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The sea is a cruel mistress, said somebody once. I suspect they had little experience with our local waters. Around here, the sea is what you make of it. You can get out there and challenge it, fight it, see if you can defeat unyielding nature. If that’s your speed, what you’re about to read isn’t going to interest you. If you’re like me, however, and are willing to admit nature wins every time, then all you have to do is wait for a sunny afternoon and you’re set for a relatively low stress day on the water. Fair weather = great time. A bad day in Pacific Coast waters is better than a good day anywhere else.
Sometimes the greatest destination is the one you’re already at. Depending on where your boat is moored, it’s never a bad idea to begin and end a trip with some time tied to the dock. Think of it as waterfront property. Whether your view is Granville Island, the Burrard Bridge, or Stanley Park, you’re in a spot that other people travel long distances to see. Why leave? There is many a craft moored in the marinas of False Creek that rarely casts off its lines, and while some may frown, the perks of a day spent with your feet up observing the movement of others while slowly downing more wine than you could if you were under sail cannot be overestimated.
The recently renovated docks at Granville Island are free to moor at for up to three hours, and space is usually available. From there it’s a small task to stock up on all the market has to offer. If you’ve brought “crew” aboard, now is an excellent opportunity for them to show their appreciation. Crab is available from the Lobster Man for prices that make catching it yourself seem like wasted effort. After you’re provisioned, you can drop anchor in False Creek and see about dealing with your catch. Or stay put. For overnight stays you’ll pay $60 (CMHC Public Dock, 604-666-6655) but it’s worth it: you’re camping in the middle of the city.
This is an easy day trip even for the slowest of craft: head for West Van; turn starboard at the lighthouse. Turn into Snug Cove, keeping an eye out for otters on the shore, and the ferry—it really is snug. There’s a public dock, but space is limited to nonexistent, so you can radio or phone the Union Steamship Marina and they’ll find you room. Once ashore, there are numerous options for a pint and a sandwich, and if you’ve brought kids, there’s a terrific grassy beach for them to exhaust themselves on. Take the long way back, circumnavigating the whole island; timed right, the sun will set behind you as you sail into port.
It’s not really secret—I have no idea why they call it this. Just north of Sechelt, past Smuggler’s Cove (I have some guesses about that name), is one of the best places on the Sunshine Coast. While there’s often not much wind in these waters, the coastline more than makes up for it. Keep an eye out for tugs towing log booms. If you happen to be there August 14-17, the Sunshine Coast Writers Festival in Sechelt is a great place to take in a yarn. On your way back, venture into Gibsons, where you can pop into Molly’s Reach, or visit Plumper Cove Marine Park across the way at Keats Island.
This is not a day trip even if the wind is with you, but it is great. Choose between Active Pass and Porlier Pass, but make sure you check your times so you don’t get stuck waiting for the tide. There are often orcas near Active Pass, and always seals. In Ganges there’s ample space at the government docks; if by some fluke they’re full try Salt Spring Marina. If you can make it there for July 1, you won’t be disappointed: their Canada Day fireworks are the best in the province. As a bonus, it will still be spot prawn season. Drop a trap in the harbour entrance and see if you get lucky. I usually end up buying them at The Fishery.