On Watch | Barkley Sound bound

I’ve circumnavigated Vancouver Island once, more than 10 years ago, while getting an advanced skipper certificate from the International Sail and Power Academy. It was a fun but grueling two-week marathon that put some 800 nautical miles under the keel and included a truly harrowing night passage around the notorious Cape Scott.

But while our time on the west coast of the island was brief, it left an indelible impression on me. It’s a land marked by wild and natural beauty, in some places untouched for thousands of years.

And few cruisers make the effort — or take the risks — to get there.

But I’ve dearly wanted to go back and spend more time exploring some of the incredible cruising grounds that we sailed past more than a decade ago.

That’s exactly what Deborah and I plan to do this summer. And we’d love to hear your advice on what to see and do.

If all goes well, we’ll be catching the ebb tide next Thursday evening and heading north for the first of several long legs. With only two weeks of vacation, we don’t have time to circumnavigate, so we plan to take the other route to the west coast.

Over the course of two days, we plan to make our way out to Neah Bay and then wait for favorable weather and currents to make the 50 or so mile run to Ucluelet, which has the only Canadian Customs station that I could locate in the area.

I know there are fantastic cruising grounds along the coast further north. But for this summer adventure, we plan to spend the majority of our time poking around Blakely Sound.

And as an added bonus, our friends Aaron and Nicole, who left a few months back for several years of cruising aboard their Hans Christian 33, Bella Star, plan to be in the same neck of the woods.

I’ve read the cruising guides and studied the charts. But Barkley Sound feels like a blank slate to me.

And here’s where you can help. If you’ve spent time there, or have heard tips from others who have, please take a second and share them in the comments section below. What coves should we visit. What uncharted rocks should we avoid. What equipment we need. Where the best places are to catch some crab and enjoy the natural beauty of the sound.

As the time for departure draws near, my list of things to do and projects to complete only seems to grow. Rather than heading out for the Downtown Sailing Series on Thursday night, I was curled in the starboard lazaret, reinstalling a chain drop for the stern anchor.

There is still a medical kit to update. And davits to repair. And parts for the dingy to secure. Oh, and I finally have an excuse to get that stern tie system set-up, which I understand is a must-have to enjoy some of the best little anchorages in Barkley Sound.

My anxiety level is high right now. But I know the effort will be worth it. And a little guidance from readers would certainly help.

As boaters know, local knowledge is worth its weight in gold. Please share a little of yours about Barkley Sound with the Three Sheets community.

14 Responses to On Watch | Barkley Sound bound

  1. Fredrick Roswold July 16, 2011 at 11:27 pm #

    Been a few years since we were there, but Barkley Sound is one of the best places in the world for crusing, we think. We never had radar, navigations is not a problem but missing ships and fishing boats is. We preferred to check in to Can at Victoria and then stay overnight at Port Renfrew, (and even a stop at Sooke too, if we were takeing it easy). There used to be a pub on a pier in Port Renfrew which had good burgers and beer and a pool table.
    Bamfield is a must stop.
    For some wild anchorages on the edge check out places around Wouwer Island and Benson Island.
    For Oysters, The Pinkertons.
    We also found our way into a couple of inlets on the south side of Pipestem Inlet, very, very private, and at Cataract Creek, the creek in the back provided swimming opportunities.
    Fred & Judy, SV Wings, South Africa

  2. Jason July 11, 2011 at 1:13 pm #

    The Broken Islands are very cool. We found a few tiny islands with white sand beaches straight out of the Caribbean. Lucky Creek is probably one of the top five cruising places Christy and I visited in all of BC, the US and Mexico. It’s the awesome.

    We got socked in hard with fog a lot. Radar is a good idea. The fishing boats don’t seem to ever slow down for fog and the kayakers often get caught out in it.

    You guys are gonna love it! Say hi to Aaron and Nicole for us!

  3. Bill Ray July 10, 2011 at 4:38 pm #

    We loved Jaques-Jarvis but watch the entrance especially with more than our 4 foot draft– check and believe Douglass Guide.

    We needed radar a couple days on a 2.5 week trip from Bellingham as far up as the Hot Springs past Tofino. BTW if you go the the hot springs be sure to stay overnight. They are a zoo with day-tourists but the early morning and evening are lovely.

    Have a fun time!


    • Marty McOmber July 11, 2011 at 1:03 pm #

      Thanks Bill. We’ve been practicing with the radar in good conditions so we will be prepared when the fog rolls in.

      I have charts for my Raymarine plotter, and as a back up, my iPhone and, of course, paper charts if the power fails.

  4. Tracy Hoffman July 10, 2011 at 3:43 pm #

    I’ve been out to Barkley Sound four times over the years, but I’ve always cleared customs at Victoria and spent a night in Port Renfrew on some of the trips. You can get out there without stopping for the night, but it is a very long day. At least it was with a 30 footer.

    Be prepared for fog (my current boat doesn’t have RADAR yet, otherwise I’d be headed out there this year too).

    Have fun!

  5. Jack Dale July 10, 2011 at 11:27 am #

    Barkley Sound is great.

    Some must see spots:
    Joe’s Bay (Dodd, Willis and Turtle Islands)
    The Port Alberni Yacht Club (Robber’s Passage, Fleming Island) – great folks, moorage $1.00 per foot, $2.00 showers
    Effingham Bay
    Nettle Island
    Pinkerton Islands – good lunch stop (I have experienced current in this anchorage.)
    I have more areas to explore as I do not get much time there.

    Get up to Hot Springs Cove if you can. The place fills with tourists between 0900 and 1700. After that you should get it to yourselves and other boaters and campers. Take some reef walkers (watersocks) as the rocks can be quite slippery. Check out the boardwalk; many boats have carved names; some bring pre-carved boards. I am not sure of the dimensions.

    Do your provisioning in Ucluelet at the Coop.
    The burgers at the Marine Pub at West Island Resort are very good.

    Say Hi to Steve Bird, the habourmaster, in Ucluelet.

    I am doing a circumnavigation of the Island as a part of an ISPA Yachtmaster Offshore course and should be the Barkley Sound near August 1.

    No uncharted rocks, but lots of unmarked ones.

    • Jack Dale July 10, 2011 at 4:23 pm #

      Also be very aware of the traffic separation. You will have to cross it.

    • Marty McOmber July 11, 2011 at 1:05 pm #

      Thanks for the great info, Jack. We plan on crossing the traffic lanes in daylight, and will keep a close lookout both visually and with our radar. Sure would be nice to have AIS, but that upgrade isn’t farther down the list.

  6. Sara Johnson July 10, 2011 at 8:27 am #

    Hi Marty & Deborah! Plans have changed for us a bit; instead of rushing around the island we are going to head straight out to Barkley and spend the rest of July & August there. Maybe go up to Tofino & Hot Springs if we have time. Looking forward to meeting up!! We have heard the Lucky Creek area is fun as well as the Pinkertons.

    • Marty McOmber July 11, 2011 at 1:06 pm #

      Great! Let’s definitely plan to hook up while we are there.

  7. Tom Docking July 10, 2011 at 7:50 am #

    I have not been there, but will be sea kayaking there later this summer. I recommend you get the Dreamspeaker book on the West Coast of Van Island as well as the guidebook to the Broken Group from Majestic Ocean Kayaking.

  8. Pete Caras July 10, 2011 at 7:19 am #

    If you find yourselves stopping in Port Angeles for one reason or another, give me a shout.
    Pete Caras

  9. Rob Morton July 9, 2011 at 10:16 pm #

    Hi Marty and Deborah,
    Nice to hear about your cruising plans to Barkley Sound. We have never been there and have PLI and Desolation sound on our list first. I just read a blog about a couple who cruise out of Everett in a Ranger tug and they have a pretty nice blog about Barkley Sound.
    Here is the link: http://www.laurieann-ranger25.com/index.html
    Maybe you have already seen it. If not enjoy.
    We look forward to hearing about the trip.
    Fair Winds,
    Rob Morton

    • Marty McOmber July 11, 2011 at 1:06 pm #

      Thanks for the link. We’ll definitely check it out.

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