Cruising in the NorthwestThings to Do and Places to SeeWaggoner eNewsFisgard Lighthouse at the entrance to Esquimalt Harbour.

After departing Victoria Harbour, we circled around Duntz Head in 20-knot winds to make our way back north into nearby Esquimalt Harbour. The Royal Canadian Navy has a base here, and pleasure craft needs to contact ‘Queens Harbour Master Operations’ on VHF Channel 10 when entering and exiting the harbour between Fisgard Lighthouse and Duntze Head – give the name of your boat, size and make of boat, and direction of travel outbound or inbound.  When entering, indicate your destination, such as “anchoring off Cole Island.”

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Ruins from the 1800’s at Esquimalt Harbour

As we approached Duntze Head, we contacted QHMO announcing our arrival and intentions while snapping photos of the historic Fisgard Lighthouse, the first lighthouse on Canada’s West Coast. Fisgard light was built and opened during the year 1860 and was automated in 1929. The lighthouse is still in operation and houses a small museum. In 1862, the Royal Navy’s Pacific Squadron established themselves in Esquimalt, eventually building storehouses and workshops ashore.


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Historic Ruins at Cole Island

Coastal defense became important and increased with the gold rush era and tensions between the U.S. and the British over boundary disputes begun by the ‘San Juan’s Pig War’ of 1859. Five batteries of guns were constructed around Victoria, including an 8-inch gun at the mouth of Esquimalt Harbour near the lighthouse.

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The British and Canadian Navies stored munitions on Cole Island inside Esquimalt Harbour between 1860 and 1938. Visitors can anchor off the island and arrive by dinghy at the BC Parks dinghy dock to explore the island and the fascinating ruins of the powder magazine buildings and quarters for the Marine Guard. The harbour is well protected (no pun intended) with good holding on a mud bottom. It’s an interesting side-trip from Victoria which is often overlooked.

After spending the afternoon in Esquimalt Harbour, we continued our journey heading around the south end of the Saanich Peninsula past Victoria, then eastward to Oak Bay. We managed to maneuver the boat into our assigned narrow slip at Oak Bay Marina in 20-knot winds unscathed.

~Lorena Landon

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