Pirates Cove Provincial Marine Park

A classic Gulf Island anchorage that offers beauty and the chance of finding treasure

By Deane Hislop

As Easy Goin’ swings on anchor, we are on deck enjoying the warm summer sun. Our imaginations are running wild speculating how Pirates Cove got its name. Located on DeCourcy Island and only accessible by boat, Pirates Cove is one of the most popular provincial marine parks in British Columbia’s Gulf Islands. Its name stimulates the imagination. One of the attractions to the park is a wooden treasure chest next to the park sign at the entrance to the cove. Somehow the treasure chest is always overflowing with toys, books and other treasures. The contents are free and are for the taking. A voyage to Pirates Cove is a summer highlight for hundreds of young boating families.


When approaching Pirates Cove, X really does mark the spot. Earlier in the morning, as we arrived, we guided Easy Goin’ clear of the rock reef extending beyond the natural breakwater that runs parallel to the shoreline. The reef extends well beyond the green day marker that marks the reef and is just awash at higher tides. In the summer, kelp helps mark the hazardous reef. Safe entrance into the cove is accomplished by passing the reef to port. You can do so by lining up the range marker on shore—a white arrow on the rocks that points up at a wooden white X on the tree—and following this course until you are abeam of the entrance channel, at which point you turn 90 degrees to port. Enter the channel keeping the red buoy “U38” to starboard and the green day marker on the reef to port. On a zero tide the channel is about five feet deep and once in the cove there are depths from six to 10 feet. The large dock facility on the west side of the cove is private moorage for island residents. Park visitors are requested to stay clear of the float plane dock.

Despite having a tricky entrance and questionable holding ground, this 31-hectare park remains very popular with boaters, many of whom insist the mud bottom is only about 10 to 12 inches thick over a rock substrate. Holding can be a problem in a northerly wind, although we have never had a problem. To accommodate the popularity of the anchorage, stern-tie anchors are placed on the northern and southern rock shoreline.


When you go to weigh anchor, if your boat isn’t equipped with a raw water washdown, you’ll want to have a bucket and line handy. It’s been said, there is only one difference between “sticky” and “stinky” and this bottom checks off both boxes. You’ll want to rinse the rode as it comes aboard; you don’t want this stinky goo in your chain locker.

Arlene and I consider the marine park lovely and its anchorage beautiful. It features two dinghy docks for going ashore, plenty of sculptured sandstone shoreline to explore by kayak and an intertidal area that teems with a variety of marine life. During the summer months, a park host is present to assist with questions or concerns.

The 77-acre park offers a lovely network of more than three miles of easy hiking trails that weave through the park and pass through mature second-growth Douglas fir, arbutus and Garry oak. Picnic tables and walk-in camp sites accommodate day and overnight plans, but there’s no garbage collection service, so visitors must pack-out all garbage for recycling or disposal.


In 1966, the parks grounds were acquired for the purpose of a Provincial Marine Park with the assistance of the Council of British Columbia Yacht Clubs.

The park’s earlier history was a summer fishing and trading site for First Nations people. Middens in the park, protected under the law, date back over 3,000 years, with the largest hidden beneath the present-day campground.


A pirate of a different kind lived here in the late 1920s and early ’30s. A remarkable figure in the history of British Columbia, Brother XII (aka Edward A. Wilson, among other names) was a mysterious cult leader who formed the Aquarian Foundation and convinced nearly 8,000 followers that he was the Twelfth Master of Wisdom from another world who would teach his faithful the mysteries of ancient Egypt and usher in a new age. The amount of money donated to the foundation is legendary; people would give their entire life savings in support. A key commune property was located on DeCourcy Island, a haven in advance of a predicted Armageddon.

Perhaps Wilson had good intentions at the beginning, but over time the spiritual component went astray and a series of court cases provided insight into the commune’s financial, and, yes, sexual scandals, which included the role of a whip-wielding Madame Zee. Eventually Brother XII and his mistress fled. Where he lived out his days and when he died remains a mystery, but witnesses told tales of glass jars filled with gold coins—the proceeds of donations to the foundation—stored in cedar chests. Though the pair escaped, speculation was they couldn’t have taken all the gold, meaning perhaps some is still buried somewhere in the park.

We always keep our eyes peeled when walking the park’s trails. You never know when you might be lucky enough to discover a jar full of gold coins or even better, stub your toe on a cedar treasure chest full of booty.


When you go:

Location: 49.06’01” N, 123.43’55” W
Chart: 3475, 3343, 3313
Nearest Marina: Page’s Resort & Marina