Our Vancouver Island base is operated by our preferred partner, Island Cruising. They are located at the Port Sidney Marina in Sidney, British Columbia on the tip of Vancouver Island. The marina is conveniently located for numerous inbound/outbound travel options and offers close access to both the Gulf and San Juan Island cruising areas.
Sunsail Vancouver Island
Preferred Partner "Island Cruising"
101-9776 Fourth Street
Sidney, BC Canada V8L 2Z1
If you plan to arrive soon after office closing hours, a marina manager will try to be on site to greet guests.
The Port Sidney Marina offers full service amenities and is an excellent starting point for your charter, including a café, restaurant, pub, food stores, off licences, museums, chandleries, gift stores and hotels. Shower, laundry and customs are also available.
Within walking distance are shops for provisioning, marine supplies, clothing stores, gift shops, dry cleaning (free pick up and delivery). You can also enjoy marine parks, seaside towns and world-class resorts in one of the world's top cruising grounds.
Arrival and departure
This destination offers a number of excellent travel options with service from two international airports, private charter companies and high-speed ferry service.
Time difference between Vancouver and the UK is GMT -7.
Vancouver International Airport (YVR)
As Canada's second largest airport, Vancouver International is served by over 60 airlines connecting travellers to over 95 destinations in Canada, the US and around the world. Reach Vancouver Island by a connecting flight to Victoria International Airport (YYJ), ferry, helicopter or seaplane.
Victoria International Airport (YYJ)
More than 50 flights a day connect Victoria with Vancouver International Airport (YVR), Seattle-Tacoma Airport (SEA) and several other major cities throughout Canada and the US. It's about a 10-minute drive from Victoria International Airport to our base in Sidney BC, depending on traffic.
If you are driving to the base for your charter, please check with the our guest reception when you arrive for parking availability. They will assist you in finding a parking area.
Passport and visas
International visitors (not US citizens or US permanent residents)
- Must carry a valid passport and, if required, a visa. Citizens from the UK, France, Germany, Mexico, Japan, the Republic of Korea, Australia and others do not require a visa to enter Canada.
- Countries whose citizens require visas to enter Canada, visit Citizenship and Immigration Canada.
- Up-to-date list of required documents to enter Canada, contact your closest Canadian Consulate or Embassy
Please note country entry/exit requirements are subject to change. Please check www.gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice for the latest information before you leave.
We are not responsible for any requirement changes.
Visa waiver, requires an entry into USA prior to landing in Canada. That entry permit now allows you to enter on a private vessel.
Travelling with kids
- When travelling with children, carry each child's birth certificate.
- When only one parent is travelling with the child(ren), he or she should carry written permission from the other parent.
- Divorced parents who share custody should also carry copies of the legal custody documents. Adults who are not parents or guardians should have written permission from parents or guardians to supervise the children.
Anyone with a criminal record (including misdemeanours or alcohol-related driving offenses) may not be able to enter Canada without first obtaining a special waiver well in advance of any planned travel. Read more about criminal record waivers.
Customs and immigration
For up to date information on Canadian customs regulations, visit Canada Border Services Agency
All boats are prepared, as per the booking, with charters starting at 10am.
Boat and chart briefings are scheduled at 9am. All head charterers are required to attend the briefings. This boat briefing is mandatory and takes approximately one hour. If we have two boats starting at the same time, we may do this brief with other guests. Briefings are scheduled by the base. Level of chart briefing will be based on your knowledge of the Vancouver Island, BC cruising area.
After hours arrival procedure
If you plan to arrive after office hours, a message will be left on the office door indicating the location of your boat on the dock. Your boat briefing and chart briefing will be conducted the following morning.
All charters end at 10am, at which time the boat must be returned and ready for debriefing and checks.
Charterers may return to the base on the same morning as disembarking. You can spend the night at Sidney Spit or Poets Cove and still get back on time. You are not required to return the evening before disembarking.
Before disembarkation please collect a debrief form from reception. The debrief form is to let us know if you have encountered any problems with the boat or broken anything during the trip, this enables us to rectify problems for the next charter.
In addition to filling in forms we also require you to bag dirty laundry and leave in the cockpit, empty all cupboards and refrigerator of food and throw away, return any lifejackets borrowed from reception and ensure that the boat is handed back in a clean and tidy state. We reserve the right to charge for boats left less than shipshape.
Sailing experience: Level 3
Experience levels are based on the sailing conditions (weather, wind, tides, etc) and length of passages within your chosen sailing area. In the Vancouver Island cruising area, navigation is primarily line of site, however winds can be strong, tidal ranges are very large and a solid understanding of tidal tables and associated knowledge is imperative.
To charter a yacht in Vancouver Island, there must be at least one skipper and one crew member, both over 18 years old. The skipper should be competent at handling a yacht in close quarters, anchoring and mooring in varying conditions and be able to use navigation and pilotage skills to plan the day's sailing and know your position at any time. As a yacht skipper, you are required to have a sailing license or a certificate from a recognised sailing association as detailed below:
Skipper is REQUIRED to have one (1) of the following:
- ICC (International Certificate of Competence), International–Prerequisites: RYA "Day Skipper Course" or similar/equivalent certification from any recognised sailing association or complete the ICC Assessment form to prove competence from previous experience.
- IPC (International Proficiency Certificate), America–Prerequisites: ASA 104 or US Sailing "Bareboat Cruising Course"
- UK: RYA Day Skipper practical (with our without photo)
- USA: US Sailing "Bareboat Cruising Course", ASA "104 Bareboat Cruising Course" or above
- Germany: Sportbootführerschein See" or above
- Belgium: Algemeen Stuurbrevet/ Brevet de conduite général
- France: Le Permis Plaisance
Or a similar/equivalent certification from any recognised sailing association
It is essential to have a sailing license for the skipper. This document has to be registered in the transit log and presented to the port authorities.
Canadian law does not require a formal sailing license for foreign non-residents operating a boat in Canadian waters for less than 45 days.
Night sailing is not permitted; you must be moored at least one hour before sunset at all of our locations.
Cruising area limits
The cruising area extends north to Desolation Sound and south to Victoria, Vancouver Island, BC. The cruising area does include mainland British Columbia and the San Juan Islands (USA). Chase boat support service will be provided within a 20-mile radius of the Island Cruising base (per the Sunsail Guarantee).
We may not enter US waters to service the yachts ourselves but will have a local person attend to any problems. We rely on them to respond, public holidays excluded.
Mooring fees and taxes
Throughout the cruising grounds of The Gulf Islands, San Juan Islands, Sunshine Coast and Desolation Sound ample over night options are available. There are numerous buoys and lots of room to anchor. There is ample transient moorage, but this is very popular, so its best to make reservations. Moorage rates between CAD 35-55 per night.
Charts and pilot book
All the charts and pilot books you will need for the sailing area are on board the yacht.
Skippered charter information
Skippers are available for charters, and will greet you for your charter. They are only on board up to a day on your charter.
The skipper's time is booked for a 24-hour period. If you have reserved him or her for the first day of your charter and have a 10am start, he or she will use this time to ensure he or she is happy with all aspects of the yacht and will be at the base to meet you upon your arrival.
Skippered yacht charter: a skipper is onboard for the duration of your vacation and will greet you at the base the morning of your departure at 10am or 4pm (with evening start).
The skipper is required to give you as much information as you need concerning the yacht, its systems, sailing skills and navigation in general, including a thorough briefing on all aspects of the yacht and dinghy. The skipper will assist you with planning an itinerary and advise you on how to contact the base, the return to base procedures and the emergency assistance procedures. It is suggested that you attend the scheduled chart brief that will be supplemented by the skipper during his time with you on the yacht. It is also suggested that you make it clear exactly what you want to cover, anchoring, docking, etc.
The skipper fee does not include food or beverages for the skipper and are the responsibility of the client. Skipper provisioning should be added to your contract at the time you request a skipper. The skipper must be provided with a cabin and bath accommodation.
The skipper is responsible for the safety of the yacht at all times. They are not permitted to dive with you, nor leave the vessel overnight, and they must conduct a safety brief with you before leaving the dock regardless of the duration of the contract with you.
For one day check out skippers, it is the client's responsibility to get the skipper back to the base. If you prefer not to come back to the base you must pay their expenses (ferry, taxi, etc.) to get back to the base. The average tip for a skipper is 15-20 percent of the skipper's fee. This is, of course, at the client's discretion.
Your yacht is delivered with full fuel tanks. Your boat must be returned with full fuel tanks and empty holding tanks. Island Cruising reserves the right to charge a penalty fee (CAD 150, plus cost of fuel) if the boat is not properly returned.
Enroute to the base, stop at Van Isle Marina to re-fuel and empty your holding tanks.
Cool boxes are available at the base on a first come first served basis at no additional charge. Please sign for these and return them clean and undamaged otherwise you will be charged for replacement. Only one per boat.
Banks and money exchange
Local currency is the Canadian Dollar (CAD). Canadian currency is counted in dollars and cents. Coins include pennies, nickels, dimes and quarters as well as one and two-dollar coins (there are no dollar or two-dollar bills). Paper currency begins with CAD 5 bills. Currency exchange is pretty straightforward. Often Canadian businesses will accept US dollars in payment since the currency exchange rates are relatively comparable.
Banking hours are generally Mon-Fri from 10am-4pm. Some banks are open on Saturday. ATMs are found at banks and in retail areas.
Credit card information
Credit cards are widely accepted in most establishments.
English is spoken throughout British Columbia and Canadian Rockies region of Canada.
Tipping is standard and expected in all restaurants and bars and for other services undertaken during your vacation. Some establishments automatically add this onto the bill. Recommendations for tipping in Canada include:
- Restaurants, bars and nightclubs: 15-20 percent of your bill is generally acceptable if it has not already been added.
- Hotels: bellhops CAD 2 per bag, housekeepers CAD 1-2 per day.
- Doorman or concierge: only if providing you a specific service (for example, calling a cab, getting event tickets).
- Valet parking attendant: CAD 1 per car pick up,
- Cab drivers: 15 percent of the fare
- Skycaps at airports: CAD 2 per bag
Throughout the cruising grounds, you'll find boutique shopping, art galleries and locally produced goods to take home as mementos.
A federal goods and services tax (GST) is charged throughout Canada and is a 5 percent tax on virtually all goods and services. In all provinces (except Alberta), an additional provincial sales tax is added to purchases and financial transactions. In British Columbia, a 'provincial' federal and provincial seven percent tax is levied on purchases and services.
Some hotels and shops include the GST in their prices; others add it on separately. When included, the tax accounts for the odd hotel rates, such as CAD 96.05 per day, that you may find on your final bill. All provinces and some municipalities levy a hotel room tax (seven percent in British Columbia). The Canadian government no longer offers GST or HST rebates of hotel bills or the cost of goods you purchase in Canada.
The following hotels and inns are conveniently located near the base:
- Sidney Waterfront Inn & Suites, 9775 First St, Tel: +1 250 656 1131 or +1 888 656 1131, www.sidneywaterfront.com
- Best Western Emerald Isle, 2306 Beacon Ave, Tel: +1 250 656 4441
- Bevansfield Inn, Charming modern Edwardian Inn with breakfast and welcoming champagne included - 9724 3rd Street, Tel: +1 877 420 5499 - info@bevansfield inn.com
- Cedarwood Inn & Suites, 9522 Lochside Dr, Tel: +1 250 656 5551, www.thecedarwood.ca
- Travelodge Sidney, 2280 Beacon Ave, Tel: +1 250 656 1176, www.airporttravelodge.com
- Sidney Pier and Hotel, 2B-9851 Seaport Place, Tel: +1 250 655 9445
Electricity, phones and music
Canada uses 110-120 volts AC (60 cycles) and the same plug configuration at the United States, compared to 220-240 volts AC (50 cycles) in most of Europe, Australia and New Zealand. If you are travelling internationally, downward converters that change 220-240 volts to 110-120 volts may be difficult to find, so bring one with you.
Your mobile phone may work when cruising around the Vancouver Island region of British Columbia, Canada. Please check with your service provider for coverage details and call costs. You will need to activate international roaming on your contract, if your provider does not offer coverage in Canada.
Island Cruising provides wireless Internet access at the marina. Upon arrival, you may request the wireless access code.
Vancouver International Airport is served by five car rental companies, located just steps from the terminal on the ground floor of the parkade. Pick-up and drop-off service is available here.
Victoria International Airport is served by four car rental companies, located in the arrivals area directly across from the information desk.
Note: Members of the American Automobile Association (AAA) should remember to take their membership cards since Canadian Automobile Association (CAA; tel. +1 800 222 4357, www.caa.ca) extends privileges to them in Canada.
From Swartz Bay: Follow Hwy 17 to the second set of lights and turn left onto Beacon Avenue. Take your last left before the fisherman's wharf on Seaport Place. Port Sidney is at the end of this dead-end street. Island Cruising's offices face Port Sidney in the building at the top of the Port Sidney ramp, next to the Breakwater Café.
From Victoria International Airport: Follow the road leading out of the airport and turn left on McTavish, and then a left at the lights on to Hwy 17. The next set of lights is Beacon Avenue, where you will turn right. Continue with the directions for Seaport Place above.
From downtown Victoria: Get onto Hwy 17 northbound (Blanchard Street turns into HWY 17) and follow for approximately 30mins. Look for the signs for the Town of Sidney and take the right exit on Beacon Avenue. Follow directions for Seaport Place above.
Crab traps are provided aboard your yacht, free of charge. Kayaks and Canoes may be pre-booked for rental on your charter. Please speak with one of our sales agents if you are interested in water toys. Fishing gear is available at the base on a first-come, first-served basis and costs CAD 45, including rod, tackle box, hooks, gear, etc.
Fishing is extremely popular throughout Canada and is a great addition to your charter, but there are a few important things to know: first, get a license and second, abide by all local regulations.
Fishing is strictly regulated by local governments. To fish recreationally in British Columbia, you must purchase separate licenses for freshwater and/or saltwater (tidal) fishing and carry it with you (on your person) while you are fishing or crabbing. National Parks require special fishing permits and are available at park visitor centers. Special park regulations apply.
In advance of your charter, consider purchasing an eight-day angular license (approximately CAD 36) and a Salmon sticker (approximately CAD 30). This will permit you to use your crab trap and catch shell fish and angle for saltwater fish and salmon fish, while complying with size regulations and restrictions on the quantity that may be caught. You MUST have a salmon sticker to fish for salmon.
When purchasing your licenses, we always suggest confirming the most up-to-date regulations as rules can change often.
Details regarding fishing and crabbing restrictions will be covered in your chart briefing.
Obtaining fishing licenses
- Tidal (saltwater) Fishing License—Canadian Fisheries & Oceans Recreational Fishing License System
- Freshwater Fishing License—British Columbia Government