Anchorages Destinations

Destination | Shoal Bay

Wednesday, January 11, 2017S.V. CAMBRIA

Disclaimer:  This blog article is not to be used for navigation.  It is solely an account of our personal experience and anchor location in Shoal Bay during settled weather conditions.  What worked for us at one particular time is no guarantee or indication that it will work for others. 

My favourite anchorages are ones with a story to tell, and Shoal Bay on East Thurlow Island has an interesting one. You’d never know it today, but in the early 1900s it was the most populated town along the coast, including the city of Vancouver. More than 5,000 people lived there and supported a thriving gold mine, logging camp and fishing fleet. The waterfront was lined with a 600-foot pier, hotels, markets, a brothel and a school. But the industries that supported the area died out over the years and took the prospering town with it.

The land fell into private hands and, years later, a fourteen-room resort called the Shoal Bay Lodge was built. In 2000, a man by the name of Mark MacDonald bought the property and moved everything he owned up the island, not an easy task considering the only access is by boat or floatplane. A short time later, when he wasn’t home, it caught fire and burned to the ground – destroying everything he owned in the process. Mark stuck with it and over the years has been rebuilding his dream with the help of friends, strangers and his wife, Cynthia. To date there’s their personal home, a private home, a small cottage, a pub with accommodation (all available to rent), a laundry room with showers, a pub, a vegetable garden and walking trails.

Situated off Cordero Channel on the northern side of East Thurlow Island, Shoal Bay is a convenient stopover for boats before and after transiting Yuculta and Dent Rapids. The 600-foot pier is the only remaining sign of its past life and there’s approximately 300 feet of moorage available at the rate of CA$0.75 per foot (plus 5% tax). There’s no power or water at the docks and rafting is required, so be sure to hang out fenders during the busy season. Fees are collected at the pub where you can also buy a drink while enjoying the beautiful view up Phillips Arm and purchase artwork from local artists, including Cynthia who is a talented potter (I have one of her pieces myself and love it).

Whether you plan to stay one night or several days, there’s plenty of ways to pass the time in Shoal Bay: Walking around the property, particularly the garden, is a popular pastime as are fishing, crabbing and prawning. But for those in need of more strenuous exercise, a trail from the pub leads to the Douglas Pine Mine which used to produce copper, iron and gold. The lower section follows a creek bed and can be wet after a rain, so wear good shoes. And the trail, which runs uphill, is steep in places. If you plan to go all the way to the mine, bring a flashlight and be very careful – many of the shafts are still open. Also be sure to bring a camera. There’s a short path that veers off to the left (as you’re going up) that leads to a lookout with an amazing view of Shoal Bay and Phillips Arm. A round-trip takes an average hiker 45 minutes to complete. 

Shoal Bay can be a social place and the hub of most of the activity is the pub (Happy Hour, no discounts, generally starts around 4:00 pm). Mark and Cynthia also host regular events during the cruising season including pig roasts, pizza nights and the world-famous Shoal Bay International Blues Festival (check their website for more information and dates). 

Anchorage can be found near the wharf but Shoal Bay got its name for good reason: The water shallows quickly at the head of the bay. The protection is good from most wind directions but the holding is only fair in soft mud and kelp. Dragging anchor is not uncommon, particularly on the west side of the wharf where the bottom is rocky and littered with kelp. Our preferred spot is at 50°27.496 N, 125°21.929 W and while we haven’t dragged anchor ourselves, we’ve had other boats drag down on us so it’s a good idea to keep an eye out. 

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  1. A pub, a view, hiking, back to the pub... sounds perfect!

  2. I love the back stories behind your port-of-calls. The Blues Festival sounds wonderful. That's the kind of thing we would enjoy.

    1. It's a fun place to hang out for a couple days . . . and so beautiful!

  3. What a fun place to spend some time! That last photo shows perfectly how Shoal Bay got its name. Running a place like that would be interesting, social and diverse. :-)

    1. I would love to spend a winter there -- the solitude would be amazing!