Tracy Sarich | NW Explorations

Whale Sanctuaries – Keep Out!

All posts by Tracy Sarich

Whale Sanctuaries – Keep Out!

Many boaters don’t know about areas reserved for the whales

Our beloved Southern Resident killer whales have been given an extra layer of protection through the creation of Santuary Zones that restrict all travel in these precious foraging areas.  This link shows you where these locations are found.

If you use Navionics, these areas are indicated as “Vessel No Go Zone”.  Substantial fines will be applied to boaters who enter these zones – many times without radio warning.  So please check your charts and this link before you depart to avoid unnecessary fines.  The most commonly transited areas affected by this include the west side of North Pender Island, the southwest side of Saturna, and Swiftsure Bank at the west entrance of the Strait of Juan de Fuca.  Please be sure to continue to look for updates to this notice from the Department of Fisheries as these areas can change. 

And don’t forget the year-round Marine Mammal Regulations for staying clear of our marine mammals:

  • 200 metres away from all killer whales in Canadian Pacific waters other than those described above
  • 200 metres away from all whales, porpoises and dolphins when in resting position or with a calf
  • 100 metres for other whales, porpoises and dolphins
quick video on where the sanctuary zones are

Of Deadheads & Disabled Props

Keeping a close eye is an essential part of coastal navigation in British Columbia. Crab pots, kelp beds, floating logs, and the deceptive knot of twigs hiding a large root-ball and log below require a careful watch – a fun task for crew as they keep a careful eye out for whales and other wildlife.

Cruising in tidal waters bring special dangers for skippers of vessels of all sizes. Rapid currents must be timed to ensure control in many areas throughout B.C. Skippers must carefully plan and remain alert to the dangers and limitations of one’s vessel when entering fast running waters.  Large tidal ranges, in some areas in excess of 12′, challenge even the most experienced skipper when scope and swing radius can significantly change overnight.

Tidal Ranges Increase Dangers

As the gravitational pull of the Sun and Moon affect the rise and fall of the ocean twice daily, tidal currents gain speed throughout our archipelago.  And during the full and new moons, Spring Tides bring larger tidal ranges twice monthly.  This past season, extraordinarily large tides resulted in negative tides – a phenomenon more commonly seen in U.S. waters that set chart datum as the mean low.

In addition to the changes in water depth and speed wrought by large tidal ranges, dangers lurk below the surface in the most unsuspecting places.  And when these large tidal ranges enter our active logging region, they wash large logs off the shore.  Deadheads, large vertical logs that can appear as mere twigs at the waters surface, can appear our of no where.

Hidden Deadheads

In the days following high tidal ranges, mariners must keep a careful watch to avoid monster logs and hidden deadheads.  And when entering areas with strong current where timing slack current, mariners must take into account the strong potential for hidden deadheads hidden in the building energies of back eddies.

Photo Credit: Erin Baumeister

Yes – this really happened.  While cruising this summer, this water-laden log disabled the propeller on a twin prop power boat.  A diver was required to remove the prop before the vessel could enter the marina because the log extended beyond the hull.   

Island of the Sea Wolves

If you plan to visit Vancouver Island, don’t miss the new Netflix docuseries Island of the Sea Wolves. Wild rainforests, seas and rivers teaming with life, and some of the last standing old growth forests in the world – Vancouver looms large in this beautifully photographed, inspiring series that will be fun to watch over the holidays as you plan your upcoming charter or training.

Planning Your Visit

Wolves, black bear, baby otters, and spawning salmon come alive in this 3-episode docuseries about our beautiful island. It’s an inspiring introduction to whose who plan to visit and a familiar reminder to those of us who explore the B.C. Coast. Every year, we capture the beauty of our wild island residents as our guests and flotilla’s create custom journeys on this island of sea wolves.

This coming season, our Canadian fleet at Cooper Boating will embark on a series of learning Adventures – designed to bring together experienced local experts, seasoned skippers, and those who are new to the coast on flotillas, trainings, and other adventures where wild wonders await. Join us on the island of the sea wolves and take home a lifetime of memories.

We hope you enjoy this sneak peak at some of the wonders that await when you step aboard and set sail in B.C.. Photos taken while on adventures in our magnificent region.

Don’t Leave Home Without It – Coastal Navigation

Many people come to B.C. for the beauty.  But did you know that the inside passage of British Columbia is one of the most complex areas in the world – making this one of the best places in the world to learn to become a skilled skipper.  Coastal Navigation is essential for keeping your crew and vessel safe and will make charter companies and insurance underwriters happy when you are charting or seeking to buy a boat. 

Learn Coastal Navigation at your own pace:

Online Learn at your own pace and includes as much time as you need with an instructor to answer any questions as you proceed through each lesson.  This is our most popular course as it allows you to work thoroughly through each topic so that you can build a strong foundation. 

On-board Your Next Charter: Go at your own pace in the comfort of your home. Complete your theory materials before your charter and enjoy a full-day of training aboard your charter boat on the first day.  This is the perfect format for people without tidal water experience, who want to gain a refresher on the water, or who want to make sure that their coastal navigation skills are polished for future bareboat charters abroad.  Email us at for details.


Winter Boating in the PNW

Many people from the East Coast and Great Lakes regions ask whether we keep our boats in the water over winter. Yes – we do. While temperatures sometimes drop below freezing and snow does fall in the coastal areas each winter – the climate is mild enough to allow for year-round boating, if you have the right stuff.  Check out our tips to prepare yourself and your crew.

  1. Clothing: While layers is always in order in the PNW, during winter, the layers you choose are more important than ever when the ambient temperature drops and you are exposed to the elements over long periods of time. In addition to the usual tips about baselayers and wind and rain protection, I always carry a couple of soft, comfortable scarves (wool or cashmere is the best here), I focus on hands and feet as my first line of defense against the cold.
  2. Gloves/Mittens & Lots of Socks: I have mittens I wear over my sailing gloves when I’m at the helm and don’t need to handle lines. I also have a fresh pair of fleecy, clean mittens I wear inside – many times to bed – so that I can keep my body temperature comfortable regardless of the temperature outside or inside when night falls. Having a couple of pairs also helps when one gets wet. Same for socks – I pack LOTS of socks. Nothing is worse than damp feet trapped in boots all day. Keeping my hands and feet warm, dry, and comfortable is the difference for me between a crisp, beautiful winter sail and just wishing it was all over.
  3. Shoes: Yes – you need good, waterproof deck shoes. But my big winter tip is SLIPPERS. I am partial to a tall fleecy boot that has an outdoor sole (yes, my UGGS go everywhere), but whatever you choose – don’t forget that there is more to a wonderful winter trip than being out in the elements. Wintertime brings solitude to the docks and anchorages here – and having a creature comforts, like your favorite apres-ski/sail shoes makes an enormous difference to me.
  4. Safety Drills: If you are a competent sailor or power boater, you have practiced person-overboard exercises and probably feel comfortable with the steps for returning to a person who has gone into the water. But in winter – every moment counts. You and your crew must understand your roles, where blankets and other items for hypothermic victims, the method for bringing people on board – and the importance of SLOWNESS. During an onboard emergency – every moment counts – but SLOW IS FAST. Assessing personal dangers before jumping in to help. Taking the time to discuss (and practice) how the group will handle emergencies, will make you and your crew safer and allow for a more relaxing journey.
  5. Hot Water Bottles: An old-school essential in my kit. I have one (actually 2) at the ready to keep my core warm (popping one down the front of my bibs on a long watch) and help me fall asleep on cold nights. That second bottle? One at the feet and one at the core at night is a dream – but the truth is that I bring it because there is always another crewmate who notices my trick. My spare bottle always brings a smile… and I don’t have to share.
  6. Hot Drinks: When it’s cold outside and you’re underway – warm, comforting drinks and easy hot food is a lifesaver. Cocos, teas, instant coffees, ramen, and large hands of ginger steeped in hot water – these are always within hands reach in my boat. There are lots of ways to add flair – peppermint sticks, green onion, nice honey, lemon and orange slices – the list is endless. These items don’t take up a lot of space in your bag. If you’ve been invited on a winter sail – surprising your crewmates with creative warm comforts like this will definitely get you

As you research ways to get the most out of winter sailing – check out these videos and articles to inspire you to enjoy an extended season:

Cruising World: Cold Weather Sailing

Sail Magazine: Winter Sailing

Winter Sailing to Alaska

Winter Sailing on Puget Sound

Stay safe and have fun out there!

Tracy Sarich – Head Instructor (Canada), NW Yacht Group/Cooper Boating

Tracy Sarich, Advanced Sailing Instructor

Tracy is an Advanced Sailing Instructor who leads the training and flotilla programs for NW Yacht Group/Cooper Boating in Canada.

Tracy has more than 20 years of sailing experience, including offshore deliveries.  She has sailed extensively throughout Puget Sound and the Southern Coast of British Columbia, including the West Coast of Vancouver Island, on courses from beginner to Yachtmaster Offshore and her own cutter sloop Valerie May.

Tracy can help you design the right sail or power boat program to meet your needs and master one of the worlds most challenging and beautiful cruising grounds.

Whether you are stepping onto a boat for the first time, want to become more skilled for your own boat purchase, hope to charter internationally, or have dreams of setting sail to distant lands – Tracy will help you reach your goals.

Visit our Training Calendar for opportunities for group and online courses.  Or email to design a custom course for you, your family, and friends.

Boom Preventers & Safe Mainsail Handling

Downwind sailing, while glorious, requires careful attention to the boom. The dangers of accidental gybes to crew and equipment cannot be overstated. Boom preventers can be purchased – like this Winchard Gyb’Easy– or if you have sufficiently long line, you can rig one yourself.

As you consider the best choices for your sailboat, there are many resources and sailing coaches who can help you with your individual needs. Our two top considerations are rigging and crew preparation are the two key elements to keep in mind.

Rigging the Preventer: The most important consideration for where to attach the preventer is whether your attachment point damage the tube. We recommend looking for an attachment point at the end of the boom and leading the line as far forward as possible before returning to the cockpit for maximum resistance and control – so keep that in mind when selecting a line with sufficient length to accomplish this task.

Once rigged, the preventer essentially becomes part of your running rigging – slowing the swing distance permitted by the mainsheet. It must be accessible from the cockpit and easy to use so that you may gybe and/or adjust the sail while underway. Ensuring safe control within the cockpit will increase crew safety by allowing you to avoid unnecessary crew movements outside the cockpit.

We found the diagrams drawn by The Rigging Company in Annapolis, MD useful and easy to understand.

Practicing with your Crew: Practicing planned and accidental gybes with your crew is the next step. An intentional – or planned – gybe requires simultaneous easing and pulling in of the mainsheet and preventer as the boom swings across the stern. Crew members who must go forward should work from the leeward side of the boom in case of an accidental gybe and the helm must keep a careful eye on the crew.

Accidental gybes, especially at night, can be alarming, noisy, and dangerous. Boom preventers can reduce this danger. Maintaining helm control to return the boat to a comfortable degree of heel as the boat returns to the original gybe will be easier with advanced practice.

For an interesting discussion and a handy video on installing and testing a book preventer – we recommend this article from Yachting World. And for a some fun viewing – these Accidental Gybe Videos are fun to view.

To discuss this or any other questions to help you advance your sailing skill, contact us at

Stay safe and have fun out there!

Tracy Sarich – Head Instructor (Canada), NW Yacht Group/Cooper Boating

Featured Sailmaker – Carol Hasse 

Many a sailor has heard the line that sailing is the fine art of going no where fast.  For racers and cruisers alike, the pursuit of speed is always in sight.  But for serious cruisers and people seeking a fun, relaxing charter holiday, safety and comfort share equal importance.

As we seek to inspire and prepare you – we wanted to introduce you to Carol Hasse, of Hasse & Company Port Townsend Sails, the founder and owner of one of the only woman-owned sail lofts in the world. Nearly 45 years ago she started her business, currently housing her loft in a 1940s former Navy building that overlooks Point Hudson Marina and Admiralty Inlet.  There, her team continues centuries of tradition and craftmanship as one of a handful of U.S. sail lofts still using traditional methods, sending sails as far as the Korean Sea, the Mediterranean, and beyond.  

Deborah Bach’s excellent article, An Enduring Sailmaking Legacy in a New Era over on the 48 North website is well worth the read. Highly recommended and well written! 

You can learn directly from Carol in these videos excellent short videos on  We hope you find these as educational and inspiring as we do.  Give us a shout at if you’d like practice before you get out on the water in the coming season.

Parts & Points of Sail:

The Headsail:

Mainsail Trim:

Get ready to sail in 2023!