Cruising the Victoria Area

We had a couple extra days in our schedule in the Victoria area, so we spent two nights at Becher Bay (around the corner from Race Rocks), doing some fishing both mornings. The point off Becher Bay is a fishing hotspot, and there were 40 small fishing boats out there with us. Since we were in our dinghy, we were the smallest boat out there, and got some curious looks. We didn’t catch anything (trolling along the 120 to 200 ft lines with a flasher, weight and green/white spoon as the current switched to flood) in the course of an hour and a half, but we only saw one other boat catch something (what looked like a small rockfish).

I’ve been having a difficult time having the patience required for fishing. It seems it involves hours and hours of sitting around not catching anything. As they say, fishing is called fishing, not catching. But why do so many people do it when they’re not getting any fish? I guess they may think the same thing about sailing – why sit there for hours going so slow instead of using a motorboat that can go 15 kts instead?

[This post took place from July 22 – 25]


Race Passage – Riding the Lazy River to Esquimalt

We left Becher Bay near the start of the flood and caught a 4-5 knot push through Race Passage. We were sailing, because there had been some inflow breeze in Becher Bay, but the wind completely disappeared outside the bay. But since we were going 4-5 kts on current, we figured we’d just keep going like that, with just the main up. It was fun going through lots of tide rips and lines of squaking sea birds competing for position in the swirling waters.

The cool thing about riding current is it looks like you’re not moving (the boat isn’t moving relative to the water, so there are no ripples, no sound and no apparent wind) but looking to shore you can see the land behind rapidly slipping by (called “making trees” in sailor lingo). After Race Passage we had 7-8 kts wind behind us, so we sailed slowly up to the Esquimalt Harbor entrance. Even though it’s only July 22, we seem to be well into August weather now – there was little wind today and the Strait was socked in fog.

Sea birds competing to feed in the swirling waters


Sailing up to Esquimalt entrance past a big anchored ship

Esquimalt Harbor

For a while now I’ve wondered whether Esquimalt is a good anchorage. There aren’t many anchorages near Victoria, and few cruisers go to Esquimalt as far as I can tell. We were the only visiting boat there (there are some permanent moorings / resident docks there) and can now confirm it’s a great anchorage. It’s well protected and there’s plenty of room and good depths. We called the harbormaster on VHF 10 upon entering, as requested on the charts and a sign on shore, since there are naval ships there.

The brewery is next to the 4 Mile Restaurant / Pub, a cute old English restaurant.

After grilling up dinner, we went ashore through the Portage Park and walked 5 minutes to the 4 Mile Brewery. We tried a sampler tray at the brewery and then dinghied back to the boat. In the morning we motored over to Cole Island (near the head of the harbor), which has some old munitions buildings that the Canadian Navy used in the early 1900s. Exploring these old buildings was pretty cool, and the tidelands around the island at low tide were also very interesting – there were dozens of small crabs, sea anemones, squirting clams that fired streams of water into the air, and a dozen blue herons.

One reason why Esquimalt maybe isn’t a popular anchorage is there’s no easy access to Victoria downtown as far as I can tell. Other than the pub and a few nearby convenience stores, we’d probably have to take a cab into the city if we needed to do grocery shopping and other cruiser chores. This wasn’t a problem for us since we were planning to go to the Inner Harbor tomorrow anyway.

Victoria, Wharf Street Docks

Last time we were in Victoria we stayed at the Causeway Docks, the ones right in front of the Empress hotel. These seem to be the most popular – probably because of the scenic location. But this time we tried out the Wharf Street marina (also run by Victoria Harbor Authority and priced the same as the Causeway) and were happy with this choice. It’s much closer to the laundry and showers, and closer to most of Victoria’s restaurants. Since we’ve been minimizing marina visits this year, whenever we’re in one we have a lot of cruiser chores to do – laundry, fill the water tank, hike to groceries, dispose of trash + recycling, etc.

Surprisingly the marina was only about half full, and has wide, protected causeways that were easy to get into. The docks seemed pretty new, and the marina WiFi was the fastest marina wifi I’ve ever found (~30 Mbps down, 3.5 up) – as long as you’re above deck.

The only downside to Wharf Street as far as we could tell is it’s next to the float plane dock, and those float planes are *LOUD* when they pull up. But, they don’t run at night.

Natalie left on the Clipper to return for a week of work, and I picked up her dad, also via Clipper – my crew for the week.

Chadham Islands, North of Discovery Island

After leaving Victoria we sailed towards Trial Island, having a much easier time of it this time (than when we were heading west) because we had 3-4 kts of current going east. Wind varied from 8 down to 0, but it didn’t really matter with 4 kts of current. I think I’ve figured out Trial Island now – the current switches to flood there (and west of the point, towards Victoria) at least 1 1/2 hours *before* the nearest current stations indicate a switch to flood (the station ~1.5 miles SE of Trial Island, and the Haro Strait one). So the near shore waters must switch to flood while the deeper waters of the Strait are still ebbing. Good to know.

Unfortunately Haro Strait had light north wind from 6 kts to 0 in places, not the 5-15 SW in the forecast, so we decided to make it a short day and stop at the Discovery Island / Chadham Islands group instead of going to Sidney Spit.

Chadham Islands anchorage. There was a boat already in the eastern nook – probably the more popular spot, though I think the inner spot we were in is better (more protected).Chadham Islands anchorage. There was a boat already in the eastern nook – probably the more popular spot, though I think the inner spot we were in is better (more protected).

We anchored in the north entrance, taking care to avoid the underwater cables. There was already a boat in the northernmost cove on the east side (but they left later that day), so we went a bit further in to the other spot. We found good depths, placid waters, and mild current. Also at least one family of seals swimming around, and eagles hanging out on the radio towers and tree tops. It was one of the better anchorages we’ve been in, and would go again.

Just a few of the seals keeping us company

Coming Up

We’re in Sidney Spit now, heading to Roche Harbor tomorrow to check back in to the US and then on to Friday Harbor and back to Seattle. Sadly, time is running out!

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