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Alex W 07-30-2013 12:59 PM

Barkley Sound, West Coast Vancouver Island
I just finished a month long trip in the protected waters of Georgia Strait, Desolation Sound, Discovery Islands, Gulf Islands, and the San Juans. This was double handed (my wife and I) on my Pearson 28-2. We had a great trip.

I have plans for another 3 week cruise in September and am trying to decide where to go. I've been to Barkley Sound before (paddling the Broken Group Islands) and had a great time there, so I'm tempted to go back. This would likely be solo.

I know that it's much different going on the ocean coast. I also know that I'd be fighting prevailing winds for a couple of days to get there. I will have the flexibility of time to wait for good weather though, and there are places to hide should I need to.

I'm interested to hear stories from others who have done this trip in smallish coastal boats and how it went for them.

My alternative is to stay in the relative safe waters of the San Juan and Gulf Islands. A really enjoyable place to spend 3 weeks, but I have a bit of a thirst for adventure.

Alex W 08-01-2013 03:46 PM

Re: Barkley Sound, West Coast Vancouver Island

I know that most readers are on the East Coast, but was hoping to hear from one or two who have sailed in this area. I'm sure Faster has, but he is on vacation right now.

IslanderGuy 08-01-2013 04:55 PM

Re: Barkley Sound, West Coast Vancouver Island
We took our 32' Islander up the west coast of Vancouver Island last year in June and had a great trip. We went mostly straight up to Tofeno, up into Clayoquot Sound, and back down through Barkley Sound. it was a great trip.

If the weathers good, the west coast isn't a bad place, I *think* you should be fine in September, but I'm sure more locals will chime in soon with more details on that.

Going out the straight can be a slog since you are going into the tides which makes them seem to change faster, so you get less of a push then when your coming back. Plus your into the winds as you mentioned, but that all just means coming back is easier then going out. Expect short steep waves at the end of the straight, especially as the tide turns to a flood.

Going into Tofeno was a bumpy and wet ride, confused seas coming from multiple directions as the swells changed. Not enough wind to keep the boat stable so we where rocking around good, and it was raining. :rolleyes:

We weren't as prepared as we should have been in the foul weather gear department, and everything I had was wet by the time we came in, except one pair of jeans and a tee shirt. Lucky Tofeno has laundry at the marina. We where thinking of anchoring out, but easy access to dry cloths was well worth the marina fee and odd space we had to dock in, plus a nice guy with a heater on his boat invited us over for a hot cup of tea. What a wonderful cup of tea that was!

The rest of the trip was idealistic though, a little rain but mostly at night, and not the rough waves we had going up. Had a great sail back down from Barkley to the straight with a steady 15kts on the beam and smooth seas.

I know there's lots of issues with fog in July and August, hence why we went in June (And we don't have radar) but I think it's clearing up by September.

I also know the rule of thumb if your sailing south is leave the PNW by mid September, so I assume the weather would still be decent up there for a while, but I'm just guessing. Hopefully one of the locals will chime in and help you out soon. :)

Unless someone else knows otherwise, I would think that would be a great trip in September.

Alex W 08-02-2013 11:17 AM

Re: Barkley Sound, West Coast Vancouver Island
Thanks IslanderGuy, this is helpful stuff.

I've been up there for the fog in August twice (it's called Fogust for a reason), but was hoping that would clear by September. I'll double check on that.

Where did you clear customs on your crossing? It looks like if I clear on the West Coast that I'd need to clear in Tofino.

tjvanginkel 08-02-2013 12:15 PM

Re: Barkley Sound, West Coast Vancouver Island
We just did that trip at the end of June. 31 foot full keeled sailboat.
We really had to consider the currents in the straight as we only motor around 5 knots and they can easily run 2-3 knots in places, more in the Race Rocks area.
The winds generally build in the afternoon from the west, so we made early starts, which also worked with the currents at the time.
Victoria to Port Renfrew was about 10 hours, Port Renfrew to Ucuelet was about another 10 hours motoring, winds were light for us and we made port before they picked up.
Port Renfrew is a nice midway stopping point but there is not much there and the anchorage is fairly open and can be rolly if the swell is coming in. Holding is good.
On the return trip we had light winds from the much for the fun downhill run home.
It is beautiful there as you know and Bamfield, Ucuelet and Tofino are lovely places to spend some time. And it should still be nice in September, just keep in mind you will have less daylight for the longer legs.
Hopefully you will also hear from others with more experience.

Alex W 08-02-2013 04:48 PM

Re: Barkley Sound, West Coast Vancouver Island
A friend pointed me to this great resource:
West Coast of Vancouver Island: The Windward Route | Voyages North

The tides don't look great for doing this in Sept 2013 (the big ebbs are in the middle of the night during both spring tides). I'm considering putting this trip on hold for a year or two, which will give me more time to prepare.

dabnis 08-02-2013 07:11 PM

Re: Barkley Sound, West Coast Vancouver Island
Our experience has been from Campbell River north. We have, however driven to Ucuelet
and Tofino. You might consider driving and going out on a charter fishing boat. I am sure the skipper would be glad to share info about that and surrounding waters with you. Our favorite time was mid August to early September, for the big northern Coho salmon. Bring some fishing gear with you, great fun. :D

Paul T

Alex W 08-02-2013 08:08 PM

Re: Barkley Sound, West Coast Vancouver Island
I've been to Tofino and Ucuelet a bunch of times by car and kayak. The adventure for me would be going by sailboat.

MedSailor 08-03-2013 11:30 AM

Re: Barkley Sound, West Coast Vancouver Island
I've been out that way twice, for a couple weeks each time. It was on a 76ft megayacht though.... so a little different that what you're planning. :o

Clearing customs is something to plan. It would be nice to launch from Neah Bay and go up north, but I don't think that's feasible. More likely you'll be clearing in Victoria and staying close to the north side of the straits. Port renfero and Sooke are good places to stop. Plan your trip around the corner with the tides but take caution because an ebb and an onshore wind will create ugliness at the corner. Give it a wide berth.

There IS a lot of fog up that way in September. If you don't have radar and you postpone your trip, I would consider investing in radar before you go. We had it move in on us and sock us in very quickly both time we were up there (july and september).

Study the chart of the broken group carefully. While it is a haven for kayakers, there are only 2 or 3 anchorages in that group for a sailboat. The nearby towns are fun though, the fishing in the area is AWESOME and just north is Hot Springs Cove which is worth visiting. It's a hot spring that flows down several rock pools and mixes with ocean water. Each pool is cooler than the one above.

Would you consider sailing at night on the way up? It makes the ships easy to see unless there's fog. If there's fog at night (which there often is) you're screwed. :)


jackdale 08-03-2013 04:32 PM

Re: Barkley Sound, West Coast Vancouver Island
I have been Barkley Sound about 10 times. Once I came up Juan de Fuca, the others were part of an around Vancouver Island.

You will need to clear customs in Victoria.

Sooke is possible stop on the outbound trip. There are some marinas just as you enter the harbour. If you wish to go into the basin, do so on a high tide.

Port Renfrew has a new marina that MIGHT be able to take small shallow draft boats. I have anchored during an engine electrical failure. Would not start - whole other story.

As the wind tends to die at night I did an overnight trip. Stay out of the TSS.

Once in the sound you can get moorage at:

Bamfield - neat little town, no services at the government dock

Ucluelet - Small Boat Harbour: showers, laundry, power, water, provisions and restaurants ashore.

or at the Port Alberni Yacht Club (Robbers Passage): $1.00 per foot, showers $2.00, iffy water.

- Effingham Island: a little exposed, somewhat deep
- Joe`s Bay: watch the reef to starboard in the north entrance :(
- Nettle Island: deep, lots of room to swing
- Pinkerton Island: a little too much current for my liking

There are more anchorages but I have not had a chance to check them out.

I also do the return trip at night. Leave early afternoon and have breakfast in Victoria.

I have not been to Tofino by boat.

Hot Springs Cove is a day from Ucluelet.

More than happy to answer any questions.


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