Sunday, March 13, 2011

Favorite Anchorages - Montague Harbor

Montague Harbor is always a Canadian first or last for the MV Independence.  It's either the first stop in Canada as we go "upcoast" or our last stop in Canada as we head back home; either way it's a favorite of ours.  It offers us so much - a great place to relax and lay on the beach, or stretch our legs and go for a nice walk, or take a swim, or just do nothing, or all of the above.

Approaches to Montague Harbor are easy.  From the S, as you travel up Trincomali Channel you'll come just W of Phillimore Point on Galiano Island and turn to starboard into the channel leading into Montague Harbor.  Or from the N, you will come down Trincomali Passage, staying E of the Balingall Islets and enter the channel between Parker Island and Point Grey and turn to port to enter Montague Harbor. (Stay well W of the peninsula since it is shoal at the NW corner.)  Whether you come from the S or N you will find that Montague Harbor is a popular place.  The NW corner of the harbor is filled with mooring buoys operated by BC Provincial Parks.  There's a small park dock for small boats (<26') and dinghies.  A park ranger will visit you in the early evening so you can pay your mooring fee of $10 per night. Or, you can anchor pretty much anywhere in the large harbor over a thick, sticky gray, mud bottom which offers good holding.  A few folks will anchor in the bight just NW of the Provincial Park on the Trincomali Passage side.  Again, good holding bottom of thick sticky mud.  If you don't want use a park buoy, or anchor, you can also find visitor moorage at the Montague Harbour Marina which is located along the middle - east side of Montague Harbor.  The marina has some groceries, gift shop and a grill/snack bar. On hot August days we'll always stop by to get some ice cream. Although we've never done it, you can rent a moped to tour the island (maybe a future idea?).

View of Montague Hbr. towards Pt. Grey looking W.
If a brisk northwesterly wind is blowing out in the Strait of Georgia you can bet it will be blowing in Montague Harbor.  On occasion we have seen some boats drag anchor if they don't have enough scope out.  There's good protection from any SE winds.  You'll want to arrive early if you want a BC Provincial Parks mooring buoy since they all seem to be taken by 2:00 PM (or earlier) during the summer.  At times, I have counted well over a hundred boats anchored in the harbor during August when Montague Harbor is most popular with visiting boaters.  Bigger boats tend to anchor in the middle of the harbor where the depth is about 60'.  The past few years, late in the summer a big converted tug will anchor in the middle of the harbor and you can buy freshly baked goods.

For the MV Independence, Montague Harbor is about four hours away from Friday Harbor in the San Juan's, and about five hours away from Nanaimo.  It's a good central spot in the Gulf Islands.  After anchoring in Montague, we'll often take an extended dinghy ride over to Ganges to get groceries.  It's a bit of an adventurous dinghy ride (~8 nm), but can be done on calm days without any problem. You'll get to visit crowded, busy, and noisy Ganges but know you can return to peace and quiet.  However, most of the time we enjoy the 1 mile long Point Grey trail that goes from the campground and makes a loop on the western peninsula.  There's plenty of places to stop, read a book in the shade, take a short nap, or poke about on the beach.  Or we'll walk on the road that leads into the park and walk towards the marina.  Both are enjoyable walks that will present you with lots of photo opportunities.  During the summer on certain nights (Thu,, Fri., Sat.) you can catch the free "pub bus" that travels to the Hummingbird Pub on Galiano Island.  That's a fun adventure in itself.
View of Montague Hbr. looking SE from the Point Grey trail.

You can drop your garbage off in the park, but it will cost you about $2 per bag.  The park has no showers and only pit toilets, but the outhouses are very clean.  BC Provincial Parks has on weekends a naturalist available that can tell you about the marine life and ecology of the Gulf Islands. There's a little marine wildlife center on the dock for kids. Cell phone reception in Montague Harbor is very poor.  It could be from the power lines that stretch over the northern half of Montague Harbor, or from the steep sides of Galiano Island.  You'll either find that a blessing to be out of contact, or a curse.  I tend to find the lack of cell phone service a blessing.  If you're into fishing you can fish for salmon in the Active Pass area nearby; just be careful of the frequent BC ferries that travel through.

Gulf Islands Cruising GuideMontague Harbor is a Gulf Island gem.  I hope you will find it as a "first" or "last" on your cruising adventure too.  If you want to learn more about Montague Harbor, has several books about cruising the Gulf Islands. May I suggest Peter Vassilopoulos' Gulf Islands Cruising Guide?

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