Of all of the many anchorages my husband Steve and I visited in writing the book, Voyages to Windward: Sailing Adventures on Vancouver Island’s West Coast, we found Nuchatlitz to be the most beautiful, worth repeated visits. In the 30-some years we sailed this coast, we must have visited it over 15 times.
Located about two-thirds of the way up the West Coast of Vancouver Island, at the entrance to Esperanza Inlet, Nuchatlitz’s charm comes partially from the field of tree-covered islands and rocks that simultaneously create a winding tortuous entrance and a beautiful sheltered anchorage just a short distance from open sea. From this anchorage we’ve watched sea otters and seals frolicking among kelp, herons fishing at the water’s edge, eagles soaring overhead and bears overturning rocks on the beach. At sunset we’ve marveled at red sky reflected in calm water while listening to surf breaking on the outer rocks.
The area immediately surrounding Nuchatlitz Island consists of the undeveloped Nuchatlitz Provincial Park, used by kayakers, campers and boaters. It’s a beautiful location for a park, but one we’ve never seen crowded. The rock-strewn entrance will always discourage nervous boaters.
On our first visit to Nuchatlitz we were welcomed to the former Nuchatlaht First Nation village site on the island immediately north of Nuchatlitz Island. The villagers promptly pressed Steve into duty as a baseball umpire and I roamed the village admiring the fields of daisies growing between the houses. Later we bought a small basket from an old woman. The village site is now vacant, the houses moved to Ocluje at the head of Espinosa Inlet. Nuchatlaht members still visit the village site and still use a small cemetery across the anchorage. Both sites are Native reserves as the peninsula immediately south of the village island.
Nuchatlitz was also once the location of Todd Fisheries, a fish buying business. A large rusty tank visible from the main entrance fueled a busy fishing fleet. More recently Bob Devault and his cousin Dan Devault operated an oyster farm at Nuchatlitz with oyster rafts anchored off the island.
We’ve returned to Nuchatlitz year-after-year for both the area’s beauty and the strong sense of community created by the island’s residents. We’ve enjoyed walking among tall cedars on the island’s well-maintained yet natural trails. The residents always welcomed us, sometimes inviting us to share salmon, halibut and potluck dishes. Once I asked to borrow someone’s sewing machine to repair a pair of jeans. The sewing machine owner, whom I had never met before, insisted on making the repairs for me.
Each time we visited Nuchatlitz, Bob Devault would show us new improvements to his house and grounds. He planned everything very carefully. One year it was a complex sewage system to protect Nuchatlitz oysters from pollution. Another year it was beautiful hardwood floors rescued from a house being carefully demolished. And his careful constructions and designs make the view prominent from everywhere in the comfortable house. I envy whoever buys it.
Elsie Hulsizer - Writer and photographer
Voyages to Windward, Sailing Adventures on Vancouver Island's
West Coast (2005, 2015)
Glaciers, Bears and Totems: Sailing in Search of the Real Southeast
We were first introduced to Nuchatlitz in the early 1970’s, our home was nearby in Tahsis BC. During a budding friendship with Bob Devault and the native families of Nuchatliz, we developed a tremendous appreciation for the region and the adventurous few who live there. Nuchatlitz is remote, yet is easily accessible via small boat or airplane. The weather ranges between unbelievably beautiful sunrises to the power and grandeur of spectacular winter storms. Nuchatlitz is safely protected by surrounding islands and enjoys beautiful summer weather. It offers sea fish, shellfish, sea otters, kelp forests to dive. Seals, whales, and seabirds which abound over spectacular beaches.
Silvia and I have twice sailed the South Pacific islands, once to New Zealand and back in a small sailboat. We have cruised the entire British Columbia coast. During my forty year career as a coastal float plane pilot, I’ve gained an intimate knowledge of our coastline. In all of our travels, in all of our experience, we cannot think of anywhere more beautiful or more complex in all it has to offer. Nuchatlitz is our favourite place of all.
Del and Silvia D'Arcangelo,
Retired Pilot and Nurse, Courtenay, BC