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Old 11-11-2002
magnusmurphy magnusmurphy is offline
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Sunsail Vancouver

I recently did an offshore course with Sunsail Vancouver.

The course was run on a Beneteau 440 which was a previous Sunsail Caribbean charter boat as are most of the boats in the Vancouver fleet. As a result the boats are not new, and there are minor issues. However, a more hardworking and sincere group of people than the people managing the Sunsail operation in Vancouver you cannot find anywhere. Ian (the manager) previously managed the whole Greece fleet for Sunsail before moving to this Pacific Northwest paradise and as a result of his vast experience, there is nothing regarding boats he does not know. That includes fixing any problem in a jiffy.

Our trip involved sailing right around Vancouver Island, a distance of about 800 nautical miles (what we did anyway), and involved some extremely challenging but ultimately very rewarding navigational challenges. I can now say I survived crossing the Nahwiti bar!

Our instructor made us feel confident of a safe return at all times, and safety was the first consideration.

For those that don''t want as challenging a trip, the area between Vancouver Island and the mainland holds infinite possibilities. Navigation can be tricky, what with narrows, strong currents and extreme tides, but that is only necessary if it interests you. If not, simply stay away from those areas.

We saw killer whales on various occasions (one came so close I swear I could have grabbed its fin), breeching humpback whales (off the west coast north of the Brooks peninsula), sea otters (very rare), porpoises and eagles. We anchored in little villages that time forgot. We soaked up the history of the west coast of Vancouver Island, and imagined we were exploring the coast with these famous names of old. In truth it could almost have been true, since very little has changed on this coast.

In two weeks, we saw only one other sailboat but admittedly we were a bit late in the cruising season.

For those that contemplate this adventure, I can highly recommend it. You''ll need a well found vessel equipped for offshore sailing and will definitely need radar, and gps. Chartplotter preferable but paper charts of the entire coast (including blown up charts of every nook and cranny) are essantial. You never know when you''ll need to enter an unplanned inlet to shelter from a gale. Although we did it in two weeks, we needed some long passages and overnight sailing on a few occasions to accomplish that. Giving yourself a month, would make it more relaxing, and provide more time for exploring.

M. Murphy
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