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 Circumnavigation Of Vancouver Island

(Combined 2 week CYC “Advanced and Off-shore” course)


 It seems to be a major hassle for me to put this trip report to-gether.  I don’t think I can do the trip justice with the written word.  How does one put into words the beauty of British Columbia, the beauty of what looks like raw wilderness, seeing bears, orcas, eagles, the mountains the valleys, bays, inlets, etc., etc.

 When I promised it way back in July I would have thought that it was easy to do but in fact it is hard to convey the “experience” into words.  Initially I tried to “just tell the facts, ma’am”, but did not like the outcome. 

So I have decided to go with impressions first and then spell out the details by chronological event.  So there are going to be repeats.  I have also tried to mix in URL’s and I don’t know if that works either.  In any event I want to get this done so I can go on with other things.  This is going to be as good as it gets. 


The trip had its plusses and minuses!  The scenery was great!  The weather was fabulous!  Sunshine for 2 weeks!  Who said it rained a lot in B.C.!

 The two instructors, Eberhard and Larry, were super.  Very even tempered.  No yelling at students, ever!  There was some excitement when we blew a spinnaker, though, understandably.

 Eberhard runs his own business and used his vacation to bring along another crop of want to be “Around the world sailors”.  The consensus after the trip by all of us was - that coastal cruising was just fine.  I don’t know if the poll was taken now in the safety of the livingroom after two month if we would still feel that way.  I certainly know that part of me would like to maybe go out for a week or two again. 

  I was totally stressed out by the time I got to Vancouver and the boat, flying and worrying about the course, as I had messed up on navigation on the previous “Advanced Course” coupled with using the water from the boat’s water tanks plus strange food I did not have a good time the first 3 days or so. 

 Navigation was a large part of what we needed to do to prove that we could pass the course.  Navigation was done by the students - with the odd double check by the instructors, if things did not make sense.  The instructors had done this trip a number of times and knew what to expect and what courses were needed to be steered just by looking at the geography. 

 The off-shore portion was done in record time, 20 hours out and 22 hours back.  The winds off-shore were mostly in the 27 knot range with gusts to 34.  We were on a broad reach going out and coming back, which is a “nice” way to sail in that kind of wind.  As a sailing acquaintance of mine describes it: “We had two tucks in the main and a 80% jib up” for the duration.  

Going to the head was an exercise in frustration.  Off came the foul-weather gear, then cram yourself in the head without breaking something, either a part of the head or a bone, then get dressed again without getting hurt and then back on with the foul-weather gear.  If one is prone to sea-sickness then that is a good time to loose one’s cookies. 

Seamounts can be dangerous as the ocean floor rises and therefore influences the wave patters and there was a possibility of getting hit by a rogue wave.  Getting back to land was a real treat especially as we came back to Hot Cove Springs and went for dip in them.  Great! 

We did the inside passage from Hot Springs Cove to Torfino.  Very, very beautiful!  We were on an itinerary but one could spend quite some time just gunkholing.

Once we got back to open water after Bamfield we had a great spinnaker run to Race Rock lighthouse, some 6+ hours.  As we got close to Race Rock the winds lightened considerably so we carried the spinnaker into the Race Rock passage.  Of course the wind is the wind and it promptly piped up and with an inexperienced crew we managed to shred the spinnaker. 

At the first sign of trouble we should have just let all the sheets go and then retrieved the spinnaker.  Good experience for my future spinnaker runs.

 We unrolled the jib and carried on to Victoria. 

So I dried off, put on my clean clothes minus the walking shorts, wrapped a towel around and walked into the attached boutique and mumbled something about my clothes and wallet being stolen and could I use the phone. 

 Apparently thefts occurred with great regularity and I was handed paper and pencil and ushered into the back office so I could make phone calls.  Cancelling the credit cards was easy but the wallet had all of the other stuff such as driver’s license, social security card and of course money. 

The rest of the trip was spent going up the east coast of Vancouver Island,  through the Gulf Islands to Silva Bay and then across to Vancouver.  Again one could spend many month and seasons to explore all of the nooks and crannies in that area.  And again very, very beautiful scenery!

We almost caught a huge salmon but we were too hasty and it got away.  It would have easily fed the crew.  Saw two or three eagles fly and rest on trees.  Just great.

Event Chronology:

Flew to Vancouver from Toronto on August 9th, 2002.  Had two big bags, one mostly foul weather gear.  Also had a knapsack with the required reading material.   Got to Vancouver around 16:00 hours and got a cab to go to the hotel.  Realized that I had forgotten the exact name of the hotel.  Decided to go to Cooper's instead and figure things out from there.  This would also ease the baggage situation for next day as I hoped to leave most of the baggage at Cooper's. 

Arrived at Cooper's and asked for a telephone book and found the name of my hotel.  Turns out this hotel is a big party hotel for the gay community.  Phoned up and asked how noisy the place would be and they said fairly noisy so I asked to cancel which they did.  They had not pre-charged anyway. 

Copper offered that I could stay on one of the boats along with two other fellows who were also taking the combined 2 week Advanced and Off-shore course.  
Cooper's is right on Granville Island and there are lots of shops and restaurants and charter companies for sailing, fishing, etc. 

For details of the Granville Island I have provided a couple of URL's as it would take to long to describe this unique place.




(this is not the one I booked but should have - on the other hand with Cooper offering to stay  on the boat it became much cheaper!)

 So we had dinner in one of the many restaurants on Granville Island and retired early as tomorrow would be a busy day. 

Next day, after breakfast, we were introduced to the instructors, Larry and Eberhard and the other participants, 6 of us, (Alastair, Paul, Les, Elizabeth, Jim and myself), and the boat, a Jeanneau 41. 

The boat layout was as follows:

·                    V-berth followed by

·                    the head on port and a hanging locker on starboard

·                    followed by the main saloon with berths on either side with a table to port and two pilot berth above the settees.

·                    just aft of the main saloon and part of it was the nav station to starboard and the galley to port.

·                    there were two cabins below the cockpit area, one to port and one to starboard ostensibly for two people but in reality 1.5 and with gear 1 person.

 We went through the boat from bow to stern learning:

·                     were the through-hulls were located

·                    were the safety equipment was kept

·                    the extra sails were in the starboard locker including a couple of spinnakers

·                    the liferaft was fitted into a special compartment in the cockpit sole.  Nice touch that.

·                    the boat had a large anchor locker

·                    the deflated dinghy was stored in the port locker

·                    the boat had two lockers at the stern plus a separate propane locker

·                    engine was a Perkins diesel

 Now it was time to stow the gear and assign bunks.  Since I snore I wound up in the v-berth sharing it with another person.  Not the greatest but it worked out.  The lone lady on board took one of he  pilot berths.  The instructors took the two private cabins aft. 

Loading the gear and food took till 13:00 or so and we on our way shortly thereafter. 

Below is an URL's that gives an overview of Vancouver Island along with clickable names of places if you are interested in more detail. 


The map is clickable and you can see where Bull Harbour fits into the picture.

One can also see the inland route from Hot Springs Cove to Tofino.


Other URL’s to visit to get a sense of Vancouver Island arer below:



 The URL below shows  a high-level chart of Vancouver Island and it has further chart sections than can be clicked for more details. 

(I have matched the other URL’s to the places we went.)


Another overview of Vancouver Island along with light houses.




 Another sailors account of circumnavigation of Vancouver Island:



 More description of sailing out in B.C. with more URL’s.


 We did not have an itinerary except that we were going to circumnavigate Vancouver Island and go off-shore for at least 100 nautical miles.  The itinerary became:

·                    Leave Vancouver on Aug 10th 

False Creek
Image supplied by Tourism Office of British Columbia





·                    Aug 10th evening - Secret Cove





·                    Aug 11th evening - Campbell River




·                    Aug 12th evening - Alert Bay




·                    Aug 13th evening - Bull Harbour (Nahwitti Bar)

Some really nice photos!





·                    Aug 14th evening - Winter Harbour


 ·                    Aug 15th - wrote the Advanced exam in Winter harbour

·                    Aug 16th - Off-shore to Heck seamount

·                    Aug 17th - Off-shore - return to Hot Springs Cove

·                    Aug 17th evening - Hot Springs Cove


 ·                    Aug 18th evening – Tofino




 ·                    Aug 19th evening – Bamfield



 ·                    Aug 20th evening – Victoria


 ·                    Aug 21st evening - Montague Harbour





 ·                    Aug 22nd evening - Silva Bay



 ·                    Aug 23rd -14:00 or so back at Granville Island



A semi-factual account of the trip: (There is no reality only perception)

Motored out of False Creek into English Bay, Burrard Inlet and then into the Straits of Georgia.  Lots of commercial traffic and a good time for the instructors to ask questions such as what kind of ship, direction of ship, are we on a collision course, etc.   

 Courtesy of: http://www.seethewestend.com/false/false.htm

 We had to monitor for traffic all of the time. There are lots and lots of ships out there and most of them have the right of way as they are usually restricted by maneuverability. 



 We were able to set sail as we were going into the Malaspina Straits aiming to make Pender Harbour that day.   Instead we got as far as Secret Cove.

Secret Cove is beautiful and so was the entire trip.  The combination of mountains, islands , water, bays, coves just makes for superb and very beautiful cruising grounds.

If one can manage it, time wise and dollar wise, I would highly, highly recommend - awesome!

After Secret Cove we carried on up the Malaspina Straits and then crossed over to Discovery Passage, which leads to Campbell River. 

Wind was on the nose mostly but we did some sailing and “crew overboard” maneuvers.  At one point we were sailing into the approach. i.e. Discovery Passage, to Campbell River and the tide was going against us so we sailing fast but were going nowhere.  

 The engine quit somewhere in that passage so we hoisted sail and sailed while Larry changed the filter on the engine.  I thought things like that only happen to me but I guess there is always crud at the bottom of the tank and it gets stirred up in choppy waters and bingo the engine quits. 

 The passage to Alert Bay is very picturesque.  Someone saw a bear on the shore and we saw eagles.  On the way we pass an Orca playground/sanctuary but we “only” saw a couple of fins. 


 Alert Bay is mostly a commercial fishing harbour but we found a place to dock and took a tour of the town, which consisted of a main street.  One of the eateries was still open so some of us had a glass of wine.  I basically stayed off alcohol and switched to tea vs. coffee.  I drank no coffee until we had breakfast in Victoria. 

Next day we took showers and some of us took a tour of the Indian Arts museum. 

I decided to study, as I was worried about the exam, which would happen in a couple of days.  We left around noon for Bull Harbour, but first we took on some diesel.    

We sailed against the wind of 20 or so knots.  Had to throw in some tacks but made good headway.  Like I said the boat sailed well.  Late in the afternoon we encountered some fog and the wind had died so we threw on the engine and the radar. 

We entered Bull Harbour around midnight.  It is an interesting entrance. Once inside the entrance one has to steer a course until the very lonely solitary dock light comes into view.  It was pitch black.  I am glad we had some good crew on board.  I would probably only ever enter a strange harbour in daylight. 

On the other hand it teaches one good navigation skills to enter unknown harbours at night.  Of course the instructors had been there before and knew the harbour – still. 

We then got the boat ready for off-shore as the weather forecast mumbled about 50 knot winds out in the Pacific.  We took down the furling genoa and bend on the 100% jib.  If necessary, and it was necessary, it could be reduced, i.e. furled.  I don’t remember 100% but think we also put in two reefs in the main as the plan was to leave that evening.  We took on some fuel and then had a discussion as to whether or not we wanted to leave that evening with the forecast calling for 50 knot winds. 

The instructors were okay with going the crew was not. 

We were all stressed out and doing a night exit into 50 knots did not appeal to us so the decision was made to leave very early, 0600 hours, in the morning. 

 At Bull harbour my watch had the early watch so now it was the other watch’s turn to get up early and get us going. 

 It makes it tough to have the second watch because one is all rested by morning but one knows one has to be on watch by 1200 hours.  As the article below says: “The first 24 hours are tough but then it works.  The problem with us was that we never stood watch long enough.  After we did the off-shore portion we went back to all crew being up for the duration.  Some of us though did go below during the day and caught 40 winks. 

The watch system used was:

·                  start at 0600 hours and the 1st watch, starboard watch, goes to 1200. 

·                  The second watch, port watch, goes from 1200 to 1800. 

·                  The starboard watch goes from 1800 to 2200.

·                  The port watch goes from 2200 to 0200. 

·                  The starboard watch goes from 0200 to 0600. 

·                  The port watch goes from 0600 to 1200.

·                  The starboard watch goes from 1200 to 1800. 

This way no one watch keeps getting the same hours every day, i.e. one watch always gets the 0200 to 0600.  The above watch system is self dogging or dogs itself.  See article. 


So out we went next morning at 0500 hours.  We had two reefs in the main and an 80% jib showing. 

They were nicely apart and we could actually use the waves to surf along at more than hull speed.  A couple of times the knotmeter hit 14 knots.

It was hard work to keep steering each wave.  The boat being a fin keel design did not track as well as a full keel design so we constantly had to steer.  The helm was moderately heavy so one got a work out.  Typically we did ˝ hour to 1 hour watches on the helm. 

As we monitored the progress of the vessel it became obvious that we were on a collision course or at least we were much to close for comfort.  So we decided to change course, which meant jibing. 

We took off the preventer and trying to keep the boom from swinging over now becomes a challenge as one falls of a wave and the wind dies and the boat is trying to heel to the opposite site to the boom. 

At 1800 it was watch change and we crawled into our “hot” bunks and tried to get some sleep.  I did not sleep well but got some rest and before I knew it 2200 had rolled around and it was our turn again. 

At 0000 hours we were within 25nautical miles of Heck Seamount and as explained earlier we decided to start heading back as the sea floor comes up in that region and one can be surprised by rogue waves. 

 It is 1400 hundred and time for the other watch.  I think I actually slept. 

I slept well and at onetime the cockpit filled with water as a wave came on board and the helmsman got soaked as he was up to his a.. in water.   At 1800 our watch came on but every one stayed up as landfall was 2 hours away. 



(Not our group but I found these pictures)

 Next day some of us would take an early shower in the hot springs.  I think I slept in.  

 Next day we took the inland water route to Tofino, behind Flores Island and around Meares Island.  Breathtaking!  Just Great!  I think the engine overheated and after adding some water or antifreeze we were on the way again. 

 The passage from Hot Springs Cove to Tofino is very, very picturesque.  Would like to do it again.  Actually I would like to go out there and explore and explore and explore all of the inlets and bays. 

Next day we took off for Bamfield.  We got away much later than we wanted to but it would make for nightfall entrance to Bamfield.  The entrance to Bamfield has “RACON’s” and since we had radar we used these to help out and make sure we were on track.   Got into Bamfield at midnight or thereabouts and we were on our way early next day.  

 Once we had cleared the entrance and were back out in the ocean the wind came from behind.  Somewhere along the line, don’t remember exactly, we were able to hoist the spinnaker and had this glorious spinnaker run for some 6 hours.  The wind kept on building and the boat was hard to steer but we were trucking along.  As we approached Race Rock passage the wind seemed to die and it was getting to evening so we thought that we could carry the spinnaker through the passage.  Wrong!  Right in the middle the wind really piped up and bingo – one shredded spinnaker! 

Unrolled the jib and carried on. 

Before we would enter Victoria Harbour we needed to do “crew overboard” at night.  The strobe light was taped to the “crew overboard” pole and each of us had the pleasure to retrieve the pole.  Interesting.  I can understand why the requirement is that the crew wears a strobe light at night!

We all performed well and another hurdle was passed.

Previously and I don’t remember when, but I think it was on the off-shore part when we were sailing back to Hot Springs we practised “crew overboard” with a 5 minute delay, i.e. we would throw Fred overboard.  Fred was made up of two green balloons with some lead tied to the balloons. 

We would sail onward for 5 minutes and then the call was made: “Crew overboard”.  One then had to sail a reciprocal course for 5 minutes and everyone became a spotter.  We spotted Fred each time and each of us was successful in picking Fred up. 

  Next day we left for Montague Harbour and we needed to make a decision whether or not we would sail along the edge of the shipping channel with islands and rocks close to the edge or cross over the shipping channels and then later cross back or pass through some islands and not bother with the shipping channel.  We decided to go through the islands (Discovery and Chatham Islands – named after ships of George Vancouver) and found out what a 5 to 6 knot current can do.  We were being swept right of our course and had to do some fairly fast navigation and good course steering. 

 After we made it past these islands we kept going up the coast to the D’Arcy Shoals to do some fishing.  Again we did not catch anything. 

The other exercise was to do “crew overboard” while motoring.  I will need to read up on this maneuver.  The trick it to turn the boat towards the person.  I did and here it is:

“The Williamson turn, a traditional rescue method, is often the best choice when then location of the crew overboard is questionable.  Put the helm hard over turning toward the side over which the person fell overboard - until your heading has changed 60 degrees. Then reverse the rudder and come around 240 degrees. You should then be on the exact reciprocal course.”

Here is the URL for it: 


 After the exercises we carried on going along Galiano Island towards Silva Bay.  Our last overnight stop before heading back to Vancouver.  There was no wind and it was a sunny day.  We motored along Galiano Island, then Valdez Island and then took the passage between Valdez and Gabriola Island.  Very, very picturesque.  I want to go back and explore that whole set of islands again!!!!!!!!

 We arrived in Silva Bay late that afternoon and just relaxed and took it easy. 


 The voyage was over.  We were going to have a dinner and some drinks in the restaurant and bar that evening and then head back to Vancouver next day.  The food was good.  I think I had steak, my usual.  Couple of rums and cokes and I finally relaxed.  They had a blues band playing and I stayed up quite late just listening and relaxing. 

 Slept on Eberhard’s boat with a couple of the other guys, Alastair and Paul. 

Next day I went to visit my aunt in Sidney on Vancouver Island and relaxed for a couple of days.  The bus trip was kinda long and the ferry trip old hat as I had been through these islands only a couple of days ago. 

It was nice to have a car, do some exploring, go for walks and have one’s meals cooked. 

On Tuesday I went back to Cooper’s to pick up my luggage and then a cab to the airport.  It took a while to get a cab.  I was starting to worry I would miss my plane.  Landed in Toronto after midnight.

 Phoned the courtesy bus to get me to the parking lot where I had parked my good old diesel Suburban for the last 3 weeks.  You guessed it.  It did not start.  The driver of the courtesy bus gave me a boost and it cost me some money.  I think I gave him $10 and I should have given him $20.- 

Finally got home around 2:30 A.M. maybe later. 

Home sweet home and a double bed. 

In retrospect I was way to worried the whole time about being with strangers and having to perform for the exercises and tests that I don’t think I enjoyed myself as much as I could have. 

I had also hoped that I would have had my boat in the water to practise all of these maneuvers that were required.  I basically had not done very much sailing for a year and a half and before that when I had a boat and I had not worried about steering a compass or docking perfectly or at least so that no one had to jump of the boat to rescue the skipper. 

My navigation consisted of entering a waypoint on the GPS and steering the highway.  I was going to practise compass steering, running fixes, docking, leaving, and crew overboard with my new boat. 

As you know that did not happen so I was way to up tight for this course.  I also don’t do well in “command performances” unless I have practised and practised and can do it without having to think too much about it.

If I had some spare cash, maybe I should sell Tangerine, I would love to go out to B.C. and do Desolation Sound and cruise the Gulf Islands.   One could spend a lifetime just cruising out there.  I love cruising the North Channel and B.C. is just a much bigger and very picturesque North Channel.   

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Copyright by Peter Deppisch, February 2006