The opportunity to explore dozens of different sheltered coves and bays makes the islands a boater's paradise. A few boating tips will not only help you to maximise the enjoyment of your trip and increase your safety, but also ensure that the ecological integrity of the national park is protected.
Strong winds can funnel through Loudoun, Imperial Eagle and other channels. Winds tend to rise in the late morning and drop in the evening. Travel through these passages by kayak, canoe and small craft is not recommended. During fair weather, winds blow predictably from the west and northwest. Winds are from the southeast just before and during adverse weather. However, there are always exceptions to wind and weather patterns. Wind-generated waves, especially those influenced by currents, can make for extremely rough or hazardous paddling and small craft handling. Boaters should plan on moderate to severe chop in Coaster Channel during the middle of the day, particularly when it is hot and sunny.
Heavy wind, rain, fog, and strong tidal currents here can be extremely dangerous. Trip preparation in and around the islands is very important. Knowledge of navigation, boat handling, wilderness survival, weather patterns and signs, is essential for travel and camping in the area.
It is strongly recommended that all boaters carry a marine VHF Radio and Canadian Hydrographic Service Chart # 3670. This chart is essential, as it provides detailed information necessary for all boaters including campsites, points of interest, etc. Those departing from Ucluelet or Bamfield also require Chart # 3671, the whole of Barkley Sound. All boaters should be able to plot a course by chart and compass and pilot their vessel to allow safe travel in fog.
File a trip plan with a responsible person. Boaters need to be familiar with emergency and rescue procedures that relate to the type of boating you are conducting before your trip starts. In ocean swells, all boaters should avoid surge channels, sea caves and submerged rocks ("rocks awash").
Fog and high winds can rapidly make a pleasant boating experience hazardous. All boaters need to obtain an up-to-date marine weather forecast before setting out. Coastal weather can deteriorate very quickly, and fog is common during warm summer months. Tides vary daily, and the potential for being stranded on mud flats, or being caught in dangerous tidal currents dictates that all boaters carry and be competent in using up-to-date tide and current tables, a compass, and appropriate marine charts. Lifejackets must be worn. Motorized vessels must keep a close watch and slow down when in the proximity of smaller craft, kayaks, canoes, and sailboats.
- Cellular phones work on many of the beaches (Check with your carrier to see if they have coverage in this area)
- marine VHF radio: VHF channel 16 (156.8 Mhz) is monitored 24 hours per day by the Broken Group Islands Warden and Tofino Coast Guard Radio .
- The Rescue Co-ordination Centre will respond to diver distress and boating accidents.
Safety and low impact
- It is expected that all vessels will carry safety equipment in accordance with Transport Canada's Small Vessel Regulations .
- Skippers should also possess the skill, knowledge and experience to operate vessels according to Collision Regulations.
Safety when travelling
- Be alert! 5,000 kayakers paddle here each summer. Many are novices with children on board.
- Heavy fog is frequent in summer and many boats are running on GPS without the benefit of radar. Kayaks abound.
- Deadheads and logs are common.
- Rocks awash in the middle of many channels.
- Reduce speed in narrow passages, when near paddlers, and where vessels are anchored.
Safety on shore
- Hike safely, help is far away. Islands are deceptively hard to circumnavigate. Cliffs, surge channels and impassable undergrowth are present on many islands. Carry a flashlight, clothing, matches, knife etc on hikes.
- Paralytic Shellfish Poisoning (PSP) may occur at any time. Eating shellfish is not advised, and may result in serious illness.
- All surface water is subject to coliform contamination from wildlife.
- Falling trees and branches are a hazard - be alert.
Low impact at anchor
- Keep bilge clean, don't pump oily water overboard.
- Use bilge sorbants in place of detergents.
- Don't pump sewage, human waste contains disease.
- Don't pump grey water.
- Use environmentally safe cleaners like baking soda, vinegar, olive oil, and hydrogen peroxide.
- Bring garbage home.
- Carefully manage fuel, even small spills are toxic to marine life.
Low impact while running
- Respect closures for special preservation areas. Stay at least 100 metres from islets and marine wildlife. Observe marine wildlife viewing guidelines.
- Keep 200 metres away from all killer whale populations in B.C.
- Keep 400 metres away when you see any killer whales.
- No fishing or boating around certain sections of Swiftsure Bank, off the east coast of Saturna Island and south-west of North Pender Island.
Rules that apply year-round:
Rules from June 1 until October 31 in critical habitat:
If you have any questions about the Interim Order, please contact Transport Canada.
- Consider the impacts of your wake when planing.
- Reduce speed if approaching wildlife.
- Avoid use of generators, compressors or loud music.
- Small picnic fires are only permitted below the high tide line.
- Do not visit Indian Reservations without a letter of permission from the the appropriate First Nation .
- Boaters are asked to refrain from tying up to the reserve wharf on the southeast side of Nettle Island.