Well, we finally did it. After 11 months in Victoria, we pushed off on June the 4th. I realize this post is way late, but it has been such a whirlwind since we left that we’ve barely had a free moment to update our blog. We have now been vagabonds for over a month and loving it so far! Here is a quick rundown of what we’ve been doing… I will also mention cell reception and wifi in each of the locations we stopped as this is very important for us since we work from our boat.
After we left Victoria, we sailed up to Sidney and hopped on a mooring ball at Sidney Spit. We spent 3 nights there and thoroughly enjoyed every minute of it. We had absolutely glorious weather, which was perfect for walking along the Spit’s white sandy beaches and exploring the cool, shaded forest trails. We tested out our solar panels for the first time and they held up great. Our batteries were topped up to 100% every morning! We tested out our Coastal Marine WiFi system here as well and were able to very successfully connect to Shaw GoWifi (you must be a subscriber to use it) from 2 nautical miles away. We also had a major breakthrough while moored here- we got our dog Ruby to potty on her grass mat on the bow! Yay!! (for those of you with dogs, you know that this is a game changer!)
Van Isle Boat Yard
Well, that fun didn’t last…We woke up to cooler weather with some cloud cover and hauled Bloom out on June 7th at Van Isle Marina in the nearby town of Sidney. We were up on the hard for 4 days, during which time we pressure washed Bloom, gave her 2 coats of antifouling paint, and fixed some pitting on our sail drive with epoxy and 5 coats of antifouling. We also had the oil changed in the sail drive leg. I also pulled out the ‘Bloomcycle’ (our folding bike) and rode to the nearby high school to challenge the ‘Restricted Operator’s Certificate’ exam to legally operate our VHF radio. Living on a boat while it is up on stilts on dry dock is not super fun. We had buckets in the sinks to wash dishes and hands and had to pour fresh water in our heads (toilets) to flush them. I then had to carry the dirty dish water down the ladder and pour it down the drain in the boatyard. Basically, we would compare it to camping in a treehouse. Which might be way cooler as you would be spared the noxious fumes of paint all around. *sigh*. Cell service here was almost non-existent, but we were able to get great WiFi with our antenna and Shaw GoWifi.
Salt Spring Island – Ganges Harbour
We finally splashed back down June 10th and headed ‘er up to Ganges at Salt Spring Island. This is one of our favourite places as it boasts several great restaurants (you must try the taco truck beside the marina!), great walking trails and hiking through Mouat Park and Mouat’s Home Hardware has the best toy section ever, as well as a great marine section. Cell reception was good here and the free wifi offered by the marina was consistent.
Galiano Island – Montague Harbour
Next, we headed over to one of our favourite spots- Montague Harbour. This huge ‘box’ harbour offers great beaches, walking trails and the parks staff often do family ‘shows’ in the marine hut on the dock. There is a hole in the floor and the light it all up so you can see all of the sea life below. Great for kids! We got a mixed bag of weather when we were here, but still enjoyed all of the awesome trails and beaches. Cell reception here is terrible. It’s pretty much a black hole for cell coverage. However, there is an Orca Network here that you can subscribe to for a few hours, day or 3 days for $12.99 (as of this blog post) and it works really, really well- especially with our antenna. Keep in mind that it only works on one device though, so if you have an antenna with a router, that is the way to go and use all your devices for the price of one! With such great WiFi, we were able to call out via Skype with great success.
Ok, so I remembered Chemainus being this cute little ice-cream-shop-town with awesome murals. Although the murals are still fabulous, the town was a bit deserted from what I remembered. We stayed here for 2 nights on a mooring ball (which was quite a ways away from the marina) for $10/night and dinghied in every day. There was a lot of ferry wash out there and we were mostly surrounded by derelict boats. So ya. Not uber-fun. We concluded that Chemainus is really a day stop. We did find a super-cool forest walk up the main street and across from the main shopping center. Definitely hit that up if you like trails! Great cell reception here, but absolutely no wifi (at least, not on the mooring balls). We were able to use our cellular antenna and data plan to get internet access while moored here, so that was awesome.
We hit Dodd Narrows at slack and dodged a million logs until we got up to Nanaimo, where we moored at the Nanaimo Yacht Club for 5 days. We needed to troubleshoot our wind direction as it was not working properly. After voltage tests and reading dozens of forums online, Jason discovered by fluke- looking up at our wind tranducer at the top of the mast that the feather/wind vane was broken clear off. I guess those huge winds in Victoria did do some damage. So, we ordered a part on rush from a marine store in Victoria…..but it turned out the be the wrong one. (oops!) So, we ordered the right one on a rush and got it the next day from Ontario. Up Lisa went to go and retrieve the damaged wind tranducer, fix it up with new cups and a vane and back up to re-install it. Wind direction all fixed! Cell reception was great here, and the wifi was doable.
Newcastle Island – Nanaimo
The docks at Newcastle Island can accommodate quite a few boats and we got a slip pretty easily during the week here. You can pick up wiFi from the nearby town of Nanaimo. This is a wonderful place to escape and explore. Even though you are close to the city, it feels like you are far away. It takes about 2.5 hours to walk the perimeter of the island, and it is well worth the walk! We saw a ton of deer, a bunny and a raccoon. Both nights we awoke to raccoons on our boat as well- so something to be aware of! Don’t leave any food out, garbage etc. if you plan on staying on the dock. Great facilities here with clean showers and washrooms as well. We stayed here 2 nights and loved it…. highly recommend this Island!
We stayed at Gibsons Marina while we were here for a couple of nights. Gibsons is a quaint little town with lots of little shops and some walking trails to explore also. Smitty’s is the ‘place to be’ for oysters, although we ended up going to Molly’s Reach (yes, the same Molly’s Reach from the Beachcombers) for dinner one night and it was excellent and allowed dogs on the patio as well, which was awesome. The marina was quiet and surrounded by trees with great facilities (showers and laundry) but the WiFi was a bit lacking here.
Plumper Cove- Keats Island
From Gibsons, we hopped over to Plumper Cove for a few days. There are a few mooring buoys, but you need to come mid-week or be quite lucky to get one during the sunny summer months. A quick dinghy ride to shore takes you to their docks where you can tie up and go ashore. (Note that the docks are very high!) There is dock space here as well if you can get a slip. We thought it looked a bit shallow at the dock so avoided it. Lots of great walking trails here with really nice camp sites as well. The kayaking was fantastic and you can follow the coast of Keats or explore on the other side of the bay. This was a really nice, relaxing stop and we enjoyed Keats a lot! No WiFi here, but cellular connectivity was decent.
We got to Bowen early the last week of June and were lucky to get a spot on their public wharf as the Union Steamship Marina was totally full due to the Canada Day long weekend. A few notes about the public wharf that we learned is that although it is extremely cheap ($0.50/foot) it is a very busy dock with a lot of boats coming and going and is also very exposed to the ferry wash as the ferry comes and goes on the hour. We had a lot of fenders out and were really rocking around! Other than that, there are fantastic restaurants here and a very short walk to the nearby Bridal Veil Falls was fantastic. There is also a hike to a lookout point that is really fun and a really fantastic dog park about a 20 minute walk away. WiFi was awesome as we were able to pick up the nearby Shaw Go WiFi with our antenna. We visited friends of ours from sv Gratitude while here who also have kids and it was overall a fantastic time!
Vancouver – False Creek
This was our last stop in Canada, so a bit of an emotional one for us! We were a revolving door of family and friends visiting and it was a wonderful time! We also took the opportunity to get some custom canvas work done and had North Sails craft us a new stack pack for our main. This saves us having to go forward to flake the main in bad weather and also saves us having to put the sail cover on and off all of the time. Fishermans’ Wharf marina was great- right around the corner from Granville Island and all of the wonderfulness that it has to offer! Really great facilities here and the WiFi was decent as well. On July 8th, we waved goodbye to Canada and headed off to our first American destination… Point Roberts!
Stay tuned for more of our adventures to come…