As a young person, I’d had the good fortune to visit Denman Island, British Columbia on a few occasions, and even nearby Sandy Island once, much of the surrounding areas, in fact. I lived in the Comox Valley off and on and spent many summers there even when my family and I lived elsewhere. But until July 2020, I had never gotten the chance set foot on Hornby Island. Hornby, with a “b” in it, not….. without. Although, it is so breathtakingly beautiful that it arouses all kinds of pleasant feelings. If I was the Den-man, my pretty neighbour would probably make me Hornby
I regret nothing.
Having to wait so long to see the Hawaii of Canada turned out to be worth every minute. The fact that our method of arrival and our accommodations for the visit were rather spectacular did nothing but add to the charm. Sailing kind of does that.
During the month prior to our stay at Hornby Island we had been diligently toiling away on “Ready”, our new sailboat, with the intention of sailing her from Deep Bay to southern Vancouver Island and the southern Gulf Islands.
We finished the restoration project on schedule, and the short hop from Deep Bay to Tribune Bay at Hornby Island was to be our maiden voyage. Under diesel power. It went flawlessly. The engine was clearly not going to be a concern. The sailing test would have to wait until later, but with reliable power as a backup, we weren’t overly concerned with the possibility that the sailing test would create any emergencies.
My very first experience of Hornby Island was on our beautiful little C&C 29-2 while we rafted alongside our new friend Doug’s boat at Little Tribune Bay. He set his anchor one perfect late-July afternoon and we lived life the way it should be lived for a few glorious (and drunk) days.
Livin’ the dream at Tribune Bay. Sailing rules!
We remained there for three exquisite days of relaxation, great company, good food, and lots of drink. My wife and I with our boat, and Doug and his two guests on his boat.
It was a perfect wind-down following a pretty intense month of grueling labour. Many, many months of overall activity if I think about it. We’d been on the go since… I can’t remember when, probably years if I thought about it. But the effort put into “Ready” was labour that paid off in spades. We got plenty of compliments before even leaving the dock, and they kept coming until late October when we sold her. But that didn’t happen for a good while after this bit, so there are a few adventures to share between Tribune and then.
Doug and his guests departed after only a few days, but my first-mate and myself were far from ready to leave, so after saying our goodbyes, we scooted over to Big Tribune and dropped anchor there. And we stayed until news of an upcoming southeast wind forced us to flee to a more suitable anchorage in the south, giving us our first actual sailing practice on “Ready” in the process.
I think we bobbed about in paradise for another week after our friends left, only losing some sleep one night of the entire ten due to a ripping north wind that dragged a few anchors and caused absolutely no sleep for an under-prepared few. Our anchor held fast, as it always did. Taking the time to properly set anchor is worth whatever effort it requires. I can give sage advice on this topic as I’ve NEVER dragged anchor on any boat. Ever!
Tribune Bay, Hornby Island
I’ve been to many stellar places in many beautiful locations, and I’m happy to admit that nowhere I’ve been could be classified as more beautiful than Hornby, the entire coast of BC, to be honest. Most people take their back yards for granted, but in all the time I’ve lived in or visited the Coastal regions of my home province, which is most of my life, I’ve always been in awe. Something special stopped me in my mental tracks every single day I lived there, reminding me of how fortunate I was to call that area home.
Hornby Island is a gem. A beautiful pearl set in the water and rock and sand, just a stones throw to the east of Vancouver Island.
There are are plenty of well-groomed walking and cycling trails in the big cedar, fir, and spruce-tree rain-forest, and there’s a super funky little town center for all your barbecuing and wine-drinking needs. The center has an ice-cream shop that should not to be avoided, a yummy burger stand, fuel, internet, and many local goodies to be enjoyed. However, my favourite parts about Hornby Island (a laid-back summer-every-day vibe and natural beauty that words that pictures and even videos struggle to convey) can’t be bought.
The Hawaii of Canada
Big Tribune is a huge, gently sloping white-sand marvel with room for everyone. The water in July is perfect. You can drop a row-boat anywhere up the beach for the day with no concern about whether it’ll be there upon your return (although some kids might use it for a fort). There are nearby tennis-courts and picnic areas, and plenty of anchorage in the bay (we counted sixty-seven boats just in Big Tribune, and there was room for more).
In the height of summer, there are people by the hundreds lounging on the beach or swimming in the perfect water, seemingly without a care in the world. And, for the duration a person is on Hornby, not having a care in the world isn’t tough to accomplish.
We didn’t get to walk along Little Tribune (clothing optional), but from what a person can see from the water, and based on what the rest of the island and all parts of everywhere on all the islands of British Columbia look like, it’s safe to assume it’s perfect too.
Indeed, I found every day at Hornby to be perfect. Well.. maybe not the second day, honestly. I was deathly hung-over and decided to don a diving mask and scrape as much of the underside of “Ready” as I could. It was brutal, but I brought that evil on myself. No mercy for self-induced suffering. Aside from my own over-indulgence, however, there is nothing about that heavenly ten days I would take back. My only regret about our stay was that ten days was over far too quickly.