area, the number of boats visiting the archipelago islands is relatively small compared to those that prowl popular Desolation Sound. I’ve written about the physical barriers, the gateways that must be passed to get here, but there are other things that keep these waters underutilized and pristine.
In these last two weeks I’ve begun to understand the isolation of the Broughtons.
At the turn of the twentieth century this area boasted some of the largest settlements and towns on the west coast of Canada. It was a busy time, with logging, mining and fishing driving the influx of workers and their families. Steam ships plied the waters on a regular basis and even the smaller settlements built schools, stores, taverns and post offices.
But the industrial revolution would soon change the world. Hand loggers would be replaced by machines, economies would grow globally, and corporations would soon be directly collecting resources. By the 1980’s, this put an end to every single town, and the population quickly dwindled. What had been a not-so-wild area has become wilderness again.
A place we stopped in, Shoal Bay, had a population of 5-7 thousand at the turn of the 20th century. Now the population is two. Simoom Sound, where we are today, had a population of hundreds, and all the services to support them. No one lives here now. All evidence of the families and docks and school have been removed or lost over to nature. Today, I would doubt more the several hundred people call the Broughton Archipelago home and that number is dropping each year.
Without people, there is little reason for infrastructure or services to be developed. This obviously isolates the area, but for boaters it presents some serious challenges.
There were recently as many as seven marinas in the area. Now there are four, two of which are for sale. None of the marinas will take a boaters trash or recycling. Fuel is available at only two, along with small stores, but they are only stocked during July and August. Only one marina has potable drinking water. Though not a big deal for us, there is no cell coverage, and only limited wifi at the marinas.
In the anchorages, walking areas are few and beaches are rare. Dingy access to the exposed tidal flats is hampered by the sharp, barnacle laden rocks. And there are bears here, black and brown (grizzlies). I know that encounters with bears rarely end badly, but it sure does make you think twice before following the trail through a berry patch.
So, with all that, why would anyone go to the trouble of coming up here?
It’s a beautiful wilderness, with pristine waters, amazing wildlife, stunning vistas of glacier carved mountains, and a rich history of the First Nations, explorers and settlers. Here, you really can get away from it all.
But there is a sadness as well, one you can’t help but feel as you learn what once was. I’ve used the phrase “the world is moving on” to explain what happened when I stepped back from the mainstream rush of living. The world kept on going, passing me by in a surprisingly short amount of time.
Here in the Broughtons, more then anywhere I’ve been, an isolation has been imposed by the changing world. This isn’t undiscovered wilderness, it’s a place that has been left behind.
I wish I had a photo that could express how this feels, but I don’t. Thousands of square miles. A very quiet place.