Here are some notes for those new to this particular adventure:
BC Ferries – The ferry system serves kayakers the same as cyclists. When you pay for your ticket, let them know you are walking aboard with your kayak so they can charge you accordingly.
They will give you a code for the gate to access the vehicle area where you will walk down to the correct berth and ramp and wait with the cyclists. At Horseshoe Bay this gate is behind the building where the ticket booths are. At Departure Bay it is on the left side of the building where the ticket counter is. Do try and get someone to hold the gate for you while you roll your boat through. It’s easier on your boat and everyone else that way.
Your boat will be down on the main vehicle deck. On most sailings that area is closed off and patrolled by crew, so your gear should be safe. I keep my valuables in a special dry bag (ditch bag) which I keep with me while aboard the ferry or in my cockpit.
Horseshoe Bay Ferry Terminal – Most of you will be coming via Horseshoe Bay terminal to Departure Bay terminal in Nanaimo. This is one of the busiest routes in the ferry system and will be very busy on Labour Day holiday weekend. If you can arrange to be dropped off with your boat and gear (and picked up afterwards) this is the best case scenario. The terminal itself is undergoing renovations, so please check ahead of time what the parking situation is if you have to drive yourself.
Departure Bay Ferry Terminal – When arriving you will walk your boat off and to the left along the terminal building. You will find the exit gate near the end of the building. Once you walk out, head left and you can follow the exit road (staying to one side, out of the traffic) for about 2 blocks to the Brechin Boat ramp. This is where you will get your boat off your wheels and load it up. You will be crossing the channel to the shore of Newcastle Island and then following the shore around to the southeast side of the island where the group campsites are.
Coming back is the reverse. You will need to leave your boat outside the doors to the ticket counters, pay for your ticket, and then go back through the gate to the cyclist waiting area.
Kayak Wheels – If you don’t have wheels, now is the time to beg/borrow/steal some. Keep an eye out on Craigslist, FB Marketplace, or Kijiji, as they show up pretty regularly. There are center wheels and end wheels. Pretty much the only pro for end wheels is that they are small and will fit into most hatches. Center wheels support your hull if loaded properly. You will want to practice with them to make sure you know how to get your boat centered on them and strapped on securely. Set your heaviest gear (typically food and kitchen kit) and valuables aside to carry in soft rucksack (that can be packed into your hatches later) and put the rest in your cockpit where it will be supported by the wheels. Don’t forget you need room for camping gear + paddling gear. Bring your cockpit cover if you’ve got one.
Schedule – Do try and give yourself as much time as you can to travel to/from Nanaimo. If you can get away early on Friday, the midday sailings are great. There will still be good daylight in September, so a late afternoon sailing will get you to Nanaimo in good time. Some folk leave on Sunday afternoon/evening, but most leave Monday morning.
Newcastle Island – We have reserved Group Site 5 this year as that was the last available. Yes, they are booking this far in advance. This is at the far end (furthest north) of the group area on the eastern shore of the island. There are pay showers, so do not forget your loonies and bath sheet. The site operators also provide firewood, usually at less than $10/bundle, but do not count on that this year with the campfire ban now in place.