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Important Things to Think About...

Briefing | PFDs | Logs | Traffic | Crab Traps | Hypothermia | Draft | Tides & Currents | Charts | Border |

Be sure to brief your crew on the location and basic use of all safety gear, the proper use of the marine head and the batteries, basic sail handling, crew overboard response, and emergency radio procedures before leaving.  What if something happened to you?  Have a plan.

It is easy to overestimate the abilities and knowledge of friends on board, especially those who come with considerable sailing experience on smaller boats and on fresh water.  Sailing a large, heavy yacht in tidal waters is very different in many ways.  Assume nothing.

Here is a suggested briefing list from

Insist on PFDs, and wear one when not in an enclosed area -- and definitely when going forward or docking.  Children should wear PFDs everywhere in the marina and near water.  Modern PFDs are comfortable and can save a life.  Nobody plans on going overboard, but it often happens when least expected and to people who think it could never happen to them.

Watch out for logs.  At some times and in some areas, boaters in this region may encounter floating objects ranging from mere branches up to large logs that have escaped from log booms pulled by tugs.  These logs may be floating low in the water and be difficult to see from a distance, so keeping a good watch ahead, even in open water, is essential. 

Watch out for traffic.  This is a busy area. Give a very wide berth to all shipping, tugs, and ferries as well as military vessels and avoid marked areas unless you know they are inactive (Listen on the weather VHF channels).  Boats in main channels can come from all directions at speeds from slow to very fast.  Keep a constant watch ahead and scan around often.  A momentary distraction could result in a close encounter.  Use the radar if fog closes in.

Also watch for crab traps that may be encountered anywhere the water is shallower than 200 feet (65 metres).  The lines attached to these small floats can wrap and incapacitate a propeller until someone dives to remedy the problem and engine propulsion is possible again.

The water here is cold.  Generally, except in shallow areas in summer, the water is too cold to swim in for long without a wet suit.  Diving to clear a fouled prop must be undertaken with caution, and a crew overboard event can be very serious, especially if PFDs are not worn and/or the victim is not retrieved quickly.  After a few minutes in the water some victims may not be able to assist much in their own rescue.


Water Temperature







50° - 60°

10° -16°

60 - 120


40° - 50°

4° - 10°

30 - 60

1 - 3

32° - 40°

0° - 4°

15 - 30

1/2 - 1-1/2

From http://www.shipwrite.bc.ca/Chilling_truth.htm

When going overboard to clear a line off the prop, or for whatever reason, if the boat is not tied to a dock, always leave someone capable on board and also tie a light, strong rope around your waist and to the boat to ensure you can get back.  A boat can drift away unexpectedly, and move faster than anyone can swim, even in fairly calm conditions.

This boat draws almost seven feet.  When entering shallower waters, especially at a high tide, plan ahead.  While it may be possible to get into a particular location, it may not be possible to get back out, especially if delayed or if bottomed.  In worst case, a retreating tide could leave the boat stranded and lying on its side until a high tide returns, cause damage from rocks and waves, or swamp the boat.

The depth sounder indicates the depth below the keel, but is not exact, and charts can be off a bit, especially in sand bar or silt areas and some shallow delta areas where the bottom shifts constantly.

Briefing | PFDs | Logs | Traffic | Crab Traps | Hypothermia | Draft | Tides & Currents | Charts | Border |

We are in a region of strong tidal currents and significant tidal range.  Some places, like the approach to the North Saanich Marina fuel dock get very shallow at low tide.  Strong currents may occur at predictable times in nearby waters.  The reference books are above the nav station.

Always be aware of the predicted times and ranges of nearby tides and currents for each day, including maximums and minimums heights and flows for each tide before getting underway.  It is wise to write them down.  Currents may not be as predicted in places like Bedwell Harbour, so be aware.

Predictions are just predictions and charts are just charts.  What you see around you is real.  Use all your resources for navigation and never rely on just one source of information.  Take visual fixes and compare to the charts.

Remember that US charts use a different reference level from Canadian Charts and take no chances.  Local charts and the plotter may not use the same units of measure.  Assuming numbers on charts indicate depths or clearances in metres or fathoms when they actually indicate measurements in feet can lead to grounding, or worse.

There are two high and two low tides a day, approximately 6 hours and 12.5 minutes apart. In our cruising area, the range in tidal heights vary from almost no tide at some times of year to as much as twenty-one feet , and currents can reach velocities of twenty knots in places. The largest known tidal range at Sidney is 3.62m 11.9 feet. (ref.)

During the first hour after low tide, the water level rises by 1/12th of the total tidal range. In the second hour, it rises by an additional 2/12ths of the difference between the high and low for that flood. During the third and fourth hour, it rises by 3/12ths each hour. Then the increase begins to slow down. In the fifth hour, the water only rises by 2/12ths, and in the sixth hour it rises by 1/12th.

The pattern is 1,2,3,3,2,1.

        = Rate of change                            = maximum and minimum (of this range)

Courtesy sailmagazine.com

Currents can run at up to a knot or more in each direction in the open channels near Sidney.  Currents in some narrows in the Gulf Islands can run at up to 7 knots at flood and at ebb.  These tides can carry a boat along and speed the voyage or slow progress down, depending on the time of departure and the tides of the day.  Strong currents can swirl and create rips and whirlpools that can spin a boat and threaten safety -- or carry a boat suddenly a long ways sideways into hazards or buoys.  Logs and debris may accumulate in eddies.  Your actual course over ground may be far different from the boat's heading.  Be alert.  Don't cut corners.  Stay far from lee shores and from hazards. One half mile is an ideal distance where possible.

Always think of what you would do if the chart plotter or the GPS quit suddenly.  It can happen, even with the best of equipment.  I've seen it more than once on different boats and in different places.  If you are in a narrows, or near shoals, this could be a harrowing or deadly experience -- unless you have memorized or written down your planned course, waypoints and location of hazards or have a backup plan.   A handheld GPS for backup is a good idea and a local chart open on the chart table is prudent.  Personally, I keep an inexpensive Garmin eTrex Legend with BlueCharts at hand at all times and turned on, and the local chart open on the table below.

Cassiopeia is equipped with a full set of paper charts, local Sailing Directions, and cruising guides with suggested safe routes.  Consulting these resources in advance and having them handy can save the day, as can having a personal GPS with local charts on hand, and a scribbler with notes of the planned route.

Cassiopeia is also equipped with Sailing Directions, cruising guides and marina guides with GPS co-ordinates and phone numbers.  These books are indispensible for planning excursions, learning local attractions and hazards, and making reservations.

Sidney is 5.5 nautical miles from the US border, so it is not unusual to either cross or approach the border, either on purpose or while tacking.  The border is not particularly obvious on the chart plotter as it is just another line, like the ferry routes.

When near the border, there is the possibility you could be hailed or stopped for a friendly chat by a routine Canadian, US patrol, or a joint Canadian/US patrol.  These patrols do have a the right to search vessels, and do so on occasion, so all persons on board should therefore carry appropriate ID, observe boating regulations, be respectful if hailed, and the captain should ensure that no one brings aboard anything that might result in problems with the authorities.

If you cross the border, you may have to report (More)

Documents:  If needed, a copy of Cassiopeia's Registration document and Radio License are in the nav table.

What to do If you cross the border...

Other Notes

  • Always look at the other end of that line you’re reefing on. If it does not move easily and it should, there is a reason.

  • If it’s not moving easily, it could be jammed.

  • If it is jammed, forcing it probably won’t free it although it may break it.

  • Breaking something may affect your plans and cost you money

  • Discretion is the better part of valour.

  • Keep a vigilant eye out for chafe, which can destroy running rigging, stern lines and mooring lines very quickly and possibly compromise your safety

  • Always read instruments with a grain of salt. If your GPS is telling you you’re going 2.2 knots and you’re tied to the dock, you know what to believe.

  • A tearing sound usually indicates something tearing. Before you laugh we have seen accomplished racers tear the luff right out of a nice Mylar genoa in complete disregard for the ripping noise that made the rest of the crew wince.

  • In fact, were it not for that noise, they might have heard the crew yelling at them to stop.

  • Finally, no piece of equipment likes to be pushed to its limit. Please be gentle and follow your common sense and the guidelines in this manual.

  • Go easy and have fun.

  • Why go fast when you can go slow?

Briefing | PFDs | Logs | Traffic | Crab Traps | Hypothermia | Draft | Tides & Currents | Charts | Border |

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While the information provided here is believed to be correct at time of publication, errors are possible
and things may change, so readers should verify details before making important decisions.

- Home | Greeting | Features | Specs | Video | Marina | Cruising | Adventures -
- Forward Cabin | Saloon | Aft Cabins | Sails | Cockpit | Enclosure | On deck -
 - Plotter and Radar | Marine Head | Refue
lling | Seacocks| Engine | Batteries | Dinghy | Anchoring -
- Inventory | Manuals | US/Canada Border | Winter | Thoughts | Troubleshooting -