Washington: Anacortes, Bellingham
British Columbia: Vancouver, Comox, Sidney, Nanaimo
Being There: Desolation Sound
One of the most stunning sights I’ve ever seen was the view out the window of a small plane circling above Vancouver Island one cloudless morning. The sea sparkled below, and snow-capped mountains jutted above the forests to the east and west. To the north, the peaks surrounding the sound gleamed iron-gray and white.
There are many lovely cruising areas around the United States and Canada, but I doubt that any can match the beauty of the 140-mile stretch of coast between Desolation Sound and Seattle. From the tip of Washington State, America’s San Juan Islands transition seamlessly into Canada’s Gulf Islands. Three of us spent a week exploring the rugged inlets and fjords on the British Columbia coast.
Eagles soaring overhead and seals swimming around the boat—this is not chartering as most of us know it. The weather was almost too benign, and we motored more than we’d have liked. We anchored in wooded coves as quiet as cathedrals and walked through forests bathed in green light. The water level rose and fell as in a giant bathtub, with little in the way of current. The most essential instrument here is not a GPS but a depthsounder; piloting is all line-of-sight, and the shore falls off so quickly that you need to secure the boat stern-to the beach, with lines taken ashore and the anchor laid out on the steeply sloping bottom.
Perhaps it isn’t for everyone, this quiet and grand corner of North America, but it should be. Peter Nielsen
The best time to sail in the Pacific Northwest is early or late in the season; the weather is usually good, everything (resorts, restaurants, shops) is open, and the winds are better. In mid-summer it’s crowded and the winds are lighter, but September is fantastic—it’s dry, and we normally get 10 to 15 knots of wind. April, May, June, and September are prime time for the sailing community. In May and June we have daylight from 5 a.m. to 10 p.m., and these long days are a huge advantage for cruising. If you’re planning a charter here to see whales, you’ll do best in May–June and September as the resident pods come and go. Our charter season runs May to mid-October, but boats are available on demand at other times. Mike Lovell, Anacortes Yacht Charters, Anacortes, Washington