Local knowledge Rocks

Secret Local sailing tips that you need

To stay out of DANGER

For charterers unfamiliar with our local waters the following notes are intended to make you aware of some (by no means all) of the hazards to navigation of which you should be aware. Re-print permission of : Blue Pacific Yacht Charters

There is no such thing as an "uncharted rock" in our waters. There are, however, many unmarked rocks which are not visible above the surface of the water but which are clearly indicated on the charts. Be careful. We want you to have a safe and enjoyable vacation.

1. Leaving False Creek

Turn left after passing Bridges Restaurant (yellow building on your right) and leave False Creek by passing under Burrard Bridge. The False Creek fuel dock on your left is where you will re-fuel at the end of your charter.

You will now be in English Bay. Stay well off shore when passing Spanish Banks (on the left side of English Bay). At low tide the beach dries for a distance of 1/4 mile out into the bay. The tidal range in B.C. can be as much as 16 feet from mean high tide to mear low tide (up to 18 ft in late March and late September ) Never anchor with less than 15 ft under the deepest part of your yacht.

Shallow water extends past the end of Point Grey, so do not turn left too quickly.

2. Crossing The Strait Of Georgia

There are three passes through the outer chain of Gulf islands. You must select one.

a) Gabriola Pass

This is the narrowest and has the strongest tidal flow, but at the same time takes the least amount of time to pass through. The ~ tidal current flows from the Gulf Zslands, through Gabriola Pass. (and Porlier Pass and Active Pass and Dodd Narrows) out into Georgia Strait on a flood (or rising tide).

Conversley, on a falling tide, the current flows from the Strait, through the passes, into the Gulf islands.

As a rough guide to the location of Gabriola Pass (in addition to compass bearings) there is usually a column of smoke rising from the pulp mill at Harmac , behind and slightly to the north of Gabriola Pass. Donot confuse this smoke plume with the one below.

b) Porlier Pass

See #1 on enclosed colour guide. As a rough guide, there is usually a column of smoke rising from the pulp mill at Chemainus, behind Porlier Pass. Do not confuse this smoke plume with the one above.

C) Active Pass

This pass is not recommended, for two reasons. Firstly, the jumbo ferries pass one another in the middle of this pass. If you are in the middle of the pass with two huge ferries bearing down on you, one from ahead and one from behind, it can be disconcerting.

The second, and more important reason is the fact that the course from the Point Grey bell buoy to Active Pass skirts the Sand Heads (the delta of the Fraser River). In this area the depth can change from very deep to almost no water within 100 yards - with little warning. Your navigation must leave no room for error. Moreover, If there is a North Westerly blowing, the waves can build up to very frightening proportions when they fetch up onto the shallow sand banks.

3. Gulf Islands

Many of the dangers are covered in the enclosed, coloured insert. In addition to these, the waters to the East of Mudge Island are not navigable without local knowledge. When traveling North toward Nanalmo you Must use Dodd Narrows. Be aware that the tidal current in Dodd Narrows is at least as strong as in the 3 passes mentioned above.


4. Howe Sound

This is a popular first night destination for charterers leaving Granville island. The four main hazards are:

a) The group of 11 small islands between Bowen island on the East and Keats Island on the North West. Pasley Island is the biggest of those. There are numerous unmarked rocks in this area. Give the entire group of islands a wide berth. Stick to the middle of Barfleur Passage or Collingwood Channel.

b) Shoal Channel between Keats Island and the town of Gibsons is, as the name implies, very shallow. Stay to the centre. If in a sailboat do not pass through at low tide.

c) Grebe Islets (just past Point Atkinson). Stay to the West of this group of rocks.

d) Halket Bay, (the easternmost of the 4 main bays on Gambier Island) is full of rocks!


There are not a lot of rocks in the Strait, but the winds can blow up strongly making for an uncomfortable passage - particularly in a power boat. 95% of the time, the wind (if it is blowing) will be from the North West (which means sunny, clear weather) or from the South East (which foretells gloomy weather). In a sailboat, this is good news because crossing the Strait will almost never be anything closer than a close reach. Generally it willbe a beam reach. In a power boat (particularly a displacement style) these wind conditions can make for a "rolley" crossing. Sometimes if the rolling gets too severe, it can be made easier by tacking across the straight, e.g. instead of heading directly for your destination if the seas are on your beam, set a course which puts the waves on your bow quarter. For example, if you were returning from Porlier Pass to Granville island, instead of heading for Point Grey, head for Gibsons. Then 1/2 way across, change course and head for English Bay. In this way the seas will not be directly on your beam.

There is one other hazard to note in the Strait of Georgia (or the Gulf of Georgia as it is sometimes known). on the Southern side of the Strait just North of Nanaimo is a area designated "WG" (or Whisky Gulf). This is shown clearly on chart #3512. Our American friends in partnership with the Canadian Navy, have set up a torpedo test range in this area. In the- summer it is often an active testing area. At the top of the hour on the Marine Weather forecasts the announcer will advise whether testing is in progress. If it is --- stay clear of WG !


If you are headed up the coast (North West from English Bay) the wind and waves will either be on your nose or on your tail. This is perfect for power boats but only perfect half the time for sailboats. If the conditions are rough, take heart; once you reach Welcome Pass (Thormanby island) you will be in sheltered waters.

If your destination is Buccaneer Bay (between South Thormanby and North Thormanby) it is imperative that you pass outside (or North) of the floating green beacon at the westerly end of Tattenham Ledge. Lots of people (with local knowledge) take a shortcut inside this beacon. Do not be tempted. It is treacherous.


You will come abreast of Savary Island. If for whatever reason, you decide to turn left and head toward Vancouver Island, you may choose Shearwater Passage, (between Harwood and Savary Island). If so, favour the Harwood Island side of the passage. Or you may choose Baker Passage (between Hernando island and Cortes Island). Never, under any circumstances, choose Manson Passage (between Savary and Hernando).



This is a lovely island to visit - but not a place -to anchor for the night. there is no protection from a North Westerly wind and a wind shift can come up very quickly. Many people do anchor overnight here - but they should not. It is a very risky procedure. The Copeland island (just past the town of Lund) are another good spot to visit during the day Do not anchor here for the night either. Even if you see other people doing so.


Cortes Bay on Cortes Island. There are two things to be careful of. Firstly, the approach. Pass to- the South of Three Islets Rocks i.e. leave -them on your right when entering the bay. Secondly, anchoring in the bay itself is difficult. Be certain your anchor has set before going ashore. The best bet is to set the anchor in the Western end of the Bay.


There is a misleading marker off Boulder Point. when approaching or leaving Squirrel Cove it is not sufficient just to clear the marker. You must leave 200 yards of clearance in order to be safe. By the way, when entering the cove, leave.. the small island (in the middle of the entrance) to your right.


This Is a popular spot to visit because of the proximity of Cassel Lake (a 10 minute walk from the end of the Arm). Be very careful with anchoring. Because the water here is so deep, about the only place where it is possible, is very near the shore to the left of the dinghy dock. Use a stern line to the shore otherwise, if the wind shifts, your yacht could drag anchor and drift out into the middle. This is a day anchorage only ...(like Savary and Copeland Islands).



Stay well clear of Ray Rock.D o not try to pass to the North of this Rock when entering or leaving Tenedos. And watch for the rock immediately to the east of Bold Read. Watch also for Sky Pilot Rock (North of otter Zaland). At certain tides it is only inches below the surface.

It is not marked.


Unless you are in a row boat, it is not possible to enter by passing south of Eveleigh island.


The narrow and very shallow entrance must be navigated at high tide (and preferably on a rising tide). Once you are in, you cannot-normally leave until the next high tide.


(Westside, of Cortes Island). If you are approaching from the West, take care coming through UGANDA PASSAGE. Go at a dead slow speed and watch for the markers. If approaching from the South and coming around Sutil Point you must exercise extreme caution. You must pass to the South of the Bell Buoy. The problem is that the Buoy is so far off the point that it can be hard to find. Do Not guess. If you cannot find the Buoy do not turn North and head for Gorge. Apart from a very shallow sand bank. extending to the South and Rest of Butil Point, there are some huge boulders - the size of Volkswagen vans - just to the, North of the Buoy. For this reason, it is not sufficient to just round the Buoy and head for Gorge. You must give the Buoy a wide berth and stay in depths of at least 40 feet of water.


More shallow areas - watch your charts. This is a day anchorage only as it is completely exposed to South Easterly winds.


As a general rule, coming down the West side of the Strait of Georgia has little to recommend it. There are fewer anchorages, more open water (read rough water) and hazards. The waters off Cape Mudge for example, if a South Easterly is blowing, can be treacherous.

The Eastern side of the Strait is the preferred side. There is one attraction on the West side - Hornby Island. The sand beach in Tribune Bay is the finest in British Columbia. The reason the sand is so fine is the fact that the Bay is wide open to South Easterlies. Thousands of years of giant waves beating onto the beach have ground the sand down to a powder like consistency. You do not want to even think of being In Tribune Bay in a South Easterly! Having said this, hundreds of boats anchor for days at a time, over the summer months, in Tribune. So while it is never perfectly safe to anchor in an area without protection from South Easterlies, it is reasonably safe if you follow these precautions:

a) Only anchor here if a North Westerly is blowing.

b) First listen to the weather forecast on VHF 1,2 or 3. if a change is forecast, forget Tribune.

c) Anchor well out from the end of the Bay. Two reasons for this. Firstly, if the weather does change suddenly, without warning and you are the outermost boat, the other boats in the harbour may drag anchor but they will not collide with you. Secondly, if You drag anchor, you will have lots of time to start your engine, weigh anchor and leave the Bay before you get into serious troubles.


If you do have to leave Tribune, suddenly, you can take shelter in Ford Cove on the West side of Hornby, 1/2 mile North West of Norman Point. the anchorage may be "lumpy" in windy conditions but it is safe. Be cautious around Maude reef at the entrance to Ford Cove. When rounding Norman Point it is safest to pass South of Norris Rock.

Here's to smooth &ailing, a safe and a very memorable vacation in our beautiful B.C. waters.

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