Gulf Islands Trip Planning

  • This topic has 7 replies, 3 voices, and was last updated 8 years ago by Peter Tutak.
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  • #10476
    Peter Tutak


    I’m an intermediate-class paddler planning a two-night kayak camping trip for two people into the southern Gulf Islands this August. I’m hoping I can ask the membership for some advice regarding my planning.

    DAY ONE: We will be heading out from Bennett Bay SE proceeding along either the windward side of Samuel Island (or the lee of Belle Chain Islets), and Saturna.  Entry through Boat Pass to camp overnight at Winter Cove.

    DAY TWO: Not yet set. I’m thinking about camping at another location on Saturna, or proceeding NW to St Johns Point, and along the W side of Mayne, hoping to camp there, or crossing Navy Channel near Conconi Reef to camp somewhere along the NE or NW shores of N. Pender.

    We’re sandwiching this between two nights at a Mayne Isl. B&B (reservations in hand).

    My questions are:

    1. Can anyone recommend or identify a shoreline campground either the W/SW side of Saturna, W/SW side of Mayne, or NW/N/NE side of N.Pender for my second night ? I’m not having much luck finding one via map research.

    2. My tandem is a VCS Aleut II, so ample room. Can anyone point me to the mandatory safety equipment requirements for paddling in Canadian waters ?

    3. Calls to BC Ferries regarding reservations to Miners Bay in August have been met with ‘not yet’. But they can’t tell me when they *will* take reservations. Does anyone know approximately when these start to become available ?

    Many thanks in advance for any and all information offered.


    Seattle, WA


Viewing 7 replies - 1 through 7 (of 7 total)
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  • #10496
    Peter Tutak


    Thanks for the response on this, I appreciate it. Right now it looks like we’ll be on Cabbage on Tuesday night, and Narvaez Bay on Wednesday. I hope that’s sufficient space from the revelers !

    Your comment noted about East Point. Question – I’m assuming it’s equally turbulent on flood and ebb ? If I can, I’ll take East Point at slack, if possible, since the paddle to Narvaez isn’t long at all.

    May I ask what model VHF do you use ? Reason I ask is that I rely on mobile coverage for weather, tide info, and smart-app GPS, but in a sparse area, I need to really consider a radio.

    Last question – the winery – where is it ? Lyall Harbor ? I’m planning a stop at Winter Cove for lunch, but can always change that for a worthwhile reason.

    Many, many thanks. I appreciate the tips and recommendations based on your experience in this section of the Salish.



    Karin Hartner

    Hi Peter

    Not sure about the mobile service–I’ve also found it to be sketchy in some places. Also I tend to rely more on VHF radio for emergencies as I keep the radio in a PFD pocket.

    Your route is very pretty, especially Cabbage Island but warning–it can become party central for local kids so hopefully you are doing this midweek. Be mindful of the currents going around East Point. There is a good reason for one of the features there being called Boiling Reef.

    Narvaez is a very sheltered campsite–not much view but you’ll see it all coming and going. The south side of Saturna has spectacular cliffs and there is a winery on Saturna which is a good place to stop for lunch on your way back to Bennett Bay, if it is open. Good to be going with the tide on your way back, but not as testy as East Point.




    Peter Tutak


    Karin and Nick-

    Thank you both for your informative replies. Based on what you’ve provided me, I’ve decided on a short-distance two-night route from Bennett Bay to Cabbage Island (1st night) and from there to Narvaez Bay (2nd night). From Narvaez, back to Bennett along the south side of Saturna, and through Georgeson Passage. The distances are relatively short, apart from the third day, which I want to time based on flow and current charts.

    I wanted to ask – is mobile coverage in the Gulf Islands as sparse and undependable as it is the in the San Juans ? In the SJs, coverage is mainly possible in towns like Eastsound and Friday Harbor. Out on the water, or off on the islands it’s nil. I was hoping that with the Gulf Islands’ somewhat more hilly topology, the coverage might be a little better.

    Thanks !



    Peter Tutak

    Nick and Karin-

    Thanks very much for your considerate and informative replies. I’ll check out the links you’ve both provided. A lot of the information I have is dated (i.e. the Snowden books), although I do have updated tide and current charts for the area, so understanding what’s available for kayak camping is indeed welcome.

    Karin, I do paddle the San Juans, and have been out to Cypress, Strawberry, Doe, Sucia, Patos, Stuart, Henry, and Jones Islands. Channel crossings are fun, but I want to be close in on this trip, so ‘less challenging’ is good, at least this time. We’re staying at Mayne Island Resort, which is pretty close to Bennett Bay, and a great place to both, start and recover from. We’re also going to try to stay one night at the Fairmont in Vancouver on the way back, but I have to call them and see if their valet parking can ensure the safety of a Volvo wagon with a 22′ boat strapped atop. 😉

    Nick, I made a mistake – it’s Village Bay I’d be ferrying to from Tswawassen, not Miner’s Bay (I haven’t been up there in a while ;).

    And yes, I joined SKABC because I’m interested in doing more paddling in your waters, and I’m also interested in working on some volunteer cleanup/work party activities up there, much the same as I do down here as a member of the Washington Water Trails Association. I have no problem making the trip up there to help. So, hopefully, we’ll have a change to meet before long.

    I may have a few more questions eventually, but for now I’ll dig into the information you’ve provided. Thanks again !




    Karin Hartner

    Hi Peter

    I see Nick has already replied with similar information. Here’s a bit more…..

    Thanks for choosing to come to our Gulf Islands for a paddling holiday.

    It might be a good idea if you go on the BC Marine Trails Network web site to plan your trip….you will find all the kayak accessible campsites in the area you want to paddle and it is well marked on a map. Camping is not permitted at Winter Cove. It is a day area only. There is also no public camping on Mayne Island. But if you search Mayne Island camping you will find the only camping on that Island at Seal Cottage on Active pass. Since you have a B&B reservation, sounds like it might be better if you camp on one of the Penders which have two kayak accessible sites. The distances aren’t huge and you should be able to get back to Bennet Bay easily on your schedule especially as you are in a double.

    I would strongly encourage you to buy proper marine chart (Canadian Hydrographic Services-Nautical Charts-also part of Dept of Fisheries and Oceans) for the area as it will inform you of currents and you can also go to the Government of Canada Department of Fisheries and Oceans to obtain detailed tide information.

    As for safety equipment–should be the same as for American waters. Do you paddle in the San Juans? I’d say you are choosing a less challenging area in coming up here although it can get exciting going through Active Pass or around East Point on Saturna if you aren’t watching your tides and currents.

    The ferry schedule changes for the summer–it likely isn’t set yet. Just keep checking the online reservation system after May 1st. They should have it set by then.

    That should get you going. Feel free to contact me at for further help.



    Nick Heath

    I withdraw my last comment, Peter. sorry.   I see you just joined SKABC!

    Thank you – excellent choice!

    Nick Heath

    Hi Peter. I recommend that you look at the site map shown at  There you will find some answers.

    3. BC ferries has no service to Miner’s Bay on Mayne I.  Last year I launched my kayak from the beach at Sturdies Bay on Galiano I to reach Mayne Eco Camping, where I presume you are staying.  Alternatively you would need to take a car by ferry to Village Bay and drive to that campsite.

    1. There is no camping permitted by Parks Canada at Winter Cove (although there is plenty of room). The best alternative is to paddle to Cabbage I.  Be aware of v strong currents and possible boat traffic in Boat Passage.

    Narvaez Bay on Saturna or Beaumont on S Pender would be your second night options.  There is plenty of current – be aware of it – but mostly less so than in the San Juans. These sites will likely be full every night in August and take no reservations.

    2. Mandatory safety equipment depends on length (re flares). You can download the guide here at the Office of Boating Safety site

    They have (or had) a separate brocuhure about kayaking safety, too.

    Enjoy and maybe even consider joining our club!



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