After an overnight at Roche Harbor for showers and general relaxation, it was time to head across the border and explore some territory we didn’t see last fall. On our way from Butchart Gardens to Victoria last fall we spent two very pleasant, quiet nights at Van Isle Marina in Tsehum Harbor waiting out some nasty weather (40+ knots one night), but this time around we wanted to stay a little closer to the action and check out the town of Sidney itself. Armed with reservations at Port Sidney Marina we made the short (~10 mile) crossing from Roche Harbor to Sidney – crossing the Rosario Strait – on some truly glassy seas, all under power unfortunately angling into a strong ebb current coming down the Rosario.
On the way we got to try out our new Nexus cards for border crossing… pretty simple as far as we’ve experienced so far. Once we had a strong cell signal (it’s a little odd as it wavers between US and Canadian cell towers) we called the correct phone number (second try, operator error), gave all our information including Nexus card numbers and anything we had to declare, gave our ETA and destination (you have to pick from a list of specific arrival destinations in Canada) and that’s that… they tell you to “swing by” the customs dock and if there isn’t an officer there, you’re free to go on your way. Since the customs dock was IN Port Sidney Marina it wouldn’t have been out of our way to check in the normal way, but it was cool to try it out and we breezed right on by the empty customs dock and into our (very tight) slip at Port Sidney. (As a pleasant bonus, we’ve discovered having Nexus cards makes us TSA trusted travelers, very convenient for flying domestically).
We like to mix and match our out island experiences with marinas that fit our tastes, and Port Sidney is a winner as far as we’re concerned. It’s mellow, clean, friendly staff, right in town for easy provisioning, and for a town marina has surprisingly easy access to good locations to walk the hound. We walked the town with Hobie, ate some absurdly tasty fish and chips, sat on the sea wall (and digested!), and generally enjoyed town. The next morning we did an easy provisioning run (everything is within two blocks) and weaseled our way, backwards, out of the row of slips we were in and headed out… a perfect overnight stop.
Our destination for the next two nights was Sidney Spit, the northern tip of the Gulf Islands National Park Reserve island directly across from the town of Sidney. We had wanted to visit here last fall but it’s not a good anchorage in unsettled weather like we had then. An easy 5 mile trip, which we even managed to sail most of, brought us to a tricky entrance to the mooring field. The northern tip of Sidney Island is shoaling sand, most of which is underwater at high tide, but a lot of which shows at the negative tides we were having. Additionally, scouring has created a mooring field with decent depth but a very shallow and uncharted / unmarked entrance. We nosed our way in following our electronic charts as best we could, hopefully secure in the knowledge that we were going very slow, have full keel and protected prop, were over a sandy bottom, and were at the bottom of the tide, so if we had grounded out we’d hopefully do no damage and would come off soon. As it was, other than one very abrupt turn away when Bass saw the depth read 4′ (unlikely reading as we draw 5’2″, but enough to make him swerve) we entered the mooring field unscathed and picked up a mooring close to the beach. As you can see from our track on our chart, the entrance has shifted north a bit compared to when last surveyed… we did see another boat (probably deeper drafted than us) go aground for ~15 minutes in the same area but they appeared to come off without any lasting problems.
What followed was two full days on the beach relaxing and enjoying ourselves. By late morning plenty of beach was showing, we had low tide all afternoon to walk, read on the beach, and entertain the hound, then a retreat to the boat for sunset and sundowners in the cockpit. The bird life alone is enough to keep you entertained for days. When the tide is all the way in the spit is almost completely gone, but conveniently the northern tip of the island has an easy dock to row Hobie to for a last walk, so this spot really has it all. For sure we WILL be back!