• Mobile App For Android Now Online!

    Download it here. The app is searchable in the Google Play Store under Sailboat Owners.

    Sorry iPhone/iPad users, we are still waiting on Apple. :(

    Click the X in the upper right corner to make this go away

Circumnavigation Vancouver Island 2020 Cruise

Oct 22, 2014
12,841
CAL 35 Cruiser Portland OR, moored EVERETT WA
While this trip was not imagined as a seaside Pub Crawl, it is entirely possible that outside observers call it that as we make our way through these beautiful waters.
 
Oct 22, 2014
12,841
CAL 35 Cruiser Portland OR, moored EVERETT WA
Thank you for the tip. Local knowledge of these waters is always valuable. I have been picking Michaels brain a bit. All suggestions are most welcome.

PS, I have transitioned Deception Passage both with and against the current. It can really enhance or detract from your SOG.
 
May 7, 2012
795
Hunter e33 Maple Bay, BC
John you can transit the narrows before slack by 30 min as long as you are going with the flow. You may notice others doing this and other will wait for slack I've done it almost an hour before but the ride was something else.
Agreed. It has been my experience, after many times through, that going through with the current as early as possible (<1.5 kt) is indeed the accepted and expected protocol. At slack you are competing with boats transiting in both directions . Against the current you will be fighting with those vessels going with the current (not recommended). Because of powerboats there are always exceptions to these guidelines. Please use either Ports and Passes or the Canadian (Hydrographic Services) Tide and Current Tables NOT Navionics on your chartplotter or mobile device. Time is critical as it will be for all passes later in the trip North
 
  • Helpful
Likes: jssailem

leo310

.
Dec 15, 2006
291
Catalina Catlina 310 Campbell River BC
What we do is use Porlier Pass then head north to Nanaimo found this gives us more outs and better winds for sailing.
 
  • Like
Likes: jssailem
Oct 22, 2014
12,841
CAL 35 Cruiser Portland OR, moored EVERETT WA
Thanks Leo. That certainly is a good option. If the Strait is giving us good sailing conditions, why wouldn't we take advantage of the opportunity.

Looking at my charts for the 16th of June. I am showing for Dodd Narrows, Morning slack in at 006:38. Max Flood is at 09:58 6.2kt. Next Slack is at 13:37.

The entrance to Dodd Narrows is 22 NM from Montague Harbour. If we plan for 5.5Kts SOG we will need to raise anchor/untie the lines and get under way by 09:00 This will get us to the Narrows by 13:00 when the current is still flooding and ccurrent speed is down to about 1.1kts.

A doable plan as long as we don't try to close down the Hummingbird Pub the night before.
 
Apr 5, 2009
1,209
Catalina '88 C30 tr/bs Oak Harbor, WA
I have only been up that way once and my plan was also to jump to the outside and have a nice sail up. It would have gotten me to Nanaimo quite a bit earlier because slack going to ebb was mid afternoon. As it turned out, that day had no wind after a night of gale so it would have been a very rolley non-sailing day so I ended up in Dodd narrows. I made up for it the next two days when I got spectacular spinnaker runs in 10-12 knots across to Pender Harbor and up Jervis inlet. I had always been told that there was never any wind in Jarvis but I had a great run up and beat back down. The wind was skewed to the passages so it was long/short jibe and tack so we made better time then the rest of the fleet that motored the whole way.;)
 
Last edited:
  • Like
Likes: jssailem

kable

.
Aug 27, 2012
12
Catalina 34 Bellingham
Would love to do a trip like this someday....

Here is a great book to pick through during the winter months for the Gulf Islands (especially for the people doing the shorter trip).

I really enjoyed the San Juan version of this book and had been looking for the authors to publish one for the Gulf Islands. Just picked this up a few days ago.

Have fun.
-kable
1988 Catalina 34
Bellingham, WA
 
Oct 22, 2014
12,841
CAL 35 Cruiser Portland OR, moored EVERETT WA
Thank you Kable

Have you been to the Catalina Rendezvous in Roche Harbor?

If you you get a chance. Take it. Great time.

your more then welcome to sail a bit the the Gulf islands along with us if you get the time.

John.
 
Jul 1, 1998
3,046
Hunter Legend 35 Poulsbo/Semiahmoo WA
Some people say the best time to circumnavigate is in the summer. The picture is from August 9, 1991, while we were following a Niagra 35 "Syula" on the north side of Brooks Peninsula. Departed Winter Harbor in sunlight but wound up going into fog shortly thereafter. The fog only got thicker and up to one or two boat lengths for visibility.
Why does the picture "look funny", like the boats might be gong uphill? Well, because we were! The swells left over from the storm were so huge that when we were in the trough of one wave and Syula was in the next though, the crest of the swell clipped their main above their sail numbers! When the fog got thicker, in order to stay in sight of them, we had to stay really close on the hill climb then on the other side I had to throttle way back to avoid hitting them in the stern or going past.
The storm blew away the weather station on Solander Island with the last reported wind speed that we heard was 103 knots. All the beaches were de-nuded of driftwood and any living things well above the normal shoreline, the water was brown clear down to tofino. The seaweed that helped to identify shoal rocks below Brooks Peninsula were gone.
Oh, and back to the question of why were we following Syula? This was the more-or-less pre GPS days and we didn't have one but they had Loran and neither of us had radar.
Edit: Syula was from Ganges on Saltspring Island.
 

Attachments

Last edited:
  • Like
Likes: Will Gilmore
Oct 22, 2014
12,841
CAL 35 Cruiser Portland OR, moored EVERETT WA
Great story and picture John. Thank you.
like Cape Scott, the Brooks Peninsula causes the sailor to go out and experience the Pacific Ocean.
 
Jul 1, 1998
3,046
Hunter Legend 35 Poulsbo/Semiahmoo WA
Brooks Peninsula is one of the "Great Capes" between Mexico and Alaska.

Two years after our Vancouver Island trip we sailed Cape Scott direct to Cape St. James, some 100 miles of open water but what was a bit scary on this trip was that it was through the area where, up until that time, the world's two tallest MEASURED waves were; one just under 100 ft and another time just over 100 ft. We departed Bull Harbor in the morning but by the time we got to that area it was dark, drizzly, and in a So'wester, one reef in the main and doing over hull speed surfing down waves on a broad reach, with similar wind direction as the tall waves. This time we had a new radar and a new GPS (Magellan 4000) (don't ask me why the new stuff). Unfortunately, the early GPS didn't like wet conditions as we learned the hard way, so locations very intermittent. Not only because of the wet but also because of the lack of satellites back then. Had 2x OEM group 24 batteries that almost didn't start that night. "Exciting trip" in many ways.

Oh, almost forgot, and there are some rock islets south of Cape St James that one wants to avoid, especially in the dark and with a semi-functioning GPS.

More to this story as a couple days later we wound up helping in the search & rescue of a couple missing kayakers where one person died. This changed Canadian operating rules for kayak charted excursions. This group was from Alberta.
 
Last edited:
Jan 8, 2020
47
brentswain 31 31 twin keeler Heriot Bay BC
The trip sounds amazing!

I lived in BC for quite a few years and managed to get to Vancouver Island a few times mostly to windsurf at Nitinat Lake.
Nitinat Narrows by reputation is not a place where prudent boaters go unless your local.

I’m not sure how accessible this suggestion is; but a truely awe inspiring place is the old growth Douglas fir, Cathedral Grove in MacMillan Park near Port Alberni, long way inland and I have no idea if it’s sailable so maybe a silly suggestion.
Pitch in and rent a van for a day.
 
Jan 8, 2020
47
brentswain 31 31 twin keeler Heriot Bay BC
Brooks Peninsula is one of the "Great Capes" between Mexico and Alaska.

Two years after our Vancouver Island trip we sailed Cape Scott direct to Cape St. James, some 100 miles of open water but what was a bit scary on this trip was that it was through the area where, up until that time, the world's two tallest MEASURED waves were; one just under 100 ft and another time just over 100 ft. We departed Bull Harbor in the morning but by the time we got to that area it was dark, drizzly, and in a So'wester, one reef in the main and doing over hull speed surfing down waves on a broad reach, with similar wind direction as the tall waves. This time we had a new radar and a new GPS (Magellan 4000) (don't ask me why the new stuff). Unfortunately, the early GPS didn't like wet conditions as we learned the hard way, so locations very intermittent. Not only because of the wet but also because of the lack of satellites back then. Had 2x OEM group 24 batteries that almost didn't start that night. "Exciting trip" in many ways.

Oh, almost forgot, and there are some rock islets south of Cape St James that one wants to avoid, especially in the dark and with a semi-functioning GPS.

More to this story as a couple days later we wound up helping in the search & rescue of a couple missing kayakers where one person died. This changed Canadian operating rules for kayak charted excursions. This group was from Alberta.
Back then, one could go for hours without a fix.They tracked one satelite at a time. Bought a 12 sat simultaneous as soon as they came out.My first trip to Haida Gwai was with satnav. Huge improvements since then. I have done 10 trips to Haida Gwai . Another planed for this summer. Favorite crossing is from Gillen Harbour to Thurston Harbour. Leave at dawn and get in on last light.Excellent hunting and fishing up there.
 
Jul 1, 1998
3,046
Hunter Legend 35 Poulsbo/Semiahmoo WA
Back then, one could go for hours without a fix.They tracked one satelite at a time.
Not only that, but if they weren't visible like low on the horizon, it was unreliable.
My first trip to Haida Gwai was with satnav. Huge improvements since then. I have done 10 trips to Haida Gwai . Another planed for this summer. Favorite crossing is from Gillen Harbour to Thurston Harbour. Leave at dawn and get in on last light.Excellent hunting and fishing up there.
Thurston Harbor was where we were (on the buoy at the head of the bay) when contacted by the tour guide company guide to help in the search as we were the only boat there. As we came up from the Cape St James area it was really nasty in a very low-lying overcast and a couple kayakers passed a ways in front of us. Sailed up the coast and the surf was hitting the various land masses and throwing up huge spray in the air. The ceiling dropped to the surface, drizzle turned to rain. We past "pods" of other kayakers headed north in this stuff. Visibility turned into a few boat lengths and our radar was really tested to find where to turn in order to get into Thurston Harbor. The navigation with an intermittent GPS under rolling seas, high wind, and thick fog was really challenged. The radar was helpful but being new it wasn't to be totally trusted. at the head of the bay the visibility picked up and we found a mooring buoy and took it not knowing who it belonged to but I think there was one other one.

On the shore were a few yellow tents and a person or two were visible. A guy in a kayak came over to our boat wearing a black outfit and was very nervous. Asked if he could use our VHF. Well .... okay. Wondering who this guy was. He called someone and they discussed things and the gal on the other end said she didn't want to call the Coast Guard because they were positive there were missing kayakers.

A short time later another sailboat came in and anchored and this guy left to be with it. Then he came back and asked if we would go up the south shore of the main inlet to look for any kayakers which we did, then returned via the north shore but found no one. As we exited Thurston Harbor a Coast Guard helicopter arrived on the far shore and we could see his landing lights as they were apparently looking on the far shore. It was really starting to get dark now.

The agreement was the other boat would search the far shore (north shore) while we did the south.
As it turned out, there were two kayakers and they rescued them but the male kayaker had passed away of hypothermia while the gal managed to survive.

Had we taken the north shore we would have been there first, and with the walk-through transom and drop-down ladder we may have been able to rescue them both, first. Also, we had just got our new Ardic forced air heater!!! this was in '93.
The other sailboat, we found out, was a tour boat and they provided tours of the Charlottes so the guide knew them.

A couple weeks later we were in Queen Charlotte City and the Coast Guard came and inspected our boat. Thoroughly! Taking everything apart but didn't find anything. We paid duty on our alcoholic beverages so that was good. We were on the dock behind "Dark Star", a 50ft +-something foot ferro owned by a Vancouver rock star who almost lost it on the same route you took. It was a huge boat not only in size but also in tonnage. Ketch with a bowsprit and two dolphin knockers of about 3/4" stainless steel rods. One of them was broken by the swinging anchor that came loose from it's tie-downs and was working on the other rod. Had it went, the boat would have been de-masted. The skipper was so seasick he almost died and his girl friend or wife was the one who brought it across Queen Charlotte Sound.

I suspect our boat inspection may have been because we were tied up behind him, and, the way we went up one side of the channel as if we were maybe trying to escape? Also, they may have known we came up direct and crossed paths with a big fishing ship that was scraping the bottom for fish. Don't know what they call it. It had two huge reels on the stern, I swear, maybe 15 feet in diameter. Perhaps they thought we picked up some drugs from the ship?

Anyway, our return trip to Gillen Harbour was one of our worst trips due to the angle of sail with the waves. It was a broad reach and the boat swung from one side to the other. As we approaching Gillen / Dewdney Island it was quite dark and there were two sailboats headed toward us under sail and passed quite close. They were unexpected as we didn't see any other visiting "yachts" except for Dark Star, so it was a surprise meeting them out there.

Gillen was a beautiful harbor but it had some big horse flies. Same goes with Dundas Island.
You are fortunate to be able to access the islands because from here it is a really long trip.
We did get to see the Golden Spruce before some idiot cut it down.
The Cape Scott > Cape St James was a "leave at dawn, arrive at dawn" run. Given the option I think I'd do it again. At the time we both had to get back to our jobs so time was a factor.
 
Last edited:
  • Like
Likes: Will Gilmore
Oct 22, 2014
12,841
CAL 35 Cruiser Portland OR, moored EVERETT WA
John, I’ve heard many cruisers prefer to sail from Port Hardy to Bella Bella then further north before crossing the northern end of Queen Charlotte Strait to Rose Harbour or Morsbey island. Just because the trip Cape St Janes to Cape Scott can be a challenging passage.

Was your choice of route influenced by your time constraints?
 
May 25, 2012
3,005
john alden caravelle 42 sturgeon bay, wis
well, john and all others. i have been happily google map investigating all these different places you all have been mentioning. been listening to all the explanations of what to see and expect. very different than great lakes sailing/ cruising.
all this chat has been fun for me to follow, thanks!
 
  • Like
Likes: jssailem
Jul 1, 1998
3,046
Hunter Legend 35 Poulsbo/Semiahmoo WA
John, I’ve heard many cruisers prefer to sail from Port Hardy to Bella Bella then further north before crossing the northern end of Queen Charlotte Strait to Rose Harbour or Morsbey island. Just because the trip Cape St Janes to Cape Scott can be a challenging passage.

Was your choice of route influenced by your time constraints?
Time constraints? The answer is a "kinda, Yes". This was a bit of an influence factor but I really wanted to do the outside anyway. Plan B was to go via the inside as the decision is very weather dependent.

I had a longer vacation period than my wife so sailed solo from Kingston (near Seattle for others) to Port Hardy in four days: Kingston> Montague Hbr, Montague > Hornby Island, Hornby > Otter Cove, Otter Cove (next to Chatham Point) > Port Hardy. Had good sailing on most of the legs (rather rare) and the last leg [Edit: Johnstone Strait] the whole way (very rare) except for about a couple miles in the beginning (in fog and light wind) and a few miles in the end (as the wind died and current was flooding) doing mostly ~ 9>10 kts through the water on a mostly ebb tide as far as Alert Bay (across from Port McNeill). The tide started to turn just as I got to Alert Bay and because it is shallow there [Edit: the current really speeds up], it was unhelpful. Consequently sailing progress after Alert Bay really decreased [because the ebb really delayed me while going past Alert Bay and by now had increased in strength].

Otter Cove is not the funnest place to anchor because it goes from shallow to really deep in a short distance and should not be counted on as space is limited and commercial fishermen like to anchor there as they have all chain and a power windlass.

Wife flew to the airport near Port Hardy then we sailed to Bull Harbour on Hope Island. Next day crossed the bar for Cape St. James. Return trip dropped wife off at Bella Bella and she took a plane to Seattle while I soloed the boat back. The Indians had the channel south of Bella Bella almost blocked off with their nets alternating from one side to the other, so while motoring I followed another fishing boat through the labyrinth. One time he was really yelled at for hitting a net so very glad it wasn’t me!

Note to those going on the trip: Gods Pocket is on the other (north) side of Bull Harbour and may be of interest as no bar to cross the next morning. There is another bay past the bar before getting to Cape Scott that might be of interest for anchoring but I haven't explored it.

Some of this may be applicable to the Round Vancouver Island trip so hopefully it is helpful.

Edit: One more thing. Lot of discussion here about Nahwitti Bar. In all the times we crossed the bar (~ half dozen or so) it was never a problem with steep waves; however, having said that it is recognized as having steep waves. We did, however, have a problem one night but with birds. We had crossed Queen Charlotte Sound during the night and while approaching Hope Island from the north we had numerous birds flying around the boat. Because I had the companionway hatch open to communicate with my navigator below we had several birds fly inside the cabin. Very annoying. Except we also had two Siamese cats!!!

Talk about excitement! Cats, birds, wife, and me at the helm outside dealing with the flock buzzing the cockpit trying to get at all the lights (including running lights and the helm instruments) [Edit: plus all the commotion down below!].
Nahwitti Bar or the neighborhood at night is not recommended.
Oh, and one other thing, FOG. One night arrival the fog was sooo thick that even with radar it was difficult to navigate. There was a dock and several other boats anchored out but visibility was almost like one boat length. Using radar (no GPS chart at that time) I went completely around the island at the harbour entrance! Achored with the deck light on and also a hanging boom-light all in addition to the anchor light. We also have a radar reflector that would help those who enter using radar.
 
Last edited:
  • Like
Likes: jssailem