Gulf Island Cruising

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I am starting the journey of 2018 by reactivating Sherpani Chef after a long hiatus! While being away from blogging, in the last couple years, a lot of things have changed in our lives. One of the best thing that has happened has to be incorporating sailing in our life. Sam has been interested in sailing ever since he was a young boy. He was inspired by a number of books including “The Voyage of the Frog” and “A Wizard of Earthsea”. To begin our sailing journey, Sam built a small dingy from scratch. We took that boat to small lakes and rivers in Idaho for a year. We then continued our sailing journey by taking classes in Boston while we lived there for a year. Sam finished a US Sailing Basic Keelboat certification at Courageous Sailing and successfully tested for a Yellow Flag rating by the end of the summer season. Feeling that we had outgrown a sailing dingy we bought a “micro cruiser”, a Montgomery 15 named Venga Viento, in the spring of 2017. It is small, compact, and easy for us to transport from one place to another. Since we bought the boat, we have enjoyed multiple cruising trips, both locally and internationally. Last summer Sam and I went on our first ever coastal cruising trip when we took Venga Viento to the Gulf Island, British Columbia, Canada with the Lewis-Clark Sailing Association. This post will give you a glimpse of our wonderful cruising experience.

Itinerary:
Vancouver, Canada(BC Ferry) to Swartz Bay, Sidney
Sidney to Sidney spit
Sidney Spit to Princess bay, Portland Island
Princess Bay, Portland Island to Cowichan Bay
Cowichan Bay to Thetis Island
Thetis island to Ganges Marina
Ganges Marina to Sidney
Swartz Bay, Sidney to Vancouver

Areas we visited are marked by red asterisk in the map. These areas were a nice mix of remote and civilization. Depending on the places, we either anchored our boat or tied up to the dock in a marina. Most of the marinas were reasonably priced and had access to internet, water, shower, bathrooms, gas and food, and even the remote areas usually had outhouse facilities.

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BC Ferry from Vancouver Island to Swartz Bay, Sidney Island. After reaching Sidney, we launched our boat from Tulista park, then a few people stayed with the boats while the rest drove to McDonald Campground, parked the cars and trailers in some camping spots the group had reserved, and then took a bus back to the boats. The first evening there was no wind, so everyone motored east to Sidney Spit. We arrived at Sidney Spit during the evening, where we anchored the boats and managed to enjoy spectacular views of the water and the bay.

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In the morning, we enjoyed a nice hike on Sidney island, and also had a nice crab feast, thanks to our friends who had put a trap out the night before.

We left Sidney spit with a nice wind in the sails, and had an excellent sail North to Portland Island. The wind was so good that we decided to circumnavigate Portland Island instead of going for a hike there. At Portland Island, we anchored our boat in Princess Bay.
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One of the things I liked about Portland Island and Princess Bay was the abundance of sea life. A couple of seals were hanging out in the bay and came to look at us. A few different species of birds visited the bay, and a raccoon patrolled the shore. Princess Bay had some nice trails, a serviceable outhouse, and a picnic area, but there were a few mosquitoes hanging around in the grass. We did feel like our boat dragged anchor a bit here however, and we woke up a little closer to the rocks on one side of the bay than we remembered being the night before. Probably because we didn’t set the anchor with quite as much enthusiasm as would have been good after a long day of sailing.

After Portland Island, we sailed to Cowichan Bay. Cowichan Bay has to be one of my favorite places in this trip. This Bay has so much to offer. Here we tied the boat up to a dock, which cost us about $28. The marina had a shower with hot water that could be used for a pair of loonies (Canadian $1 coin). The cold water would run for as long as you wanted, but it was cold enough that investing $2 for 5 minutes of hot water was worth it. Marina life is more expensive than being “on the hook” in some remote wilderness, but sometimes getting a shower and secure place to tie up is worth the cost.
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Cowichan Bay is filled with touristy shops and offers a lot of choices in restaurants for its small size. The Maritime center is fun to visit, and if you can’t decide which ice cream shop to try, it’s best to just try them all!

After Cowichan Bay, we sailed North again to Thetis Island. Here also, we parked out boat in Telegraph Harbour Marina. Like in Cowichan, this marina offered shower and had a small shop/bakery/ice cream parlor where you could buy a few essentials and food items.
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Thetis island also had some nice hiking areas, a lot of sea life, and even this garter snake hunting in the shallows at low tide.

After Thetis, we sailed South to Ganges Marina. It was by far the longest sailing day for us, and due to a minimal amount of wind we ended up motoring much of the way. We encountered some current along the way and had a tough time making very good speed. As we got closer to Ganges, we could see amazing houses on tiny isolated islands. We reached Ganges pretty late at night and the marinas had already closed for the night. We found an empty spot and tied up for the night anyway, and the next morning some dock staff came by to collect a fee of ~$25. The next morning, we found out that we were lucky to be there on Saturday for a nice local farmers market, so even thought we were in a hurry to make it back to Sidney, we decided to take a quick look.

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If you look very carefully you might be able to spot Venga Viento just above Tshering’s right shoulder.

We left Ganges Marina knowing that we had a few more hours to enjoy the Gulf Islands, and were very lucky to see a lot of sea lions, and have a few porpoises swim right next to the boat for a moment. In Sidney we tied the boat up to the dock. Sam got on a bus to fetch the car and trailer while Tshering talked to the Canadian official who was there to get fish counts. Loading the boat went smoothly, and before we knew it we were in Swartz Bay, waiting for a BC Ferry to take us back to Tsawwassen. It was a great trip, and the highlight of the summer.

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