Welcome fellow Canuck.
The east side of Vancouver Island is one of the hardest places to sail; large tides, big currents, unmarked (but charted) rocks, and light winds (in summer).
I would suggest lessons. Best you learn from the experience of an instructor, rather than making your own mistakes.
Both CYA and ISPA have very good standards. For cruising, the basic level and intermediate courses along with coastal navigation should get you started on the right track. You will also need a PCOC for boats with engines and a VHF card. First aid may also be recommneded or required.
Of course, as an instructor, I am somewhat biased.
ISPA Yachtmaster Offshore Instructor Evaluator
Sail Canada Advanced Cruising Instructor
IYT Yachtmaster Coastal Instructor
As I sail, I praise God, and care not. (Luke Foxe)
Last edited by jackdale; 04-11-2011 at 01:46 PM.