We recently purchased one of only three single-engine Tolly 43’s that were built. We’re taking it on our first long trip and want to drop by Tumbo Island at the south end of the Canadian Gulf Islands.

We will be coming out of South Pender Island and would like your advice on the best approach.

Boat Pass sounds a little tricky. Would we be better off to go around the south end of Tumbo Island and enter from the Strait of Georgia side? Go through Active Pass?

Bob & Diane Hansen


Hi, Bob and Diane,

I didn’t realize Tolly built any single-engine 43s. I bet you will like the extra space in the engine room. Our Tolly 37, with twins, is a little snug down there.

Regarding Tumbo Island, I suspect your real destination is Cabbage Island Marine Park. People do go though Boat Pass, but we watched it from shore when the pass was running hard and decided we would never go through except at high water slack, if we were to go through at all – which we don’t plan to do.

You say you’ll be coming out of South Pender Island. I assume you mean departing from Bedwell Harbour. If so, my preferred route would be eastbound across the mouth of Plumper Sound and along the south shore of Saturna Island, leaving Boiling Reef well to port before turning into Tumbo Channel. You’ll use Chart 3441.

The chart shows tide-rips near Boiling Reef (I think I know where the name comes from). Sailing Directions warns that the rips are “heavy,” but doesn’t say if they occur on the flood, the ebb, or both. I would guess the rips occur on the ebb only, when the enormous volume of water flowing south from the Strait of Georgia turns into Boundary Pass, where it is joined by current flowing out of Tumbo Channel. This is a classic recipe for a tide-rip.

On the flood, the water should simply divide and spread out across the strait, and there should be no tide-rips. Assuming this analysis is correct, my approach would be at the end of the flood, shortly before the turn to ebb. The current would be less, and there would be more water in the puddle.

I don’t see a need to go through Active Pass, when Georgeson Passage is closer. You would run through Georgeson Passage between Mayne Island and Samuel Island, then turn south to leave Samuel Island, Russell Reef and Saturna Island to starboard. You would need Chart 3442 down to Russell Reef, then Chart 3441. Plans Chart 3477 shows the route through Georgeson Passage and down to Russell Reef in much larger scale, and you would be glad you had it. (Charts are so helpful, especially the large scale charts. The cost of charts is insignificant compared with the costs of buying, outfitting, repairing and feeding a boat, yet many boaters won’t make the investment. Bad decision.)

Cabbage Island Marine Park is a beautiful spot. With the enormity of the Strait of Georgia right at its doorstep, the feeling is of being “out there.” Arrive early if you can. The buoys get taken and the good anchoring locations fill up.

Bob Hale

Share this: