Join us on a tour of these “Sirens of the Salish Sea,” perhaps the most tempting of the Gulf Islands.

What is it about North and South Pender Islands, lounging smack in the middle of the Salish Sea, that makes them so alluring to boaters? The islands together comprise just 3,620 hectares and are home to only 2,300 residents. So why have they enticed skippers ever since their namesake, Daniel Pender, arrived in 1857 aboard his survey vessel HMS Plumper?

Steeped in history, fringed with pocket beaches and tempting tuck-aways, and offering ample amenities for boaters, the islands also have three perfectly spaced marinas, one marine park, 615 hectares of Gulf Islands National Park reserves (GINPR), two secluded freshwater lakes, three public docks, and more anchorages tucked into their shores than any of their neighbours.

Let’s begin at Otter Bay and cruise clockwise around these beautiful islands.

Otter Bay

Boaters arriving from Porlier or Active passes to the north will probably be happy to make this busy hub their first port of call. They have the choice of tying up at Otter Bay Marina, tucked behind the bank of flags in Hayashi Cove, or anchoring. Matsuyama Company once flourished on the marina site, salting, packing and shipping herring to Asia before the property was confiscated by the government in 1942 under the War Measures Act. It continued operations sporadically until it burned down in 1956.

Loomed over by fractional ownership cottages, the marina has changed a lot over the past decade but still offers a warm welcome and full services to transient boaters. It’s also a great base for golfers keen to sink a few at the nearby Pender Island golf course, or for visitors using mainland or Vancouver Island ferries, which stop at the adjacent terminal.

If you have children dying to splash in cold water or play on the beach on a hot day, there’s a sweet slice of public beach at the head of the bay; grab your towels and buckets and dinghy over.

While the bay is open to swells from passing ferries, anchoring is good. Whether you anchor or take a slip, you should visit Roesland, which has a new dinghy dock. Although the float is often crowded with park vessels, there is designated space for dinghies. Another plus, courtesy of GINPR, is the robin’s egg-blue building at the head of the ramp – a public toilet with flushers, a rare find on the thirsty Gulf Islands.

Roesland, one of the GINPR’s largest acquisitions at 230 hectares, is a wonderful place for all ages to explore. Although the bridge across to the islet has not been replaced, it’s easy to wade across in summer or cross at low tide. A short trail winds through the headland, lined by salal, twisting arbutus and firs, and culminates in a bench that is perfect for romantic sunset viewing.

The Roes farmed here before they turned it into a rustic resort. It operated for over 70 years before its next owners, David and Florence Davidson, closed it in 1994. If it’s open, be sure to visit the museum located in the original Roe farmhouse, built in 1908. The larger log home, which now serves as the park’s field office, was built by the Davidsons.

Boaters in search of more exercise can visit Roe Lake, a short walk up the road to a well-marked trail through the forest. It’s possible to slip and slide all the way from the lake down into Shingle Bay, although walking around the lake is very pleasant and less onerous.

Swanson Channel

Heading southeast, you’ll soon notice old pilings in Shingle Bay, the site of yet another once-thriving industry – a dogfish and herring reduction plant that employed up to 20 men every summer. Built in 1926, it burnt down in 1958. Penderites are delighted that the beautiful property and islet have now been added to the park system.

With ecological integrity as the goal, GINPR’s aim is to protect species in their environment and connect fragmented parts of protected lands, and this new park links with the Roesland property. A master plan is being developed and may include boat-in or hike-in camping and/or picnicking. Currently there’s a picnic table, a beach, old fruit trees, grasslands, and the reduction plant site to explore, but check the park website (see  “Coordinates”) for current information.

The small grassy community park at the head of the bay has picnic tables, an outhouse, and a children’s playground, so it is tempting to consider putting down the hook, especially during the summer when no northwesterlies are forecast and Otter Bay is teeming. Don’t venture much past the pilings, however, as the bay shallows rapidly. You might also want to set both bow and stern anchors to face into the frequent ferry wake.

Carrying on with your circumnavigation, the marina tucked behind the substantial breakwater just ahead is Thieves Bay, a private marina for folks living in the Magic Lakes subdivision. The turbulent waters here are great for fishing and killer whale viewing, so if you see a crowd on the banks, watch for those black fins and stay well clear.

Bedwell Harbour

Heading southeast and passing Oak Bluffs, skippers will soon find themselves rounding Wallace Point at the entrance to Bedwell Harbour, named after Edward Parker Bedwell, second master on the HMS Plumper. This is the site of Poets Cove Resort, a swishy fractional ownership resort complete with spa, five-star resort and bar, as well as a marina and the Penders’ only fuel dock. Bedwell is also the site of the most convenient Canada Customs dock for boaters crossing the border between here and the US San Juan Islands to the south.

Skippers have many overnight options here. Poets Cove Marina has a slew of transient berths for boats of all sizes, and mooring ensures that all of the cove’s attractions are easily accessible. You can also grab a mooring buoy in nearby Beaumont Marine Park at $12 per night. Ashore at Beaumont, you’ll find picnic tables, a campsite, a new composting toilet and four “traditional” ones, and hikes up to the panoramic Mt. Norman viewpoint or down to the bridge between the islands.

Poets Cove offers shore access to boaters wishing to discover Greenburn Lake, a short but steep hike up from the fire hall on South Pender. This 69-hectare property was added to the GINPR in 2004. For awesome clifftop views, go right when you reach the lake, cross the ramp and follow the trail left, then watch for a trail going right.

Boaters also often enjoy strolling down the quiet road to South Pender’s more southern tip, a long but level 3.7 kilometres. Be sure to take the trail off to the right a block before road’s end, in order to enjoy Brooks Point, a very special place. Orcas can often be seen feeding here, as can seals, otters and birds. Brooks Point was acquired in 2001 and fundraising is on once again to help The Land Conservancy in its purchase of the adjoining land. Visitors can now walk to the tip of the island, enjoy an explosion of rare chocolate lilies in the spring, and ogle Washington’s Mt. Baker rearing out of the Strait of Georgia.

Back at the marina, there are a few other curiosities to check out. Look at the writing on the cliff adjacent to the docks. This historical graffiti was etched in 1905 by the crew of the Royal Navy survey vessel HMS Egeria. And if the sickly-looking tree in front of the hotel catches your attention, you might be interested to know that it’s a yew tree, considered sacred by several ancient religions. This yew may hide a grisly secret; see what you can find buried in its trunk and then see if you can get a staff member to tell the story of what might be buried under the tree. Believe what you will, several longtime employees have seen ghosts here.

Boaters can also anchor in Peter Cove, off the southern tip of North Pender, if they can find space among the mooring buoys, or off Medicine Beach on the North Pender side. Medicine Beach was acquired by Penderites in 1995 in order to save one of the Gulf Islands’ last remaining wetlands. Now a wildlife sanctuary, the eight-hectare reserve has no facilities other than a lovely beach and a short trail up to a viewpoint. It does, however, offer access to the island, and a liquor outlet and coffee shop can be found in the small commercial complex a half-block away.

Port Browning

When captain and crew are ready to move on, powerboaters will likely take the shortcut via the Pender Canal from the head of Bedwell Harbour to Port Browning, under the one-lane bridge that connects both islands. Currents can reach four knots through here. Proceed slowly – wave action is causing erosion and nearby Mortimer Spit is a favourite spot for kayakers. Dog walkers, families, and even hardy swimmers also enjoy this popular recreation site.  

Excavations in 1957 resulted in the designation of the banks on both sides of the canal as a provincial heritage site. A later Simon Fraser University archeological dig uncovered thousands of artifacts which dated First Nations settlement back 5,000 years. An informative cairn can be found on the North Pender side, and some of these finds be seen at the Roesland museum.

But with just 28’ of clearance under the bridge at low water, most sailors will need to follow the longer route around South Pender, heading eastward past Camp Bay and between Teece Point and Blunden Inlet, and sailing down Plumper Sound to Port Browning.

This is a favoured cruising stopover, offering overnight moorage choices, proximity to the islands’ commercial hub, the Driftwood Centre, a chance to meet the locals and enjoy nightly specials like “Turkey Tuesday” and “Pizza and Beer night” at Port Browning Marina’s popular pub, and a great beach. In addition to the marina, there is 400’ of dock space at the public wharf on the harbour’s east side. This is the home base of Station 20 of the Royal Canadian Marine Search and Rescue.

There’s also good anchorage close to the beach that offers shelter from all but southeast winds. Hamilton Beach is the best on the Penders, home to the annual polar bear swim and starting point for the popular August Round-the-Penders yacht race.

Hope Bay

After a night or more in lively Port Browning, it’ll be time to round Razor Point and continue northwest on Plumper Sound a short distance to Hope Bay. Three hundred feet of public moorage can be found at the Hope Bay Harbour Commission's wharf at the west entrance to the bay. However, it’s open to wakes and weather from the east so it’s not the best of overnight spots. Beyond the docks, the bay almost drains at minus tide. There are also two mooring buoys for visiting boats.

Treat Hope Bay as a perfect stop for breakfast, brunch or lunch at the popular Hope Bay Café, and a browse around the shops. This attractive commercial complex has grandly risen from the ashes after it was gutted by fire in 1998. The burnt-out store, built in 1912, was rescued by a group of 27 Penderites who completed their restoration in 2005. The property was later sold to Pender realtors Sherrie and Sam Boyte. Visitors will find an excellent goldsmith, a must-visit artists’ co-op – the Red Tree Gallery, a real estate office, home furnishings store, and many other businesses in this beautiful and historic part of Pender.

Upon leaving the bay, you may soon notice the broken red bricks onshore. They gave their name to the tiny bay here. Bricky Bay was the site of another flourishing industry in 1912 and is now one of the Penders’ 25 public beach accesses. The Coast Shale Company occupied 50 acres here with a shale pit, railway track, mineshafts and accommodation for 75 men before it closed down in the early 1920s.  

Tranquil Davidson Bay (Clam Bay to the locals) is a good spot to drop temporary anchor and perhaps even a crab trap. The substantial dock here is private. Buildings on the beach and inland are part of what was once the Clam Bay Farm resort. It’s suitable only for temporary anchorage.

Port Washington

Around Stanley Point, Grimmer Bay and Port Washington's public docks come into view. There’s 250’ of dock space here. The bay, named after the first postmaster, Washington Grimmer, is where the “school boat” picks up students en route to high school on Salt Spring Island. Port Washington is another good temporary stop, with possible overnight anchorage in the bay. If you tie up, favour the more protected south dock.

Now it’s decision time. Circumnavigation complete, are you really ready to leave these friendly islands? Why not chat to the locals and find out what’s happening at the winery, the farmers’ markets, the community centre, the artists’ galleries, Poets’ Cove, the church hall, the pub, the Legion? On the Penders you can be sure of two things: something fun is always happening somewhere, and getting to where the action is will never be a problem.

Look for the signs placed at strategic places around the islands – they are recognized places for people to wait if they require a lift. Erected in 2008 by Moving Around Pender, an alternative transportation society, they were the brainchild of Penderite Barry Mathia. They offer visitors a convenient way to really experience life on the Penders.  

Local Knowledge
•    A bridge does not one island make. You can always detect visitors – they're the ones who refer to “Pender Island.” While it's true that for thousands of years the Penders were one island, joined by an isthmus the Coast Salish called “helisen” (lying between), the canal was dug in 1902 to allow the ferry Iroquois a quicker transit from Hope Bay to Sidney. The canal cut nine miles off the route and made the trip safer, although in an ironic twist of fate, the Iroquois foundered off Sidney on April 10, 1911 with considerable loss of life. In 1955, the present one-lane bridge was built to connect the two islands.
•    Rivalry. "There used to be disharmony between the settlements of Port Washington and Hope Bay," recalled David Davidson of Roesland, who knew the Penders since 1926. "Port Washington was Anglican, Hope Bay was United. Hope Bay parents would sometimes remonstrate with their children, 'If you're not good, I'll send you over to Port Washington.'" For years the stores in both communities competed to be the local post office and general store and to have the ferry dock, each winning and losing more than once. Over the years, the stores have been abandoned, rebuilt and offered for sale, but just now Hope Bay is winning. The Port Washington store has sat empty for years.

•    Otter Bay Marina. Open year-round with 15, 30 and 50-amp power, laundry, showers, pool, berths for any length craft, 80 slips, seasonal bistro. Close to ferry and golf course.
•    Port Browning Marina. Laundry, showers, seasonal store, camping, Wi-Fi, kayak rentals, café and pub. Close to Driftwood Mall.
•    Poets Cove Marina. 110 slips, 30-amp power, Canada Customs, marine store in season, year-round restaurant, bar, spa, pool, hot tub, resort.
•    Southern Gulf Islands Harbours Commission. Wharfingers: Port Browning – Claude Kennedy, 250 881-2019. Hope Bay – Peter Binner, 250-813-3321. Port Washington – Rod MacLean, 250-629-6111.
•    Canada Customs at Bedwell Harbour. Staffed May-August from 0900 to 2000, September 0900 to 1700. Off-season, skippers must report to Sidney Customs. Call 1-888-226-7277.
•    Gulf Islands National Park Reserve.
•    General Pender Island Information:

Photo 1 - Mt. Norman, above Beaumont Marine Park, offers spectacular views of the Gulf Islands. Kevin Oke Photography
Photo 2 - Hope Bay is a perfect day stop, with a popular café, an artists’ co-op, and other shops. Cherie Thiessen Photo
Photo 3 - Browning Harbour public dock offers 400’ of visitor moorage. Cherie Thiessen Photo
Photo 4 - The Pender Canal offers a shortcut between Bedwell Harbour and Port Browning, but 28’ clearance means most sailboats can’t make it under the bridge. Kevin Oke Photography
Photo 5 - Otter Bay Marina offers full-service moorage close to Active Pass. Kevin Oke Photography
Photo 6 – Poets Cove Resort.
Photo 7 - Port Browning offers anchorage, a popular marina and a public dock. Cherie Thiessen Photo
Photo 8 - A stunning Gulf Islands evening at Poet’s Cove Resort, Bedwell Harbour. Kevin Oke Photography

By Cherie Thiessen

Related Articles

Wednesday, 13 February 2013 15:49

The 45th Annual Southern Straits Classic is set for March 29-31, 2013.  The West Vancouver Yacht Club (WVYC) is making preparations to host its Annual Southern Straits Classic for the 45th...

Tuesday, 14 May 2013 13:30

Whether you see it as fairy dust in the water or stars in the head, ocean bioluminescence is a fascinating phenomenon. I had my most recent exposure to the remarkable phenomenon called...

Thursday, 20 February 2014 16:15

It was still dark when we departed our home slips in Chrystal Harbour, LaSalle, Ontario, and entered the Detroit River. It was August 2nd, 2013, the first day of our adventure to complete the...

Thursday, 07 March 2013 12:43

Vancouver Island’s premiere in-water boat show, the 2013 Victoria Harbour Boat Show, returns to the pristine waters of Victoria’s Inner Harbour, April 18 – 21, 2013. Hosted by...

Tuesday, 07 May 2013 11:45

North American Safe Boating Awareness Week will take place across Canada from May 18th to May 24th, 2013. The purpose of this initiative is to promote safe and responsible boating practices to the...

Thursday, 07 March 2013 12:43

Vancouver Island’s premiere in-water boat show, the 2013 Victoria Harbour Boat Show, returns to the pristine waters of Victoria’s Inner Harbour, April 18 – 21, 2013. Hosted by...

Boat Reviews

  • Prev
Without the optional bow thruster, getting the new Dufour 430 out of the impossibly crowded docks ...
Last September, we had our first encounter with a World Cat 280 DC – X and it was quite impressive! ...
In the February 2020 issue of Canadian Yachting magazine, we featured our review of the Neptunus ...
A luxury sport cruiser like the all new Prestige 420S has it all—lines that are easy on the eyes, a ...
Once again, Cruisers Yachts is leading the market for day boats with their new 42 GLS model that ...
Optimized sailing performance and comfortable living – a sweet ride. The expression that came to ...
This is such an exciting time in boating! While we feel very sorry for people whose health and ...
For many, the 2020 sailing year will be one to go down into the books as “different”. With delayed ...
What perfect timing! Beneteau is has just announced their new Antares 11 model for North America ...
Commodore’s Boats is a full-service shipyard with over 50 years of generational history and ...

CY Virtual Video Boat Tours

Virtual Boat ToursWe all love boats and nothing can break us up! So, what better way to spend our time than looking at interesting boats and going aboard in a virtual ride or tour. We have asked our friends at various dealers and manufacturers to help us assemble a one-stop online resource to experience some of the most interesting boats on the market today. Where the CY Team has done a review, we connect you to that expert viewpoint. If you can’t go boating, you can almost experience the thrill via your screen. Not quite the same, but we hope you enjoy our fine tour collection.


Read more about the CY Virtual Boat Tours....................




World Cat 280 DC-XBy Andy Adams

Last September, we had our first encounter with a World Cat 280 DC – X and it was quite impressive!

We know of no other comparable Performance Offshore Luxury Catamaran in the Ontario market, but we expect to see more World Cats in the coming seasons. The test boat was supplied by Central Marine Midland, in Midland, Ontario and they report that they are doing quite well with the World Cat line. Built with vacuum-infused hull construction in North Carolina, the World Cat was designed as a big water boat.

Read More




Dufour 430 Grand LargeBy Peter A. Robson

Without the optional bow thruster, getting the new Dufour 430 out of the impossibly crowded docks at Vancouver’s Granville Island was a challenge, but long-time broker Richard Hargreaves got us out without mishap.

Also aboard was Richard Carrier from One4 Yachts. We’d been watching the Windy app for weeks, waiting for enough wind to put the new Dufour 430 through its paces. Finally, today’s winds were forecast at 15 to 20 knots.


Read More

View of Ganges HarbourText and Photos by Marianne Scott

Salt Spring Island, the largest among the Gulf Islands, has a certain mystique—much of it having to do with locally produced food. It started thousands of years ago when the Coast Salish First Nations used the Island as a summer camp, collecting wild foods while also processing the abundant sea food for winter sustenance.

In the 19th century, five main groups settled here and began farming: Northern Europeans—some of whom had abandoned gold rush dreams; Hawaiians brought here by Vancouver Island’s second governor, James Douglas...

Read More


  • Prev
In my lifetime I have been a member of 5 yacht clubs. There were big differences. The one that I ...
Our photo of the week comes from Europe where Ali ten Hove and Mariah Millen are warming up their ...
Last issue we reported that Theodore Tugboat is moving up to Ontario but HelmBoy of Bedford NS sent ...
Heading to Tokyo soon, our 49erFX team of Ali ten Hove and Mariah Millen are up against it; the ...
As anyone who has been near a familiar - to them - part of the lakeshore can attest, water levels ...
As a life-long marine journalist, it has often occurred to me, that it’s a big ...
Here’s a dramatic photo of the Week from Jansin Ozkur. “Walking along the lake Ontario, noticed the ...
At the end of summer 2020, amid all the restrictions, we were able to shoot our film, Generations ...
Last issue, Mike Wheatstone, our Boat Nerd started a conversation about solar power. While many of ...
Oak Bay Marina achieves eco-certification in Clean Marine BC, which helps boating facilities to ...

National Invasive Species Awareness WeekThis week, Feb. 22-26, is National Invasive Species Awareness Week and the American Boat and Yacht Council (ABYC) released an animated video to raise awareness about the threat Aquatic Invasive Species (AIS) pose to the boating industry and what manufacturers can do to limit the spread.

AIS can damage ecosystems and negatively impact fishing and the future of the boating lifestyle. Boat access to many aquatic resources has been limited due to AIS concerns and AIS infestation can result in serious damage to boats and their components. Invasive plant life can foul propellers,

Read More

A Freedom Boat Club StafferAs a life-long marine journalist, it has often occurred to me, that it’s a big leap to lay out the cash, (especially for those with no previous boating experience), to try it out. How does someone even know that they will like boating it if they haven’t tried it? 

Well, joining a boat club, or a yacht club that has boats available for members to use, can get you started without the big financial commitment and with the support of the club’s education and resources. Try before you buy.

Read More

DIY & How to

  • Prev
A Transducer is a device that is installed below the waterline that provides underwater data to a ...
Spring has finally sprung! At least it has weather wise here in Montreal, so it is with great ...
An important, but often overlooked maintenance item on any type of boat is it’s steering system. ...
Insurance may not be exciting but it is important. Check at launch. We all know we need to spend ...
Before you launch: Inspect all around the hose clamps for rust and replace as necessary. Double ...
Slovenian manufacturer, Elan, has introduced the concept of regenerative electrical auxiliary power ...
There is nothing worse than your boat trailer breaking down while on the way to a great weekend. ...
When the boat is in the water, It’s easy to take for granted the parts of the boat that are under ...
The COVID-19 pandemic has created unexpected changes in our lives, impacting everything from ...
Boating boomed in 2020, with scads of first-time boat buyers chasing respite from the pandemic. Now ...

Battery LifeBy John Connell, Vice President of SLI Products Group, Crown Battery Manufacturing

Your family is onboard and eager to cast off. What happens if your battery doesn’t start?

Early battery failure is costly and frustrating enough. But with a short boating season and unpredictable weather... if you lose a weekend, it hurts. Worse, battery problems can leave you stranded on the water -- a safety hazard and a leading cause of tows. Fortunately, anyone can extend their battery life. And it’s easier than you might think.


Read More



TransducerA Transducer is a device that is installed below the waterline that provides underwater data to a display at the helm. This data is usually in the form of depth and speed – but in more advanced systems can also provide sonar, fish-finding and side or forward views.

A Transducer is a device that is installed below the waterline that provides underwater data to a display at the helm. This data is usually in the form of depth and speed – but in more advanced systems can also provide sonar, fish-finding and side or forward views.




Read More



Marc's Boat AquaholicSpring has finally sprung! At least it has weather wise here in Montreal, so it is with great anticipation and boyish giddiness that I loaded the car with all the “things” I will need for this special day - the first of many pre-launch readiness days!

The club property is abuzz with members who, while social distancing from each other and wearing masks when required, are busy removing the winter blankets off their beloved boats and assessing the needed TLC and projects they hope to accomplish prior to be put in the drink.


Read More



Marine Products

  • Prev
For anyone with a limited amount of dash or bulkhead area, but a desire for high-quality sound, ...
This book is based on the notes prepared for students by the author during 20 years of teaching ...
Big Bumper Company brings to the marine industry one of the most effective inflatable boat bumpers ...
Thinking of a knock-out big gift for the boaters you love? Now you can also make an ...
The ZINO High Performance inflatable Stand Up Paddle Board from WOW World of Watersports fits ...
Just about anyone can don a PFD and go for a thrilling ride on the WOW World of Watersports ...
Flooded marine 12V deep cycle batteries need regular topping-off with distilled water to ensure ...
The YETI Tundra 65 is their most versatile cooler, just as adept at keeping your catch cold as it ...
A good night’s sleep on the boat is a great pleasure indeed and custom bedding from SeaSwag ...
When bright white light is needed on board, a compact Sea Hawk-350 LED Light Bar from Hella marine ...

Boating RegulationLet’s make it very clear – everyone is feeling the pain of the never-endemic but the authorities – health officers and legislators – should really take another look at boating.  While the rules vary from BC to the Maritimes, basically no-one is allowed to do much with their boats.

If you follow the rules in Ontario right now, you cannot even go see your boat on land, let alone launch it unless there’s an ‘essential’ reason. While big cruisers are obviously only available to some of the population, the same could be said of cottages and chalets; those vacation facilities are full of people. Cottage rentals are booked solid for months. But propose taking your boat for a trip to a remote island and you’re breaking the law.  

Read More



Thousand Islands BridgePhoto copyright shutterstock

The CBC reported on May 6th that the top member of the U.S. Senate, Chuck Schumer from New York, has written a letter to members of the Biden administration making several demands regarding the border. According to the CBC story, Schumer has asked Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas for four things.

The first is a detailed Canada-U.S. plan — to be released as soon as possible — explaining what rules and health-related benchmarks will guide the return to non-essential travel. 

Read More



Courtesy Vessel ChecksBy John Gullick, Manager of Government and Special Programs, April 21 2021

Finally after a few years without funding I can talk about why Squadrons should offer Recreational Vessel Courtesy Checks (RVCCs). We have now received funding from Transport Canada for the next three years.

Many Squadron Officers continue to talk about how their Squadron’s course participation, and hence membership, is down and continuing to drop. Well the opportunity is back to be able to talk directly with boaters, especially new boaters who have come o recreational boating in very large numbers over last season and the current season.

Read More