Canada - Profile
- Spanning the north of the American continent, Canada has cruising grounds on both the western Pacific coast and the eastern Atlantic coast. The majority of Canadians, however, sail inland on the Great Lakes, which can be reached either by sailing up the St Lawrence river from the Atlantic or through the Erie Canal. Some like to make the round trip by sailing to Nova Scotia, up the St Lawrence to the Lakes and then back to New York and the US east coast through the Canal.
- For the decreasing number of yachts who take the northern route across the Atlantic, the island of Newfoundland, closest point to Europe, is their landfall or springboard. Cruising this northern island is strictly for summer months and even then it can be cold, wet and windy at times. The rewards are a vast choice of anchorages in small bays, harbours and islands and the few cruising boats sailing this far north can find complete isolation in beautiful surroundings.
- More often visited by foreign yachts is Nova Scotia, the first stop down-east from Maine. Halifax, the main harbour, is a large yachting centre and, like St Johns in Newfoundland, a transatlantic springboard and landfall.
- On the Pacific coast British Columbia boasts one of the most beautiful and dramatic cruising grounds in the world with its snowcapped mountains, waterfalls cascading down rugged cliffs, a myriad of islands and quiet, still fjords. The 282 mile (454 km) long Vancouver Island protects most of the mainland from the Pacific Ocean and so creates an inland sea. The most popular cruising area is the Gulf Islands in the south. Another good cruising area is at the north of the Strait of Georgia, where a cluster of islands border the magnificent Desolation Sound. North of this begins the inside passage to Alaska.
- A large tidal range and strong currents make for attentive navigation along this coast, as do the hazards of floating logs and kelp. All of the area is well charted and tide rips are marked. Fog can be a hazard and radar a great boon, especially as there is a lot of other traffic - logging tugs, fishing boats, fast ferries to and from the islands and, especially near Vancouver, commercial shipping. The rewards of nature, both in scenery and wildlife, including superb fishing, more than make up for the attentive navigation needed.
- There are good facilities in all major yachting centres. Marine equipment and fuel is more expensive than in the USA, whereas Canadian charts are cheaper than US charts. Provisioning is very good in larger ports, but only adequate in some of the smaller places.
- On the west coast, the best stocks of chandlery and general boat repair facilities are in Vancouver as well as Richmond, one of its suburbs. There are good docking facilities at the Royal Vancouver Yacht Club as well as the nearby marina and Vancouver Rowing Club, all of which welcome visitors and are close to the centre.
- Particularly north of Vancouver, grocery stores and fuelling stations are far apart. Nanaimo, on Vancouver Island, is a good provisioning place used by the local fishing fleet, so docking space is sometimes limited. There are several marinas in Pender Harbour, with stores, post office and fuel station. Similar services are available at Sullivan Bay on North Broughton Island. Good facilities are available in Prince Rupert, although the place gets crowded when the fishing fleet is in.
- On the Atlantic coast, Halifax, in Nova Scotia, has a wide range of repair facilities and services. There are three large yacht clubs in town and visitors can moor at the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic in the main harbour.
- Best repair facilities are at Lunenburg, an important fishing port, which has a very interesting fishing museum.
- Although there are barely any yachting facilities in St John's busy commercial harbour, these are concentrated in Long Pond, a narrow inlet on the west side of the Avalon peninsula. This is also the home of the Royal Newfoundland Yacht Club, which is particularly welcoming to foreign visitors. Fuel and water are available on the dock.
- The only marina-type facility is at Lewisport, with floating pontoons and electricity. In all other places one has to either anchor or use the governor wharves.
- Until 2009, the Arctic pack ice made the Northwest Passage unnavigable throughout most of the year. However, climate change has reduced the pack ice, and this Arctic shrinkage has made the waterways more navigable.
The climate varies considerably around the country. Atlantic Canada is very cold November to April (minus 10° to 4°C/15° to 50°F), while May to October is mild on the coasts. There are few gales in summer, but the area is affected by fog. In spring and summer up to July, icebergs can be carried into the Newfoundland area.
In Western Canada November to April is temperate on the coast, while May to October is warm and rainy. Northern Canada has subarctic conditions during the winter. The southern area, nicknamed the
banana belt, is in the rain shadow of Vancouver Island, has milder winters and so cruising is possible all year round, while the northern sector tends to be summer cruising only. Land breezes often dictate the sailing conditions and calms are commonplace. In the summer gales are rare and west or north-westerly winds blow most afternoons.
See Official Canadian marine weather service for the forecast for the various regions.
For links to free global weather information, forecast services and extreme weather information see the Noonsite Weather Page
Nunavut (North West Territories): Frobisher Bay (Iqaluit) *
* indicates port of entry