On a sunny, early spring day we motored out of Roche Harbor, set our sails and shaped a westerly course toward Vancouver Island.

A dramatic sunset over Coal Harbour in Vancouver, British Columbia.

Bounding out into open water, a steady southeasterly breeze put us on a delightful reach and our crew brimmed with enthusiasm. After a winter of preparing our Grand Soleil 39, Yahtzee, our young crew of four was ready to cruise and race the beautiful waters of British Columbia for the next six months. Perfection. 

Then, about a half-mile or so before crossing the international boundary in Haro Strait, my wife, Jill, poked her head up from the companionway. With a furrowed brow and concerned look in her brown eyes, she reluctantly said, “You’re not going to believe this — my passport is expired!” 

“Tacking!” I shouted, amongst other expletives, and around we went back to the U.S. Of all the work we’d done in the previous months to get ready, how had we overlooked a single passport? Alas, it was but a minor blip on the radar. Several days, a floatplane ride from Friday Harbor to Seattle, hours spent in the downtown passport office and then another plane ride back to Yahtzee, and we were ready to go again. 

This was our family’s first voyage across the border and the promise of spending spring, summer and fall exploring British Columbia shined bright in our minds. We cleared customs in Sidney with ease and cut our teeth gunkholing through the Gulf Islands — sailing between its picturesque anchorages, walking tree-lined trails, and poking around the small towns and communities that dot the archipelago. 

From there, we headed south for Victoria to compete in the Swiftsure International Yacht Race. The camaraderie of the event coupled with the arduously tough race was an experience we’ll never forget. Hanging around the southern end of the island for a few days after finishing, we switched Yahtzee from race to cruise mode, then it was time to point the bow north. 

We zoomed through the Gulf Islands on a brisk southerly and hopped across the Strait of Georgia to the glorious Sunshine Coast. Awe-inspiring Princess Louisa Inlet was a highlight and when we found ourselves in Desolation Sound weeks later, time seemed to stand still. It was all magic. 

Similar to the wonderful sailing memories our family made in the waters of British Columbia, for generations, other boating families have too. Voyaging this part of the Salish Sea and Inside Passage is almost a rite of passage for many boaters. And though there was a pause in border crossings while COVID-19 changed the world, cruisers from the U.S. are once again making their way into B.C. In doing so, we encourage you to remain respectful and safe while visiting local communities, and leave nothing but goodwill in your wake. As we all should. 

Along with that spirit of heading north, in this issue of 48° North our authors highlight several British Columbia destinations that range from quaint to completely wild. Deborah Bach gives us a look at the charming working waterfront of Cowichan Bay. Lauren Upham takes us to the homestead-turned-marine-park of Jedediah Island. And Greg Larsen regales us with the wonders of “The Galapagos of the North,” Burnaby Narrows in Haida Gwaii. 

With that, we wish you all the best breezes on your own memory-making voyages through B.C. Just remember to double check your passport before sailing across the border.  

Fair winds and following seas,

Andy Cross