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Wind direction will determine the best route. The following suggestions will guarantee you a safe and comfortable ride back.
- Northerlies: If the wind is from the north, you have the choice of coming out Baker Passage or down Shearwater Passage and then across the Straits.
- Southeasterlies: If the wind is from the south, DO NOT come out Baker Passage and try to beat into it. You won’t like it or have fun. The seas in the Straits rarely get over 8 feet, but as the wind increases, they get closer together and steeper. Listen for Sentry Shoals on the VHF weather channel (refer to 3rd last page of notes) to know what conditions are out in the Straits.
Sailboats – If sailing, DO NOT be lured into heading straight for Cape Lazo from the Mystery Reef Buoy Q25. Once out of the lee of Harwood and then Texada Islands, the wind will veer more southeasterly and you will find yourself beating into a steep and uncomfortable sea.
The trick is to stay in the lee of these Islands and keep going south past Harwood and Vivian Islands, past Rebecca Rock light and right down as far as Marshall Point/Crescent Bay on Texada Island. Then head out across the Straits for a fun and fast beam reach home.
A little note on slab reefing here. It is much more easily done in port before you set out, or at least while in the lee of Texada Island if high winds are expected.
Power Boats – If you are travelling by displacement or semi-displacement powerboat into a southerly, you will in fact have a more comfortable ride by heading out into the Straits from Mystery Reef Buoy Q25. This will put the seas just off your port bow. Be sure to follow the next instructions regarding Cape Lazo.
In the rare event of more severe conditions, you MAY want to head more into the wind and seas in a southerly direction toward Hornby Island to reduce rolling. Then turn back up towards Cape Lazo where the seas will be on your stern or quarter. You would also need to allow considerably more time for the crossing. Again, these kinds of conditions are extremely rare in the summer months.
RETURNING TO COMOX FROM AREAS WEST OF DESOLATION SOUND
Note – If you are in the area of Sutil Channel between Cortes Island (Gorge Harbour) and Quadra Island (Heriot Bay) or in the Campbell River area, please read these notes very carefully.
Wind direction will once again determine the best route back, but SEVERE CAUTION must be advised in the event of southerly winds. If you are in the area of Sutil Channel between Cortes Island (Gorge Harbour) and Quadra Island (Heriot Bay) or in the Campbell River area, PLEASE READ CAREFULLY. The following suggestions will guarantee you a safe and comfortable ride back.
- Northerlies: No problems for either sail or powerboats.
- Southeasterlies: CAUTION: Do not second guess a southeast wind. You must keep a close ear to your weather channel for a few days prior to being in any of the above-mentioned areas. If a southeast wind is in the forecast, do not plan to return from these areas.
If possible, you MUST get back over into the protected waters of the Sound via Baker Passage before the southeasterly begins. Most often, unless it has already started blowing, you will have a short window of time in the early morning to do this. Leave at first light.
If you find yourself in the unfavourable situation of being in Campbell River and a southeasterly is already in progress, do not attempt to leave the harbour. A flood current (south) runs directly into the teeth of a southeasterly at Cape Mudge and must be avoided, no exceptions! This is a very dangerous area in these conditions.
If you are in the vicinity of Heriot Bay on Quadra Island or Gorge Harbour on Cortes Island, both very nice places to visit by the way, you do not have the problem of current against wind. However, it can still be rough heading down Sutil Channel, or just getting out of Gorge Harbour itself, if the winds are 25 to 30 knots plus.
Again, use extreme caution in your planning; leave very early to get around Point Sutil on the south tip of Cortes Island as early as possible. Take care rounding the buoy Q20 marking the shoals off this point. This buoy can be difficult to find as it is a long way from shore. This is the entrance to Baker Passage and you will be in protected waters soon after.
Once through Baker Passage, follow the directions described in RETURNING TO COMOX above.
FINDING YOUR WAY PAST CAPE LAZO AND ACROSS THE COMOX BAR
The East Cardinal Buoy PJ, marking the eastern extremities of Cape Lazo Shoals, is a long way from shore and can be very difficult to spot. Here are a few tips that can make this difficult buoy and the route on to Buoy P54 easier to find:
- Situation #1 – When approaching from the northern part of Texada Island, i.e. sailing back in a southerly direction, you will see the bluffs of Cape Lazo quite clearly from the Eastern side of the Strait. Sandy Island, 3 1/2 miles SE of Cape Lazo and just north of Denman Island, will also be quite visible.
AIM FOR A POINT HALFWAY BETWEEN CAPE LAZO AND SANDY ISLAND. Further SW along the shore from Cape Lazo are the Willemar Bluffs. They will become visible about 2/3 of the way across the Straits. When you can see them, head for a midway point between them and Sandy Island. This will bring you right past the East Cardinal Buoy PJ where you will easily pick out the Comox Bar Bell Buoy P54.
- Situation #2 – If you are approaching from north of Cape Lazo, stay well off to pick up the East Cardinal Buoy PB. You will not see the East Cardinal Buoy PJ from PB. An easy way to find it is to head for the eastern side of Hornby Island. Hornby is easily identified by its wedge shape. This will bring you right up to PJ. From PJ you will not see the Bell Buoy P54. Head for a midpoint between Willemar Bluffs and Sandy Island and you will come right to the Comox Bar Bell Buoy P54.
- Situation #3 – If you are heading for Cape Lazo from Shearwater Passage, do not steer directly for it. It is better to head for the northern end of Denman Island. As soon as you can identify Sandy Island, head straight for it. This will make life much easier when trying to find that elusive East Cardinal buoy PJ. This course will bring you almost right to it. From PJ head for the midpoint between Willemar Bluffs and Sandy Island and you will come to the Comox Bar Bell Buoy P54.
CROSSING THE COMOX BAR
From buoy P54 on the East side of the Comox Bar the next two buoys marking the channel, the red spar buoy P52 and the red cone buoy P50, are clearly visible. Leaving these to starboard you have good depths at any tide to cross the bar. This bar is safe to cross in all weather. There are no sea, wind or tidal conditions that make this bar impassable. It is well protected in a northerly and surprisingly well protected in a southerly. A large running sea out in the Straits will be considerably calmer by the time you get to the bar.
FINAL NIGHT'S ANCHORAGE
A word about your last night’s anchorage. As you must be off and clear of your yacht by 9:00am on the last morning of your charter, it is not possible to get across the Straits from anywhere close enough to be on time. There is a beautiful little anchorage at the northern end of Denman Island called Henry Bay. Arriving here the evening before you are due in makes for a much more relaxed and easy morning coming in. It is only 5 miles from here to our docks.
Warning: DO NOT anchor off Sandy Island overnight. The shallow area south of its western end is NOT AS CHARTED. There is no way of anchoring through any tidal range and not ending up on the bottom. Any boats you see anchored there will be gone before dark, or are visitors that don’t know and will probably be out cleaning their bottoms in the morning trying to look like they intended to careen their boat on purpose.
If you do wish to come back to DSYC docks for your last night, a slip will be available to you at no charge.
ENTERING COMOX BAY MARINA
Once around the west end of Goose Spit, you will clearly see the marina breakwater to the NNE of you. This breakwater is in two sections. Phone DSYC and give us an ETA of your arrival at the Fuel Dock. You must FUEL UP and have your holding tanks empty. Please PROCEED TO THE FUEL DOCK TO REFUEL. It is accessed via the break in the middle of the rock breakwater and their phone number is (250) 339-4664.
When refueled, wait for a DSYC staff person to pilot your vessel back to our docks. DO NOT UNLOAD YOUR BOAT AT THE FUEL DOCK.
Once you are secured to a slip at DSYC charter base, it’s your responsibility to make sure you are tied to the dock with 4 lines, have your fenders at the appropriate level to prevent the hull from getting dock chafe and finally make sure you are plugged into shore power.
Once plugged in, confirm that you have 110VAC at your electrical panel and the battery charger is turned on. DO NOT TIE LOOPS INTO THE ENDS OF THE LINES – THEY CAN COME OFF AND CANNOT BE ADJUSTED; secure the lines to the cleats using a figure of eight with a cinch.