Arriving in Vancouver was filled with confusing emotions and memories – coming into a big city after months away from cities was overwhelming. There were so many people! And towering apartment buildings holding unimaginable numbers of people – unimaginable because they hold more people than we’ve seen all summer.
Our first time sailing into Vancouver also brought forward some nostalgia since it’s where we bought our boat a year and a half ago. Those memories feel so long ago, yet it was only February of 2015 that we were arriving to Granville Island for a weekend on the boat to prep her for the trip to the US. It was freezing cold and we had to make a run to Canadian Tire to get a heater. We knew so much less then about how to maintain / repair boats – we didn’t even have a square head screwdriver, necessary for the hundreds of square head screws on our boat. It felt like a bit of a homecoming finally sailing our boat back to Vancouver.
It was also the 2 month mark of our 3 month cruise, and we were starting to miss some aspects of normal life – basic things like talking to other people, restaurants, and biking. After a lot of time away from civilization, we were ready for some time in a city.
False Creek Anchorage
The first night we anchored out in False Creek, in front of the park. False Creek requires an anchoring permit (free, and can be done online) which was instituted to reduce crowding and permanently anchored resident boats or abandoned boats. It’s still a challenging anchorage however. There isn’t very much room, and since it’s so close to the city, a lot of boats want to anchor in this anchorage.
Also since it’s a creek (actually a small inlet) with a lot of water taxi traffic, the regulations say you can’t anchor in the navigable waterway – the channel between the green and red buoys. This eliminates at least 50% of the anchorable area though. I doubt it’s strictly enforced, and most larger boats we saw arrive anchored on the edge of the channel and swung partially into the channel – this is probably the right decision when there’s no other room to safely anchor, but it means you have dozens of water taxis and other boats passing within 10-20’ of your boat.
We found a hole between several anchored boats in a more inner area of the anchorage in front of the park. It looked like plenty of swing room, but when the current reversed our direction overnight, I found our stern was only 20 feet from two rafted up boats behind us who were bow and stern anchored. We weren’t going to hit but it was too close for comfort if the wind came up and stretched our anchor chain some more. It’s a shallow anchorage (we dropped in 15’ on a 10’ tide – but knew upcoming low tides were no less than 5’) so using short scope allows you to limit your swing radius. We were at 2.5:1 scope, and decreased it to 2:1 in the morning. Our anchor holds well at 2.5 but I wouldn’t want to leave the boat at 2. That was a temporary thing while I watched our distance to the boats behind us, and we were planning to head into the marina that day anyway.
Fisherman’s Wharf marina (False Creek Harbor Authority)
Fisherman’s Wharf, officially called the False Creek Harbor Authority marina, was just our style – we like working marinas, and this one is about half fishing boats, half recreational boats. The showers were clean and some of the nicest marina showers we’ve been in. They have ice (cubed and block) right at the marina office. It’s an easy walk to Granville market, and they’re only steps from Go Fish, a popular fish fry shop making some really fresh fish and chips and salmon tacos. The fish comes straight off the fishing boats that dock at the marina.
We met up with our friends Alison and Tim, who were kind enough to take us on a liquor store run in their car (Legacy Liquor Store is the nicest, most well stocked one we’ve ever been in!) and then we visited a couple local breweries. Vancouver had a lot more microbreweries now than what I recall from a couple years ago.
Wallace Island, Princess Cove
Jumping back a little, before we headed to Vancouver we spent a night at Wallace Island in the northern Gulfs. Wallace Island has a great hiking trail going from one tip of the island to the other, and we had a fun time stretching our legs for some real exercise.
Princess Cove is the biggest and most popular anchorage there. It’s small and narrow though, so most boats stern tie to rings in the western shore. There is space for 4-5 boats to free swing on the eastern side of the anchorage though, as long as they drop their anchor clear of the stern tied boats’ anchors.
We stern tied to one of the rings, and got ourselves in pretty snug. We had south wind coming through the cove, and the wind blows through the cove perpendicular to the boat. Dropping your anchor slightly upwind of where you plan to anchor is probably a good idea, as long as you don’t drop over your neighbor’s anchor.
The stern tie rings are surprisingly close – the two rings downwind of us were only about 20 feet apart. I would even say they’re uncomfortably close, because with neighboring boats only 20 feet away, there’s little room for error.
And error is likely to happen in a crowded anchorage like this with people having varying experience with stern tieing. We saw some drama while we were there. A sailboat downwind of us arrived, stern tied, and immediately took off in their dinghy for hiking. I was surprised because they looked quite close to the stern tied powerboat downwind of them. After their hike their anchor had dragged a little it looked like, and the powerboat was fending off their boat. Things got tricky quickly, because they apparently couldn’t use their engine (sounded like they got their stern line tangled in the prop?). The powerboat ended up moving, and the sailboat rafted up to the next sailboat downwind of them.
Engine Issue Scares
Maybe it’s just our luck but we’ve been finding no summer cruise is complete without some engine issues. Last year our fuel filter clogged in the Strait of Juan de Fuca and this year we’ve had some kind of more mysterious fuel supply issue. We’re more on top of it now, and replaced the primary fuel filter as soon as we heard the engine running rough. That seemed to help, but then a day later the issue repeated so I replaced the secondary fuel filter. That seemed to fix it for good – the engine ran well for two weeks – until as we were entering Vancouver we started experiencing issues again. I throttled up in forward, and the engine didn’t power up. The throttle cable is working, so my best guess is a fuel issue.
So far it’s not a crisis, but engine issues stress me out tremendously because they don’t always have easy or obvious solutions. I get excited now when we have an easy problem – like our house batteries dying a slow death – because a problem like that is so easily fixable compared to a mysterious engine problem.
We’re at Portland Island (Princess Margaret island) in the southern Gulfs now. We’re heading to Sidney a couple days from now, and then checking back into the U.S.