Cruising in Delightful Desolation Sound

While the name, Desolation Sound may sound less than idyllic, this truly is a beautiful part of the Canadian coastline. This deep water sound is at the northern end of the Sunshine Coast in British Columbia, Canada. Flanked by Cortes Island and West Redonda Island, it has spectacular fjords, mountains and wildlife which make it a popular boating and sea kayaking destination.



Desolation Sound was inhabited by tribes of the Mainland Comox prior to the arrival of Europeans. In the summer of 1792, two expeditions led by Captains George Vancouver, Dionisio Alcalá Galiano and Cayetano Valdés y Flores arrived and cooperated in mapping the sound. Vancouver named it Desolation Sound, cryptically claiming that “there was not a single prospect that was pleasing to the eye”.



Personally, I couldn’t disagree more with Captain Vancouver…but who knows, maybe he was out of grogg, had scurvy or was feeling particularly grumpy when he decided on that name. I do believe that the area would have been quite desolate and wild with some crazy areas of currents, whirlpools and rapids that would have made early explorers have sphincter palpitations.

This video is just a small tidal rapid near Dent Island Lodge. Luckily, we did not have to traverse it so it was just fun to watch from shore.




Thankfully, the Government of British Columbia created the Desolation Sound Provincial Marine Park in 1973, to help protect this spectacular area from over development. The marine Park area comprises over 32 sq miles and over 37 miles of shoreline. Its many beautiful inlets, islets, coves and bays attract recreational boaters like us each summer. This amazing beauty coupled with the warm summer weather brings hundred boats here to share the numerous small anchorages.



We managed to find a few more secluded anchorages like this beautiful spot near Grace Harbor.

After spending a month further north in the Broughton Islands, the Desolation Sound area was really busy and crowded in comparison. It felt a bit like driving into Seattle! It was also so much warmer, shorts and bathing suits made an extended appearance, YAY! Seems we motored down about the time the summer heat wave hit the entire west coast. I recorded a 93 degree day inside the boat. Truly, the temperature difference was like going from North America to South America.



That said, we had a great two weeks there exploring some new anchorages, meeting up with fellow boating friends from Anacortes and hosting friends onboard the Beach House for a week. Fishing, exploring, relaxing, hiking, cooking amazing meals, drinking wine, kayaking and stargazing filled our days and nights. We even happened into a great floating concert in beautiful Prideaux Haven.



Hundreds of folks rafted together in their dinghy’s to enjoy the concert. The band and entertainers were awesome.





Our friends Dave and Tanya joined us for a week and arrived via float plane at Dent Island Lodge. It was so exciting to see the plane touch down on the water as we sat waiting for them in the marina.  They had a great flight from Seattle, low over the water with amazing visibility all the way up the coastline.  What a beautiful setting to touch down and on a private island none the less!








We enjoyed a fabulous meal and exploring the hiking trails the next day. It would have been way to easy to have stayed a few more days but we had places to go, fish to catch and things to see.






Hmmm, not sure what went wrong on this cruise but it wasn’t likely  the skippers best day on the water.


Fishing and shrimping are a great way to fill the coffers with fresh seafood. If you look closely at Wally’s fish (on the right) in the picture below, it has a turquoise hue. Most lingcod are light beige or whitish gray with pinkish bellies. However, about 20 percent of lingcod have florescent green or blue flesh.  No one seems to know precisely what causes this but biologists believe the strange green or blue hues indicate that the lingcod have consumed a diet rich in chlorophyll, eating more plant matter—green algae through small crustaceans—than the rest. Regardless of its initial coloring, all lingcod meat turns bright white when cooked and is a dense, mild fish. We ate them both and honestly I can’t tell you that they tasted any different.



Those are some happy boys!! Well, not the fish so much.



Seriously, that is really the color of the fish meat. No photo color enhancement!!


The great thing about Desolation Sound is that there are actually plenty of places to get off the boat and enjoy having someone else cook and do the dishes. As much as I love cooking, sometimes shore leave keeps the whole crew happy!



Lunch on the deck at bustling Refuge Cove. Bloody Mary anyone?



Speaking of shore leave, many of the anchorages in Desolation Sound have great hikes. Fresh water lakes are plentiful with the high mountains and winter snowpack so swimming in the cool, fresh water is a great way to cool off on a hot day. 






Bentley didn’t go full in swimming but he definitely likes wading! He’s always a happy boy when we get out the harness and leash – shore leave…why yes, I will go exploring too!!




There were no shortage of amazing sunsets and one night we were all treated to a dark sky dripping with stars. No light pollution, no wildfire haze and no moon makes for spectacular stargazing. The perfect place to take it all in… stretched out on the bow of the boat with a glass of wine in hand. So quiet and peaceful…






We saw plenty of wildlife on our two weeks in Desolation Sound. Eagles, Orca Whales, Humpback Whales, Osprey, Herons, Cormorants, Kingfishers, Seals, and Porpoise just to name a few.



Isn’t this couple just adorable…I am pretty sure the babe on the right is the girlie! She looks so feminine!!!



This baby seal found the perfect place to sun itself and didn’t seem to mind that we were this close. Little dude was actually suckling on the side of this giant boat…so cute!!!


We really did get up close and personal with the humpbacks in the videos below one night when we went out to check our prawn pot. Check out the link above to read about that exciting evening!





It has taken me awhile to sort through all the pictures from this short two week part of our cruise north. I gotta admit that I was a bit tuckered out by the time we pulled into our slip at Anchor Cove Marina in Anacortes. We have had such a great season on the boat exploring the Canadian Coastline and once we catch our breath, I think we will head out for a few four days trips in the San Juan Island! This gal’s not that tuckered out or ready to put the Beach House away for the winter!!!




I love how the wake of our boston whaler made a wake that was shaped like a whale tail!! Wonder if that’s why they are called whalers???

Outposts in the Wild Broughtons



While we love gunk holing and being anchored out in a quiet bay with no one around, sometimes this gal needs a “city” fix. On the boat that usually means we need to do laundry, get fuel or food but in the case of the Broughton’s the main attraction of the marinas was the social aspect. 

Most of the marina’s in the Broughton’s are really outposts, some are super funky and rustic, others are more sophisticated. Rustic means just that, the docks are usually old wood floats, there is unlikely any type of store, no fuel, no laundry. Some times they have water and power if they have good generators.



Rustic, wild Kwatsi Bay.


Sophisticated means there are a full range of services such as fuel, water, power, groceries, laundry, wood fired hot tub, wifi and cell service and maybe updated concrete docks. Don’t get me wrong…they are still funky but with flair!!




These outposts are where the boaters gather to catch up on chores, pick up friends who fly in on float planes (yes, you have that option too if you want to come hang with us for a while on the boat), and socialize with other boaters.

Most outposts have some sort of organized Happy Hour which is usually potluck and the marina provides the place to gather. Some even have a small restaurant or set meals several times a week. The other thing that sets the tone at the outposts are the owners and the special touches they do to give their outpost its own special vibe.



Golf anyone???


Kwatsi Bay is definitely rustic…the setting is stunning and all the waterfalls in this area make is very special. Set deep in the bay with 2,000 ft mountains surrounding it, Max and Anca are a delightful couple who have built this place from scratch. Sadly, we hear they are putting it up for sale…so if you are hankering to have your very own outpost, this may be your chance.



Remote Kwatsi Bay


The water system at Kwatsi was installed with human man power efforts by Max which meant laying hundreds of feet of pipes up the mountain to the year-around waterfall. The water is piped down to the marina and purified. There is no power at the docks but the small building and the main house are set up in a generator and solar, all done in an effort to be sensitive to the environment.



We enjoyed a intimate Happy Hour gathering on the docks and no rain!


Pierre’s at Echo Bay is another outpost that is owned by a very enterprising couple, Pierre and Tove. Read the link and you will see what I mean by enterprising! They have been living and working in the Broughton’s for almost 40 years and this outpost definitely has their vibe. The pig roast and prime rib dinner events that they hold each week are incredibly popular and well attended. We made our reservations in advance just to make sure we could attend the Canada Day Celebration as well.



Thats Pierre getting ready to carve the pig.


This outpost also has some hiking trails that will take you over to another small bay where you can see Billy Proctors Museum and visit the gift shop. Billy is a coastal legend who tells the best stories based on his life living in the Broughtons. 

We had a chance to meet Billy and chat with him about the fish farms …yes, he has strong options about those!!! A friend had loaned me one of his books “Full Moon, Flood Tide” which was great to read while we were cruising in Billy back yard. A natural, storyteller, Billy’s book points the way to hidden waterfalls, abandon Native villages, old logging camps and the added bonus for boaters is the descriptions of which bays have the best protection from the winds.  He recounts spellbinding and often hilarious tales of the big hearted, hard-bitten and just plain weird folks who have lived in this part of his world.



Chatting with Billy, what an amazing man!


Sullivan Bay was one of our favorite outposts in the northwest west part of the Broughtons. This more sophisticated outpost is owned by a group of people who have floating homes there…okay, they really just summer homes…and the marina is top notch with full services. The Manager Deb and her crew were amazing.












We met friends from Anacortes there, Deane and Arlene who have been our Broughton’s mentors. Long time cruisers who know their way around the PNW from south of Seattle to beyond the Broughton’s – Thanks guys for letting us tag along on part of your trip!




It was great to have someone else cook and we all enjoyed the prime rib dinner at the restaurant and the great Happy Hour gatherings at Sullivan Bay. There is something special about the boating comraderery up here. We have met so many wonderful people who will hopefully be boating friends for life!!



The winner of the golf challenge at Sullivan Bay gets to wear this great jacket and get a free night of moorage – WTG Wally!!!


Besides catching up on laundry, email and all the boating gossip we did a lot of exploring from these outposts, some fishing, crabbing and prawning too. It is great to be tied up to a dock for a few days and go out in the whaler exploring with Bentley. 



Delicious fresh spot prawns…yummy!!!


Lagoon Cove Marina was a great stop over on our way back down to Johnstone Strait. Not only do they have a fresh prawn feed at Happy Hour but there are hiking trails and fun outdoor games on the lawn above the docks. 



Getting set up for the prawn feed at Happy Hour.





The burn barrel is kinda of a big, damn deal as most of these remote outposts have no garbage service.



At Lagoon Cove the grounds were quite beautiful. It was great to be able to get off the boat and go for a hike…even with a bear in the fruit tree.


Our final stop in the Broughtons was at the Port Harvey Marina which is owned by George and Gale Cambridge. This is a great stop for boaters who are just coming out of Johnstone Strait or getting ready to make the transit.




Sadly, we heard that George passed in his sleep just a week after we were there. I suppose one could feel some comfort knowing he passed in the place he loved, doing what he loved but out hearts go out to Gail.  George will be sorely missed by the boating community. Calm Seas George!!!