Desolation Sound Anchorages
POWELL RIVER View Larger Map
is a long and narrow sheltered bay located on Gifford Peninsula in Malaspina Inlet. The inner part of Grace Harbour is completely protected from all winds and seas whish is perfect for anchoring your charter boat. There are a series of hiking trails at the end of the bay. Follow the trail at the northern end of the harbour to a small, peaceful, freshwater lake created by beavers. Galley Bay and Isabel Bay provide anchorage for cruising boats.
is situated in Lancelot Inlet and only limited anchorage for a few charter boats can be found here. A small cove at the lower end of the bay, along with two tiny nooks for one or two boats can be found behind Madge Island at its northern end. Clams and oysters abound. It may be necessary to tie a stern line to shore.
Wootton Bay has several temporary anchorages with most of them being near the head of the bay. These spots provide good protection from the night time westerly winds but are somewhat exposed to any wind from the south or southeast.
is almost like a lagoon as the shallow entrance channel inhibits the entrance of salt water but also permits freshwater outflow from the Theodosia River. The current runs quite quickly through the narrow twisting channel which opens up inside Theodosia Inlet. The Inlet at the entrance of Theodosia is often used as a picnic area and there are flat areas suitable for camping. A shallow bay on the East side of the inlet can be used for beaching a canoe or kayak. Other good anchorage spots can also be found throughout Theodosia Inlet. Outside the Inlet, anchorage is possible near Grail Point behind Susan Inlet. An old orchard is a landmark.
is private property, however it provides one of the most popular anchorages in Desolation Sound. The outer anchorage is fairly deep, but a shallower more protected anchorage is possible behind a small islet near the head of the cove. Depths are 10-20 feet.
offers good anchorage in the western most nook, or behind the island in the eastern part of the bay. Caution must be exercised in the central part of the bay, because there are two dangerously drying rocks. The one near the centre dries three feet and the one farther in dries 12 feet. It's also exposed to north easterly winds. A stern line to shore is recommended.
is known as the "Deep Bay" and caution must be exercised in setting anchor here as depths can reach over 300 feet in the central bay. There are however many small coves and crannies shallow enough for small charter yachts to find anchorage. The largest, most protected anchorage area is in the extreme northern end of the bay. Despite its partial exposure to westerly winds, the eastern most cove in Tenedos Bay is usually the busiest. Here you can anchor and walk a trail which leads up to Unwin Lake. The lake is only five minutes by trail from the sea and halfway along the trail it is possible to cut through the woods to a stream where gentle rapids and deep pools provide an ideal secluded place to swim. When a westerly wind arises, it whistles through this area. Unmarked rocks extend from this island in several places.
Ha'thayim (Von Dunop)
Marine Provincial Park in the Discovery Islands, with its long, narrow sheltered inlet, is a popular anchorage for charter yachts. Located on the northwestern tip of Cortes Island, the inlet can be entered from northern Sutil Channel.
Otter Island is only large enough for a few boats and is an almost totally secluded anchorage for charter boats. The passage separating Otter Island from the mainland, although extremely narrow, is deep enough for most small craft to safely navigate. Sky Pilot Rock, one of the most dangerous hazards in the area, is located north of Otter Island. It waits menacingly out in mid-channel, unmarked, and only a few feet under water at high tide. Favour the Otter Island Shore.
is known as one of the most scenically outstanding anchorages anywhere. This well protected harbour has enough arms and interconnecting coves and passageways to safely accommodate hundreds of charter boats. Entrance to Prideaux Haven is from Homfray Channel to the east of Eveleigh Island. Caution should be exercised when entering the area and the reef in the center of the channel should be kept to the port. From July to August, Prideaux Haven has the reputation of being one for the most crowded anchorages on the BC coast. The warm waters of this area make it a perfect spot for swimming and water skiing.
Provincial Marine Park is a beautiful 128-hectare area off Lewis Channel on the west side of West Redonda Island in Desolation Sound, BC. The park features features forested uplands and the amazing 30-metre high Cassel Falls. Follow the hiking trails to Cassel Lake, perfect for a picnic and a swim in one of the best swimming spots in Desolation Sound, BC. Most charter boats anchor in the bay immediately to the west of the falls, with plenty of anchor rode out in the deep bay and a stern line fastened ashore. Teakerne Arm Provincial Marine Park has a dinghy landing dock and is a perfect area to include in your sailboat charter vacation.
is a small 85-hectare sheltered anchorage at Walsh Cove Provincial Marine Park, a favourite among Desolation Sound charter boats, is located on the east side of West Redonda Island, off Waddington Channel. After anchoring in the secure and compact little cove, sailors can take their dinghy and explore the undeveloped shoreline, hike the trails and look for ancient native pictographs on the rock cliffs at Doctor Bay.
Many yachtsmen regard the Desolation Sound area as not only the most beautiful and varied cruising area in BC, but equal to, if not better than any other area in the world. In the variety of spectacular scenery, warm summer climate, abundance of shelter and anchorages, Desolation Sound is a microcosm of all that is best about salt water cruising in British Columbia.
Click Here for an example of a one week cruising itinerary through Desolation Sound and imagine yourself relaxing here!
Anchorages in Desolation
CRUISING NOTES TO DESOLATION SOUND
Head directly for the west end of the Spit. Once clear of the Spit, you will see SANDY ISLAND to the southeast (off the northern tip of DENMAN ISLAND). Head directly for this island until you can clearly identify the red cone buoy P50 marking the channel across the COMOX BAR. Once identified, head directly for it. The other two buoys marking the channel are also red - a spar buoy P52 and a bell buoy P54. There are no green buoys marking the channel. DO NOT cut any corners. You must stay within 100 meters of the buoys, leaving them to port when leaving. DO NOT look for the range markers onshore. You will not see them during the day as they are well hidden in the trees.
Wind direction will dictate which route you will want to take. If it is blowing a southeasterly you have your choice of either route. If it is blowing northwest, do not beat up the Straits for Baker Passage. It is easier to go via SHEARWATER PASSAGE.
Finding SHEARWATER PASSAGE is easy. You will have already identified HARWOOD ISLAND from buoy PJ or before. It is flat, dark green and heavily wooded. Head for the western side of the Island, leaving it slightly to satrboard. VIVIAN ISLAND will also become quite visible from about halfway across the Straits. It is treeless and mostly barren rock. You can come quite close to it if you wish, sometimes there are large sea lions sunning on the rocks. Favour the Harwood/Vivian Island side of the passage to avoid GRANT REEF and MYSTERY REEF.
The buoy Q25, marking the southern end of MYSTERY REEF, is very difficult to find. An easy way to find it is to do this: if you were to draw a line from the eastern tip of Savary and the northern tip of Harwood, you would see it marks off the clear water between the reef and the shore. If you can see that you have crossed this line and still have not picked up the buoy, turn NW and run parallel to the shore and you will pick it up very quickly. Keep this line in mind if you are tacking up this shore. You will lose sight of the buoy quickly as it soon blends in with Harwood Island.
You may well see people doing exactly what I've just said not to do, so I would like to draw your attention to one of the GOLDEN RULES OF CRUISING: NEVER ASSUME SOMEONE ELSE KNOWS WHAT THEY ARE DOING! Take great care when navigating and choosing overnight anchorages.
Once past Savary Island, the winds are very often more westerly as they tend to blow up the Sound. The town of LUND is just past Savary Island. There are no anchorages but there are good moorage facilities, fuel, water and limited provisions are available as well as a coffee house bakery, and hotel with restaurant, store, showers and laundromat.
THULIN PASSAGE, between the COPELAND ISLANDS and Malaspina Peninsula, is just north of Lund and well worth going through. There are NO overnight anchorages in the Copelands. You may see boats anchored here, as well as the northern side of Savary. Remember the GOLDEN RULE.
You are now very near CORTES BAY on CORTES ISLAND. This is an option for a first night as it is easily reached within 5 to 6 hours from Comox by sail, much less by power. The area between THREE ISLETS and the bluffs to their north has some very dangerous and poorly charted rocks. Cortes Bay offers a choice of a Government Dock or Anchoring. There is no fuel or water at the Government Dock, and no store is within walking distance. If anchoring, do so only in the west end, taking care that the hook is well set and you have plenty of scope. The holding is OK but not exceptional. You are now at the mouth of Desolation Sound. From here everything is very close with may choices of anchorages within a short distance.
Further up the east coast of Cortes Island there is an excellent anchorage called SQUIRREL COVE. Before reaching the anchorage you will see a Government Dock. There is no fuel or water but there is a sizeable store open year round. It is well stocked with food, alcohol, ice, propane and limited amount of hardware. Hours are 9am-6pm every day with longer hours July and August. Phone 250-935-6327. This is also one of the few places you can drop your garbage for a nominal fee. DO NOT OVERNIGHT at the Government Dock. It is very exposed to ANY wind and even passing tugs throw a hefty wake. Directly north of the Government Dock, just off BOULDER POINT, there is another poorly charted rock. GREAT CARE must be taken to give this point a very wide berth if approaching fro or heading toward the north. The rock has been marked with a day beacon which is mounted directly on top of it. Unfortunately there is still more rock to hit out beyond this beacon. STAND WELL OFF THIS MARKER!
A fun thing to do in Squirrel Cove is to take your dinghy in to the tidewater lagoon at the end of the Cove. The entrance to this lagoon is known as the "Reversing Rapids". Salt water flows in on a rising tide, then out again on a falling tide and all at quite a fast rate. The lagoon is very beautiful and the ride in or out is always exciting (so ling as you have enough water).
Just north of Squirrel Cove on WEST REDONDA ISLAND is TEAKERNE ARM. At its NE end there is a 90 foot waterfall cascading right out of CASSEL LAKE down into the bay. This is a MUST SEE in the area. Temporary anchorage can be had to the left of the dinghy dock (please do not tie your vessel up to the dock itself).
A word here on anchoring stern-to.
You will find anchoring this way is very common in the Sound. If you have never done it before, the following is the best method I have found to do it with minimum problems. Before you actually drop the anchor, have someone go ashore with the stern line, tie it securely to a tree or rock (above high water mark), then row the line out to approximately where you want your stern. Anchor the boat and back up towards the person in the dinghy. It is much easier for the dinghy to maneuver than the boat with a hook down. Once secure, if the bottom is not quite visible, make up some sort of lead line to check the depth of water at the stern. The bottom drops off quickly here and your sounder may read 30' where it is, but you may have only 10' at the stern. With as much as 18' of tidal range you can drop as fast as 3' an hour!
The water in Cassel Lake can reach over 20 degrees Celsius. The falls are therefore very warm to shower in. It is also quite easy to hike up to the lake by a path that takes off from the dinghy dock. Swimming and diving off the rocks is a lot of fun.
Unfortunately you CANNOT stay overnight at this anchorage. You will be dropping the hook in 45 to 65 feet of water with a sternline ashore. Your stern will not be far from the shore, the holding is very poor and there is no room for error. A southeasterly drives a fair size sea right into this corner and moving anchorage in the middle of a dark night with no navigational aids in nobody's idea of jun, or safe time.
Tying to a log boom could also ruin your day as they are moved any time day or night. So forget that idea. Talbot Cove and Joyce Point have oyster leases and any area that looks like an oyster lease or a fish farm must be avoided completely. Oyster leases are identified by rows of buoys and fish farms look like low barges with railings around them. Never approach either of these types of facilities.
There are, therefore, no overnight anchorages in Teakerne Arm at all. You have to head south, back towards Homfray Channel but this isn't so bad. Distances are very short and you can have a great day at the falls and lake and have plenty of time to head to another spot for the night.
South of Teakerne Arm on West Redonda Island is REFUGE COVE. There is no anchorage here but dockside morrage is available - Phone 250-935-6659 & they monitor VHF 66A. This is your only place to get fuel or water and propane in the immediate area of the Sound (also has provisions). If you just need water, please do not use the fuel dock. it is quite all right to tie up on any of the other docks to water up and/or get provisions. As well as a good store, you will also find a liquor store, craft shop, shower, washer & dryer and a hamburger stand that has been enlarged with the addition of a cappuccino bar with fresh baked goodies. Refuge Cove is open daily from June 1 to mid-September (9am-5pm) with extended hours in July and August. BEFORE JUNE AND AFTER MID-SEPTEMBER fuel and waterare available on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday from 1 to 3 pm only. The residents of this quaint little community do ask boaters to respect their privacy and refrain from trekking through their residential properties. Although there is no garbage collection
at the marina, that task has recently been undertaken by an enterprising gentleman who has his boat tied to a small barge that you will see on your way into Refuge Cove. He will gladly take your garbage for a nominal fee.
Going south around West Redonda Island, past Martin Islands and on around the south side of MINK ISLAND, there is a great anchorage in a cove in the NE corner of TENEDOS BAY. Good holding stern-to my be obtained along the area south of the creek. (Take care of the rock lying strait out from the creek.) From here it is a short hike up to Unwin Lake which is very warm for swimmer from June to September. There are also endless hiking trails all through this area.
At the entrance to Tenedos Bay there is another very dangerous and poorly charted area of submerged rocks. They lie between a little islet called RAY ROCK and the bluffs off BOLD HEAD to the north. DO NOT pass through this area. Another bad, submerged rock (are there any good ones?) lies just inside the entrance to the NE of Bold Head. Don't be daydreaming when traversing this area.
Around the corner and up into HOMFRAY CHANNEL is one of the best known, most photographed and prettiest areas in the Sound, PRIDEAUX HAVEN. Care must be taken to avoid SKYPILOT ROCK. It lies just north of OTTER ISLAND. The best anchorage here is MELANIE COVE. It MUST be approached from around the NORTH side of EVELEIG ISLAND, then through a narrow passage around the east end of the island. YOU CANNOT ACCESS THE COVE VIA THE SHALLOW PASS ALONG THE SOUTH SIDE OF EVELEIGH ISLAND.
A second choice is LAURA COVE, very close to the NE of Melanie Cove. Though not as large, and requires anchoring with a stern line (too narrow to swing), it has excellent holding. DO NOT ANCHOR AT THE WEST END, it is riddled with rocks. The remains of Old Phil the Frenchman's cabin, as mentioned in The Curve of Time, is at the east end of the cove. For the brave and daring there is a rope swing on the south shore opposite the entrance and to your right.
Across from Prideaux Haven on West Redonda is ROSCOE BAY. This is the only anchorage where you are restricted by tide getting into and out of it. There is a bar part way along the narrow entrance that almost dries at low tide. Consult your tide tables carefully. It is essential to know the tide level before entering and you will also want to know when you can get out again the next day. Once past the bar, excellent anchorage can be obtained anywhere in this beautiful bay and it is a very short hike to BLACK LAKE, another very warm lake for swimming. Further hiking can be had along the lake shore.
PENDRELL SOUND, which branches off from Waddington Channel and nearly divides East Redonda Island in two, is well worth exploring. It has the warmest waters of the Sound with temperatures reaching as high as 25 degrees Celsius all summer and is ripe with oysters and mussels. (Never go ashore anywhere in the Sound with bare feet, and be very careful with inflatables). In settled weather, anchorage can be found stern-to at the very head of the Sound.
If you would like to venture a little further, there is a great little anchorage at the top of
WADDINGTON CHANNEL called WALSH COVE. There are Indian pictographs on the
cliffs at the northern part of the anchorage just inside the bight of the cove. From the
water they are partly hidden by trees, but once ashore they are easily found. These are
hundreds of years old and were discovered by Vancouver's botanist Archibald Menzies
Also in Waddington Channel, just south of Walsh Cove, is DOCTOR BAY. This is the
home of an active fish farm which, unfortunately, precludes it as an anchorage. There
are no other anchorages in Waddington Channel because of oyster leases.
Moving north, there is little or no current in the gap between West and East Redonda Islands. Travelling through here you will have a great view up TOBA INLET, a truly beautiful and remote area. It is 25 miles up to the head of the inlet which, though very scenic, has no anchorages save Brem Bay in good weather. No anchorage can be found at the head of Toba Inlet as it is shallow, windy, and exposed. You are guaranteed however, to most likely have the entire area all to yourself. There is a small resort/dock called Toba Wildernest at the entrance to Toba on the north shore just N of Double Island. There is often overnight moorage available at their dock.
Coming back south via HOMFRAY CHANNEL makes for a nice circuit. Homfray Channel is the second deepest sounding in North America reaching depths of 2400 feet with peaks rising 5000' to 8000' around you. There are two good anchorages. ATTWOOD BAY is a great spot no that the fish farm is gone. However, take note that the small bight at the back of this bay is NOT AS CHARTED and no anchorage can be found there.
ADDITIONAL EXPLORING NEAR DESOLATION SOUND
CHART 3538 & 3312 - CORTES ISLAND (WEST SIDE)
VON DONOP INLET has an extremely dangerous rock part way along its entrance that is almost impossible not to hit. DO NOT ATTEMPT TO ENTER THIS INLET AT ANY TIDE.
WHALETOWN has a Government Dock and pleasant walks. Please note that there is no longer a store at Whaletown.
GORGE HARBOUR is a beautiful and extremely well protected bay. At its entrance, Indian Pictographs can be seen on the cliffs on the west side and ancient Indian burial caves can be found on the east side. Once in the bay, the only anchorage is found at the NW end. Watch your depth carefully. DO NOT ATTEMPT TO ANCHOR ANYWHERE ELSE IN THIS BAY. You will not get the anchor to bight as the bottom has shale rock everywhere other than in the west corner. If cruising around sightseeing, THERE ARE NUMEROUS AND POORLY CHARTED ROCKS lying between the Tan and Ring Islands and the northern shore, and around the Pill and Stove Islets. DO NOT PASS THROUGH THIS AREA. There is also an excellent marina/resort with full facilities near the NW anchorage called GORGE HARBOUR MARINA RESORT. They have moorage, fuel, water, showers, a well stocked store and an excellent restaurant open May through September - Phone 250-935-6433. They monitor channel VHF 66A.
CHART 3538 & 3312 - QUADRA ISLAND (EAST SIDE)
HERIOT BAY offers both a Government Dock and the facilities of HERIOT BAY INN AND MARINA, an old and very quaint resort with 1800ft of side tie moorage with washrooms, showers and laundry. Fuel, water, and propane available. Their restaurant has an excellent reputation. Open all year, Phone 250-285-3322 and they monitor VHF 66A. A grocery store is across the street as well as a liquor store and post office.
DREW HARBOUR, behind REBECCA SPIT, offers reasonable anchorage, but is known as a place for dragging. BE SURE YOUR ANCHOR IS WELL SET if anchoring here overnight. It is within walking distance of Heriot Bay.
CHART 3527- DEPARTURE FROM COMOX
Departing Comox Valley Harbour Authority, immediately turn to port
and leave the two standing pilings outside the entrance to starboard,
to avoid the shallows on your right. Once clear of the breakwater, you
are in deep water and GOOSE SPIT is clearly visible ahead and to your
left. It is low and sandy with buildings halfway along it and trees
towards its outer end. Goose Spit Light a quick flashing red light on a
15' solid white tower with red band at its top, marks the western
extremity of the spit.
CHART 3513 - CROSSING THE STRAIT OF GEORGIA
Once across the bar you must next find buoy PJ, an east cardinal buoy marking the outer reaches of CAPE LAZO shoals. It will not be visible from the bell buoy P54. An easy way to find it is to sight across the STRAIT OF GEORGIA where the smoke stacks in Powell River are clearly seen. Head directly for the stacks and you will find buoy PJ without any problems. It can be difficult buoy to find.
Once at buoy PJ you have two choices to reach the Sound, SHEARWATER PASSAGE, west of Harwood Island and
BAKER PASSAGE between Cortes Island and Hernando Island. You CANNOT go through MANSON PASSAGE ,
CHART 3538 & 3312 - DESOLATION SOUND
SAVARY ISLAND has some great beaches with very warm water for swimming. Unfortunately, the Government Dock on the northern shore is only for drop off or pick up, you cannot stay there. Dropping a lunch hook for a swim is great but
DO NOT anchor overnight. There is no protection from the north at all and winds can shift very quickly.