by Adrian Kershaw –
In Kenneth Grahame’s children’ s book The Wind in the Willows, Ratty says to Mole: “Believe me, my young friend, there is nothing – absolutely nothing – half so much worth doing as simply messing about in boats.” But if they lived in the Gulf Islands, rather than in a valley in southern England, they’d have much, much more to do on their boat!
From Sidney there is easy and quick access to one of the best cruising areas in the world. The Gulf Islands are also a good kicking-off point for travelling farther afield to areas such as Desolation Sound, the Broughton Islands off the north end of Vancouver Island, Haida Gwaii and Alaska. In addition, you can circumnavigate Vancouver Island or spend time in the San Juan Islands and the Puget Sound down in the United States. Wherever you go in your sail or power boat, you’re bound to see great scenery and countless wild animals and birds.
Each year Sidney North Saanich Yacht Club (SNSYC) organizes cruises throughout the Pacific Northwest and participants get to see everything from whales and bears to otters, seals and sea lions. Of course there are the ever-present bald eagles and a wide variety of sea birds to accompany your adventure. In addition, across the region, there are many First Nations cultural sites to enjoy. You can see totem poles, long houses and middens marking the sites of ancient settlements, and visit museums and cultural activities that celebrate First Nations heritage. And, if you are in Clayoquot Sound on the west coast of Vancouver Island, you can always visit Cougar Annie’s garden (right).
Of course, you don’t have to be a member of SNSYC to enjoy these waters. If you don’t own a boat, you can charter a sail or power boat from Sidney’s Island Cruising or Cooper Boating. Both companies offer sail and power boat training and they will get you ready to take the exam to become a Transport Canada approved Certified Pleasure Craft Operator – a requirement nowadays to operate boats in B.C. waters.
The cruises that SNSYC organizes are a great opportunity to participate in land-based activities as well. Once at anchor or tied up in a marina, club members get together for happy hours and pot luck suppers – and their dogs are welcome too! Members also enjoy things such as hiking and swimming (although you have to pick the right spot for this because the water can be cold in most places), and visiting the Saturday market at Ganges on Saltspring Island and the wineries on both Saltspring and North Pender Islands. In addition to Ganges, you can wander around the downtowns of Ladysmith, Chemainus and Nanaimo, doing a bit of shopping and having lunch at the many restaurants and cafés to be found. And, there’s usually a pub not far from the marinas in the Gulf Islands!
Finally, it is safe to say that there is nothing quite like sitting at anchor in a quiet bay, with a glass of wine in your hand, as the sun sets over the hills and mountains around you. Our friends Ratty and Mole would be envious.