Island Bound Traveller Writer, Storyteller
Gary Grieco is a freelance writer, avid reader, sailor, and motorcycle enthusiast based on Texada Island, British Columbia, Canada.
Texada Islands' Secret -Sturt Bay
Shelter where there was once none
By Gary Grieco
Cruising skippers heading north to Desolation Sound and beyond from points south have an abundance of protected harbours at the south end of Malaspina Strait - Smuggler Cove, Secret Cove, Pender Harbour - but the next leg of the journey can sometimes be frustrating. For the rest of Malaspina Strait, between the mainland and Texada's 27-mile-long steep, forested shoreline, the first stop for most is at either Westview or Lund. However, at the height of the summer cruising season, it's not unusual to arrive at the public docks at either of these sheltered harbours late in the afternoon only to find them plugged with visiting boats. Boaters take heart! There is an alternative safe harbour. Sturt Bay, just west of Van Anda Cove on the north end of Texada Island offers safe overnight anchorage, dockside moorage and some great shoreside attractions. Up until recently it was largely unknown as a "safe haven" to the many boaters who regularly cruise up and down Malaspina Strait. Official sailing directions have generally deemed Sturt Bay in the past as a fair weather anchorage. The brotherhood of boating travel authors have generally followed the official lead and given the bay a miss, or a very sketchy description. Since the completion of the Sturt Bay breakwater, many have never bothered to enter, recording their observations and hearsay from offshore. Bill Wolferstan's Cruising Guide to British Columbia Vol. 2 is an exception, stating, "Good anchorage is available in Sturt Bay to the west of Van Anda Cove." A colourful photo of the Texada Boating Club circa 1972, shows only the main wharf in place at that time, and Wolferstan states, "When space permits, moorage is available for visiting boats at a nominal charge."
Give me Shelter. For most of history Sturt Bay lay open to fierce south and northeast gales that blew along Malaspina Strait. Only low-lying Shark Island protected it. However, today it lies serene and well protected.
Identified in an 1871 survey only as "Bay", it was not changed to Sturt Bay until 1878. This was where Captain Sturt, rumoured to have been involved in the "Pig War" between the United States and Canada in 1859 - had the first lot surveyed on Texada.
Left: Texada Boating Club in Sturt Bay.
Above: Texada Hotel overlooking Sturt Bay.
Sturt Bay's windswept outlook changed in 1966 when local boaters formed the Texada Boating Club and started work on a mammoth engineering project; a rock breakwater. The island's mining community generously supplied the rock from ther quarries. Nearly 30 years later, in 1997, the breakwater was finally finished. Sturt Bay now offers boaters a new, secure harbour.
Tying up. The moorage rates at the Texada Boating Club docks are still reasonable at $0.70 per foot per night, with a weekly and monthly rate of $3.50 per foot. The policy for visiting boats is first come, first served. There is no rafting at this new transient moorage dock that has 300' of space available to accomodate cruisers. The shore power is up-to-date at $3 per day, and there is fresh water on the dock.
Extra moorage is usually available during the summer months when club members are out cruising. Wharfinger Barb Soepboer will be glad to answer any of your questions and let you know what space is available. This is a friendly dock, with members ready to 'gam' about boating in general or provide island information.
Goods and Services. Services and amenities in Van Anda are all within easy walking distance from the boat harbour. There is a post office, and a well-stocked grocery store and liquor outlet across the road. Part of their service is delivering you and your groceries back to the dock when requested.
Just past the Texada Island Inn, at the crossroads to Van Anda, Blubber Bay and Gillies Bay, is the Esso station (Centennial Service) which sells diesel, as well as gas, and has a laundromat. Across from the Esso station, down a leafy lane called Legion Road, is the Royal Canadian Legion Branch #232. From Tuesday to Saturday, between 1600 and 1900, the legion serves tasty, inexpensive meals. It also offers free shuffleboard, and free billiards played on a mint condition, 100-year-old billiard table imported from England. Feel like hiking? Every Saurday at 10 a.m. the Texada Trekkers meet at one of two starting points: Van Anda or Gillies Bay. Hike to a unique island spot. Bring a lunch and gear in you backpack. Visitors are welcome, but I suggest you call in advance (see sidebar). From Van Anda to the Blubber Bay ferry terminal is about five miles up island. Just before the terminal is the Holtenwood Gallery, which is second to none, offering a wide variety of handmade crafts, gifts and artistic items. Next to the gallery is a Heritage museum operated by the local Historical Society. Hours of operation are July and August, 1300 to 1600, Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday. If you can find transportation to the village of Gillies Bay (seven miles down island from Van Anda), you can experience fine dining at the Tree Frog Lodge and Bistro which also has bed and breakfast accommodations: You can shop at the Gillies Bay general store with its liquor outlet, post office and deli section featuring homemade smoked sausage and home cured bacon. They also sell propane. Two kilometres past the store is beautiful Shelter Point Park, with towering cedars and firs. It also boasts sandy swimming beaches, a campground, seaside nature trail, and a great seasonal food concession. Finding your way there is well worth the effort. Gillies Bay Village has the Texada Island Community Health Centre, RCMP detachment, ambulance station and modern firefighting equipment.
The next time you are cruising Malaspina Strait and looking for a safe haven in fair weather or foul, check out Sturt Bay's great little boat harbour - the Strait's best kept secret.
Sailing directions for Sturt Bay are straightforward, with deep water as you enter between Marble Bluff and Hodgson Point. The entrance is close northwest off Van Anda Cove. Scott Rock, 161 metres (528') east of hodgson Point, is covered by 2.1 metres (7') of water. A day beacon on a rock on the south side of the bay is one metre (3') high with a drying ledge extending north from it.
A GPS reading of 49degrees 45'60N/124degrees 33'85W puts you right at the Texada Boating Club docks. Anchor depths in the middle of the bay are 70 to 80'. Closer inshore and west of the old lime kilns, toward the mouth of Sturt Creek is where most boats anchor, and is a great place for gunkholing in a dinghy. Depths range from 25' to 35' with good protection from all winds, though a swell can develop when a strong east wind is blowing.
Texada Trekkers Hiking Club
Phone: Dave Taylor at 604-486-7659 or John Dove at 604-486-7100
(Published Pacific Yachting October 2004)