Destinations the Gulf Islands

Jedediah Island - The Gem of the Strait of Georgia

Wednesday, January 14, 2015S.V. CAMBRIA

For one reason or another, Jedediah Island in the Strait of Georgia is a black hole in the world of charts.  David suspects it’s because there is no commercial interest on the island, but I’m not convinced.  There are plenty of island and islets in the area that are charted and, yet, have no commercial interest either.  Jedediah Island, on the other hand, has a nice hidey-hole in the way of “Deep Bay” for passing fisherman and tug boat drivers to duck into (sans barge, of course) during bad weather so, it seems to me that a chart would be handy for all of us.  Until that time comes though, we recommend consulting the cruising guide, “Best Anchorages of the Inside Passage by Anne Vipond and William Kelly.  You can find helpful information in Dreamspeaker’s "Vancouver, Howe Sound, and the Sunshine Coast" by Anne and Laurence Yeadon-Jones as well but the book “Best Anchorages” is . . . the best.

There are several anchoring options available throughout Jedediah Island, but both of our stays coincided with southeasterly winds leaving us only one choice:  Deep Bay on the island’s northern end.  Considered to be one of the safest anchorages in the area, Deep Bay offers all-weather protection.  And we agree.  While it was blowing over 20 knots in the Strait of Georgia, we only saw a breeze inside the anchorage – just enough to keep things pleasant and cool.  However, the holding is fair in rock and the anchorage is , requiring a stern-tie to shore.

A trail leads from the head of the bay through an old-growth forest and a meadow before branching off in two directions:  One leads to Driftwood and Codfish bays as well as to the trail to Long Bay and, eventually, Mount Gibraltar, the island’s highest point.  The other leads to Home Bay, the former homestead of the island’s previous owners, the Palmers. 

The Palmers may have been the last private owners of the island, but they weren’t the most colourful.  That honour clearly belongs to an Irish farmer by the name of Henry Hughes who owned the island in the 1920s and ‘30s.  He didn’t care for strangers and suspected those visiting the island of poaching his sheep – going as far as greeting some people with the barrel of a shotgun.  He bought Jedediah Island as a working farm, bringing a manservant, gardener, cook and a shepherd with him.  But, by all accounts, he was more interested in reading than in farming and soon went broke. 

With no money to pay for his help, he lived on the island alone with his dog, Caesar, until meeting an English nurse by the name of Jenny.  One summer, a small group of people that had arrived by sailing yacht dared to venture ashore and walk the trails.  They ran into Hughes who invited them to his house at the head of Home Bay.  Jenny ultimately became his wife and they lived on the island together for years.  Hughes eventually hoped to sell Jedediah to the Canadian Pacific Steamship Company for development into a summer resort but the CPR purchased Newcastle Island near Nanaimo instead. 

In 1949, the island was purchased by Mary Palmer and her first husband who used it as a retreat.  In the 1970s, she moved to Jedediah full-time with her second husband, Al Palmer, and they became the private owners.  Wanting to keep the island pristine for everyone to enjoy, the Palmers decided to sell it to the government as a provincial marine park; thus starting the fundraising efforts of the Friends of Jedediah and contributions from hundreds of individuals, groups and corporations throughout British Columbia.  The island became a marine park in 1995 – any visitors will tell you that the funds were well-spent.  The Palmer’s left their horse, Will, behind along with some sheep whose descendants continue to graze on the island today.

Beyond Home Bay, there’s a short trail to the aptly named Driftwood Beach – a stack, ten feet deep, of logs piled together as if they were toothpicks – clearly not where you want to be during a winter storm.  And beyond Driftwood Beach, further to the south, lies one of the most beautiful anchorages on the island, Codfish Bay.  Situated on the southeast side of the island, Codfish Bay lies off Sabine Channel which separates Jedediah from neighbouring Texada Island.  It offers good protection from northwest winds and a group of small islands near the entrance of the bay offers some protection from the southeast and the swell.  The bay itself is dramatic – a narrow inlet with steep-to granite cliffs and a driftwood strewn beach at its head – and would be a lovely spot to spend a few days.

From there, backtrack along the trail until you’re close to Long Bay on the opposite side of the island.  Along the trail, just before you break from the forest into an open paddock, there’s a gravesite marked “Will”, the Palmer’s horse.  Not far beyond the grave, the trail breaks off to left, exits the woods and enters a paddock where it’s not uncommon to find the sheep grazing. Continue to the left and re-entered the forest where the trail is clearly marked with fluorescent pink tape. 

The trail, made by animals over the years, climbs 500 feet through woodland and moss-covered granite and is well-worth the climb.  The view from the summit looks out into the Strait of Georgia and from there you can see the neighbouring islands and Jedediah’s rugged shoreline:  It’s nothing short of spectacular.  It’s also a good place to catch a glimpse of the island’s feral goats, believed by historians to be descendants of those left by 18th century Spanish explorers to graze on the island. 

After making our second trip to Jedediah Island in September, David and I were left to wonder, once again, why we hadn’t visited before.  It offers a lot of what we look for in an anchorage: good protection, a marine park, hiking trails and, above all, peace and quiet even when it’s busy.  

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