The West Coast of Vancouver Island is a wild, remote cruising paradise. Safe harbours, solitude, abundant wildlife, and excellent fishing opportunities are plentiful. The northern portion – north of Estevan Point – is particularly magical. We were recently asked for a list of some of our favorite stops along this amazing coast. Here, in part 1 of 2, are a few, starting in Quatsino Sound and ending near Hot Springs Cove in Clayoquot Sound.
“Rubby Dub Cove”
Located in Koprino Harbour on the north side of Quatsino Sound, this is a wonderful place to spend a few days waiting for a favourable forecast at Brooks Peninsula. The day we sailed in, a squall blew through pushing the winds high into the thirties as we made our way east from Winter Harbour. By the time we neared the anchorage, the sun had come out and the wind had settled down to a constant 20kts, but we were still a little on edge after being surprised by the high winds. A safe spot was high on everyone’s priority list, and we were a little unsure as we sailed into the cove with whitecaps all around. Thankfully, we settled into the nook behind Linthlop Islands in a perfect calm. It was a little strange to watch the whitecaps gallop across Koprino Harbour from our little oasis of calm. Lori and I made the run from here all the way around Brooks Peninsula a couple of days later; our buddy boats made the run to Klaskino Anchorage and joined us a day later.
Not a great anchorage, but the magnificence of the beach at Shed Four more than makes up for the marginal holding. There used to be mooring buoys in the most protected area (shown on the chart), but they’ve been gone for a while now. The area they were in is shallow with a kelp covered bottom – the kelp is the reason the holding is poor.
We anchor farther out – it’s less protected, but the holding is better. After dragging across the bay on our first visit, we think this is a good trade. Be careful of the shoaling depths at the head of the bay if you anchor in the inner basin.
There is a trail from the inner basin to the beach, but it is only easily accessible at high tide. If you don’t time it right, it will be a long carry to get your dingy back in the water. We take our dingy around the outside instead and pull in behind a rocky outcropping that breaks up the surf on a pocket beach immediately east of the main beach. This beach, and the main beach, are both amazing.
Scow Bay, The Bunsbys
This bay is a must stop for everyone going around the island – expect to see other boats here. It is protected, wild, and very pretty.
Unlike the anchorages closer to Brooks Peninsula, The Bunsbys are outside of the sizable rockfish conservation area in Checleset Bay – fishing was allowed here on our last visit, but check the current regulations before dropping a line over the side. Be sure to tour the intricate waterways in your dingy.
Dixie Cove and “Petroglyph Cove”, Kyuquot Sound
Both of these anchorages are landlocked hurricane holes with easy anchoring. We’ve been swimming in both, and on a warm day, the water was excellent. I don’t know which I prefer, so recommend you see both and decide for yourself!
A word of caution – the VHF weather channels might not come in clearly, especially in Petroglyph Cove – you won’t always know what is happening outside the coves until you take a peek yourself.
Nuchatlitz is the first good anchorage you will encounter as you enter Esperanza Inlet from the north. Other commentators suggest nearby Queen Cove as the preferred first stop in this vicinity, but after being awoken by the sounds of industry there on our first circumnavigation, I have to disagree.
Protected by low islands, reefs and a tricky entrance; Nuchatlitz offers a wild, pristine setting that Queen Cove does not. To add to the drama, the open Pacific is a stone’s throw away, and easily visible. That said, while it is protected enough to sit out typical summer weather, Nuchatlitz is probably not the place to sit out extreme weather, especially from the west.
Yuquot (Friendly Cove)
Even though you’ll see the odd boat overnight here, Friendly Cove isn’t really much an anchorage but rather a must see day stop. The First Nations village here is the historic summer home of Chief Maquinna and the Nuu-chah-nulth people. The chief, and this location, hold an important place in the early history Europeans on this coast. We thoroughly enjoyed our time in this historic spot, and also made time to tour the neighbouring lighthouse. If the idea of rolling yourself to sleep after your visit isn’t appealing, there are a number of nearby options that will provide the flat water peace needed for a comfortable night.
Sidney Inlet has an embarrassment of riches when it comes to good anchorages, starting with the crowded but still worthwhile Hotsprings Cove. You don’t have to venture far to escape the crowds; there are a number of inviting coves along the west coast of Flores Island that will fit the bill. Hootla Kootla is our favorite in the vicinity because of its beautiful white sand beach. There is also excellent fishing right outside the anchorage.
The anchorages farther up the inlet to the north are also worth visiting for their all weather protection and warm water.
Stay tuned for part 2 – Clayoquot Sound and Barkley Sound!