Addressing the first question, that post may answer the latter 6. I hope with the way it was organized and phrased, it's not too much, but I could reword it or add something to help, depending on the other audiences that read it. 3rd question: I was thinking of a cruising keelboat sloop, 27'-30'. 4th question: I should think about customs. How may clearing them take that long?
I don't have charts yet, but thanks! I think the BC canoe sailors group sail there occasionally.
The boat size is fine. I read your experience and you're only lacking in two areas. The predominate two factors to the area (as in any area) are current and wind. The current is not very noticable on flat water but actually pretty fast. Going against it can slow you down more than you're used to. Having a tidebook will help. What you will face that you haven't faced before are rapids
. There are three of them and they're just like river rapids. What causes them is when the channel narrows (As with an island in the middle of it) and too much tidewater has to go through too small an area so the water accelerates to where it's going faster than your boat. If you're going with it, you're flying through, and if you're going against it, well, you could be going backwards. This is where you might miss not having a motor. Most everybody goes through on a slack or "ebb" tide. That's about a 15-20 minute window between when the tide reverses from going one way to the other. Your tidebook will tell you. I would really not
recommend you go through them when its running. Another tide produced anomally you probably haven't faced are whirlpools/riptides. These can produce a sudden change in direction in your boat. They're unlikely to appear on your charts but they're in predictable locations and often talked/known about by those who frequent the area. They're not dangerous but unpredictable. Again, an ebb tide solves the problem.
You will absolutely have to have a chart as I know one of those channels has (or did have) a rock in it. The chart should show the word "rapids" or it's not a good chart. But anytime your chart shows a narrow space between two large bodies of water that's where the rapids are going to be. While waiting for the tide to ebb, try throwing out a line for a silver salmon. The fishing's better up there than down here and, with the tides, the salmon get funneled into the same narrows.
I mentioned wind. In some places it's always blowing year around (say 20-25 mph). Generally speaking, if you can see the Pacific, you've got wind as it comes in off the Pacific. If you can't, you might not. Expect to be becalmed at least once a week and perhaps for several days. If you have access to weather reports, be in a bay on those days. Also, try and be where you're going by sunset. The wind dies fast at sunset.
As for customs, that's a political thing. If the Canadians are disputing the US over the river runs or, if the US is slowing Canadians from crossing into the US, they could retaliate with hasseling you. Otherwise, it's the same as entering Canada with a car. It goes fast. What will slow you down is tying up and even figuring out where to tie up. It would be wise to have an idea where the Custom House is as you come in your first time (with no engine) and where you're supposed to tie up in case they want to come aboard. You'll also have to clear American Customs on your way back.
The poster that sails there 11 months out of the year? He's the sailor to contact. You're lucky to find him. You'll want to ask him where to go and when to be there and how long it takes, and you want to know about inland egress when you get there ("bush trotting"). Just because you can get into a distant bay doesn't mean you can get out of it on foot. And, if you can go inland, ask about mosquitoes and horseflies.
Outside of a few stretches its very safe sailing up there and you don't have to sail the west side of Vancouver Island, you can always sail the east side both ways.