the Gulf Islands Vancouver Island

Nanaimo, BC

Sunday, October 11, 2009S.V. CAMBRIA

Cities have never been our thing. They can be noisy, dirty, full of people, and unwelcoming. But, as far as cities go, Nanaimo’s all right. In it’s favour, it has an excellent harbour with a good anchorage and a revitalized downtown full of shops, caf├ęs, pubs, and restaurants. Along the waterfront, there’s a great walkway that spans the length of the harbour where you can take in all of the action – float planes, cruise ships, cargo ships, ferries, and personal vessels – before having lunch at one of the many pubs in the area. It’s all very civilized…for a city!

As an added bonus, there are two urban islands in the harbour that provide shelter from the Strait of Georgia and are only accessible by boat. Protection Island is developed with expensive homes and claims the Northern Hemisphere’s only floating pub – The Dinghy Dock – with incredible views and good food. Newcastle Island, on the other hand, is a provincial marine park with beautifully maintained campsites and walking trails that follow the shoreline or cut through the forested interior. The current condition of the island is amazing considering its history. Named after Newcastle in England, it was originally the summer camp for First Nations people (Canadian Indians) before the Europeans arrived. After which, it became the site of a coal mine (hence the name), a sandstone quarry (used to build the San Francisco Mint), a pulpstone quarry (giant sandstone cylinders that grind wood into pulp to make paper), a saltery, a shipyard, and a holiday resort before being turned over to the province in 1961.

All in all, we spent about a week anchored off Newcastle Island where I would take Sally for her daily walks and she would scare off the blacktailed deer or inadvertently chase raccoons up the trees. In the afternoons, we would explore the city by foot or by bus taking rides to the mall or Costco to buy provisions. And, of course, we checked the weather. The downside to Nanaimo Harbour is that it’s exposed to wind and chop from the southerly quadrant and a front is forecasted to arrive on Tuesday with conditions deteriorating tomorrow, so it’s time to leave. We’ll head down to Silva Bay on Gabriola Island (approximately 10 nautical miles south of Nanaimo) this afternoon after fueling up. According to everything we’ve read, the anchorage offers all-weather protection and should be a comfortable stop for the next week as we ride out the first Arctic storm of the season.

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