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Old 15-12-2020, 10:13   #1
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Let's talk cruising in British Columbia

Hi there!

I have a two-year plan to leave Massachusetts to base myself in another place, and Vancouver/Victoria is on the short list. (I've read the thread comparing the two.)

On this forum, informed posters have given diametrically opposed assessments of cruising in the Pacific Northwest.

Some say best cruising ever.

Others say rains all the time, no wind in summer.

A sailing club in Victoria says "nearly Mediterranean climate in summer." (?!)

What say you?

About me, to handle the inevitable "depends on what you want" responses: I'll be solo most of the time, just like I am now; I like gunkholing and being surrounded by nothing but water equally. What looks great about this region is that you have it all. Looks like there are lots of intense currents; then again there's a reason ASA 105 is taught using the charts from places where I sail.

I think a voyage around Vancouver Island sounds like a great project. But so does exploring every island, town, city and harbor. I have U.S. and Canada citizenship, assuming that matters. I sail a Bavaria 37, which I will be leaving behind. Shopping for something sturdier and easier to solo is part of the plan; this query is not about which boat to buy. I have a short list of those, too.

Thanks for your thoughts!
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Old 15-12-2020, 10:20   #2
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Re: Let's talk cruising in British Columbia

Yes, it rains a lot (all the time in the winter) and winds are "fickle" (not so "fickle" late Fall thru Spring!).

Great anchoring, but... many anchorages get VERY crowded in July/August (especially if/when the border reopens).

We love it here (returned from west coast cruising Mexico earlier than planned because we prefer BC cruising).

But don't expect warm water, sunny days AND empty anchorages. Quiet anchorages being our goal, we go North....
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Old 15-12-2020, 10:43   #3
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Re: Let's talk cruising in British Columbia

Well, we're East Coast transplants ourselves. Bought a boat in BC in 2014 and packed up and sailed to just south of the CA/US border.

As boaters it was a big adjustment. After 20 years of East Coast sailing from Maine to Florida, we found this West Coast to be a challenge. Huge currents, whirlpools, rapids and enormous trees floating just under the water, aptly called deadheads. If you stay south, there's lots of civilization - marinas, restaurants, people. The further north you go, not so much civilization and lots more of what the travel brochures portray - whales, mountains and bears, oh my. Beauty that can't be described.

We also have to be much more independent the further north we go. Medical supplies (no towns, no doctors), spare parts (no towns, no mechanics), planned fuel stops (you get it), provisioning is spotty - you buy what they're selling.

The weather is as follows: (WA and southern BC)
Jan - rain and wind about 40F - oh and dark
Feb - same as above
Mar - ditto
Apr - same except the days are longer and less rain - about 50F
May - now you're talking, some sun, some rain 50's with occasional 60
Jun - sun followed by rain followed by sun solid 60 degrees
Jul - good weather, unfortunately you have to work on your boat cause it's not
raining anymore
AUG - this is it!!! Perfect, never rains, 75F. Go out every day - see the sights -
oops, the wind died. Motoring will still get you to beautiful places.
Sept - fall arrives. Wind picks up, sailing is good, getting colder now.
Oct. - prepare boat for winter. Occasionally a great sail in good, chilly wx.
Nov.- rain and wind about 45F - oh and dark
Dec - same as above.

I joke, but not really. Right now (Tuesday) winds are SSE at 31 gusting 40 kts. Oh, and it's raining.

BUT I would not trade this for sailing in the Keys, or in Baja (maybe next year). I have seen things I never imagined. I've been anchored in an inlet with no other boat in sight for 5 days. I've watched otters and seals and whales and dolphins swim right near us. I've sat in my shorts watching sunrises behind snow covered mountains.

This is a magical place. I'm very glad I stayed. Yes, it's not a weather paradise but it is so much more than that.

It all comes down to what you really want.
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Old 15-12-2020, 11:14   #4
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Re: Let's talk cruising in British Columbia

Northern BC is our home waters.

Desolate. Quiet. Nobody else for days - if you go to the right spots.

Hundreds or thousands of hidden little anchorages that are safe in all weather

Nature of unrivalled beauty. If you like the outdoors at all, this is the spot to be.

It’s not a spot if you need cell coverage, good shopping or people to hang around with. There is very little other than nature.

Yes, it rains. A lot. A cold damp miserable rain that seeps into your bones. But it makes you appreciate those sunny days even more
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Old 15-12-2020, 11:16   #5
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Re: Let's talk cruising in British Columbia

Quote:
Originally Posted by NedX View Post
A sailing club in Victoria says "nearly Mediterranean climate in summer." (?!)
I'm not sure what they've been smoking. They do that out there
Kind of think it might be like how Greenland or the Sunshine Coast got their names - sailors like irony.

You gotta like the wet, and be willing to say goodbye to the sun for 6 months every year, but you can sail year-round without any drama. There's wind in the summer, but if you want to use it, you have to learn that land and sea breezes have schedules, and there're strategies to take advantage of katabatic winds. There used to be a really good book about BC weather (can picture it, but can't remember the name; a little googling found this, I don't know if it's as good: National marine weather guide : British Columbia regional guide.:*En56-240/3-2015E-PDF - Government of Canada Publications - Canada.ca )
Pilothouses are quite popular in the PNW for good reason, but material science has come a long way, and it's easy enough to stay warm and dry (well, at least dry) in an open cockpit. Peeps tell me the damp cold is worse than a "dry cold", but I think they're batty - you get used to it, and it's probably not much different than New England conditions.
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Old 15-12-2020, 11:18   #6
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Re: Let's talk cruising in British Columbia

I have occasionally been critical of sailing in the PNW on some threads, but I will also say that Puget Sound, the San Juan Islands, the Gulf Islands, the inside passage, and the west coast of Vancouver offer some amazing cruising and gunk-holing opportunities that can be found anywhere. If you're on a schedule...you might be motoring a lot...if you can wait a few days the wind will find you.

Seattle area and Vancouver Island averages about 150 rain days per year. It's not a heavy rain like the east coast, but very light rain and gray skies. But, when the sun is out it is absolutely beautiful. Water temp in the Salish Sea is about 54F year-round.

The mountain ranges on each side of the Salish Sea greatly influence the weather patterns. The San Juan and Gulf islands also greatly affect wind flow in those areas. So, sailing in summer is usually plagued with light and variable winds. Winter sailing is cold, strong gusty winds that occasionally shift esp. near points of land. Those same mountain ranges can funnel the wind creating some very rough conditions. Combine all that with large tidal flows (10'-12') that create strong currents it makes for challenging 'sailing.' (Your sailing schedule sometimes depends on current flows if you're going through passes or making a long haul...say Seattle to Victoria).

That being said...sailing in the PNW can train you to handle a myriad of conditions if you so desire. Fog, rain, cold, snow, commercial traffic, strong currents, dealing with wind shifts, occasional heavy weather (+25kts), pounding seas (wind waves 2'-5' feet with short periods), anchoring in different bottoms and large tidal variations, radio communication (essential for going though some passes), reefing sails, flying spinnakers, and yes...even some days of ideal sailing.

There is also some good fishing, excellent crabbing, and wildlife viewing (orcas, gray whales, seals, etc), and some incredible scenery!
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Old 15-12-2020, 11:25   #7
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Re: Let's talk cruising in British Columbia

Vancouver Sailing Conditions, as per Sunsail.

If they have a base there, then I assume it's definitely worth it to visit and sail the area. I haven't done it but definitely will in the next 12-24 months. Even though I'm more of a warm weather, white beaches, and palm trees kind of guy... I'd love to sail around Vancouver.

https://www.sunsail.com/yacht-charter/canada/vancouver
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Old 15-12-2020, 11:26   #8
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Re: Let's talk cruising in British Columbia

Great intel here. Especially the sober assessment of the weather (can Nov-March be worse than here?)

I'm solo and in no hurry; isolated places appeal to me.

(This is an aerial shot of Boston Harbor, partially frozen in January. At least it's sunny)
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Old 15-12-2020, 11:34   #9
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Re: Let's talk cruising in British Columbia

Great if you have no set schedule.......early spring the south is not that crowded, as summer comes on go north, I go all the way to the Alaska border most years, in the fall return south, maybe by way of the west coast of Vancouver Island......for winter hunker down somewhere that has access to off boat distractions.... or put the boat up, I go on the hard and hop a plane somewhere warm for 3-4 months.....for me no problem at all, well except this Covid thing has me sitting on a mooring in the Gulf Islands this year........oh you need a good heating system year round here so I’m cozy winter and summer.....
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Old 15-12-2020, 11:36   #10
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Re: Let's talk cruising in British Columbia

Quote:
Originally Posted by Discovery 15797 View Post
sailing in the PNW can train you to handle a myriad of conditions if you so desire. Fog, rain, cold, snow, commercial traffic, strong currents, dealing with wind shifts, occasional heavy weather (+25kts), pounding seas (wind waves 2'-5' feet with short periods), anchoring in different bottoms and large tidal variations, radio communication (essential for going though some passes), reefing sails, flying spinnakers, and yes...even some days of ideal sailing.

There is also some good fishing, excellent crabbing, and wildlife viewing (orcas, gray whales, seals, etc), and some incredible scenery!
Sounds like home, minus the gray whales, orcas and otters. I guess we get steadier wind, too
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Old 15-12-2020, 11:41   #11
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Re: Let's talk cruising in British Columbia

Quote:
Originally Posted by Cool Hand Luke View Post
Vancouver Sailing Conditions, as per Sunsail.

If they have a base there, then I assume it's definitely worth it to visit and sail the area. I haven't done it but definitely will in the next 12-24 months. Even though I'm more of a warm weather, white beaches, and palm trees kind of guy... I'd love to sail around Vancouver.

https://www.sunsail.com/yacht-charter/canada/vancouver
Not exactly "the Saudi Arabia of wind energy" (what someone called the area between Cape Cod and Long Island.)

Luke, a trial cruise out there is definitely part of the plan. Once certain bureaucratic details get worked out....
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Old 15-12-2020, 11:49   #12
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Re: Let's talk cruising in British Columbia

Based in Puget Sound, most years we go all the way up through SE Alaska to Juneau, Glacier Bay, etc. We spend 5 months or so cruising at 7 knots, anchoring in beautiful coves the vast majority of the time, sometimes without another boat in sight. Wonderful scenery, critters, fishing. You do have to be able to cope with rain, but there are many nice days in the May-September time frame. Love it!
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Old 15-12-2020, 12:42   #13
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Re: Let's talk cruising in British Columbia

Quote:
Originally Posted by Lodesman View Post
I'm not sure what they've been smoking. They do that out there
Kind of think it might be like how Greenland or the Sunshine Coast got their names - sailors like irony.

There used to be a really good book about BC weather (can picture it, but can't remember the name; a little googling found this, I don't know if it's as good: National marine weather guide : British Columbia regional guide.:*En56-240/3-2015E-PDF - Government of Canada Publications - Canada.ca )
.
Unfortunately that link is broken. Here's a copy of this detailed description of BC Marine weather (excellent!):
https://drive.google.com/open?id=12e...ayfXxxEnBVjfVR

To OP:
Yes, you certainly can sail/cruise all year round (especially in the Gulf Islands). You just have to pay attention to WEATHER - - patience! - - and will need heating outside of Summer. Then there's F'august on the West Coast of Vancouver Island and Haida Gwaii in August....

Sunshine Coast is indeed relatively "sunny". But we also have "Grief Point", "Desolation Sound" (anything but desolate in July/August... overcrowded/overrun more like it), The Devil's Hole, Cape Caution, and many other scary names. However, many (settler) names of places such as points etc give no indication of their relative ferocity (I'm thinking of Banks Penninsula/Solander Island, Johnstone Strait, Langara Point, etc etc).
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Old 15-12-2020, 12:51   #14
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Re: Let's talk cruising in British Columbia

Quote:
Originally Posted by Cool Hand Luke View Post
Vancouver Sailing Conditions, as per Sunsail.

If they have a base there, then I assume it's definitely worth it to visit and sail the area. I haven't done it but definitely will in the next 12-24 months. Even though I'm more of a warm weather, white beaches, and palm trees kind of guy... I'd love to sail around Vancouver.

https://www.sunsail.com/yacht-charter/canada/vancouver
Not so much a base as a franchisee who is like every other charter company around BC but has a few cats and newer Jeaneaus on top of it.

As for the OP:

Best. Place. Ever.

Bust as others said it depends on your preferences. Most Albertans dream all their lives of escaping our cold winters and moving to Vancouver or Victoria. I would say about half return, tails between their legs, because they are so used to bright sunny winters ( even with -30C) and can't hack the clouds and the "gloom." We didn't have that experience during our year aboard. If you are planning of settling in during the winter I would suggest Victoria and it sits in a bit of a rain shadow and has noticeably nicer weather than the rest of the PNW.

Weather just is. Guarantteed from Tshirts and all geared up in one day every month except maybe August. Great light jacket weather in the winter and shoulder seasons varies with some doozy blows. Plenty of time/weather for shorter excursions all winter. A heater is a must unless you are super tough and a full cockpit enclosure makes the whole thing a joy.

Sailing is erratic but that makes it fun unless you are always in a hurry. Crowds are seasonal and easy to escape. The scenery is spectacular; the wildlife abounds and people darn nice.

Can you tell I am a bit prejudiced?
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Old 15-12-2020, 13:56   #15
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Re: Let's talk cruising in British Columbia

You need heat on your boat. Almost year round.


Many folks may have not sailed elsewhere on their own boats, others, like me, have moved here fro m elsewhere, and some of us moved on our own boats.


Here's something I wrote for a publication last year:


Sailing in SWBC


We bought our first boat in San Francisco in 1983, and this boat in 1998. I sailed it up to B.C. in 2016 when we moved to Vancouver Island.

The utter predictability of wind in SF Bay was a luxury I didn't really fully appreciate, although I certainly fully appreciated the ability to sail regularly, as in always. Even in winter, there were known regular weather patterns. Kimball Livingston's excellent book Sailing The Bay is superb in explaining things.

Now that we're entering our fourth sailing season, I have learned a few things that I didn't "need" to know back down in Northern California with its predictable daily wind cycles. There are definitely local areas here of consistent winds. Ganges Harbor all the way past the Pender Islands, Satellite Channel northwest of Cape Keppel at the southwestern end of Saltspring Island (called the Cowichan Doctor), and my home port of Maple Bay, all can be as regular as SF Bay. A mere mile away it can be dead calm.

I've learned that if you want to sail, you have to be ready to do so, quickly and pleasantly. On Monday August 17th, we had a really nice wind all the way from Maple Bay north through Stuart Channel to Thetis Island, almost unheard of without a major weather front moving through. We took advantage of it and had a memorable sail.

Otherwise, we have the proverbial "trawler with a stick."

But it sure is gorgeous. I don't miss the city lights at all, the stars at night are big and bright and it ain't even Texas.

A friend had a sistership that he bought new for as long as I've had my older model. Last year he sold it for a trawler, a Ranger 29. He recently wrote:

After an abortive effort to embrace power boating, we are looking forward to returning to the sailing world. The power boat, a Ranger Tug, works beautifully and is a delight to be on in anchorages and at the dock. But after one summer of cruising we found that we really missed sailing and the simple pleasure of working with the wind to get from one place to another.

So, it seems that it all depends on your perspective.

My first couple of seasons here were spent mostly motoring from place to place, with the deliberate intent to see as much as possible to learn what we liked and didn't, so as to be able to choose where we'd like to go back to. We found some "favorites" as well as some "never goin' back agains."

Now that we have a firmer grasp on distances, times and tides and currents, and local weather patterns, we can better plan our cruises to attempt, I say attempt, to maximize the time under sail.

But all in all, it's most important to me to simply be able to be on the boat.

Your boat, your choice.

Good luck, stay safe, be well, and enjoy being on the water.
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