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Old 02-14-2016, 01:26 PM   #1
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Talking Share Your 1st Time Experience!!!

Got your attention huh!

To avoid thread drift, I decided to start a new thread and ask three questions..

This will be our first time cruising the outside (Columbia River Bar to Neah Bay, WA coast) coast to Puget Sound and then cruising the Inside Passage. We have never cruised this area. San Juan Islands to Skagway Alaska.

What was your first experience cruising the Inside Passage?

Since that time what helped you in future cruising the Inside Passage?

Some have suggested the Waggoner seminar in March. At $375 per couple, plus travel and lodging, we can see dropping 1 boat dollar.

Is the seminar worth it?
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Old 02-14-2016, 01:47 PM   #2
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What was your first experience cruising the Inside Passage?
Six months by sea kayak. Little help, but you asked...
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Old 02-14-2016, 01:59 PM   #3
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Six months by sea kayak. Little help, but you asked...
Wow. You must have been a lot younger back then......
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Old 02-14-2016, 02:03 PM   #4
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Wow. You must have been a lot younger back then......
...and no debt, no full time job, no house, and no daughter...but still with the same lady who did the trip with me!!!!
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Old 02-14-2016, 06:30 PM   #5
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What was your first experience cruising the Inside Passage? Deckhand on a tug in 1969, Seattle to Cape Spencer and beyond. Later was relief captain on a Ketchikan based tug with an oil barge that called almost everywhere in SE.

Since that time what helped you in future cruising the Inside Passage? More experience. Like most endeavors, it takes a few times to get it mostly right. And because it's boating, there are always challenges.

Some have suggested the Waggoner seminar in March. At $375 per couple, plus travel and lodging, we can see dropping 1 boat dollar.

Is the seminar worth it? Can't say for sure, having never attended. But, I suspect the Waggoner instructors are very experienced in communicating important information that you could really use if you did no research on your own.

If you are a self-starter with a boat well-equipped with safety equipment/spare parts and the ability to use them, AND you are able to research guidebooks and publications, you probably don't need to attend.

If you are more comfortable with a yacht club type cruise with other boaters, you should probably attend the seminar AND pay to join the northbound flotilla.


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Old 02-14-2016, 06:56 PM   #6
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You are about to embark a really neat adventure. We have cruised the San Juans, Gulf Islands and British Columbia for 15 years and enjoyed everyone of them. The last 15 years we cruise Alaska and have found it to be just magnificent. During our first years we found that there were no formal groups to obtain information or join as a flotilla. We used the guides of the time and when we anchored for the evening would take our dink around the anchorage and meet people. It was during these meetings we would cultivate friends and gain ideas on places and things to do. Sometimes we would travel for a few days with other boaters and then go off on our own. When in British Columbia we would stay at government docks were we meet people but most of all the locals who provided us with multitude of friendships, fish and information. We tried not to commit to long trips, we stopped and smelled the flowers.. It amazes us when we see posts of people going to Alaska in two weeks. Alaska is beautiful in its own right, but there is so much to see and experience on the way up. If you do make it up to Alaska we would be more than happy to show you around and share our experiences and information. We currently keep our boat in Ketchikan.
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Old 02-14-2016, 07:42 PM   #7
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What was your first experience cruising the Inside Passage?
On a state ferry in 1963 from Rupert to Juneau. But on my own boat it would be in 71 when I moved from Seattle to Juneau via the QC Is. Taught school (shop) at Masett in the QC Islands where I built a 28' OB boat. Planed to go back to Wn. but went to Juneau w the OB boat instead.

Since that time what helped you in future cruising the Inside Passage?
Bought a 17' Bryant oak and mahogany OB cruiser w 35hp Johnson in the late 60's and cruised the San Juans and lower BC including the Frazer River up to Pit Lake.
In several years w my new wife (from Juneau) we moved to Bellingham Wa. and ran the boat down (the 28' OB). Took unlimited hot showers at Butedale. Worked on the AK Ferries (as a waiter) for 2-3 years also.
Worked at Uniflite Boats in the shop installing stuffing boxes, rudder ports and engine beds. Worked in the engineering office at drafting and low level engineering like moving installs around to control boat list.
Much reading of books and magazines and working on cars.
Built my first boat .. a 12' canvas covered kayak when I was 12. Rebuilt a 14' carvel planked wood boat while in college .... and several other boat about the same time.

Re the seminar I don't know but it sure seems reasonable. At $375 per couple I'm tempted to sell the boat and just go w them. I much prefer the Hemingway cruise guides. I use the Waggoner guides but they are much more focused on the marina to marina boating style .. the availability of services ect. Hemingway's guides are just what I like but wish it was easier to find places in the books. But while cruising we flip back and forth.

Here's a beautiful example of the Tollycraft the Waggoner's had for years. Not their boat. Took the pic on our way down so from Thorne Bay AK.
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Old 02-14-2016, 07:53 PM   #8
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Well, again, not a lot of help...........but went up and down it a few times on the USCGC Cambell (WHEC 32).....would love to do it in my boat, or at least on a ferry where I didn't have to stand watch!
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Old 02-14-2016, 10:36 PM   #9
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We sold our house in 2007, just weeks before the housing market crashed, and bought a 54' Defever and moved aboard. We spent the next 2 years learning how all the systems worked and spent many hours fixing various things. This was actually a good thing as now I was pretty confident I could take care of things that might come up on the trip. At this same time we were going to the Seattle Boat Shows and attended any seminar they offered on cruising the Inside Passage. We also went to the Trawler Fest in Anacortes where they had several seminars on cruising the Inside Passage and northern BC. We both retired on March 31,2009 and the next day we left Everett Wa. on a 5 month cruise to Alaska.

On this cruise remember that you are going from a area that will be quite congested with other boats, good harbors to anchor up in, and for the most part, pretty straight forward navigation skills are required. As you progress northward, each day you gradually loose the crowds, marinas get fewer and farther apart, really good anchorages are harder to find, and your confidence improves as this transformation takes place. You will probably be meeting people that are going the same places as you, and may even decide to cruise together a few days or even longer. Some of these folks have probably done this trip many times, and many are happy to help out the new folks. This process will take several weeks and you should be feeling like an old pro by the time you arrive in Alaska.

You definitely want to acquire the cruising guides written by Don Douglass and Reanne Hemingway Douglass. They not only tell you the best routes and places to stay, but also the best way to safely get into those places.

The second time we went up was in 2013, and this time it was much easier as we had a better idea of what to expect.

My best advise would be:

Your best weather will be early in the morning before the winds pick up. So plan on getting a early start. Besides, many times this would put us at the next stop about the same time as everyone else was leaving.

Don't leave the helm un-attended for one moment. You can't just turn on a autopilot go. Way to much drift wood that can ruin your day, especially if your boat is a twin screw.

Not sure how fast you cruise, but the best time to transit the various rapids will be when there is a minimal tidal exchange.

Remember, the Canadian weather reports will be in meters and not feet. Big difference on wave height.

If you are not under any time restraints, agree now that you don't travel unless the forecast is good.

Keep a good log of your trip. You can sit back on a cold rainy night in February are relive your trip!!! Have fun...
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Old 02-14-2016, 11:52 PM   #10
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I've made the trip 4 times now with 2 of the trips to Glacier Bay, which I highly recommend. The way I look at the trip is that it is a number of days trips with the boat always headed in a northerly direction. Just be prepared to sit out bad weather when making a big water transit and bring good rain gear.

Buying the Douglass guides and maybe a few others should be all that you need. You will meet a lot of fellow cruisers who will enjoy giving you their experience on places to go and favorite routes. I always plan on giving the trip 3 months from start to finish.
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Old 02-15-2016, 10:49 AM   #11
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Made the trip three times, 1986, 2003 and 2015. Not many marinas in remote BC or Southeast Alaska. Plan on enjoying swinging on the pick, underway at day light and watch the tides and weather. Oh yes, the best pizza in remote BC is in Shearwater.
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Old 02-15-2016, 11:32 AM   #12
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Thanks everyone. 12 weeks and counting. Going up to Blaine WA for our NEXUS interview today.


Pizza check. put in the book for places to eat..........
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Old 02-15-2016, 11:33 AM   #13
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Our first experiences on the Inside Passage were a few 2-3 week trips in the San Juans and into BC. Learned anchoring with big tides, tidal rapids, etc. First long cruise was 20 years ago: launched at Prince Rupert, and spent two months wandering SE Alaska - Wow!

We learned so much over those trips it's hard to describe. We were sponges, and skill-building was one of the most fascinating and enjoyable parts of cruising. We've spent most of most summers since cruising BC and/or SE AK, and never stop learning.

Some things that come to mind which help make our cruises successful:

Early on, lots of studying charts along with the Douglass guides, so as to have a handle on anchorages. These days I'd also use Active Captain. We listed a relatively finite number that seemed workable or attractive, and have continued to add anchorages and comments to that list. A quick check of the list when planning the next leg can bring to mind the next several realistic anchorages along our way. It helps us choose destinations and also bailout locations should the weather get nasty. Happy to share if you are interested.

Unless we know an anchorage very well, and maybe even have a spot marked to drop the hook, we circle slowly to be sure we understand the depths in the area where we'll be swinging. We check where we are on the tide, and how much it's going to go up and down while we're there. We carefully check our set. We know the WX forecast before even selecting the anchorage.

We listen to VHF weather conditions and forecast at least twice daily - crucial in a small boat. There's a lot of info coming across, and sometimes it's hard to hear clearly, which can make us listen again through the whole cycle. It's always hard to remember all the info for the several areas being reported. So we made a form with the area names already printed, on which it's easy to jot down forecast winds for today, tomorrow, next days, etc. We print a bunch of them and use one each day. Nowadays, if we have cell service on our smartphone, it's easy to get all the detail from NOAA and Environment Canada's marine weather websites. But we still write it down on the form for later reference. Happy to share these as well.

We learned the hard way a couple of times how much nastier seas can get when wind opposes tidal current. We take that into account especially when planning a crossing such as the Dixon Entrance, or traveling one of the long straight channels in SE Alaska.

We learned to be vigilant in spotting fishing nets in our path, especially the long (sometimes 1500 feet) gill nets with small white "corks" which are often hard to see. A buddy once rode right over one, damaging the net. His conversation with the gillnetter was not a fun experience.

I thought long and hard about spares and tools. Our boat is small, so we can't bring everything under the sun, but by now we have a really good set of the most important spares, and know how to swap as needed. Our carefully selected set of tools is kept dry and rust-free in a Pelican case. By now I have a ton of experience making repairs in remote places.

We also have backup of lots of key things - like the engine (a kicker), VHF radio, GPS, even our glasses.

Our key to comfort is not getting wet. On our tiny first cruiser, there was no good way to dry things, and when we got our shoes or cotton pants wet we were COLD. Now we have Xtra-Tuf boots, or gore-tex hikers for walking on shore, and good rain gear. When it's raining and blowing we wear rain pants. Small boat thinking: a good rain jacket with a fleece vest underneath can do the job on the coldest days - no need for a bulky heavy winter coat.

We have fuel and food to stay out in the boonies a lot longer than our fresh water capacity would permit. Watermaker!
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Old 02-19-2016, 03:57 PM   #14
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I've made the trip 4 times now with 2 of the trips to Glacier Bay, which I highly recommend. The way I look at the trip is that it is a number of days trips with the boat always headed in a northerly direction. Just be prepared to sit out bad weather when making a big water transit and bring good rain gear.

Buying the Douglass guides and maybe a few others should be all that you need. You will meet a lot of fellow cruisers who will enjoy giving you their experience on places to go and favorite routes. I always plan on giving the trip 3 months from start to finish.
I think maybe I saw you fishing in Icy Strait in early June of 2013, while I was making a transit to PWS. I am sure it was a Nordic Tug 42, and they do all kind of look "the same" from a distance :-) There were a lot of humpback whales massing around the entrance to Glacier Bay at the time, just thinking maybe...
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Old 02-19-2016, 08:10 PM   #15
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"What was your first experience cruising the Inside Passage?"
As an 18 yr old deckhand on a salmon troller (see Tad's photo of The "Ocean Fury" in a recent thread) Not the kind of passage you would have in mind, as we did Vancouver to Prince Rupert in two days, stopping for a few hours sleep at the top end of the Broughtons. In those days, there was no GPS, but we had a good radar, a good RDF and a Loran C. My Captain was one of the best on the coast at the time, so there was never any hesitation about where we were or where we were going. You will want to make the same mileage in 3 to 5 weeks, stopping along the way to smell the roses, of which there are plenty.


"Since that time what helped you in future cruising the Inside Passage?"

Confidence in my boat, and in my own skills. Before any serious cruises into unfamiliar territory, I have spent literally hundreds of hours memorising the charts of the areas. I bought a full set of charts for my recroom wall, and when my wife threw them out of there, I found room for them on my office wall. Cut and pasted together, I had a full representation of all the waters that I was going to cruise, so when friends would suggest someplace new, I knew it already.

"Some have suggested the Waggoner seminar in March. At $375 per couple, plus travel and lodging, we can see dropping 1 boat dollar.
Is the seminar worth it?"

That depends on how much experience you already have and on your personality. I can't guess at that.
If you are the person who can go it alone and isn't afraid to experience something new, pushing the limits of your experience, such a seminar would be the antithesis of what you would enjoy.
If you are the timid type, who won't enjoy your trip without some direction, you need the seminars.
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Old 02-19-2016, 08:44 PM   #16
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Great subject. My first time was 2012. I'd just graduated from college and had more time than money, but I had a 22' C-Dory to go wandering around the PNW. I figured there'd never be as good a time to go as the present—I was unemployed, didn't have a car or house, no kids or family to take care of—so off I went. The trip was fabulous...glaciers, whales, bears, wonderful people (including RCook). So good that I came back and got a job with the Waggoner Guide and have been cruising the PNW ever since.

We spoke briefly at the boat show. I'm happy to answer questions about boating the Inside Passage, whether or not you attend the seminar (I'm one of the instructors). Hope to see you on the water...keep an eye out for a Nordic Tug 37, white with a blue stripe, named "Safe Harbour," and don't be a stranger if you see me.
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Old 02-19-2016, 09:31 PM   #17
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Since that time what helped you in future cruising the Inside Passage?
The two comments I get most often from flotilla participants are, "We didn't know how far it [AK] was," and, "I didn't know how rainy it would be."

Both of these are kind of strange, I think. We tell people exactly how far it is (~750nm from Anacortes to Ketchikan), but for most people who have been cruising, say, up to Desolation Sound, this doesn't really make sense. They're just not used to being underway for 6+ hours a day for weeks at a time. Some days, though not many, are much longer.

Southeast Alaska, even in summer, is rainy. Ketchikan gets more rain in its driest month than Seattle in its wettest month. If you're the type who lets rain get you down, cruising Alaska isn't the place for you. With proper gear, though, even spending a bunch of time outside in the rain isn't a big deal.

Other things to think about...

Your boat will break down at some point. Hopefully not a major issue, but SOMETHING will break. If you don't have what you need aboard the boat, how will you get it? Particularly in Canada, where parts coming from the U.S. have to get through customs. Know where you could haul out in case it's needed.

Don't expect pleasure boat marinas. The marinas in SE Alaska are working facilities. A dockhand won't grab your lines when you arrive. The neighbors will likely be fish boats, and they might not be quiet starting at 9:00 p.m. They're not being rude, they're just busy. Many of the marinas "hot berth"...meaning the assign you a slip that is normally occupied by someone else. This usually works fine, but occasionally you have to move slips unexpectedly. Know this going in.

I think Glacier Bay is overrated. Yes, it's beautiful, but so are Tracy Arm, Endicott Arm, and Le Conte Glacier. The regulations at Glacier Bay NP, while easy enough to abide by, make visiting more difficult. I think it's a good place to visit if you have lots of extra time. If you're on a tighter schedule, skip it. You can see plenty of whales, bears, and glaciers elsewhere. Of course, opinions vary on this...
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Old 02-20-2016, 11:16 AM   #18
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Old 02-20-2016, 11:26 AM   #19
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A few tidbits on cruising Glacier Bay, excerpt from my book:


Chart: Chart 17318

Cruising Glacier Bay is no trivial undertaking. It is a very big place, and with its huge snow-covered mountains has some of the most challenging weather in Southeast. Distances are great, anchorages are few, and there are several restrictions.

Only 25 boats are allowed in Glacier Bay at a time, and you need an entry permit. Many cruisers make reservations ahead of time, and then find that weather or other difficulties make their schedule unworkable. From our experience, the best way to get a permit may be waiting to call Park HQ at Bartlett Cove until you’re close by (say at Hoonah or in Icy Strait), and the forecast for the next few days looks reasonable. For best odds, call right at 6 AM (they’re open 6 AM - 10:30 PM) on either (907) 697-2627 or VHF 12. Chances are fairly good that a cancellation has freed up a permit, and you can take advantage of it if you’re nearby and ready. If no permit is available, ask again later – they don’t mind.

You’ll need a minimum of two days in Glacier Bay to make it to and from the Margerie Glacier.



The Margerie, at the top of Glacier Bay some 60 miles from the entrance, is a spectacular and active calving glacier. You can get fairly close to its face, some 200-300 feet high.



On the way north, the Lamplugh and Johns Hopkins glaciers are spectacular as well. With a third or fourth day, you could see quite a bit more, at a less frantic pace, and have better odds of dealing with uncooperative weather.


To start your Glacier Bay excursion, stop in at Park HQ and attend an orientation on do’s and don’ts. As of 2008 the lecture was given only at pre-scheduled times, so you’ll want to plan your first day accordingly. You might try entering the park very early, calling Bartlett Cove to check in when you cross the boundary. Tie up at the float, and catch the 8AM orientation (bring your National Geographic map of the Bay so you can see details). With good weather, you should be able to make it a good part of the way north, to an anchorage at North Sandy Cove, Blue Mouse Cove, or in front of the glacier in Reid Inlet.

Parts of the bay are considered whale waters, where boat speed is limited to 13 knots. Even with a fast boat, you’ll find that first day pretty full, getting through the entry process and on to an anchorage, unless you anchor right there in Bartlett Cove (the float’s limited to a three-hour stay, except for dinghies). If you do anchor in Bartlett Cove, be aware that it’s open to the west, and can get pretty lumpy in a west wind. You could also anchor at Fingers Bay without traveling too far – but remember to enter very carefully.

From North Sandy, Blue Mouse, or Reid, you could head north the next morning, spend 2-4 hours at the Margerie Glacier, and come back south to anchor again. As you slowly approach the glacier through fields of bergy bits, keep a sharp lookout for small ones called “growlers”, only a foot or a few feet long, and often nearly clear. These weigh more than you might guess, and can give your boat or your prop quite a thump. The smaller ones make great ice for the cooler.

If you get back to Bartlett Cove for your last evening, and are out of permit days, the following morning you can call and obtain a “transit permit” to leave the park that day.

If the weather sounds intimidating, or you’re able to get only one or two permit days, a nice way to see Glacier Bay is the Fairweather Express tour boat, operated by the park lodge.
For about $180 per person (2008), you can have a wonderful day tour, seeing some of the finest glaciers and lots of wildlife, with a friendly crew and on-board naturalist. For us, one ticket cost about the same as touring the bay in our own boat.

Even with only a single day’s permit, you could still enter Glacier Bay, get your orientation, and then anchor in Bartlett Cove. The next day, leaving your boat at anchor, row your dinghy in to the float (motor vessels may not be operated without a permit for that day) and catch the tour boat. On the third day, call for a transit permit when you’re ready to go, and exit the park.

If Glacier Bay doesn’t work out for your cruise, an excellent alternative is the Tracy Arm of Holkham Bay, south of Juneau on the east side of Stephens Passage. In fact, you might want to give it a tour even if you’ve already been to Glacier Bay. It’s a particularly beautiful steep-sided fjord, with two tidewater glaciers, lots of icebergs, far less challenging conditions, and few of the complications of Glacier Bay.




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Old 02-20-2016, 12:01 PM   #20
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Some have suggested the Waggoner seminar in March. At $375 per couple, plus travel and lodging, we can see dropping 1 boat dollar.

Is the seminar worth it?
I think your money would be better spent on other boating related areas, but everyone is different.

I would start by "virtual cruising". I did this for several years before we got started. Get a simple Navigation program for your iPad with charts. Get "Best Anchorages of the Inside Passage: British Columbia's South Coast from the Gulf Islands to Cape Caution" by Anne Vipond and William Kelley. The Cruising series by Don Douglass and Réanne Hemingway-Douglass are older but still excellent. Finally, Waggoner Cruising Guide's Cruising the Secret Coast: Unexplored Anchorages on British Columbia's Inside Passage by James and Jennifer Hamilton is excellent. Also the Waggoner Guide. Finally there is Local Knowledge The Skipper’s Reference Tacoma to Ketchikan by Kevin Monahan. This book explains the tidal passes in considerable detail. However, it's not as complete as its title implies.

The above books provide "local knowledge" on how to travel the passes, entering anchorages, and where to anchor. While you read, you can follow along with the charts and Google Maps. Using this approach, we learned everything we needed to nudge our way north. Once you start, you will meet all sorts of people along the way at marinas and anchorages who will provide you with their experience. I think all that information is hard to appreciate in a one or two day seminar where everything comes in waves. You can also learn from the people on this forum on particulars of specific areas.

My first experience was with commercial fishermen in the San Juan Islands, the Fraser River and in the waters around Vancouver Island, inshore and offshore. I also had a sailboat for a few years and toured the Gulf Islands. Our first experience as a couple was on a couple of bareboat charters that we took to Desolation Sound. We bought our boat in 2013, and travelled to the Gulf Islands, Victoria and as far North as Shoal Bay, north of Cordero Channel. In 2014 we got the Broughton Archipelago and in 2015 we got all the way to Prince Rupert.

Jim
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