MV Dirona


Up the West Coast of Vancouver Island

It wasn't until last summer that we even entertained the prospect of cruising the west coast of Vancouver Island.  It's completely exposed to the Pacific Ocean and receives some really nasty weather.  Even on very good days there is a constant ocean swell, and on very bad days ships go down and lives are lost.  Places like Cape Scott at the northwest tip, and Brooks Peninsula, just to the south, are renowned for big storms, huge seas, and shipwrecks.  The southwest shore is no better.  It is nicknamed the "Graveyard of the Pacific" for good reason.  But many pleasure craft have successfully circumnavigated in the relatively benign summer months, and doing so is very rewarding.  While the outer coast is rugged, there are numerous protected anchorages to tuck into.  And besides the adventure of being out on the wild west coast, there are an endless number of things to see and do while you are there, such as hiking, hot springs, sea otters, fishing, sea caves, whales, and ruins.  We needed a rest when we were done.  

The west coast is divided into five large sounds that indent the island: Barkley, Clayoquot, Nootka, Kyuquot, and Quatsino.  The typical trip consists of a series of exposed coast runs between them, with several days spent within each one.  Most people go around the island counter-clockwise -- up the east coast and down the west.  This puts the prevailing northwest wind and swell behind, making for a smoother ride.  Also, a large proportion of these vessels are sailboats, so wind direction is important.  We chose to go around the other way.  If we had any time left over, we wanted to spend it on the northeast side of the island, where we rarely get to, rather than at the southern end, which is easily accessible.  Although working against the swells was certainly rougher than going with them, we didn't regret the decision, and would go around clockwise again.

On our Hakai trip last summer we got some open ocean experience that inspired us to make the west coast trip. We felt comfortable in the swells, and Dirona handled them easily. We started planning in the spring, reading through Don Watmough's Cruising Guide to the West Coast of Vancouver Island and the Waggoner Cruising Guide's west coast section (both highly recommended). We only had three weeks, so we wanted to make the best of it, as we wouldn't be able to see and do everything.  We planned to spend about 2-3 days in each sound and expected to be delayed a day or so by weather.  We also brought along the Douglass' Exploring Vancouver Island's West Coast, which is also a good reference, particularly in its detailed anchorage information.  And we carried the set of Coastal Recreation Maps for the west coast.  They are designed for kayakers, but have lots of useful information for visitors in any sized vessel.


You can also read about this trip in our article in the July 2005 issue of PassageMaker Magazine.


Day 1: Bamfield, Barkley Sound

Day 2: Tzartus Island, Barkley Sound

Day 3: Pinkerton Group, Barkley Sound

Day 4: Jarvis Island, Broken Group, Barkley Sound

Day 5: Lemmens Inlet, Meares Island, Clayoquot Sound

Day 6: Mosquito Harbour, Meares Island, Clayoquot Sound

Day 7: Matilda Inlet, Flores Island, Clayoquot Sound

Day 8: Young Bay, Sydney Inlet, Clayoquot Sound

Day 9: Bodega Cove, Bodega Island, Nootka Sound

Day 10: Hecate, McBride Bay, Nootka Sound

Day 11: Nuchatlitz Inlet, Nootka Sound

Day 12: Dixie Cove, Kyuquot Sound

Day 13: Bunsby Islands, Checleset Bay

Day 14: Nasparti Inlet, Checleset Bay

Day 15: Klaskish Basin, Brooks Bay

Day 16: Varney Bay, Quatsino Sound

Day 17: Sea Otter Cove, Cape Scott

Day 18: Port Hardy, Inside Passage



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Copyright 2012 Jennifer and James Hamilton