Cruising ReportsSam Landsman's Cruising Reports

In the wee hours of the morning my alarm clock burst to life. Sunrise was still an hour away. I hit snooze once, then stood up and turned on the weather radio. Queen Charlotte Sound isn’t to be trifled with, and I wanted as smooth a crossing as possible. Hence the early hour.

The weather forecast was perfect, except for fog. The lightkeepers hadn’t yet given their first weather report of the day and the West Sea Otter buoy was offline (as it has been all summer). But the forecast was so good that I felt confident the crossing would be on smooth seas.

I wasn’t disappointed. A gentle groundswell rolled underneath the boat, but the motion was smooth and comfortable. There wasn’t any wind, but there was plenty of fog. From the time I exited Goose Bay until I entered Queen Charlotte Strait, I was ensconced in fog. Traffic was surprisingly heavy, and radar was essential.

My first stop south of Cape Caution was Sointula. The marina was packed—many boats were rafted. I anchored out and took the dinghy in. A new harbor office is being built. It’s in the same spot as the old building. During construction the harbor office is across the parking lot in a trailer.

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The new harbor office in Sointula is the wooden building on the right.

With the closure the Quarterdeck Boatyard in Port Hardy, Tarkanen Marine Ways in Sointula is the only haulout facility between Campbell River and Shearwater. I stopped by and they were busy with commercial boats. Since their facility is small, repairs requiring a haulout might take awhile…

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Tarkanen Marine Ways is now the only haulout option between Campbell River and Shearwater.

I continued on to Alert Bay. The marina was full so I anchored out. I spent a full day in Alert Bay, walking around the island and exploring the native culture.

U’mista Cultural Centre is located about half a mile walk from the marina. The walk skirts around the edge of the harbor with a perfectly clear view of boats coming and going. As I walked to U’mista I noticed three fishing boats that were rafted together. They kept getting closer to my boat, but I assumed they knew what they were doing. Then the people on the boat anchored next to me started honking their horn and waving excitedly at the fishing boats. I whipped out my camera to snap pictures in case the fishing boats drifted into me, figuring it would make any insurance claim easier to process.

From my perspective on shore I couldn’t be sure if they merely got close to me or actually hit me. But I quickly abandoned my plan to visit U’mista and hustled back to the dinghy and then the boat. A brief inspection found no significant damage. I dinghied over to the neighboring boat and asked what they’d seen. They confirmed I’d been hit and offered up additional pictures as proof.

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Uh oh

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Did they really just hit me?

I went back to the boat and looked more carefully. The bow rail had some new scuff marks, but nothing significant—I got off lucky! The three fishing boats (Cork to Cork, Pacific Baron, and Pacific Endeavor) saw me return to the boat but never stopped by to ask if they damaged anything. Beware of these three fishing boats…

From Alert Bay I cruised to Brown’s Bay Resort, just north of Seymour Narrows. Despite the forecast for 25 knots of wind, I had a smooth ride, sped up by the flooding current. At an 8-knot throttle setting I saw over 13 knots over the ground several times.

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Looking out to the Brown’s Bay restaurant, store, and fuel dock.

Brown’s Bay can be a challenging place to moor. Strong currents—several knots worth, at least—whip through the marina. I abandoned my first approach as I got swept towards the dock much quicker than I expected.

Brown’s Bay is quite an operation. It’s a campground, a fishing resort, a large marina, a restaurant, and more. It bustles with activity as boats of all sizes come and go.

It’s also strategically located just north of Seymour Narrows. It’s an excellent place to wait for slack water or rest after transiting Seymour Narrows. Do be warned, though, that the wakes from large boats (especially cruise ships) can make their way into the marina.

The next morning I continued south to Campbell River. Both Discovery Harbour and Coast Marina were full, but I managed to squeeze into a spot at Fishermans Wharf. After talking with managers at the various marine facilities in town, it’s apparent they’ve been busy this summer. It’s nice to see marinas full again.

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Traffic increased as I approached Campbell River.

The next day I popped across to April Point Resort & Spa. The resort itself is spectacularly situated on Discovery Passage. The guest docks are a bit further in, nestled into a beautiful, serene cove. Unfortunately the docks are a bit basic, though they seem secure. Some of the floats have been removed, so dock space is more limited than in past years.

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April Point Resort & Spa was busy.

Quathiaski Cove is nearby. It was a hot afternoon and I needed to cool down, so I hopped in the dinghy and sped over. The docks were full, mostly with local boats it seemed, but there was room to squeeze a dinghy in. I walked up the hill and was pleasantly surprised by a grocery store, several restaurants, a tourist information building, and an open-air craft market. Recommended.

I then headed down the Strait of Georgia towards Comox. The weather cooperated once again, and I enjoyed sunny skies, light winds, and calm water.

Comox was alive with activity when I arrived. Dozens of small sailboats were racing in the bay. Kayaks, dinghies, and small boats lined the sandy spit across from the marinas and people played ashore and in the water. I got a slip at the spacious, clean, and modern guest floats at Comox Valley Harbour Authority and set off to meet with various marina managers. Walking around town I was impressed with its vibrancy. Landscaping was colorful and tasteful, people were out enjoying the weekend. They seemed proud of their community.

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Sailing school in Comox.

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This sandy spit across from Comox was a busy destination for many locals.

Alas, I couldn’t stay for long. The next day I continued south. I quickly found that a new public float has been built on Denman Island, right next to the ferry dock. The float doesn’t have water or power, but it is clean and secure. The first four hours of moorage are free. A drug store, hardware store, a few restaurants, and a grocery store are up the hill from the dock. Walking quickly I got there in 10 minutes, but 20 is probably a more realistic estimate. The road is steep.

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The new Denman Island public float.

Then I headed for Deep Bay and Ford Cove. Both were full. I swung around to Tribune Bay. The huge sandy beach was inviting (and busy). I wanted to spend the night, but Environment Canada predicted the wind would clock around to the southeast overnight. Since Tribune Bay is open to the southeast, I headed for Nanaimo.

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Looks like a party at Tribune Bay.

The Nanaimo Harbour Authority and Nanaimo Yacht Club were full when I arrived around 6:00 p.m. I idled through the anchored boats in Mark Bay but couldn’t find a spot with sufficient swinging room. There were still mooring buoys available, so I grabbed on and settled in for the evening.

I met with Kevin Monahan, who’d been aboard my boat for the northbound trip to Alaska this summer, in the morning. Time and tide wait for no man, though, and I had to hit Dodd Narrows at slack. After a quick coffee I said goodbye to Kevin, returned the fishing rod he’d left on my boat, and set off for Dodd.

I sped through the Gulf Islands pretty quickly, but did enjoy a visit to Tod Inlet on a Saturday evening. Each Saturday in the summer Butchart Gardens puts on a fireworks show set to music. Some of the fireworks are visible from Tod Inlet, but the best view is from the gardens themselves. It’s an outstanding show and highly recommended.

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The marine host at Tod Inlet moors to this float.

Brentwood Bay Resort and Spa is an excellent marina within dinghy distance of Butchart Cove. For cruisers who prefer to tie up at a marina, this is the best bet for visiting Butchart Gardens. The resort has new owners, but most of the staff remain and there haven’t been any changes to the facilities.

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Brentwood Bay Resort and Spa is a top notch facility.

By mid-August I was back in the San Juans, catching up on office work while still spending time on the water. I visited many of the State Parks, and noticed a significant number of mooring buoys are missing. If you’re visiting a State Park, be prepared to anchor.

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Orcas in Haro Strait.

Sam Landsman

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