Pirates Cove Provincial Marine Park has many treasures for boaters to find.
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 alone stimulates the imagination. One of the park’s attractions 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, which are free and for the taking. A voyage to Pirates Cove is a summer highlight for hundreds of young boating families.
Proceed With Caution
A rock reef extends beyond the natural breakwater that runs parallel to the shoreline, so watch for it at the cove’s entrance. The cove’s depth ranges from 6 to 16 feet. The large dock facility on the west side of the cove is private moorage for island residents, and park visitors are asked to stay clear of the floatplane dock.
Despite its tricky entrance and questionable holding ground, the park remains very popular with boaters, many of whom insist the mud bottom is only about 10 to 12 inches thick over rock. Holding can be a problem in a northerly wind, and boaters anchored and stern-tied along the east side of the cove are most affected by northwesterly blows. It would be safe to say this anchorage requires healthy and substantial ground tackle.
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 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 campsites 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 park 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 as a summer fishing and trading site for First Nations people is interesting. Middens in the park, protected under the law, date back more than 3,000 years, with the largest one 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 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 gave their entire life savings in support. A key commune property was on DeCourcy Island, a haven in advance of a predicted Armageddon.
Perhaps Wilson had good intentions at the beginning, but over time the movement’s 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 remain 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 on DeCourcy Island.
We always keep our eyes peeled when we walk the park’s trails. Never know when we might be lucky enough to discover a jar full of gold coins or, even better, stub our toe on a cedar treasure chest full of booty.