Desolation Sound

Desolation Sound is one of the Northwest coast’s most dreamed-about cruising destinations.  Named by a disenchanted Captain Vancouver in 1792, Desolation Sound is located south of West Redonda Islands and north of Sarah Point and Mary Point.  The area is not large but offers an abundance of protected anchorages with many bays and coves to explore, generally easy boating waters with light summer breezes.  The water in Desolation Sound is not regularly exchanged with the cold ocean water making for wonderfully warm water temperatures of up to 21°C to 27°C (70°F to 80 °F).

We started our journey north into Desolation Sound from the town of Lund on September 1st sailing towards our first destination, Grace Harbour in Malaspina Inlet.  We actually spent a couple of hours sailing before making our way to Grace Harbour as the sailing was awesome until the wind died behind Kinghorn Island north of Malaspina Strait.

Grace Harbour (50°03.135’N, 124°44.709’W) is surrounded by forest and almost completely landlocked making it the most protected and one of the more popular all-weather anchorages.  When we arrived, there were about 8 boats in the harbour and by the end of the day there were close to 20 boats.  The harbour also attracts the largest quantity of non-stinging jellyfish named Pacific Moon Jelly (Aurelia labiata) to its warm waters – we were not going to test that theory and did not go for a swim.  Apparently the other boaters agreed as no one else went in the water.  There is a freshwater lake nearby with a lovely trail but the lake was not conducive for swimming having a lot of lillyponds and logs!

The majority of the boats anchored in Grace Harbour were part of a rendezvous with the CCA (Cruising Club of America). One of the boats in the group was a feat in welded aluminum building and looked like some battleshipy thing.  The owner of the boat felt that it was necessary to play Taps (or something of that nature) at nine-thirty in the evening on a large stereo that he hauled up onto deck. Sadly, we ran into him again in Squirrel Cove later on in our travels where again he felt the need to share his music selection – Taps – and disrupt other’s tranquility.

The following morning, we left Grace Harbour and motored towards Tenedos Bay – no wind all the way there!  Tenedos Bay (50°07.650’N, 124°42.227’W) is also called Deep Bay for a very good reason as we anchored in close to 70 feet of water but were well protected from the winds.  The bay is also another favourite anchorage for many boaters and kayakers mainly because of Unwin Lake, a warm-water swimming lake with a few pools screened by vegetation making it a good bathing spot!  We took advantage of the warm waters and went for a dip.

We left early the next morning from Tenedos Bay on September 3rd and headed towards our next two destinations, Refuge Cove and Squirrel Cove. Refuge Cove (50°07.413’N, 124°50.403’W) is on west Redonda Island and is one of the more popular resupply ports in Desolation Sound and we clearly realized this as we approached the entrance to Refuge Cove, as other sailboats started to approach as well and sped by us to enter the cove ahead of us trying to ensure a dockspace.  They didn’t have to worry as there was lots of space available.

Refuge Cove is a small community with a grocery store, gallery, little restaurant, fuel and propane service, showers and laundry facilites and is owned and operated copperatively.  We were told that during the summer months Refuge Cove is a lively and busy place but during the winter months there might only be two people living there.  We only stayed for a couple of hours enjoying a homemade burger at the Boat Stop Cafe and topping up on propane before sailing to Squirrel Cove.

Squirrel Cove (50°08.488’N, 124°55.348’W) on Cortez Island was our final destination in Desolation Sound and we ended up staying there for three days exploring the bay, hiking to Von Donop Inlet, trying to shoot the ‘rapids’ to “Squirrel Cove Lagoon”, a saltwater lagoon and visiting the Squirrel Cove Trading Co. general store which was getting low on supplies as it was getting close to the end of the season.


These were just a few of the many places in Desolation Sound that we visited.  One can spend months exploring all the beautiful anchorages and never get tired of the vast wilderness and beauty of Desolation Sound. ~Sophia & Rob


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