Lee Chapoton | NW Explorations

Sailing Hall of Fame – World Champion Gail Johnson

All posts by Lee Chapoton

Sailing Hall of Fame – World Champion Gail Johnson

Gail describes herself as “a kid who sailed and grew up.”  In 1985, that kid won the Women’s 470 World Championships. And on October 15th, 2022, she and 11 fellow sailors will be inducted into the Sail Canada Hall of Fame during its 2022 ceremony.  

In July, on our very own Wayfinder, Gail took a course with one of our most beloved and skilled skippers, Rob Keith.  Why would a World Champion sailor need to take a sailing course?  “I can make a boat go fast and straight.  But I don’t know how to keep it off the rocks.”  Competitive racing on a course means sailing on a track, in a straight line.  No engines.  No anchoring.  No navigating.  Anyone who has enjoyed the beauties and complexities of British Columbia knows that the tides and currents and deep dark waters knows that these skills are non-negotiable.  Thanks to her friendship with Rob’s wife, Gail knew just who to call and made her way to Sidney for an amazing trip.

Gail’s journey to our docks began 5 years ago among a gathering of friends and came together with Rob Keith on beautiful Summer Circumnavigation of Salt Spring Island.  Genoa Bay, Telegraph Cove, Montague, Bedwell Harbour, then Sidney – their counter-clockwise journey around Salt Spring Island is inspiring more trips.  Thailand this coming March. 

We asked Gail for her insights on excellent instruction.  The ability to manage boat issues and provide guidance attuned to each student’s abilities, without losing sight of having fun – qualities of note in the greatest instructors.  As a former sailing instructor, she knew the challenges first-hand.  Qualities she appreciated in Rob, whose local knowledge led them to terrific sunsets and excellent storytelling added to a relaxed trip.

We hope to see Gail again, maybe on one of our flotillas.  We wish her a hearty congratulations on her well-earned recognition.  Fair winds and following seas.

Meet Jim Burgoyne and Lynne Picard

If you’re not familiar with Jim Burgoyne and Lynne Picard, let us introduce you to this lovely couple. After spending several years living abroad in Thailand, Jim and Lynne decided to pack it up and head back home to Canada aboard their Vancouver 27. True to their spirit of adventure, the trip home spanned three years, which included enjoying a year of cruising the waters of Japan and Korea.

After arriving home in Victoria, BC, Jim and Lynne became a bit… shall we say, restless? Having spent so much time discovering new places overseas, how would they spend their time now?

The seven detailed guides in their Salish Sea Pilot cruising series are thanks in part to this restlessness. That, and the number of friends asking for advice on cruising the Pacific Northwest (PNW) resulted in the couple taking on a new “full-time obsession;” spending many months mapping out hundreds of popular destinations in the PNW.

Their guides cover the southernmost tip of the Salish Sea, known as the Puget Sound area, to the northernmost tip containing the Broughton Archipelago , and everything in between.

West Coast of Vancouver Island

One area they hadn’t created a guide for yet was the West Coast of Vancouver Island. Originally planning to cruise to Alaska, COVID changed their plans, so instead they decided to cruise around Vancouver Island.

That turned out to be a good thing, because many people had been asking them to create a guide for the West Coast of Vancouver Island and 2021 turned out to be the year for them to finally do it, resulting in their newest guide book.

I had the pleasure of meeting Jim and Lynne at the 2023 Vancouver International Boat Show, where the two presented seminars every day (except the first day) of the show. Sunday’s presentation, Cruising the West Coast of Vancouver Island – be prepared and relax! was a fun time of hearing about their journey from Bull Harbour to Victoria Harbour. 

The following are just a few of the highlights I made note of from their seminar. Hearing Jim and Lynne share stories and show pictures from their trip gives me an increased appreciation for their guide, and helps me see just how doable this journey can be with proper planning and a good causing guide. Hint hint, you can purchase theirs on their website.

My Takeaway Highlights from Their Trip

Port McNeill or Port Hardy are good starting points, as you’ll have cell coverage and places to provision.

Rounding Cape Scott doesn’t have to be as daunting as it seems if you plan properly and keeping an eye on the weather and your radar/AIS. Be prepared for ocean swells.

There isn’t (wasn’t at the time) much cell coverage between Port Hardy and Quatsino Sound, so if you’re using a weather app such as Windy, you’ll want to update the app again here with the latest weather forecast. Even their VHF coverage was near non-existent in several areas.

Heading into Marble River Provincial Park is well worth the detour.

The beach near Rugged Point is one of the most beautiful beaches Lynne has ever seen. That’s saying a lot considering how many places they’ve visited!

Thasis Inlet is stunning, and the town has a few great amenities such as a Canada Post, bank, marina, and grocery store.

Tofino, for as popular a destination as it is for land-based travelers, does not have good anchorages for boaters. Don’t forget to visit Meares Island, home to the “Hanging Garden Tree,” one of the oldest western red ceadars; estimated to be 2,000 years old.

The marina in Port Renfrew is a welcome place to stop between Barclay Sound and Victoria. The last push home to Victoria is uneventful, unless you include a stop in Sooke.

For all the details, including maps and descriptions, I encourage you to purchase their West Coast of Vancouver Island guide.

Tips to make your trip even more fun. 

  • Use a tracking tool such as Garmin inReach or Spot to allow family and friends to track your progress.
  • A weather app such as Windy provides fairly accurate forecasting. Just remember you’ll need cell coverage to use it, so make note of the locations where you’ll be within coverage and can update your app.
  • Remember that the Environment Canada weather forecasts cover large areas, and may not provide the level of detail helpful for your exact location.
  • Consider “buddy boating” to share in the experience with others. This also lowers the fear factor of going solo as you’ll have another boat to lean on if/when needed.
  • Give yourself plenty of time. I.e., don’t try to adhere to a strict, tight timeline. If weather is questionable, it’s more enjoyable to be able to wait it out in a protected inlet.