Few areas offer cruisers the variety, protection, and beauty of the Pacific Northwest. Its 900 nautical miles of coastline, rich with inlets that reach deeply into the Canadian Pacific Coastal Mountain Range, stretch from Seattle through British Columbia along the Inside Passage to Alaska. Diversity makes this area exceptional, whether you visit Vancouver, British Columbia; the old-world charm of Victoria, BC; cosmopolitan Seattle or drop the hook in one of many remote anchorages nestled among the mountains and glaciers. You decide how rustic or luxurious your cruising will be.
Seattle is alive with energy and coastal atmosphere and no place reveals this more strongly than Pike Place Market, where seafood literally flies out the door. Elegant restaurants are everywhere, including Il Terrazzo Carmine if you’re looking for the best gnocchi west of Sicily. From September through February, the city glows blue and green and energy from the 12s (the local football fan designated number), urging visitors to contribute their support. Premier super-yacht refit and moorage facilities, such as Salmon Bay Marine Center and Port of Seattle, help to make Seattle a top-notch yearlong destination.
Winter in Victoria and Vancouver offer equal parts beauty and outstanding entertainment options. Victoria, the smaller of the two cities, is located on the southern tip of Vancouver Island across the Juan de Fuca Strait. Opening in June 2017, Victoria International Marina will be catering to the luxury lifestyle of the superyacht industry and is nestled near the picturesque inner harbour. The harbor is in the heart of the city and gives visitors a grand view of the famous ivy-encircled Empress Hotel situated next to the Parliament buildings. Victoria, a city based on tourism, comes equipped with exceptional restaurants, hotels, and entertainment. Service is available in Victoria for all marine traffic with haul-out capabilities up to 200 tons.
Across the Strait of Georgia lies Vancouver, Canada’s premier coastal city; a three-hour drive or a 131 nm trip north of Seattle. Luxurious accommodations, fine restaurants, and entertainment are easy to find throughout the city, as well as in Whistler, one of the top ski resorts in the world, located two hours north of Vancouver. Service is available in Vancouver for larger yachts with haul-out capabilities up to 330 tons.
As much as winters in the Pacific Northwest are full of all the entertainment and amenities one can wish for, the five months from May through September provide the best reasons to spend a few years exploring the area. Start your summer boating season from any of these great cities head north for all or part of the 900 nm passage up the coastline north to Juneau, Alaska’s capitol city. The trip provides enough area to last a lifetime of exploration. Steeped in the history of Native North Americans, French and English trappers, and American adventurers, the Inside Passage teems with wildlife, glacially-carved inlets surrounded by mountains, forests, and deep waters. The trip to Alaska can be done in a single summer, but why hurry—there is far too much to see.
The 1,800-nautical mile trip to Glacier Bay, Alaska, offers a variety of options for exploring and entertaining. Princess Louisa Inlet and Mount Victoria are definite highlights and should not be missed. Heading north from Vancouver, the northernmost city of the three, Thunder Bay at the mouth of Jervis Inlet is only 52 nm north. From there, an additional 47-mile cruise, surrounded by mile-high mountain peaks, takes you to the head of Jervis Inlet and Mount Victoria, which towers over the inlet at more than 6,500 feet. Anchorage is available at the head of the Jervis Inlet or via Princess Louisa Inlet, through Malibu Rapids at slack tide at the base of Chatterbox Falls. Princess Louisa Inlet, referred to as Suivoolot or “sunny and warm” by natives, is a great first stop to decompress from city life, explore the provincial park and enjoy the amazing landscape. Sixty nautical miles north of Jervis lies Desolation Sound and Bute Inlet, at the head of which flows the Himathco River and the Mt. Waddington Glacier with an elevation of more than 13,000 feet. From grizzly bear and killer whale watching to river rafting and sport fishing, there is no shortage of activities to partake in. You may explore the area on your own but using local pilots and guides enriches the experience.
Continuing up the coast through Discovery Passage you will pass through Seymour Narrows and what is left of Ripple Rock, named in 1860 by Capt. Richards because of the standing wave it created in the tidal current.
From Wikipedia: Ripple Rock is an underwater mountain that had two peaks (9 feet and 21 feet below the surface) in the Seymour Narrows of the Discovery Passage in British Columbia, Canada, a part of the marine trade route from Vancouver and coastal points north. The nearest town is Campbell River. Only 2.7 metres (9 feet) underwater at low tide, it was a marine hazard in what the explorer George Vancouver described as “one of the vilest stretches of water in the world.” The hazard was not only hitting the rock but also big, dangerous eddies caused by tidal currents round the rock. Ships using the strait preferred to wait until slack tide. Its top was removed by a planned explosion on 5 April 1958. This is a National Historic Event in Canada. The Ripple Rock explosion was seen throughout Canada, live on CBC Television. It was one of the first live coast-to-coast television broadcasts of an event in Canada.
The removal of the top of this mountain in April of 1958 is still the largest non-nuclear explosion to-date. Port McNeill, otherwise known as “The Gateway to the Broughton Archipelago,” lies 80 nm north of Seymour Narrows. North Island Marina offers moorage for yachts up to 285 feet and is known as the best northern moorage facility south of Alaska for provisioning and crew exchange. Direct flights both to Seattle and Vancouver are available from the marina. The marina offers free courtesy shuttles to and from Port Hardy Airport to assist with crew exchange. The quaint community has its own version of entertainment and hospitality, acting as a central hub for all of North Vancouver Island.
Luxury can be found a short helicopter flight away at Nimmo Bay Wilderness Resort. It is one of the world’s premiere wilderness resorts, A shuttle picks you up from the marina to fly you to the lodge. Nimmo Bay offers ultimate coastal cuisine and heli-adventure experience, accessing over 50,000 square miles of the Great Bear Rainforest. As the Pacific Ocean’s currents flow around the tip of Vancouver Island and through Queen Charlotte Strait, they flow into the Broughton Archipelago, bringing salmon and an abundance of aquatic wildlife. Queen Charlotte Strait bottlenecks near Port McNeill into Johnstone Strait and Robson Bite, bringing with it a confluence of whales—orca, humpback, grey, and fin. This salmon run also brings out sea lions, porpoise, harbor seals, and many pacific white-side dolphins. In certain areas of the inlets, you can see grizzlies, black bears, and elk. Private tours and guides can be arranged, which will enhance your viewing experience and help you find the best spots to catch a salmon or two.
Leaving Port McNeill and crossing Queen Charlotte Strait can easily be done by leaving first thing in the morning. With predominantly afternoon northwesterly winds during the summer, the 75 nm to Safety Cove is simple enough. Safety Cove, used by Capt. George Vancouver for refuge before heading south over the Strait in 1792, is on the southeast tip of Calvert Island. Calvert Island was first discovered in 1788 by Captain Charles Duncan while fur trading with Heiltsuk and Wuikinuxv First Nations tribes. Calvert Island is home to large runs of salmon and cod, as well as over 100 different species of bird—eagles, kingfishers, loons, cormorants, and sandpipers among them. The island is as historic as it is beautiful. Findings of three pairs of footprints—two adults and a child—were recently carbon dated at over 13,000 years old. Pruth Bay, located 15 nm north of Safety Cove, is the best anchorage on the island. Take your tendor ashore to spend an afternoon hiking the pristine sandy beaches on the western side.
Fifty miles north of Pruth Bay lies Shearwater on Denny Island. The Shearwater Marina offers moorage for yachts up to 250 feet and vast local knowledge and guides to help you enjoy the local wildlife. These adventurous wildlife tours include the Kermode (Spirit) Bear, salmon fishing, as well as enjoying one of three local hot springs.
From Shearwater, you will travel north inn the Princess Royal Channel 107 miles to Hartley Bay before continuing up Grenville Channel through Prince Rupert, on your way to Wrangell, Alaska. Wrangell, 365 miles north of Shearwate, is in the middle of the Tongast National Forest, which houses one of the highest densities of brown and black bear in the world. Alaska’s Rainforest Islands are also home to over 400 species of terrestrial and marine wildlife.
Juneau, north of Laconte Bay, is a rather unusual capitol city: There are no roads connecting it to any other part of Alaska or North America, making it only accessible by yacht, ferry, or via direct flights. From Juneau, it is 118 miles to Glacier Bay, first proclaimed a U.S. National Monument in 1925. Glacier Bay encompasses a large area consisting of a National Park and Preserve that covers over 3.2 million acres. The body of water itself covers over 1,300 square miles of pristine Alaska, rich in both history and beauty, encompassing the U.S. gold rush history during the 1890s after Alaska was purchased from Russia in 1867.
The remote beauty of The Pacific Northwest, complemented by unique luxury, hospitality, and yacht support, makes this area an exciting destination for yachts of all types. Sporting the perfect combination of ocean, mountains, streams, and forests, together with abundant wildlife and laid-back people, the Pacific Northwest is waiting with open arms to help check another item off your bucket list.