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Old 10-03-2015, 10:48   #16
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Re: Bareboating - San Juans or Desolation Sound - Pros & Cons

The right answer is, of course, don't miss any of these areas. Depending on how much time you have and where you'll be coming from, it may make sense to try the San Juans first partially because of easy access. If you have lots of time do them all. If you do want to start in the San Juans check out Anacortes Yacht Charters. They have 80 boats to choose from.
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Old 10-03-2015, 10:52   #17
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Re: Bareboating - San Juans or Desolation Sound - Pros & Cons

You don't mention how much time you have but if it's less than 2 or 3 weeks, and you want to make a stop in the San Juans, I would not try to include Desolation Sound in your plans, it just takes too much time to get up there. I spent 3 weeks last summer in the San Juans and Gulf Islands but coming from Seattle I didn't really think there was enough time to get to Desolation Sound unless we spent a few really long days just motoring up there. I really want to get up there though, I just have to find the time...

It's not much hassle to check in to the US or in to Canada for all US citizens (though I've never brought a boat chartered in Canada in to the US.) Coming in to the San Juans you check in at Roche Harbor or Friday Harbor, they do the usual check your passports and look through the boat for contraband (ours was garlic that was imported from China) and then you're on your way. Make sure no one has a DUI on their record because they will probably be denied entry in to Canada. Sidney and Victoria are the easiest places to check in to Canada from the San Juans.

As far as favorite places...
1. Sucia Island in the San Juans, there's a small cove called Ewing Cove on the north east side of the island, if you can get a mooring ball in there (there are 4 I think) it's an awesome place to dinghy around to the little islands and just to relax. No facilities (well maybe there's an outhouse, can't remember.)
2. Rosario Resort on Orcas Island (small-ish) marina but you can anchor outside the breakwater and dinghy in to use the facilities at the hotel for a fee.
3. Sidney Spit in the Gulf Islands is really pretty but no facilities. We anchored at the north end of the spit but watch the depth.
4. Otter Bay on North Pender Island - they have two pools (one is adults only which was nice) and a little shop.
5. Russel Island (south east end of Saltspring Island) - this was probably my favorite place overall, quiet (I hear it gets busy but we were one of 4 or 5 boats), beautiful trails around the island. No facilities.

One thing to watch out for in the Gulf Islands is there are very few pump-out stations, so keep an eye on the holding tank.

Make sure you get the current prediction book, you can get a good boost or it can make your trip much longer if you're not aware.

And now for the most important point, beer is much more expensive in Canada and there aren't nearly as many small breweries, so stock up before you leave the San Juans!

Here's a link to the photos I took up there last year...


Maybe we'll see you up there!
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Old 10-03-2015, 11:01   #18
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Re: Bareboating - San Juans or Desolation Sound - Pros & Cons

Waggoner Cruising Guide is now available for free online! IN addition to, not instead of, the Dreamspeaker Guide.

Comox is closer to DS than Nanaimo.

Distance = Speed X Time. Only YOU know what time you have. Check a chart.

My buddy rented a Catalina 350 from Comox and had a great trip.

The Islands are a completely different experience than DS.
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Old 10-03-2015, 11:27   #19
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Re: Bareboating - San Juans or Desolation Sound - Pros & Cons

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We bought our boat up in Pender Harbour last summer and brought her to Washington - coming south clearing US Customs at Pt. Roberts was a piece of cake. We are currently about 500 yards from the border and believe me, there are more boats from BC than US boats. I think you'll have no problems with one or multiple crossings. An everyday occurance here. Have fun.
You must have gotten lucky, or something's different now, but I had a terrible time clearing through Point Roberts with a boat I bought in BC last month. According to people in the business (customs and customs brokers) Pt Roberts has been cracking down and applied new policies in the last year.

If you're not importing a boat it should still be pretty easy, but make sure you call ahead at least 2 hours (or 24-48 hours). And write down the name of anyone you talk to in Customs (because one of them gave me false information, and having their name is important if you want any proof of that later). It was my impression that Pt Roberts customs doesn't like boaters - they said they're understaffed and are working both the land and sea border, and the sea border requires a drive down to the marina, which shorthands them at the land border.

Because of the bad experience I would avoid Pt Roberts in the future and go through Friday Harbor or Roche. If all on board have Nexus cards, that's a huge plus (you may not even be required to dock).
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Old 10-03-2015, 13:56   #20
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Re: Bareboating - San Juans or Desolation Sound - Pros & Cons

all the Charter companies have great docs for reccomended schedules. I will agree with all, charter in Cananda vs Bellingham. Just too long a haul unless you are going to spend all the time in Sanjuans. But you can make it from Bellingham to Poets Cove in one day to clear customs. We like to spend a first Saturday at Ganges as there is a world class farmers market to provision. even a couple goat, beef, and poultry farmers. Then the Trincomali offers fun stops. As said above; humming bird tavern. also stop at Wallace Island. There is an interesting spot on Thetis Island with a liquir store and pub with deck. it is a seaplane stop if you want people to join you. Dighney over to a freak off Puget sound called Tent Island. there is a beach there where the water is in the 80s in the summer. fun swimming. Another fun stop is Pirates cove to the North. We like spending a couple days at Montegue as there are Scooters for rent at Marina. about 5-6 miles north is a natural sea cave. you can get there by boat (with government dock, rafting is the rule), or by a nice forested putt by scooter with a couple stops for some art houses in the woods. Our Favorite spot for Crabbing is Stuart Island. We mainly bring children to add to the Crab limit of 5 per person per day. So spend a night at Stuart, Crab like Mad, Provision at Ganges on saturday, etc etc.
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Old 10-03-2015, 16:13   #21
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Re: Bareboating - San Juans or Desolation Sound - Pros & Cons

Real contrast there;
Desolation sound - Braughton inlet. Remote, no marinas, lots of wildlife, local culture is first nations or backwoodsmen except for a very few small towns. Expedition sailing requiring you to be pretty independent. In late summer you need radar, fog is common in the morning bt can drop rapidly at any time. If you carry on to Braughton Sound the north side and island are very remote with few boats.
Souther Gulf Islands. Wine tours, farmers/craft markets, good restaurants and marinas whenever you want one. Include Victoria for a city break/shopping. Weather is generally warm and sunny
So depend if you want to pack the safari gear or the contemporary arts guide. Whichever you choose com back and try the other one next year. If you still like it after that the real wilderness starts north if Vancouver Island, About 500miles from the northern tip of VI to the next black-top road on the border with Alaska!!
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Old 10-03-2015, 16:44   #22
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The right answer is, of course, don't miss any of these areas. Depending on how much time you have and where you'll be coming from, it may make sense to try the San Juans first partially because of easy access. If you have lots of time do them all. If you do want to start in the San Juans check out Anacortes Yacht Charters. They have 80 boats to choose from.
Want to second, Anacortes Yacht Charters. They took good care of us before we bought our 38' Trimaran that we keep in Bellingham now.
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Old 10-03-2015, 19:31   #23
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Re: Bareboating - San Juans or Desolation Sound - Pros & Cons

Canadian dollar is way down so Americans will find everything 25% cheaper up here this season...even the beer!
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Old 10-03-2015, 20:00   #24
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Re: Bareboating - San Juans or Desolation Sound - Pros & Cons

Lots to digest in this thread. First of all, Puget Sound does not have the warm water, Pender Sound in Desolation does. It is geothermal from a small lagoon in its rear, about halfway up the fiord.
I would not go to Desolation my first cruise. If something goes wrong, you are kinda isolated. You should know how to anchor deep and use stern ties. Other cruisers are often not very helpful up there because they want to be alone too. Stick with the crowds at first. If you get run over by a ferry (like a guy 2 years ago) you can get immediate help With that said, I can go from Friday Harbor to Desolation in two days- but I go later in the year, so there is wind. Wind makes everything faster. And of course following the tides. Religiously following the tides and wind (ie weather) is the only way to get anywhere in this area.
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Old 10-03-2015, 23:28   #25
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Re: Bareboating - San Juans or Desolation Sound - Pros & Cons

It depends on what you want... As stated, wind is better and it's a bit more secluded in the Canada (Gulf) islands than San Juans, but its all good. Sucia has good mooring for first night out of Anacortes or Friday Harbor.

It's a nice sail (good wind) to Sydney or The Butchart Gardens | Victoria BC Attractions | National Historic Site of Canada, nice moorage, and take the bus to Victoria for the Provincial Museum and Pubs.

Depending on timing, you might hit Port Townsend on the way home and attend the wooden boat festival (it is a zoo, but a fun zoo)... "San Juans afoot and afloat" is a fairly good book.

I like Orcas Island, Deer Harbor and Jones Island State Park... remember to go rowing at night with your kids to see the phytoplankton.
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Old 11-03-2015, 08:24   #26
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Re: Bareboating - San Juans or Desolation Sound - Pros & Cons

Again, thanks to all for helpful suggestions, attractions, anchorages, and broker references. I'll keep following in case other thoughts and suggestions come to mind.
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Old 11-03-2015, 10:18   #27
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Re: Bareboating - San Juans or Desolation Sound - Pros & Cons

San Juan Sailing out of Bellingham is well regarded and has a large inventory. I believe they have an open house in April when they show off the boats, you can chat with the owners, and make your selection.

If you're only doing a 1 week charter, don't get too ambitious. Having done the San Juans and the Gulfs several times, I've learned that the most enjoyable trips involve flexible itineraries that can change on the fly. For example, you may fall in love with an island and decide to stay there an extra day, or you may change your plans for the next evening from remote harbor to marina with all the amenities. The beauty of the San Juans and the Gulfs is that there's so much variety within a day sail away that you can do this.

Make sure you have the Canadian Hyroglyphics chart and the Waggonner (used to be Washburn) tables. Quick way to check favorable currents and do route planning/re-planning.
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Old 11-03-2015, 10:41   #28
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Re: Bareboating - San Juans or Desolation Sound - Pros & Cons

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We absolutely love the Dreamspeaker guides. Highly recommended.
Dreamspeaker guides - Yes!

If you have at least 2 weeks- go for it (Des Sound/Discovery Islands & all points in between). Otherwise stay down S in the San Juan / Gulf Islands. You WILL certainly do a fair amount of motoring. Be sure to keep a sharp lookout for huge trees (and whales) in the Straight of Georgia.

Sidney is our favorite place to do customs & shop for supplies as we head N.

That being said I should say that thar be dragons, it rains all the time, and there is absolutely nothing to see up there.
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Old 11-03-2015, 13:02   #29
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Re: Bareboating - San Juans or Desolation Sound - Pros & Cons

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That being said I should say that thar be dragons, it rains all the time, and there is absolutely nothing to see up there.
... and pirates! Don't forget about the pirates!
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Old 11-03-2015, 22:24   #30
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Re: Bareboating - San Juans or Desolation Sound - Pros & Cons

I spend 2-3 weeks each year cruising these areas and find them all very different from each other. I select my next years cruise based on what I think my family needs to be entertained the most. I usually sail between mid july to mid august. If I only have a week I would stay in the San Juans as the wind is usually great for a half day anyway even though most people are motoring as I am having a great time tacking to windward from island to island. The Canadian Southern Gulf Islands to me are boring as there is little wind and it is very crowded and sedate. I am there to sail and not to see who has the best burger. From Tent Island north the weather and water warm up considerably as you are now in an inland sea away from the cold winds and water of the Straits of Juan de Fuca. From here northward the water is nice to swim in and the sun gets hot so you will want a boat with a bimini not for the rain but for the heat and the sun. For my likes Comox would be my choice as you would have some great sailing and great destinations where you could sail in a circuit with your sails doing the work most of the time. Comox to Hornsby Island, Savory Island or Lund, motor up to desolation with a nice reach back to Comox.
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