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Join Date: Sep 2005
Location: New Westminster, BC
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We've been sailing this area for the last 25+ years... and I'm confidant in saying that it is one of the world's premier cruising grounds, year round if you're hardy. (You've wintered in Colorado, our winters are probably T-shirt weather for you!)
If you search out some of my posts, (or my photogallery) there are lots of pictures of the surrounding area. Most of it is technically "inside waters"; there's a lifetime of cruising in the lee of Vancouver Island. Not to say it can't get nasty, but we're not talking offshore or isolated waters.
If you choose to venture further afield, a circumnavigation of Vancouver Island is a popular trip (4-8 weeks to do it right), others venture to Barkley Sound on the outside, still others head north into the central/northern coast and Alaska for true solitude and stupendous scenery (often at the cost of a real "summer" as these areas tend to get socked in and rainy year round.)
The outer coast is potentially treacherous and those venturing that way need to be prepared, pretty well the same as if you were heading offshore. Considering you are virtually always on a lee shore out there, there is more potential peril than on a trip to Hawaii.....
But as I said, the cruising on the inside is great.
Not so great at the moment is the moorage situation. City marinas are full up with wait lists, so much so that sales on boats over 30 feet often stall on lack of moorage. Outside of the city and on the Island it is better, but not great. Moorage for a 35 foot boat here in town will run you anywhere from $3600 - 4600CDN/year with power.
Download Google Earth and check it out.. Between Vancouver and Port Hardy you need not get into open waters. However Georgia strait is close to 100 miles long and winds generally run up it or down it, so there is some fetch involved and conditions can get rough. Summertime is typically calmer, I'd venture to say we've motored across many more times than we've ever white-knuckled it across.
It's truly one of the great cruising areas worldwide (wait- I already said that, didn't I?)