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Old 02-20-2015, 11:40 PM   #1
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Cruising the Pacific Northwest

I am starting to do some research on hiring a boat and cruising the inland water way above Vancouver. What I'm particularly interested in is what is a good jumping off point, and which part of the waterway to tackle.

We are thinking of a 10-14 day cruise and am not sure whether to go south to north or visa versa.

I am probably looking to do this next year, so I thought I should start planning now. I would be looking to hire a good size boat, say 44'.

Appreciate some good local knowledge & recommendations.

Cheers,

Andy
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Old 02-21-2015, 12:21 AM   #2
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For a ten to fourteen day cruise, I would recommend one of two areas. If you really pushed it, you might even be able to touch on both but only if the weather really cooperated.

One area is the Gulf Islands. These are more or less across from Vancouver, BC. There are lots of funky little harbors, a couple of good sized towns, and numerous opportunities to anchor out. You could hire a boat in the US (Bellingham or Anacortes would probably be the most practical) or the Vancouver area, or most likely on Vancouver Island itself. An advantage of hiring in the US is that this will let you cruise through the San Juan Islands, too, which are immediatly southeast of the Gulf Islands. They are more or less the same chain of islands but God help you if you call the Gulf Islands the "Canadian San Juans." Very rude and uncool.

The other area is Desolation Sound which starts at the north end of the Georgia Strait. More remote than the Gulf Islands, it's a terrific place to get a feel for the whole Inside Passage environment. While there are a few small communities with docks and stores, Desolation Sound tends to be an anchoring cruise. You could get a boat in Vancouver and run up the mainland coast to Desolation Sound, or you can probably hire a boat in Campbell River on Vancouver Island and maybe even Powell River across the way on the mainland (Northern Spy on this forum could probably provide good info on that). Either location puts you right at the doorstep of Desolation Sound.

In addition to looking at charts and "exploring" these areas via Google Earth, I can recomment a good guidebook to the area to get you started. This is the Waggoner Guide, which is updated annually.

While there are 7,326 different cruising guides to this region, the nice thing about the Waggoner is it gives you both some navigational information as well as information of what there is to see and do in the various places. There are better cruising guides if you're interested in the nitty gritty of where to anchor and detailed navigation info, but the Waggoner Guide is a great place to start.

There is apparently an on-line version of the Waggoner Guide but we have never looked into this so I can't tell you if i think it's good, bad, or indifferent. If you want the paper edition you can get it from Amazon or direct from FineEdge Publications.
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Old 02-21-2015, 12:40 AM   #3
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Here are a few photos. First four are in the Gulf Islands, second four are from Desolation Sound.

For the record, first shot is Sidney Spit at the north end of Sidney Island, second is in Ganges harbor on Saltspring Island, third is me and Albi "participating" in a buidling mural in the logging town of Chemainus on the east shore of Vancouver Island, fourth is at Bedwell Harbor on South Pender Island. Fifth is Prideaux Haven [inlet] in Desolation Sound, sixth is enroute in Desolation Sound, seventh is the tiny boardwalk/floating community (with store) at Refuge Cove, sixth is enroute in Desolation Sound.

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Old 02-21-2015, 12:41 AM   #4
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I second all of what Marin just recommended.
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Old 02-21-2015, 01:17 AM   #5
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Marin is the Man!

Stationed on Whidbey Island and traveled those areas many Years ago. And that's where I'm heading back to in the near future. This time with my own boat and not a charter. ( they seem to want theres back too soon).

Good luck and enjoy!
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Old 02-21-2015, 02:32 AM   #6
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Stationed on Whidbey Island .....
FWIW my wife was stationed at Widbey NAS before I met her. She was on the crash crew and among other duties was the turret operator on the Oshkoshes. One of their jobs was to be at the ready when the pilots and aircrew did their fire training. This apparently involved a pit of some sort, some kind of fuel in the pit, the airmen standing in the pit with it, and then the whole thing was set alight.

Needless to say, the pilots and aircrew were somewhat apprehensive of all this. So the officer running the training would tell them not to worry, the Oshkosh was there to douse everything with foam should the situation start to get out of hand. Then he would ask the turret operator to take off the full helmet of the fire suit so the pilots could see there was a real person ready to save their butts.

My future wife, who was slim and blonde, would take off the helmet, shake out her hair and wave at the guys in the pit. She says the expressions on the faces of the macho, tough pilots when they saw this "little girl" who was in their minds the only thing between them and being burned alive were pretty priceless.
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Old 02-21-2015, 03:23 AM   #7
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You used to be able to charter in Comox too, close to Desolation. With cheap fuel and an .80 dollar, Desolation Sound will likely be pretty busy this summer.

Just a gentle reminder that all of the anchorages and harbours are "no-discharge" areas and there are roving bands of rabid vigilantes with torches and pitchforks that will make you pay the price for a dump. Last summer we witnessed some moron dumping his load in a quiet Marine Park. Don't know his nationality but you can still see some of his bones on the beach there.

I know, I'm being a jerk, but it has to be said. The only reason Prideaux Haven is now swimable is because of the holding tank rule. A few years ago, by August, you could walk to shore with your dog...
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Old 02-21-2015, 07:28 AM   #8
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Originally Posted by Xsbank View Post
You used to be able to charter in Comox too, close to Desolation. With cheap fuel and an .80 dollar, Desolation Sound will likely be pretty busy this summer.

Just a gentle reminder that all of the anchorages and harbours are "no-discharge" areas and there are roving bands of rabid vigilantes with torches and pitchforks that will make you pay the price for a dump. Last summer we witnessed some moron dumping his load in a quiet Marine Park. Don't know his nationality but you can still see some of his bones on the beach there.

I know, I'm being a jerk, but it has to be said. The only reason Prideaux Haven is now swimable is because of the holding tank rule. A few years ago, by August, you could walk to shore with your dog...
Point taken, and duly noted.
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Old 02-21-2015, 07:45 AM   #9
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Another thought is ALASKA. There is a Nordic Tug charter group out of Juneau. That opens up a two week circle of Glacier Bay, Sitka, Peterburg and Tracey Arm. Alaska presents greater challenges and longer distances than Gulf Islands and Desolation Sound. Just depends on time, experience, wanting crowds vs remoteness and wanting more vs less sun.
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Old 02-21-2015, 12:16 PM   #10
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Waggoner also does a flotilla to Alaska, annually in the Spring. They are apparently a great success.
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Old 02-21-2015, 12:18 PM   #11
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I'll compose a lengthy reply later. Saturday chores take priority...
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Old 02-21-2015, 12:29 PM   #12
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Andy; Check out Desolation Sound Yacht Charters on Youtube. Looks like it is exactly what you are looking for.
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Old 02-21-2015, 02:08 PM   #13
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Andy,
Another option is Northwest Explorations out of Bellingham. They provide boats for various segments of BC and SE Alaska. They use Grand Banks and travel together, therefore often called Mother Goose. I believe they have north bound MG starting in Ketchikan, Alaska ending in Juneau and a south bound one stating Juneau and ending in Ketchikan. They also do similar trips in BC. I have seen them in many remote places in SE entirely off the normal routes. I have a friend that raced his sail boat to Hawaii several times and has did the MG several years ago. He highly recommends MG.
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Old 02-21-2015, 03:26 PM   #14
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Within 50 miles of the Vancouver area alone, you won't have enough time to see it all in 10 - 14 days. With only that much time, my recommendation is to not try to do too much, or else you'll end up missing a lot along the way.
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Old 02-21-2015, 07:30 PM   #15
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Thanks for all the input guys,I think I will buy a large map of the Pacific North West, put it up in the study and start marking off the areas of interest to work out what is a feasible to do plan in say a two week period,(may have to extend that though).

Next I will check out the suggested hire boat operations to see what's on offer. I have a feeling we will probably grow to needing a couple of boats.I am really looking forward to this as it has been on my bucket list for quite a while.

Oh, by the way which is the best month for cruising in the PNW
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Old 02-21-2015, 07:47 PM   #16
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September. Many of the boats disappear as the kids head back to school. Water is still quite warm.


Enjoy
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Old 02-21-2015, 08:03 PM   #17
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Andy
Rather than the map, get a copy of Waggoner. I have both hardcopy and on the iPad. The latter is a bit less convenient to flip back and forth with, more useful when actually cruising.
Yes, the San Juans and Gulf Islands, and around Vancouver etc is all quite nice. But you really want to do something like Princess Louisa Inlet and Desolation given the effort you have to go to to make it all happen. Stretch your time to 3 weeks or even a bit longer if possible. Then including the Broughtons is manageable too.
You might be able to start in June, but weather could be iffy. August is peak, September is getting late. Most of the boats out of Bellingham or Anacortes will be well set up for rain and they have relatively large fleets so have the whole process down to a fine art. With personal recommendations some of the other places could supply great boats too, but do your homework. Going at the season shoulders would not worry me.
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Old 02-21-2015, 08:35 PM   #18
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Andy
You can download a free PDF file of Waggoner here.
Download the 2015 Waggoner Cruising Guide | Waggoner Cruising Guide

Hope this is helpful....
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Old 02-21-2015, 09:19 PM   #19
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The Broughtons too? You could spend all three weeks in the San Juan/Gulf Islands, let alone Desolation or the Broughtons. Besides, the Broughtons have crappy weather and the water is cold, they are better in the Spring when it's cold everywhere anyway, then go to Desolation or the Gulf Islands after.
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Old 02-21-2015, 09:41 PM   #20
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Agreed. That's too much for the first visit with the limited time he has.
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