On your way to Butchart Gardens in Brentwood Bay or even Fulford Harbour on Saltspring Island you might want to drop the hook in a special little cove with lots of history and adventure. After clearing into Canadian waters at Sidney Marina (or simply calling in using your Nexus number), locate Portland Island on your chartplotter, just a few clicks north and prepare to spend at least two nights to get the full effect of this enchanting island.
The island was named Princess Margaret Island and given to her to celebrate her visit to British Columbia in 1958, but because she couldn’t afford the taxes or didn’t have a boat to get there, she gave it back to them and it became Portland Island Provincial Park in 1967. Our gain. We’ve anchored here many times and will do so many more.
As you approach the island you will notice on the charts, specifically Canadian Chart 3441, the many rocks and reefs, mostly on the eastern shore. Carefully maneuver to the southern corner of the island and find that tiny Tortoise Islets and Hood Island shelter a small bay, Princess Bay, suitable for anchoring at 48o 43.174’N 123o 22.191’W. There are a few stern-tie rings provided so if you don’t want to swing when the anchorage is getting full, make use of them. Only drawbacks are the many rocky reefs, no water available and it is exposed to southeast winds, which are not common in summer.
Once you are securely anchored in the muddy bottom, drop the dinghy and head for the dinghy dock. This is the base for many trails and great hikes. We think this is one of the best hiking islands in this part of Canada. Take your picnic lunch with you and enjoy the park tables provided by the Canadian Park folks.
The reefs around Portland Island make for great scuba diving. Be sure to display the ‘DIVER DOWN” flag since the summer boating traffic is quite busy.
Just a side to this Portland Island anchorage: we recently discovered another neat place. Just a very short distance northwest of Portland is another island at the entrance to Fulford Harbour, Russell Island. When we were departing Fulford Harbour this summer we noticed quite a few boats at anchor on the north side, seemingly totally exposed to the weather. At approximately 48o 43.174’N 123o 22.191’W, as though it were a very well-known spot – we’ve never even noticed it before, but in the future, when the weather is as good again as it was for the summer of 2014, we will definitely park there and partake of the hikes and exploring it offers.
I guess the coolest thing about this anchorage is that there are so many more in the vicinity. Head on over next summer and discover a few for yourself.
Don and Carolyn Bloye M.V. Island Spirit