Destinations The Central Coast

Destination: Klemtu (Swindle Island)

Tuesday, August 12, 2014S.V. CAMBRIA

Our travels over the past few weeks have taken us north from Shearwater on Denny Island to Bishop Bay Hot Springs on the North Coast, stopping off in Klemtu and Butedale along the way:

Looking up Klemtu Passage with the guest dock to the left and Cambria
tied to the fuel dock center right.

Fuel Dock:  52°35.62’N, 128°31.29’W
Anchorage (Clothes Bay):  52°34.36’N, 128°30.94’W

Klemtu, a Kitasoo village of approximately 300 residents, is located along the west side of Finlayson Channel behind Cone Island

Approaching from the south, the first building you see along Klemtu Passage is the Spirit Bear Lodge – a modern resort that specializes in tours to see the Kermode, a subspecies of the black bear that has a recessive gene which causes their coat to be white or cream-coloured – making Klemtu a good place to inquire about recent Spirit Bear activity.  Beyond the lodge, sitting prominently along a point, is the village Big House. 

The fuel dock is located at the northern edge of town in front of the fish processing plant and has approximately 55 metres (180 feet) of linear dock space, but only the middle section is within reach of the fuel hose.  The dock is open to Klemtu Passage and the wakes from passing boats can stir things up quite a bit if they’re not considerate and adhere to the “No Wake” limit, so an extra fender or two may be in order.  Diesel is the same price here as it is at any other Petro Canada dock along the coast and CA$0.20 a litre less than in Shearwater (if not more).  You can also purchase petrol and propane and fill your tanks with treated water. 

A band store with an ATM is located at the top of the dock just south of the fish processing plant.  The store is larger than the one in Shearwater but the selection isn’t as good, especially if you arrive a day or two after the latest shipment.  Both the store and fuel dock are open Monday through Saturday, closing from noon to 1:00 pm for lunch, with limited hours on Sundays.  There’s also a pay phone, which was out of order when we were there last, but the village has excellent cellular coverage.  And there’s a café just inside the store building to the right. 

The Big House.

You can arrange a tour of the Big House from the local guide, George Robinson.  If he isn’t at the fuel dock to greet you, he can be reached on VHF channel 06, along with the rest of the village residents.  In the past, tours were free and donations were accepted but, according to the 2014 edition of Waggoners, they cost CA$10 per person now – a little pricey, but still worth the time and effort.    

Inside Klemtu's Big House.

The Big House and all of its contents are constructed from cedar and the workmanship, from the house pole carvings to the large crossbeams, is impressive.  It was built about 10 years ago in effort to protect and maintain the Kitasoo culture.  Many residents, George included, were raised without knowing their language because of strict efforts by the Europeans to “convert” native people and are now finding their way back to their through songs and dance. 

A cedar drum inside Klemtu's Big House.

For temporary moorage, you can tie up to the fuel dock if there’s extra space and they’re not busy.  There’s also a 210-foot concrete dock in the main bay, south of the processing plant, where you can tie up but chances are the float will be full with local fishing boats.  At one time, the village seemed to be catering to passing boats and there was a tourism kiosk, restrooms and laundry facilities at head of the float, but they’ve since closed or fallen into a state of disrepair.  If neither of these options is available, temporary anchorage can be found off the Big House in 10 metres (33 feet).   

Overnight anchorage can be found south of the village in Clothes Bay just off Klemtu Passage.  For us, Klemtu is a working stop rather than an actual destination so we haven’t taken the time to anchor there ourselves but the holding is reported to be good in sand and shell with good protection.  It’s a picturesque and inviting spot, but the promise of being disturbed by the wakes of passing vessels has always outweighed the beauty of the bay and the surrounding islands and islets. 


  • Fuel Dock
  • Band Store
  • Café
  • Water
  • Excellent Cell Phone Coverage
Things to Do:

  • Take a tour of the Big House

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