A Special Place on West Coast Vancouver Island

In 1915, the wily pioneer Cougar Annie set foot on the beach at Boat Basin in Hesquiat Harbour with her husband and three children. For seventy years, while bearing 8 more children and outliving three more husbands, she cleared and cultivated land, trapped small animals, and defended her turf and family from cougar and bear. Ada Anne (Cougar Annie) was successful in creating a mail-order garden nursery in addition to her other endeavors. As she grew old, her extensive gardens became overgrown until visionary Peter Buckland established the Boat Basin Foundation, which provided needed funding to restore the expansive gardens. His creativity has infused over 33,000 hours of labor to build more than a mile (2,100 meters) of cedar boardwalk and over 20 structures, built entirely from cedar windfall on the property.

A tour of the property will take the better part of an afternoon or morning, winding past magnificent 500- to 1,000- year old cedars, Cougar Annie’s gradually fading home, and Peter’s structural sculptures. This is a real highlight of West Coast Vancouver Island. To arrange a visit, contact boatbasinfoundation@gmail.com with an estimate of your arrival dates. You can confirm or adjust your arrival date with Peter by email, using cell service with data via a nearby cell tower in Hot Springs Cove.

You will find Peter’s house at the head of Hesquiat Harbour in Boat Basin. Peter will welcome you ashore and accompany you to Cougar Annie’s Garden and the Boat Basin Foundation, which provides education in temperate rainforest ecology. The tour fee is $30, payable only by credit card, or you may be able to make payment by engaging in 2-hours of volunteer work on the property.

Anchorage can be taken in Boat Basin, or you can duck into the front portion of Rae Basin. At higher tides, it is even possible to enter the furthest reach of Rae Basin, but this maneuver is only for skippers who are confident of their ability to navigate by depth sounder. Bear wander the shores at low tide; and at a tide greater than 11 feet, you can dinghy up the creek to Hesquiat Lake.

Boaters should use caution when entering Hesquiat Harbour, seas can break over the 24-foot deep Hesquiat Bar; check weather and consult charts before heading to this very special place. Cougar Annie’s Garden is a short distance northwest of popular Hot Springs Cove at Maquinna Marine Provincial Park.

See pages 389 – 391 of the 2019 Waggoner Cruising Guide for details and maps of the area.  

Mary Campbell,
WG Field Correspondent