Central Coast Destinations

Shearwater | Way Back Wednesday

Tuesday, March 14, 2017S.V. CAMBRIA

It’s Way Back Wednesday, an opportunity to dig through the files and pull out an old blog post to shed some new light on it. Over the years, I’ve written several posts about anchorages we’ve stayed in, including first-hand anchoring information (i.e. holding, protection, GPS coordinates), historical information and things to do. To date, I’ve done 26 of these (they can all be found on our Destinations page) and they’re some of my favourite posts. For the next six months, I’ll be highlighting one every Wednesday (from south to north) and adding a few new ones in where I can. This week, it’s a return to Shearwater in British Columbia’s Central Coast.

Disclaimer:  This blog article is not to be used for navigation.  It is purely an account of our personal experience in Shearwater during settled weather conditions. 

Sooner or later, most boats cruising the Central Coast find themselves in Shearwater, not because of awe-inspiring landscape or historical significance; it’s quite ordinary in those regards.  But because of the services it offers along with one other key ingredient – location, location, location! 

Situated two miles southeast of Lama Passage, the main route north, Shearwater lies along the northern side of Denny Island and is the only major marine service area with repair and haul-out facilities from Port Hardy, at the tip of Vancouver Island, to Prince Rupert, near the Alaskan border. 

Shearwater began its life as a Royal Canadian Air Force seaplane base for Canadian and American pilots during World War II.  In 1947, the property was purchased by Andrew Widsten who kept the name and turned the base, including a plane hanger that now acts as a shop, into a fishing resort.  Over the years, the property has expanded and not only serves anglers and boaters, but is an important part of the communities of Denny Island and nearby New Bella Bella, providing both with jobs and a social center. 

The resort continues to be family owned and in 2013, Craig Widsten unveiled a mural entitled “United in History” that he’d commissioned to be painted on the shop wall.  The mural depicts 17 people who have impacted Shearwater over the years – from First Nation tribal leaders to Andrew Widsten himself.  At the same time, a waterfront memorial to the Bella Bella Royal Canadian Air Force was dedicated and includes a warrior pole, a replica of a WWII seaplane that rotates like a weather vane, and an obelisk commemorating veterans of the war.  

On shore you’ll find just about everything you need . . . and more.  The facility has 1500 feet of guest moorage with power and water, but gets busy during the summer months so reservations are recommended.  A floating breakwater just outside the marina area can also be used to tie up, but there’s no power, water or direct land access.  Anchorage can be found south of Shearwater Island and east of the breakwater in 5 to 20 metres (16 to 66 feet) with protection from northerly winds:  The holding is good in rock and mud (last year we held well in 25+ SE – it was uncomfortable and annoying at times, but fine otherwise).  The head of the bay offers southerly protection and the holding is good in mud with depths of 5 to 10 metres (16 to 33 feet). 
The fuel dock is located along the southern edge of the marine resort near the ferry terminal and sells diesel, petrol, propane, oil, Avgas and Jet A. The boatyard can handle vessels up to 70 tons; and if you find yourself in need of outside help to address an issue, a marine mechanic is on hand.  But you’re going to pay a premium.  Not necessarily for the haul-out itself, but for the labour (an hour minimum plus shop time and parts).

The marine supply store is well-stocked with a good selection of Canadian charts, cruising and tidal guides, fishing supplies and boat parts.  If they don’t have what you need on their shelves, they can probably order it in from Port Hardy, but expect to pay a high price for delivery in most cases.  They also carry a good range of reasonably priced jackets, tee-shirts and hats with the Shearwater Resort logo.

The grocery store also houses a post office and liquor store and has seen improvements over the years.  They added two larger freezers for meats, one for chicken and the other for beef and pork.  The produce section has also been expanded.  It’s a small store, but they offer a good range of items to choose from and it’s the best provisioning stop until you reach Prince Rupert.  For the greatest selection, shop on freight day when the barge arrives with new stock from Port Hardy.  In the past, that’s been on Mondays but, if in doubt, ask around before you reach Shearwater or phone ahead (although that’s easier said than done).

If you need a night away from the boat, the restaurant and pub offer a complete menu.  The service is excellent but, unfortunately, we can’t recommend the food.  We’ve eaten in the pub several times and left feeling like we’d wasted our money (in all fairness, we don’t eat out much and generally feel that way).  We heard, however, that breakfast is good . . . and the beer is always cold.  The pub has live music and regular entertainment (check their calendar).  And, if you have a dog aboard, Fido’s welcome to join you for drinks or a meal on the smoking patio outside. 

Shearwater is one of the few places along the Central Coast that has cell phone reception.  The resort installed a booster system to reach the towers in New Bella Bella (2.5 nm away) and the signal is very good throughout Kliktsoatli Harbour. The resort also has wi-fi and opened up their signal a couple of years ago, so it’s now free.  Information sheets are posted throughout the resort with instructions on how to access the network and when it’s available (the main system goes offline when the store is closed).  The signal is strong enough that it’s easily seen at anchor, but a booster may be required for the best results.

Shearwater Marine Resort Services:

  • 1500 feet of moorage that’s open all year
  • Fuel dock
  • Free wi-fi
  • Cellular coverage
  • Ice
  • ATM
  • Propane at the marine supply store
  • Showers and Laundromat
  • Gift shops
  • Marine supply store
  • Restaurant and pub
  • Grocery store
  • Post Office
  • Garbage and recycling station
  • Waste oil dump
  • Boatyard that handles vessels up to 70 tons
  • Water taxi service to New Bella Bella
  • Lodging
  • RV park and campground
  • BC Ferry terminal
  • Helipad
  • 3,000 foot paved airstrip
  • Fishing adventures
  • Eco adventures
  • Airline service in New Bella Bella
Contact Information:

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  1. We've found ourselves disappointed at times when we go out to eat as well. Maybe it's because we don't do it often and when we do our expectations are too high.

    1. We enjoy going out every now and then but we're such big homebodies that it can be difficult for restaurants to meet our expectations, that's for sure -- it's a good thing neither one of us can cook very well or we'd be really hard to please. ;-)

  2. How is it possible to make bad pub food? Thanks for the warning on that. I don't know where we will wander this summer before the big left turn, but your blog will certainly help us decide, if we get that far north.