The Sensational Salish Sea: Home to the Gulf & San Juan Islands It's probably a good thing that prevailing winds and currents along the West Coast of the US run north to south, rather than the opposite. Otherwise, half the sailors in California and Oregon would invade — if not overwhelm — the prime cruising grounds of British Colombia and Washington State, the so-called Salish Sea. Encompassing both the Canadian Gulf Islands and the American San Juans, we consider this vast maze of fjords, inlets, channels and bays to be one of the most spectacularly beautiful chartering venues on the planet. The Salish Sea takes its name from an indigenous population who thrived here long before the first European adventurers 'discovered' it in the 1700s. Although there are now pockets of development throughout the region, while sailing here the prevailing view in any direction is dominated by essentially unspoiled nature. Rich green forests line most of the waterways, and many species of wildlife call this area home. Among them are stunning black-and-white orcas, spotted mostly in major channels such as Haro Strait, and majestic bald eagles, typically seen perched in the treetops, surveying their realm. Why are we focusing on the Northwest
LATITUDE / ANDY
Winds in the Salish Sea aren't always strong and steady enough to ﬂy a spinnaker. Still, every day is a good day when sailing these waters.
now, in the middle of winter? Because due to the relatively short May-to-September sailing season there, right now is the ideal time to lock in a reservation for your favorite boat type. The short season inspires competing fleet managers in both Washington and BC to maintain their boats in top condition. But keep in mind that fleet sizes are relatively small compared to those in Caribbean, the Med or other major international venues. Yes, there are some catamarans in the fleets these days, but not many. (And also stinkpots, if you must.) Because both Seattle and Vancouver lie only two and a half hours from the Bay Area, the Salish Sea is one of the easiest prime chartering venues to reach — and most affordable in terms of airfare. If sailing in this Northwest wonderland sounds good to you, one of your first decisions will be where to start from. In addition to charter bases in Seattle and Vancouver, others are peppered throughout the region. Is it possible to sail in both US and Canadian waters during the same charter? Indeed it is, and we highly recommend doing so, especially if you've got more than a week to explore. The San Juan and Gulf Islands are all part of the same natural archipelago, but these
e'll stick to our January tradition this month, by taking a detailed look at chartering in the Well-Protected Waters of the Pacific Northwest, plus Charter Notes.
INSETS SCHOONER ZODIAC
days, each island in the chain seems to have its own distinct 'personality'. Clearing in and out is normally a five-minute process, with several points of entry to choose from in both countries. Farther north, on the BC mainland, lies spectacularly beautiful Desolation Sound, a primeval playground of steepsided fjords and dreamlike grottoes that has remained largely unchanged by humankind over the eons. It's a substantial trek to get there and back from most charter bases, though, so it's best saved for when you can schedule a two-week cruise. Compared to the blasting winds of San Francisco Bay, winds in the Salish Sea are generally mild during the summer months — typically around 7 to 12 knots on a sunny summer day. But even on days when you feel compelled to kick on the engine, traveling these waters is almost always a glorious experience. Surrounded by greenery, with postcardperfect vistas greeting you around every bend, you'll feel as if you're a million miles from the stress of the workaday world.
The January 2019 issue of the West's premier sailing and marine magazine.