Gunkholing in Desolation Sound

We pulled up anchor at the crack of dawn to sail up the the Sunshine Coast and into the wilderness of Desolation Sound. Normally the winds tunneling through Malespina Strait between the mainland and the spiny baked monster island of Taxeda are from the North, but on this day they were with behind us. We flew north on a broad reach slowing only at the top of the Strait, where we got a nice look at the historic town of Powell River, a few miles beyond its bustling, mundane sister, Westview. The whole town of Powell River has been designated a National Historic District, one of Canada’s very few. Through binoculars we could see the rows of pretty craftsman houses and the town center with churches and schools. The lumber mill of this company town founded in 1910 still billows steam and all the houses appear tidy and inhabited This is a place we need to visit. Powell River has a history museum, a logging museum and a fully restored theater which dates from the days of theater organists accompanying silent and still shows movies every night.

Civilization ends at the Swedish settlement of Lund, whose majestic old hotel overlooks the water. It’s here that Route 101, already patched together by ferry crossings, peters out in a brief dirt track.

Desolation Sound, so named in 1792 by the gloomy George Vancouver, combines grandeur with a cozy intimacy with the natural world. While snow capped peaks drop majestically into the Pacific, endlessly winding miles of shoreline shelter tiny all-to-yourselves anchorages. We found one such behind Jean Island near the entrance to Grace Harbor in Desolation Sound Marine Park. We could not believe the silence. Loons crying from miles away. The ripples made by a family of a yet to be identified family of ducks. The flap of the wings of a bald eagle as he left his forest perch above our mast.

In the daytime there are the sounds of oyster farmers’ boats, the occasional float plane reuniting a passenger with family or colleagues, and other cruisers. But there are no overhead wires or signs or mooring docks and buoys or even navigational aids apart from an occasional plastic ball marking an obstruction. Gunkholing is the nautical equivalent of backpacking before the days of permits and designated campsites. On Cortez Island, we returned to Gorge Harbor, where we’d been with Acquitted in 2006. It’s a large bay all but enclosed save for a very narrow but deep and safe set of cliffs. This year we again entered in low tide and were treated to a a show of jewel tone colors: bright pink, purple and orange starfish on a bed of bright green seaweed on the rock.

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1 Response to “Gunkholing in Desolation Sound”


  1. 1 westcoastboatingadventures February 14, 2012 at 11:21 pm

    Enjoyed your blog! Desolation is our favourite cruising grounds..


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