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Bunsby Islands | West Side of Vancouver Island

The Bunsby Islands are a group of islets and islands in Checleset Bay, just seven miles south of Columbia Cove. They’re popular among cruisers and kayakers, and for good reason. Within the group there are several well-protected anchorages, lots of shoreline to explore, white shell beaches, black silty beaches, lagoons, and beautiful views out to the Pacific and back towards Vancouver Island.

The short cruise from Columbia Cove was delightful. Bright blue skies, lots of sunshine, no wind, a gentle ocean swell. We anchored for the night in Scow Bay.

Nearby Battle Bay sounded like an interesting place to explore by dinghy. We traced the shoreline, looking at sandy beaches and jagged, rocky outcroppings as we headed towards an unnamed river that might be navigable. Sure enough, we got across the bar (and were more cognizant of the tide than yesterday!) and meandered several hundred yards upstream.

Then we headed towards the Cuttle Islets. Even on a calm day, the 2-3 foot ocean swell broke violently onshore. The shoreline looked interesting to explore by foot, though, and a small gravel beach looked calm enough to land the dinghies.

Beaching a dinghy in surf is a lot more challenging than it sounds. The swells rushing in push the boat rapidly towards shore, then as they retreat they pull the boat back out. Ideally you ride the swell in, pull the outboard up at the perfect time, and hop onto the beach before the dinghy is swept back out to sea. Timed wrong, waves break into the dinghy or you hit the outboard on the rocks or you get wet…or all three.

Once you’re on the beach, you can’t just leave the dinghy in the surf. It must be pulled up the beach, or sent back out to sea using an anchor. Since pulling the dinghy up the beach is a lot of work, we anchor.

An Anchor Buddy—basically a stretchy anchor line—makes this operation pretty easy. Drop the anchor outside of the surf, motor to the beach, and hop off with a long line (we use a 100-foot line). The tension in the Anchor Buddy pulls the dinghy off the beach and into calm water, and the line ashore allows you to retrieve the dinghy without swimming.

Dinghies anchored near the beach

We wandered around the island, exploring the jagged rocks and flotsam that had washed ashore.

Rugged coastline in the Cuttle Islets
Rusty planking…what from?
Guess we aren’t the first visitors!

Eventually we headed back to the Bunsbys. The white shell beaches (maybe the sunshine, too) lend a tropical vibe to the place.

We tend to travel pretty rapidly, cruising for five or six hours a day, then exploring wherever we’ve ended up, then repeating the next day. One of the benefits of a short travel day like today is having down time to relax. Or, for Kevin, time to tool around in a dinghy with a fishing rod to explore what lives beneath the surface.

These guys were out of water just long enough for a photo