SUNSHINE COAST: WORLD-CLASS SAILING
Our Sunshine Coast offers a tremendous variety of excellent cruising destinations are easily reached by yachts from the Vancouver area marinas, or from the Gulf Islands and US waters.
Gibsons Landing Harbour
An easy half day sail from Vancouver brings you to Gibsons Landing Harbour, in sheltered Shoal Channel between Keats Island and western shore of Howe Sound. On reaching Point Atkinson, cruisers have the choice of continuing west in the Strait of Georgia south of Bowen Island or following Queen Charlotte Channel. The latter offers a more protected route and great sailing is often enjoyed between Bowen and Gambier Islands. Frequent ferries operate out of Horseshoe Bay and tugs with tows are often encountered near Collingwood Channel. Pleasure boaters are advised to give the right of way to commercial traffic and keep well clear at all times.
If cruising from the Gulf Islands and US, the shortest crossing of the Strait of Georgia, 15 miles, is from Gabriola Passage to Gibsons Landing Harbour. With the prevailing northwest or southeast winds this is often a great sail, close reaching either way. At Gabriola Pass, cruisers can wait in the shelter of Degnen Bay or Silva Bay for transiting the pass or for favourable weather. This marine ecological reserve is a very beautiful route for cruisers bound for Desolation Sound and beyond. It is an attractive alternative to the Dodd Narrows, Nanaimo route which leads to a much longer crossing of the Strait and the complications of crossing or detouring around the Whiskey-Golf naval torpedo testing range.
Popham Island light marks the entrance to Shoal Channel and Gibsons Landing Harbour. The shallows in Shoal Channel have a least depth of six feet at mid channel (steer well clear of a drying ledge on the east side) and can be crossed at most times, except when a low tide and strong northwest wind may cause steep and breaking waves. Under these conditions one can take Barfleur Passage around the north end of Keats Island.
On arriving in the Gibsons area there are many moorage alternatives. On the Keats Island side there is Plumper Cove Marine Park with campsites, hiking trails, floats, mooring buoys and anchorage. Opposite is the scenic seaside village of Gibsons Landing. There is good anchorage extending northward from the breakwater to the Armours Beach with a swimming area marked by chained logs and pilings. Entering between the breakwaters of the inner harbour, straight ahead is the Hyak Marine fuel dock, to the left is Gibsons Marina, and to the right the Gibsons Landing Harbour Authority (GLHA) floats.
The GLHA has a beautiful log building with washrooms, showers, laundry, and illuminated promenade to a gazebo on the breakwater. While GLHA has limited visitor overnight moorage, rafting onto other vessels is permitted, and short term day moorage is usually available. There is also a seasonal float outside the breakwater for additional visitor moorage. Inshore from the GLHA, Smitty’s Marina has three floats, with shallow water depth at the inner float.
The GLHA floats link to the historic Gibsons Landing Wharf and Molly’s Reach Restaurant where "The Beachcombers” TV series was filmed for 19 years, plus “The New Beachcombers” TV movies in 2002 and 2004. This leads directly to Molly's Lane, Marine Drive, and Gower Point Road which are lined with colourful restaurants, stores and boutiques. The streets of Gibsons Landing were completely rebuilt in 1998, and a new waterfront park was opened in 2001, to make a very attractive and welcoming atmosphere, where festivals and special events are held throughout the cruising season. Just along Gower Point Road you can have an interesting time visiting the Sunshine Coast Museum & Archives with its fascinating collections and special exhibits of the Sunshine Coast Sea and Land History.
Gibsons Marina now has very limited visitor moorage and, with additional space is occasionally made available by absent resident vessels, a reservation is definitely required. The marina has washrooms, showers, laundry, marine supplies, a beautiful garden, and a very high standard is maintained. It is just a few minutes walk to all the attractions of Gibsons Landing.
Gibsons to Sechelt
Just east of Keats Island along the edge of the Strait lies a group of smaller islands centred on Pasley Island, where there are several coves which offer pleasant anchorage in calm weather, however they are exposed to swells from the Strait. Heading northwest from Gibsons it is 12 miles to the White Islets, home to a great variety of seabirds, and where tidal currents become more noticeable. Opposite is the Port Stalashan private marina. Then Trail Bay opens up to reveal the Town of Sechelt, followed by the Trail Islands, and Sargent Bay which provides an anchorage protected from northwest winds (but exposed to the south east) and a beautiful shoreline nature park. At this point vessels come into shelter from the northwest by the heights of Texada Island.
Halfmoon Bay/Secret Cove/Thormanby Islands
Merry Island lighthouse marks the entrance to Welcome Pass with tidal currents up to 3 knots and on the right is Halfmoon Bay with a small public dock. Exiting the Pass on the right is the popular Smugglers Cove anchorage and Secret Cove with moorage possible at several marinas. On the left Buccaneer Bay lies between the Thormanby Islands. There is a tremendous sand beach on the islands south-west shore, and anchorage is good at the head of Buccaneer Bay although somewhat exposed to winds. North-west of North Thormanby Island is an extensive area of shallows and interesting to explore. Excellent sailing is often found in Malaspina Strait which extends some 30 miles to the north-west between Texada Island and the mainland.
Continuing north-west for 8 miles brings up Francis Point. Just beyond lies Pender Harbour, a large protected inlet with many bays, marinas and anchorages. The Pender Harbour Authority facilities at Madeira Park have excellent amenities and visiting vessels are assured of a warm welcome. Madeira Park itself is a great place to walk around and there is a good variety of stores to serve the needs of cruisers. If any of your crew needs to get back to Vancouver this is a pick up point for Malaspina Coachlines. Pender Harbour is an extensive area of bays and inlets and well worth spending some time to explore.
Egmont and Points North
Leaving Pender Harbour there is a choice of heading northeast up Agamemnon Channel or continuing northwest in Malaspina Strait. Agamemnon is a peaceful 9 mile meandering channel leading to Jervis and Sechelt Inlets. About halfway on the left side is Green Bay offering a tranquil anchorage for a few boats. The final turn reveals the BC Ferry terminal at Earls Cove and just beyond, the entrance to Sechelt Inlet opens up to the right. A short distance in is the community of Egmont with marinas and public dock. Approach these docks carefully, as strong tidal currents can catch the unwary. There is a one mile overland trail from Egmont to the viewpoint for the Skookumchuk Rapids. These powerful rapids must be navigated with great care, making sure to transit at slack tide, and being especially cautious on large tide changes. Once through, more than 50 miles of remote inlets open up, and at the south-east end lies Porpoise Bay and the Town of Sechelt.
North of Egmont lies Hotham Sound and the popular Harmony Islands anchorage. Anchoring can be tricky here in water depths over 50ft with stern lines ashore. The waters of this south facing sound get quite warm for bathing and wild oyster beds are extensive in this area. Perfectly sheltered from the north and usually calm, an occasional south wind can disturb this anchorage and cause anchors to drag in the channel between the islands and mainland shore.
Jervis Inlet to Princess Louisa Inlet
Heading up Jervis Inlet it is a spectacular 30 mile run to Malibu. Magnificent Mount Churchill presides over Prince of Wales Reach. At the head of Vancouver Bay is a Sechelt first nations lodge and grizzly bears have been seen on the flats. The seemingly endless precipitous cliffs of Marlboro Heights lead to Soda Water Falls and Princess Royal Reach stretching to distant snow capped mountains. The final turn opens up the Queens Reach and a distant view of Malibu. It is recommended to arrive with time in hand and wait for the slack tide to proceed slowly with care through the narrow Malibu Rapids into Princess Louisa Inlet.
This inlet has been described as one of the wonders of the world, and it is indeed truly spectacular, with a jewel like setting between sheer cliffs rising to over 5,000 ft. Plan to spend a couple days here to savour the inlets moods and changes. The dock space at Chatterbox Falls can be busy in July and August, but space usually opens up with the daily departures. And there are many places to anchor with rock bolts for a stern line. Some like to anchor on the bar right in front of the big falls, and there are numerous other waterfalls to explore. Sometimes mountain goats are seen on ledges up in the heights. Swimming can be very enjoyable in the inlet's fresh clean water, but keep clear of the red lion’s mane jellyfish. Out of peak season visitors are rewarded by having this paradise almost to themselves, and the waterfalls are most impressive in May and June.
The facilities at Chatterbox Falls were built by the Princess Louisa International Society. A few years ago the Society succeeded in having the forests at the head of the inlet preserved from commercial logging. While no moorage fees are collected, the Society invites donations through membership for maintaining the facilities and environment. Overlooking the Malibu Rapids is the Malibu Club, built as a millionaires resort over 50 years ago, and is now operated by the Young Life Christian organization who bring youth from all across North America to spend a week in this wonderful setting. They welcome visiting vessels at their dock just inside the rapids and give guided tours in July and August.
Heading out from Malibu, in Queens Reach there has been some logging activity with helicopters with the location varying from year to year, and this can be a very interesting operation to observe. Continuing in Princess Royal Reach, the north western shoreline features several abandoned mining exploration camps. Arriving back near Hotham Sound, the main Jervis Inlet extends a further 10 miles westward to its outflow into Malaspina Strait. Here are some beautiful anchorages, on the north side in Thunder Bay, and to the south in Blind Bay enclosed by Nelson and Hardy Islands. From here a north-westerly course takes you to Powell River, and south-easterly course in Malaspina Strait along the shoreline of Nelson Island leads you back to Pender Harbour.
Book your exploration
This concludes a tour of the varied and interesting waters of our Sunshine Coast which are highly rated among the world’s finest cruising areas. You can acquire knowledge and afloat skills while exploring these waters by signing on as crew for an educational co-op cruise, take a day sail or a longer course with a certified instructor, or get involved with one of the many kayaking operators on the coast. Whatever your choice these unmatched boating waters await your exploration.
Educational Cruise with experienced professional instructor on a comfortable seaworthy sailboat, sailing from Gibsons Marina from April through September.