British Columbia Desolation Sound
Prideaux Haven, Desolation Sound Marine ParkWednesday, November 30, 2016S.V. CAMBRIA
It seems ironic that Captain George Vancouver chose the name Desolation Sound for what’s now one of British Columbia’s busiest and largest marine parks. But in 1792, when Vancouver was surveying the Inside Passage, that’s what he found – desolation. The scene is much different today, especially during the summer months when thousands of happy boaters visit the area to enjoy its protected anchorages, warm-water swimming, fresh-water lakes and mountain views. And no place is this more evident than in Prideaux Haven.
The entrance to the anchorage looks more difficult on paper than it is in reality: The channel is narrow but clear with depths of 5 metres (16 feet) at low tide. If you’re still not convinced, follow the advice laid out in “A Dreamspeaker Cruising Guide: Desolation Sound” and line up with the park sign on Williams Islands before turning to starboard and entering between Lucy Point (Eveleigh Island) and the Oriel Rocks.
Once inside, there’s plenty of room to anchor throughout the large bay with good holding in mud in depths of 6 to 18 metres (20 to 60 feet) and protection from all quadrants. Other options for anchoring include Melanie and Laura Coves as well as several small, private anchorages outside of Cobblestone and Roffey Islands, but check your charts carefully: The area is littered with underwater rocks.
It’s not difficult to find ways to pass the time in Prideaux Haven with plenty of islets, lagoons and bays to explore by kayak or dinghy. In the summer, the water is warm enough for swimming, especially in the shallow lagoon located off Cobblestone Island. In the fall, black bears can be seen foraging along the shore. There’s also a mile long trail from the head of Melanie Cove to Laura Cove that was originally blazed by the famous hermits of Prideaux Haven, Andrew “Mike” Shuttler and Phil Lavigne, for stretching the legs.
Shuttler came to Melanie Cove from Minnesota. He left school at an early age to work but was intelligent and educated himself by reading from the works or Marcus Aurelius, Epictetus, Plato and Emerson and had an extensive library of books in his cabin. Like so many others who came to Desolation Sound to make a life, he grew his own vegetables and fruit, kept goats and logged trees when he needed money. In 1931, he became ill and was moved to the hospital in Powell River where he died. His long-time neighbour, Phil Lavigne, wanted to remember his friend so he built a bookshelf around his bed and moved Mike’s library to his cabin in Laura Cove despite the fact that he was illiterate.
Phil arrived to Prideaux Haven some time after Mike and is said to have killed a man in Quebec. If true, he probably wasn’t wanted by the authorities because he wrote letters to his family back home with the help of friends and neighbours. In 1945, Phil got sick and was taken to hospital in Powell River. He died in August of 1946 and was buried in an unmarked grave in the Cranberry Cemetery, just like Mike. Remains from the homesteads no longer exist – the closest you can get is the outhouse in Melanie Cove which is believed to be on the site of Mike's former cabin.
But if none of those activities interest you – swimming, kayaking, exploring – there’s always lazing about the cockpit (or in the hammock) simply enjoying the view, which may be the best thing about Prideaux Haven.
Entrance: 50°08.74’N, 124°41.03’W
Anchorage: Throughout with good holding in mud in depths of 6 to 18 metres (20 to 60 feet).
Things to Do: Swimming, kayaking, SUPing, hiking, watch the shore for wildlife (bears in September and October), camping (no fires).
Disclaimer: This blog article is not to be used for navigation. It is purely an account of our personal experience in and around the Desolation Sound area of British Columbia.