Vancouver Island’s “Wild West” Side… Pinkerton Islands and The Broken Group

After our delightful visit up Pipestem Inlet, and a good night’s sleep in Cataract Cove, we continued our journey through Barkley Sound to a group of islands called the Pinkerton’s. It was enjoyable cruise amongst many islands getting there, and after motoring around briefly looking for good anchorage, we picked a spot in a narrow channel.

Anchoring is a tricky chore, as I’ve mentioned before. Depth, which changes greatly with the tide…  position to land and rocks (seen and unseen), which ALSO changes with the tide… length of anchor line (and even TYPE of anchor line)… “scope”, which gets into physics, but imagine what happens to the position of the boat in 30′ of water with 100′ of anchor line out when the water level drops 8′. Now add wind. 😳  It’s more complicated than most people think.

Anyway, we were comfortable with our position between islands, and the wind was blowing directly up the channel, keeping us away from shore. We dropped the little boats in the water and set out for more exploration.

I seem to have quite a knack for bear hunting. 😜  I set out between the islands to the right of Summer Breeze in the image below, and glanced into the first cove to my left… and got that feeling. “This is a bear-kind-of-cove”, I said to myself since John was not within hearing distance. And sure enough…

As I slowly… quietly… eased my way in by peddle power, with camera at the ready… I watched a Black Bear make his way along the shoreline, turning over rocks as he went. As usual, it took a while for him to notice me… they have very poor eye-sight, but a great sense of smell and pretty good hearing. He was only slightly wary, and far more focused on the meal at hand, so I got to observe and shoot until my heart was content. John came along and chose to observe from a distance rather than potentially disrupt the moment, and only got slightly nervous as my kayak drifted within 15-20′ of the shoreline. There was never any sense of threat or fear… from me or the bear, and we both went on our merry way.

Summer Breeze anchored in a narrow channel amongst the Pinkerton Island

Black Bear, Pinkerton Island

Looking for a meal…

Seems like a lot of work for breakfast

Black Bear gives me a second glance

Typical colorful rocky shoreline


As we cruised amongst the islands and islets I spotted a Harbor Seal lazing on a rock. Oh wait, there’s two! And then three! (They really blend in.) Each looked up with a wary eye as we got closer, and I noticed one had a bloody wound on her neck. (What might have caused that? A predator? Surely not an Orca… they are far too good at hunting to get their teeth in one and let it get away. Possibly a sharp rock or Oyster shell? Or even one of her own?)

Harbor seals resting on a rock in Pinkerton Islands

Harbor Seal with neck wound

Harbor Seals, wary but not afraid


Eventually they slipped in the water, one at a time, but it took no time at all for one brave soul to decide we weren’t there to cause harm. As we moved along from there, the other two followed us around the islands for a bit.

Harbor seal decides to join us topside again

What a sweet look


We did discover that Barkley Sound is a popular place for float houses. This one was guarded by a fierce barker, pretty much assuring me I would see little else in the way of wildlife nearby, What a scary face though, huh? 😂

Guard dog on duty! Float house in Pinkerton Islands


By this time John had disappeared up a different waterway, so I kept exploring on my own.  The seals followed for a bit, but eventually disappeared. I saw a sizable gaggle of Canada Geese on the other side of a big mud flat, and Kingfishers chittering in all directions. The cry of a bald eagle could be heard from time to time, and periodically one would fly overhead. And then I spotted a wee little mink climb out of the water on some rocks in the middle of a hidden cove. When he spotted me he ducked for cover quickly, and I watched him moving around under the rocks… looking for his best protection. Evidently he didn’t feel entirely safe on that pile of rocks and hopped back in the water making a dash for the steep rock shoreline on the other side.

He scampered out of the water and up the rocks at lightening speed, and then sat in the deep shadows (where I could barely see him) and watched me curiously. This experience made me think of Sadie, since our best “mink experience” was with her next to us in Zephyr… when the mink was far more curious about her than she was afraid of us… giving us a few extra moments to enjoy and photograph her.

Mink making a swim for it

Curious mink in the deep shadows


John and I eventually found each other again (this area is a literal maze of waterways) and headed back to Summer Breeze. The evening brought rain, but we didn’t care. We had a full day of exploring.

The following morning we moved on to The Broken Group and made our way through the islands to Joe’s Lagoon, where we dropped anchor in a spacious area and set out for more exploring. On Turret Island John scored a big beautiful sea urchin. It was puzzling actually… in perfect condition… on a rocky beach where there were no sea urchin fragments, or live sea urchins in the shallows… we couldn’t help but wonder if some kayak tour group planted it there for one of their paying guests to find. (Like a paid upgrade for spouse or kiddo to find.)

I found a few shells, and lots and lots of garbage. We hauled away quite a pile of plastics and heavy line. We could see a lot of sea life in the shallow waters we paddled through, and numerous birds and seals.

Black Tail Deer, Turtle Island

John’s treasure… big, purple Sea Urchin, Turret Island

Semi-palmated Plover, Turret Island


Oystercatchers, Turret Island

Oystercatchers, Turret Island

Starfish, Turret Island

Another curious Harbor Seal

More weather brewing? Broken Group

John’s daily workout… this time amongst the islands of the Broken Group


The next morning we set out for Wouwer Island where there is a Sea Lion rookery. It was well beyond birthing season, but we hoped they might populate the place year round. They are certainly in the area, since we’ve seen several groups of them, but not a one at the rookery. Instead we enjoyed sea caves, colorful rocky shorelines, and islands galore with the mountains of Vancouver Island in the background.

Sea Cave

A splash of color along the rocky shore of Wowser Island

Islands and Islets of the Broken Group


This particular islet snagged my attention for the shape that quickly formed in my mind. Often, in cases like that, what I see changes quickly as we move, but in this case it was only enhanced. I see (and John agreed) a witches hand holding a green apple… undoubtedly a poisoned one. 😳

“Witches Hand” amongst the Broken Group of islands in Barkley Sound

Broken Group, Barkley Sound

Rock islets in every direction (oh, and cormorants and fishing boats)

Wave breaking on a split rock islet

Common Murre


That afternoon we found space at the community dock space in Bamfield, where we could fill water tanks and charge batteries before setting out through the Straits of Juan de Fuca the following morning.  in the evening, we hiked out to Brandy Beach for some beach-combing. This was one of the loveliest sandy beaches we’d visited on the west coast of Vancouver Island.

Bamfield Coast Guard station

Boardwalk in village of Bamfield

Dock dog, Bamfield

Sea stack at Brady Beach

John’s brief moment as king 🤣


We were treated to a peaceful evening and lovely almost-full moon before getting a good night’s rest. The perfect prelude to the incredible photographic opportunities that we would encounter the following day. Seriously… incredible! Y’all have to come back for the next post!

Glowing moon amongst the clouds… an omen of things to come

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