Cruising ReportsMark Bunzel’s Cruising Reports

The Pacific high continued bringing foggy mornings to the Washington coast and extreme sun to the Gulf Islands. The boating community responded and is out in full force. Many marinas are full—I’ve heard many turn visitors away on VHF 66A. Favorite spots like Ladysmith, Telegraph Harbour, and Nanaimo were struggling to find enough room. Many boats elected to anchor out in places like Mark Bay and Montague Harbour.

American’s: Remember Labor Day/Labour Day is a long holiday weekend in BC too.

August 6—Montague Harbour was jam packed with boats. A very good alternative in the sunny settled weather was the anchorage area in front of the sandy beach, on the north side of Montague and Grays Peninsula. Just a few boats there and many were enjoying the sunshine while laying on the beach.

A tour of Montague Harbour during the early afternoon showed the park dock was full. All the mooring buoys were taken, and many of the choice anchorage spots were taken. There was room to anchor but not a lot of swinging room. This called for a 3:1 scope and a quick check of the weather. No problem. I ended up anchoring about 500 yards off the Montague Harbour Marina fuel dock.

My goal was to meet the new owners at Montague Harbour Marina, Mike and Dan Byzynga. They are brothers, one with a background in construction and the other with experience in the grocery business. They are thrilled to be the new owners of this iconic marina in the Gulf Islands and are making improvements as fast as they can. First they rebuilt fuel dock, which was completed this past spring. Next they remodeled and updated the washrooms. Plans are in the works for fresh paint and repairs to the buildings this fall. They hinted that new showers may be completed this winter.

They’ve also expanded and updated the selection in the grocery store, but kept the popular hand-dipped ice cream and the extensive book selection. It appears they added to the fishing tackle section too. The Sea Blush Cafe is still there with fantastic bakery items, breakfast, and sandwiches. The Twirlly Tree co-op gift shop is there, packed with really nice items for gifts or decor. Scooters and kayaks are available to rent. All of this makes for a great destination marina that is now in good hands.

For dinner I was off to the Hummingbird Pub. Those of you who have read the Waggoner Guide have “met” Tommy Transit, the driver of the Hummingbird Pub Bus. Tommy has a larger than life personality and makes a bouncy bus ride into a group musical event. With a great selection of songs on a killer stereo, tambourines, maracas, and other instruments are passed throughout the bus. Pretty soon everyone is playing, including Tommy, the red-gloved driver with his full set of cymbals above the steering wheel. It is great fun and you don’t want the trip to end.

Dinner was good at the pub and the group was alive with excitement. The pub has areas for families, indoors and out, and the kids add to the energy level. The ride back to the marina and the provincial park is just as entertaining. Tommy is a one of a kind. Pick up a copy of his book. He describes the power of acknowledgement in a fun and entertaining way.  

I am sad to say the Laberengerie French restaurant, walking distance from the harbor, is no longer open after 31 years. This is unfortunate and the word on the dock is there will be a new restaurant there for next season.

August 7—Active Pass is just a few miles south of Montague Harbour. This is the main transit point for BC Ferries traveling between Vancouver Island (Swartz Bay) and the Vancouver mainland (Tsawwassen). The ferry schedules are synchronized and the east and westbound ferries pass each other in the middle of Active Pass. There is current through the Pass which can be referenced in Ports and Passes or other tide guides. Due to the ferries and the current many forego Active Pass. What they are missing is Sturdies Bay.

You have two choices of mooring. There is a provincial dock, which often has room, just inside the ferry dock. Next to this is a long new dock belonging to the Galiano Oceanfront Inn and Spa. I recommend the Galiano Inn dock, with their excellent spa, restaurant and Pizza Terrace.  For a day stop like ours, we tied up and strolled through the resort to explore the village of Sturdies Bay. There are shops, galleries, and restaurants. The grocery store is called “The Garage” and is very complete for provisioning.

The Pizza Terrace is a new favorite. The terrace is sun-filled, though covered and relaxing. The view is of the water, and the wood-fired oven pizza’s are excellent. Add a glass of wine or beer and a few friends for conversation and you may not want to leave the dock. No worries.

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The Pizza Terrace at Sturdies Bay.

The restaurant is excellent and shares the same views of Active Pass and the ferries. Connie and Mel, the very active owners and innkeepers, work to create a relaxing environment for their guests who are staying at the inn or on the dock. Some tie-up at the dock and get a room. Add a spa treatment and now you know how good boating can be.

August 8 & 9—It’s no secret: I am a huge fan of Ganges. In the 2014 Waggoner Guide I called it “Foodie Heaven” and it still is. Salt Spring Island is a mecca for those who want to grow or create great food. Where else can you find three artisan cheesemakers, three wineries, a micro brewer, hotels and inns that take pride in having their own farms and gardens to grow their own fruit and vegetables, multiple bakeries that pride themselves on the best breads and pastries. There is no other place on the Inside Passage that offers such a diverse selection of great locally grown or produced food – hence Foodie Heaven! This all comes together on Saturday morning at the Farmers Market. Bring your camera. In August the market is ablaze with color. Bins of red, green and orange peppers, ripe berries, the dizzying colors of heirloom tomatoes, melons… Mixed in are stands with the local bakery, soaps, craft items. The people are pleasant and the laid back vibe of Salt Spring Island pervades. You can even get into the spirit and buy a tasteful tie-dyed shirt.

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Peppers for sale at the Ganges Saturday Market.

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Heather’s Bread…delicious!

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Flowers at the market.

If you go to Ganges, explore all of the streets. Step off the main Lower Ganges Road and you find little coffee shops and small bookstores. The co-op gallery in a former church features the work of many local artisans. Many miss the other co-op just across the parking lot from Mouat’s Hardware and the Thrifty grocery store. Work your way around the end of the bay and you can tour the gardens behind Harbour House, and have dinner or drinks at the popular Moby’s Pub over looking the bay. For a special treat, try a three-course dinner at Hastings House. Go early and have a drink out on the lawn and watch the boats arrive at the end of the day. Hastings House also has a patio menu up on the terrace until 5:30 p.m. This could be your dinner or the early appetizer course at the beautiful inn.

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Moby’s Pub

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Full moon above Ganges.

Ganges is worth a multi-day visit. The three primary guest marinas have room for quite a few boats. Ganges Marina is known for the complimentary donuts and coffee for guests starting at 8am in the morning. The very large yachts are often seen here on the outside dock. During my recent visit four training vessels from the Canadian Navy occupied the outside dock. The docks are a work in progress and the crew works to make everyone feel welcome.

Use caution approaching Salt Spring Marina. They will tell you on the radio to go to either side of a 28’ sailboat anchored in front of the marina. You may see the blue painted barrels – all marking “Money Maker Rock” a rock area too close to the docks. Construction of a new breakwater and the start of new docks was supposed to start this year, after a long 14 year permit application and approval process. There are some business issues holding up the construction and hopefully all will be resolved so they can start construction next year. This venerable marina needs the update and expansion. The competent crew makes up for the state of the docks.

Ganges and Salt Spring Island will be taking Foodie Heaven to new heights with their annual Sip and Savor event on September 19-21. Information and tickets for this multi-day event can be found on the Salt Spring Chamber of Commerce web site at Highly recommended

August 10—From Ganges I was off to Otter Bay. I cannot say enough about the work that has gone into this marina by Charlene and Jess over the last 10 years. New decks surround trees overlooking the bay. Two swimming pools. Dinner events all summer long. Scooter rentals if you want to explore Pender Island. It is a nice, quiet, and relaxing contrast to Ganges.

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Pool at Otter Bay.

I wish I could have stayed the night but, it was time to get back to the US and clear US Customs in Roche Harbor. As I approached, I carefully counted the lineup of boats waiting to get to the outer U.S. Customs dock. I joined the line of 9 boats and worked my twin-throttles to hold my position. I am told this is the busiest recreational boat Port of Entry in all of the US. I believe it. Add a departing Kenmore Air floatplane needing to cut its way through the lineup and you have a recipe for a disaster. Arriving boats often do not understand the informal line up and sometimes inadvertently cut-in line. Tempers flare and words are exchanged. Boats get too close while drifting and maneuvering. It is not a good situation. We will be putting better instructions in the 2015 Waggoner Guide to help explain how to best enter deal with the major U.S. Customs Ports of Entry. The procedure is completely different for Roche Harbor, Friday Harbor and Anacortes. This is one area where we can serve the boating public with good information, better than what we have now. Watch for this in the 2015 Edition.

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Back in the U.S.A. at Roche Harbor.

From Roche, I headed to Friday Harbor and then on to Lopez Island. The effect of the full moon was evident with an extreme low tide at the entry to Fisherman’s Bay calling for a very cautious entry. The town of Lopez is always charming with small shops and one of the best grocery stores in the San Juans.

August 12—This was a special day, my last day underway after being out cruising since May 18th. Yes, I did have a short break in mid-June when I left the boat in Alaska to attend my son’s high school graduation. Now it was time to park the boat on its mooring, stow the bimini and empty the fridge to leave the boat for two weeks.

It was time to attend to family and land based activities with a trip to Portland for a wedding and to deliver my son and his gear to college in Bozeman, Montana, with a family trip to Yellowstone on the way. I logged 2300 miles on the car in 9 days, about the same as I logged on my boat for the summer. I much prefer cruising at 7-9 knots versus 70 mph (and 80 in some parts of Montana). I had not driven a car in 8 weeks. I did remember how, but didn’t like it.

We have a lot of new material for the 2015 Waggoner Cruising Guide. My copy has multiple mark-ups and sticky notes on almost every page. People often ask, “How much does the Waggoner Cruising Guide change very year?” A lot. Some of it is subtle, all is intended to give you the most accurate information to enjoy your time on the water.

For the next 10 weeks, the Waggoner crew will be working to get all of this information into the 2015 Edition. We will be improving it, making it more relevant to your cruising with more information on why you might want to choose one location over another. Your time on the water is valuable and we want to help you make the most of it for the enjoyment of your family and friends onboard.

Watch for the 2015 Waggoner Cruising Guide in late November.

Mark Bunzel

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