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Dickinson at Dunkirk – by Mark Dickinson

My father was a participant in one of the most memorable triumphs of twentieth century history: The Evacuation of Dunkirk.

The Dunkirk evacuation, codenamed Operation Dynamo and also known as the Miracle of Dunkirk, was the evacuation of Allied soldiers during World War Two from the beaches and harbour of Dunkirk in the north  of France, between 26 May and 4 June 1940. The operation commenced after large numbers of Belgian, British, and French troops were cut off and surrounded by German troops during the six-week Battle of France. In a speech to the House of Commons, British Prime Minister Winston Churchill called this “a colossal military disaster”, saying “the whole root and core and brain of the British Army” had been stranded at Dunkirk and seemed about to perish or be captured. In his “We shall fight on the beaches” speech on 4 June, he hailed their rescue as a “miracle of deliverance”.

After Nazi Germany invaded Poland in September 1939, France and the British Empire declared war on Germany and imposed an economic blockade. The British Expeditionary Force (BEF) was sent to help defend France. After the Phoney War of October 1939 to April 1940, Germany invaded Belgium, the Netherlands, and France on 10 May 1940. Three panzer corps attacked through the Ardennes and drove northwest to the English Channel. By 21 May, German forces had trapped the BEF, the remains of the Belgian forces, and three French field armies along the northern coast of France. The BEF commander immediately saw evacuation across the Channel as the best course of action, and began planning a withdrawal to Dunkirk, the closest good port.

Late on 23 May, a halt order was issued by the German commander. Adolf Hitler approved this order the next day, and had the German High Command sent confirmation to the front. Attacking the trapped BEF, French, and Belgian armies was left to the Luftwaffe until the order was rescinded on 26 May. This gave Allied forces time to construct defensive works and pull back large numbers of troops to fight the Battle of Dunkirk. From 28 to 31 May, the remaining 40,000 men of the French First Army fought a delaying action against seven German divisions, including three armoured divisions.

On the first day only 7,669 Allied soldiers were evacuated, but by the end of the eighth day, 338,226 had been rescued by a hastily assembled fleet of over 800 vessels. Many troops were able to embark from the harbour’s protective mole onto 39 British Royal Navy destroyers, four Royal Canadian Navy destroyers, at least three French Navy destroyers, and a variety of civilian merchant ships. Others had to wade out from the beaches, waiting for hours in shoulder-deep water. Some were ferried to the larger ships by what became known as the Little Ships of Dunkirk, a flotilla of hundreds of merchant marine boats, fishing boats, pleasure craft, yachts, and lifeboats called into service from Britain. The BEF lost 68,000 soldiers during the French campaign and had to abandon nearly all of its tanks, vehicles, and equipment. In his 4 June speech, Churchill also reminded the country that “we must be very careful not to assign to this deliverance the attributes of a victory. Wars are not won by evacuations.”

After his school years and one year sailing around the world in a four-masted square-rigger, my father worked as a “land manager” (whatever that was). In the late 1930’s he joined the Royal National Lifeboat Institution and when war broke out with Germany in 1939 he joined the Royal Navy as a sub lieutenant. During the war he rose in the ranks to Lieutenant Commander in charge of a flotilla of minesweepers. But when the evacuation of Dunkirk took place he was seconded from the Royal Navy back to the RNLI. He played an active role in the evacuation. On his first trip to the beaches he was second in command of an RNLI vessel which was captained by a person my father suggested to me was a coward. The task was to reach the beach, load with evacuees and then return to England. My father told me that enroute, the cowardly skipper ran the boat through many, many soldiers perishing in the water and refused to stop to pick them up. My father was disgusted. On his next trips into Dunkirk he was in command and he did the job properly.

Here is an account, word for word, of his exploits as written in “Storm on the Waters”, the story of the lifeboat service in the war of 1939-1945, by Charles Vince, published in October, 1946.

One of the inspectors of the Life-boat Service, now in the Navy, Sub-Lieutenant Stephen Dickinson, found himself in command of the Southwold life-boat. He had already made two trips to Dunkirk, and on Saturday, the 1st of June, he went over for the third time on board a paddle-steamer, the Emperor of India. She had the life-boat and two other boats in tow. At eleven that night she anchored off Dunkirk, and Mr. Dickinson was sent ashore in the life-boat towing two of the ship’s boats. High explosive shells and shrapnel were bursting all along the beach, and it was empty of troops. They were sheltering in the town.

The first lieutenant of the Emperor of India landed and went in search of them, while the three boats waited in the surf under fire. They waited for two hours. It was one in the morning when the men arrived and in two journeys the life-boat, and the two ship’s boats in tow of her, brought off 160 men. Shortly before dawn the commander of the Emperor of India decided to return to Dover, but Mr. Dickinson remained with the Southwold life-boat, went to shore for the third time, and took on board his third load of fifty men. It was now dangerously near dawn. He tried to push the life-boat off the beach, but she was fast. He tried again; still she would not move. Then a soldier in her bows called out, “Hoi, mister, you’re pushing against a lorry”. It must have been run out into the sea to make a pier until it was almost submerged and the life-boat had missed it unseen in the darkness. She worked clear of it, unloaded her fifty men on to a ship and returned for the fourth time, but her engine stopped and could not be restarted . It was now day and she was helpless on the beach, but the Great Yarmouth and Gorleston life-boat, making for England with troops on board, came within hail and took off her crew. That afternoon the Great Yarmouth and Gorleston life-boat arrived at Dover, and there Mr. Dickinson had some sleep, the first for several days. Next morning – it was now Monday the 3rd of June – he volunteered for another trip, and got from Commander Upton the Shoreham Harbour life-boat. He led a marauding party round the dockyard, found a large sheet of steel, which he fastened behind the steering wheel, built a screen of fenders on either side, and with his helmsman so protected, and a white ensign almost as large as the boat herself at his masthead, was about to sail on his fourth journey when he was stopped. The shelling was now reported to be so heavy on the beaches that boats were forbidden to go across.

For his actions at Dunkirk my father was Mentioned in Dispatches, a fairly notable and distinguished honour. To be mentioned in dispatches describes a member of the Royal Navy whose name appears in an official report written by a superior officer and sent to the high command, in which their gallant or meritorious action in the face of the enemy is described.

The white ensign, the official flag of the Royal Navy, noted above was the same one he had flown during his previous trips into Dunkirk. We still have that flag. It was draped over my father’s coffin prior to his cremation, and it is now stored in my office.

My father played a role in another very significant and historic event, D Day, the Normandy landings in June 1944. He went in on D Plus One, in other words June 7th, to sweep for mines off the beaches of Normandy. And that is all I know about that episode.

There may well be other pieces of History in which members of the family played a part, but I am not aware of them.

Van Isle Marina was purchased by Stephen and Esther Dickinson in 1955. In 1970, Stephen and Esther had a 41-foot ketch, Kapduva, built in Hong Kong, and they spent the next 12 years sailing around the world before they settled into a more sedate retirement on Saltspring Island.

De-Winterizing Your Boat

De-Winterizing Your Boat Checklist

Spring Maintenance Checklist for Your Boat


Spring is here and you’re more than ready to get back out on the water. There are a few key things you’re going to need to take care of first though, to make sure that your boat is ready for the inaugural trip. Not only will properly de-winterizing your boat ensure that everything’s in good working order, it will help extend the life of the boat.

If your boat has been in dry storage for the winter, it’s a good idea to check your trailer first. This 10-minute check will let you move your boat back to the water with confidence. Most importantly, check the renewal date for your boating and fishing / crabbing licenses and make sure any required decals are easily visible.


To safely transport your boat back to the water, the trailer and tires need to be road-ready.

  • Check trailer tires for pressure, any cracking, or inadequate tread. Replace tires if they’re older than 3-5 years.
  • Check tongue latch and coupling
  • Check trailer brake fluid level
  • Check trailer lights and replace as needed
  • Test the rollers
  • Check the padding where the hull rests

Anchors, Lines and Ropes

All mooring and anchoring equipment should be clean and ready to go. It’s always a good idea to purchase new line before the start of the season.

  • Spring Boating Checklist - RopeCheck that you have enough rope to launch and tie your boat
  • Check that you have enough rope to secure your boat in at least two areas
  • Check all knots for anchors and hardware
  • Check for any damaged or tangled line or rope
  • Make sure any bumpers are in the boat

Belts, Cables and Hoses

Check for wear and tear and consult a boat mechanic if you have any concerns.

  • Check for cracks and brittle areas
  • Check for wear on belts
  • Check the outer layer of control cables. Any cracking or swelling can be signs of a problem


As boaters, we rely heavily on electrical equipment for a safe and comfortable experience. Go through each of the electrical components on your boat to make sure everything’s in good working order.

  • Check all connections for corrosion and cleanliness
  • Remove battery terminals, clean connections with wire brushDe-Winterization of your Boat Checklist - Helm
  • Check the battery is charged. Replace if needed
  • Test the generator on full tilt
  • Check interior and exterior lights
  • Check navigational equipment (GPS)
  • Check electrical box
  • Check HVAC or air conditioner on hot and cold

Engine and Fuel System

The heart of your boat, you won’t get very far without the engine! We recommend a regular inspection by a trained boat technician, ideally at the start and end of the boating season.

  • Check transom mounts (outboard)
  • Check for any smoke
  • Check transmission
  • Check levers on every seacock
  • Check raw water intake and strainer
  • Inspect connections, hoses and tanks for damage or leaks
  • Replace spark plugs and other components as needed
  • Check that all clamps and fittings are tight
  • Check that exhaust, engine and ventilation systems are working well

Fluid Levels

Topped-up fluids will keep your engine and steering column going strong. Replace any expired fluids and top up everything else as needed.

  • Check coolant
  • Check engine oil
  • Check power steering fluid
  • Check power trim reservoirs
  • Check coolant levels
  • Change engine oil, filter and drive lubricants as needed

Hull and Exterior

The key to prolonging the life of your boat, the hull should be kept clean and waxed, with any damage taken care of right away.Spring Checklist for your boat - Hull

  • Check hull for blisters, distortions and cracks
  • Clean the hull, deck and topsides
  • Check that the drain plug is secure *Put a backup drain plug somewhere safe on board
  • Check for cracks or damage around fittings
  • Check for damage on or around the hatches
  • Check upholstery for any mold / mildew / tears
  • Check the livewells


The living space and head are a cozy place to crash at the end of a busy day of fishing and water sports. Take a few minutes to check lighting, appliances and water, to avoid any unpleasant surprises.

  • Check for water pressure and quality
  • Check for damage to doors and portholes
  • Check lights and switchesboat spring checklist - interior
  • Check for leaks in fridge
  • Check temperature in fridge / freezer
  • Test the appliances
  • Check lights and switches
  • Check TV, speakers and any other extras


A damaged propeller can’t work as efficiently as an undamaged one. If you see any marks or chips / dings that are concerning, talk to a pro about repair or replacement.

  • Check propellers for any damage
  • Make sure propeller is secure and replace bearings if needed

Safety Equipment and Gear

Up-to-date safety equipment is a huge part of any vessel. We recommend booking a safety inspection by the Canadian Power and Sail Squadrons (CPS-ECP) if available.

  • Check the flares
  • Check marine radio
  • Check condition of heaving line and lifebuoy(s)
  • Check condition of first aid kit
  • Check life jackets and replace any expired jackets
  • Check the fire extinguishers. Replace if expired
  • Check carbon monoxide and smoke detectors. Replace batteries

Water System

For washing up and drinking, clean water is essential.

  • If you added antifreeze, flush it out now
  • Empty the grey and black tanks
  • Refill the fresh-water tank

Clean the Boat

Give your boat a good spring clean to get it off to the best possible start this season.De-winterizing your boat checklist - Cleaning

  • Clean the hull, scrubbing away any rusty spots or fuel drips
  • Scrub any areas where mold may have started over the winter
  • Clean the carpets and vacuum any debris
  • Wash the windows
  • Disinfect hard and soft surfaces using a gentle spray solution
  • Spray a fabric protector on any vinyl to block harsh UV light

At Van Isle Marina, we offer moorage with annual, monthly and guest options. Conveniently located in sunny Sidney, BC on the Haro Strait, we’re just a quick cruise away from a variety of fantastic destinations. With amenities like storage lockers, car parking, and a full-service marine fueling station and dock store, you’ll find everything you could need to start and end your trip. Are you as excited for the summer boating season as we are? Come down and see us, or request services/moorage information by calling (250) 656-1138 or via email.

boating with whales feature

Boating with Whales and Other Marine Mammals

Know the Rules and Regulations for Orcas and other Aquatic Mammals

You’re spending the day out in the sunshine on your yacht, fishing, barbecuing and generally having a great time. Out of the corner of your eye, you spot an orca breaching. That’s one of the many perks of boat ownership — the chance to see these majestic marine mammals up close.

It’s awe-inspiring and you can’t help but want to get closer to the action.

Here on the west coast, a wildlife sighting is a natural part of life, and there’s a real temptation to get as close as possible to breaching whales and curious seal pups, but how close is too close?

Rules for Approaching Wildlife on the Water

For a positive, memorable experience it’s so important to  know the safety regulations for boating near whales and other wildlife. Chances are you’ll have noticed these posters at your local marina or wharf.

Produced by the Department of Fisheries and Oceans, this message is meant to educate commercial and recreational boaters on the importance of keeping your distance from any signs of a whale. Unsure about the rules or regulations, or what to do when you see a whale warning flag? In this post, we cover the key points of what to do when you see whales or other marine mammals.


Species you can expect to see are grey, humpback, minke, fin and orca. Grey whales are by far the most often sighted throughout BC’s waters, while humpbacks are the largest around, at an average of nearly 80,000 lbs.safe boating around whales -whale warning flag

Native and transient whales can be spotted all over the coast from Sooke to Prince Rupert, with sightings from as early as March all the way through late September, depending on the migration season. For complete details on migration seasons and regions, look at our past post on whale watching on Vancouver Island.

How Close Can You Get to a Whale?boating with whales - rules and regulations

  • Boats must stay 400 metres from orcas in all southern BC waters between Campbell River and north of Ucluelet
  • Boats must stay 200 metres from all orcas in other Canadian Pacific waters and from all whales, dolphins or porpoises if they are resting or with a calf.
  • Boats must stay 100 metres from all species of whales, dolphins and porpoises in Canadian Pacific waters.
  • Boats must stay out of Interim Sanctuary Zones – Saturna Island, Swiftsure Bank and Pender Island.

Resident whale species in BC waters need to be given minimum approach distances of at least 400 metres of space. According to Whale Wise, “the Southern Resident orcas are listed as endangered in both Canada and the United States. Only 75 orcas remain as of February 2021.”

What are the Noise Requirements for Whale Watching?

Under Canada’s Marine Mammal Regulations, it’s required for all vessel operators to turn off echo sounders and fish finders and turn engines to neutral idle (when safe) when within 400 metres of a whale. Slow down to less than 7 knots when within 1000 metres of a whale.

Dolphins and Porpoisesboating with marine mammals - dolphins

Dolphins and porpoises are playful animals and love to ride in the bow wave of boats. If you notice these mammals riding your bow wave, stay on course and do not change your path. If you do need to change course, reduce your speed gradually until they lose interest and then adjust your path. When possible, also give these animals a wide berth, turn off your echo sounder and gradually decrease speed.

Seals, Sea Lions and Ottersboating with aquatic mammals - sea lion

Sea lions and seals gather on rocky islets, so it’s important to reduce speed as you pass to minimize wake, wash and noise levels. Many seals are curious and may come up to your boat, but shouldn’t be touched or fed. It’s important to note that if an animal seems agitated or ready to dive into the water, you’re probably too close.

Be aware of kelp beds as well. These beds form huge underwater forests and this is where otters spend much of their time. To prevent otter pups from floating away, pups are often kept bundled up in layers of seaweed while the mother forages for food on the sea floor. Giant kelp beds are also feeding grounds for grey whales. For these reasons, boats should always be carefully maneuvered around these kelp forests.

There are plenty of stories about seals and otters relaxing on wharfs or even exploring the decks of boats. These animals have gotten very used to people but should still be treated as wild animals. If you encounter an extra passenger on your boat, just give it some distance and wait calmly until it decides to dive back into the water.

When Around Wild Marine Mammals, Do Not:

  • Feed or touch them
  • Dive, interact or swim with them
  • Fish within 1,000 metres
  • Encircle them or try to get them to move
  • Change directions quickly or block their path
  • Approach a resting whale, which is floating at or just below the surface.
  • Separate a whale, calf or dolphin from its pod
  • Trap a whale or a pod between your boat and the shore, or between other boats.
  • Approach when there are several boats already around
  • Approach head-on or from behind. They will be unable to continue along their path
  • Mark them or tag them in any way
  • Allow your dog to enter the water or bark at the animal. If your pet is anxious, it’s best to crate him/her in an area where they can no longer see the animal.

Ready to become your own whale-watching guide? Whether you dream of a 25’ centre console model for day-tripping or a cruiser designed for longer getaways, we’ve got the right fit for you. At Van Isle Marina, our expert team can match you up with the perfect Pursuit boat for whatever adventures you envision. Be sure to ask us about the OS 355 Offshore and OS 325 Offshore models. Brand new to our sales dock, these feature-packed luxury cruisers are ready for anything. Come down and visit us in sunny Sidney, BC, or contact us by phone or email to get started on the search for your shiny new boat.

Gulf Island Getaways in British Columbia

Gulf Island Getaways

Explore BC’s Famed Southern and Northern Gulf Islands by Boat

The Southern and Northern Gulf Islands are located just off the coast of Vancouver Island. Whether you’re looking for a family wilderness adventure or a bit of pampering at one of the many resorts, the Gulf Islands deliver. Because all the islands offer their own special welcome and slice of island life, you can’t go wrong with whichever destination you choose. 

Planning a longer trip? You can easily cruise around the entire group of islands and islets starting from either the south or north set of Gulf Islands. Because of their mild Mediterranean climate and calm waters, all of the Gulf Islands are great to visit anytime. They’re the busiest from May-September when visitors flock to the endless stretch of sandy beach at Hornby Island’s Tribune Bay, or the lively market at Ganges Village on Saltspring Island. 

For private moorage, try Cabbage Island or Wallace Island. These are located just between Saturna and Galiano Islands and boast their own white-sand beaches and incredible sunsets. A fantastic spot for a picnic and to snorkel and scuba, these tiny islands will have you feeling like you’re alone in the world. Read on for more about visiting the Gulf Islands.

Major Gulf Islands to Explore

Gabriola IslandGabriola Island - Gulf Islands, BC

Just 5 kilometres from Nanaimo’s harbour, Gabriola Island provides a great starting point for any Gulf Island exploration. With gorgeous beaches, warm water and a growing residential community, Gabriola is known as Isle of the Arts, offering annual studio tours and the opportunity to meet one on one with its many artisans. With great moorage and a variety of accommodations, you can easily settle in for a day or a week on this laid-back island.


Galiano IslandGaliano Island - Gulf Islands, BC

Called the Gem of the Salish Sea, Galiano Island offers beaches created from sandstone galleries, hiking, whale watching, golfing and spa accommodations. Montague Marine Park is one of the oldest Provincial Parks in all the Gulf Islands and is still the most popular with its unique white shell beach. Montague Marina and Harbour is ideal for small craft with power and a fuel dock and is a good starting point for exploring all Galiano has to offer.


Pender Islandpender island - Gulf Islands, BC

For access to all amenities and slips for boats up to 100 feet, Pender Island is the perfect place to moor. For excellent dining and a cozy sleep on land, book a stay at Poet’s Cove. At this 4-star resort, you’ll enjoy outdoor swimming pools and hot tubs, the Susurrus Spa, eucalyptus steam cave and your choice of cottage, villa or lodge room. Enjoy 5 freshwater lakes on North and South Pender Islands, fish for cod, flounder, snapper, salmon and trout, hit the links at the golf course, meander along gentle hills or hike up Mt. Daniel for rewarding views of the harbour. 


Salt Spring IslandSalt Spring Island BC

Salt Spring Island has become a world-class destination and a mecca for everything from artisans to luxury resorts. First developed on apple orchards and farming, Salt Spring offers a wide variety of activities, luxury accommodations, gorgeous beaches and top-quality farm to table organic food and wine. Visitors to Saltspring can moor at any one of its three marinas: Ganges, Musgrave Landing, or Salt Spring Marina. Salt Spring Island is also home to a large sailing club, so you’ll always be in good company. 


Saturna Island - Gulf Islands, BC

Saturna Island

Saturna Island offers boat launches at Lyall Harbour and Winter Cove. With a tiny population of 350 year-round residents and limited accommodations, it’s recommended to reserve your trip well in advance. Enjoy clear views of Mt. Baker, seal-watch at East Point Park, and relax in the sand at Thomson Park. A much more remote getaway that’s still mainly undeveloped, Saturna is an excellent spot to unwind.


Thetis IslandThetis Island - Gulf Islands, BC

Originally joined with Penelakut (Kuper) Island, Thetis become its own island when a shallow cut was dredged back in 1905 to allow boat traffic. Today, what’s known as “The Cut” is a stunning passage between the two islands, allowing access to popular Telegraph Harbour. If you’re going to be cruising through The Cut, it’s important to watch tides carefully in this shallow passage. With roughly the same population as Saturna, Thetis is home to a close-knit community, sandstone beaches and two marinas (Telegraph Harbour and Thetis Island Marina and Pub.) 


Denman IslandDenman Island - Gulf Island, BC

10 minutes from Buckley Bay, Denman and Hornby Island provide some excellent island-hopping opportunities. The Denman Island Community Dock is a public wharf just down the hill from the main village, making it a great place to moor and restock supplies at the General Store, or grab a freshly baked treat from Irma’s Kitchen. 


Hornby IslandHornby Island - Gulf Islands, BC

Hornby Island is decidedly more developed and has something for every member of the family.  Sometimes called Canada’s Hawaii, it features long stretches of smooth sandy beaches and crystal-clear water for world-famous diving. Spend the day picnicking and playing on the warm sand, exploring the forest, practicing yoga with the locals and then wind down with a visit to Island Stars for some guided stargazing. Spend the night rocking in the gentle waves at Ford’s Cove or book a stay with one of the nearby resorts or B&B’s.


Texada IslandTexada Island - Gulf Islands, BC

The largest of the Gulf Islands, Texada is known as “the rock” and is home to a full range of amenities including moorage at Sturt (Marble) Bay. Ideal for watching whales and dolphins from the shore, Texada is a naturalist’s paradise as well. Discover incredible archeological sites, see the waterfalls at Stromberg Falls, or hike around one (or two!) of the ten lakes on the island.  You can also explore the secluded bays and coves of nearby Jedediah Island. 


We live in an incredible area of the world, with limitless options for outdoor recreation, wildlife watching, fishing and more. Thinking about upgrading your boat before the new season begins? We offer a wide variety of new luxury Pursuit boats as well as pre-loved yachts and cruisers. Whether you’re looking for a yacht big enough to host a large party, or for a cozy getaway for two, our team at Van Isle Marina looks forward to helping you find the perfect boat for your next trip. Contact us via phone or web form to get started or come see us in sunny Sidney, BC.

*Please note some destinations have been intentionally left off the list due to Covid-19 visitor regulations. Because conditions and closures are set to change at any time, please check current Gulf Islands closures.


Used Boat Buying Checklist

Looking for a Pre-Owned Boat?
Give it a Thorough Inspection Before You Buy


Purchasing a used boat can save you lots of money, when done right. A lightly used boat that’s been treated with kid gloves can be an absolute steal and provide you and your family with many happy years on the water. If the seller is upgrading, they might even throw in PFD’s, seat cushions, the cover and fishing / watersports equipment. Buying a used boat is also an excellent way to get your sea legs established without the sticker price of a brand-new vessel.

When shopping around for a used boat, there are many things to take into consideration. It can be intimidating, particularly if you’re brand new to boating. First, consider what type of powerboat you envision yourself in. Are you most excited for watersports, or relaxed weekends cruising the coast? Do you want to entertain friends and family or enjoy secluded getaways? Will you keep it moored or haul-out at the end of every season? To keep you focused on your search, decide early on what type and size of boat works with your lifestyle.

Once you’ve found a few boats you’d like to take a closer look at, or what you suspect is “the one”, take out our used boat buying checklist and start checking off the boxes. Together, we’ll make sure you’re completely confident about your new-to-you boat!


Go for a well-known brand but avoid models that seem to be prominent on the used sales scene. This could indicate an issue with the model that you don’t want to inherit.

boat buying checklist - check interior / exterior

  • Does the brand have a good reputation?
  • Does the model have a good reputation?
  • Check reviews
  • Ask other owners for their feedback



Knowing the history of the individual boat is helpful in knowing where any dings or scrapes / larger issues may have come from

  • Any recalls?
  • Any known issues?
  • Has the boat been in any accidents?


The engine can be one of the most expensive parts of a boat, so take your time and really make sure it’s in good working order. A test drive will really give you a sense of how the boat handles.

  • Inboard or outboard motor
  • How many motors
  • Check engine hatch for breathability
  • Motor starts smoothly
  • Check engine insulation
  • Check for any leaks
  • Check age of engines
  • Look for any smoke
  • Check transmission
  • Check levers on every seacock
  • Check raw water intake and strainer



All electronics should be in good condition and working well. If there’s a short or any indication of issues with the electronics, the electrical should be thoroughly inspected

  • Review owner’s manual
  • Check battery for damage or corrosion
  • Check interior and exterior lights
  • Check navigational equipment (GPS)
  • Check electrical box
  • Check HVAC or Air Conditioner for effective cooling and heating
  • Check appliances
  • Check all wiring and connections
  • Check for corrosion or signs of damage
  • Test the generator on full tilt for 30 minutes
  • Do a final test of all electronics on board


Exterior Condition

Beyond the aesthetics of the boat, the exterior condition can tell you a lot about how well this boat has been treated and the potential for bigger problems down the line. Check the boat over with the hull lifted out of the water so you can see below the waterline.

  • Check the fibreglass/laminate for any hollow sounds when tapped
  • Check for scratches and cracks
  • Check for cracks or damage around fittings
  • Check for any damage on and around hatches
  • Check condition of handrails
  • Check to make sure cleats are secure and in good shape
  • Check for any rust
  • Check the condition of the deck
  • Check the condition of the hull
  • Look for bubbling in the paint
  • Check the condition of the zinc anodes
  • Check the bearings of the rudder
  • Check the overall rudder
  • Check seating and upholstery for any mold / mildew / tears
  • Check the helm for any damages
  • Check the steering wheel


Interior Condition

The interior of the boat will be your home away from home, so you’ll want to make sure it’s comfortable and in good shape. You’ll also want to make sure it’s free of any issues with plumbing and electricity.

  • Check the condition of lockers
  • Check the condition of trims, stairs, flooring
  • Check for damage to doors and portholes
  • Check lights and switches
  • Check TV, speakers and any other extras
  • Check toilet, sink and shower for water pressure and quality
  • Check appliances for interior or exterior damage
  • Check to ensure that appliances are bolted and mounted
  • Check for leaks in fridge
  • Check temperature in fridge / freezer
  • Test all appliances to make sure they work


Safety Equipment

The bilge pump, fire extinguisher, anchor and chains should all be in good working order.  Even if you plan on replacing most of the safety supplies, it’s a good idea to look through the existing ones to get a feel for how the current owners have cared for the boat and its components.

  • Check expiration date of fire extinguisherboat buying checklist - check marine radio
  • Check bilge pump
  • Check condition of life jackets and any expiry dates
  • Check oars and any other manual propulsion tools
  • Check the flares
  • Check to see if the marine radio is working
  • Check condition of heaving line and lifebuoy(s)
  • Check condition of first aid kit


Owner’s Manual and Legal Documents

Look through the owner’s manual and legal documents so you have the exact specs and features list with you. You can either print it off yourself or ask the current owner to provide one.

  • Check the bill of sale or sales documentation
  • Check insurance papers
  • Check for any outstanding money owed
  • Check that the engine hours and KM match what’s on the sales contract
  • Check for any warranty information


During the sale of a boat, once a price has been agreed upon by the buyer and seller, the boat will then have a marine survey and mechanical inspection performed as part of the condition of the sale. This means that many of the buying a used boat checklist items above will be checked off by a professional and you can rest assured that you’re getting a quality yacht. The cost for these inspections, however, are paid for by the buyer.

Once you’re sure you’re found the boat for you, be sure to review our post on the ins and outs of buying a used yacht. This will cover everything from the sales process to the storage of your new vessel, for a worry-free purchase experience.

Is this the year you’re making the leap to boating? Looking for that perfect used boat? Come and talk to us at Van Isle Marina. We have a fantastic selection of new and pre-loved yachts and cruisers to choose from, as well as a wide variety of new world-class Pursuit Boats. Browse our new and used listings, then contact our expert yacht broker, to find the boat you’ve always dreamed of.

yachts - center vs dual console

Dual Console Vs. Center Console Boats

How to Choose Between a Center Console Boat and Dual Console Boat

Whether to choose a center console layout or dual console layout is a common decision when purchasing a new boat.  The console design you’re going to be happiest with is ultimately going to be the one that suits what you want to get out of your boat.

Maybe you’re an avid fisherperson who is willing to trade a middle aisle and more seating for a larger helm with more space for custom electronics. Maybe you need a boat with seating and lounging zones to really entertain with class. There’s a lot to consider when it comes to choosing which type of powerboat and which type of console will be best for the type of adventures you want to have.

What Is a Center Console Boat?yacht with center console_victoria bc

A center console has a single console that contains the helm, the Captain’s chair and usually one or more passenger seats. The amount of seating inside the center console will depend on the model and size of boat you buy.

Generally, a center console boat is designed for the more serious anglers who need to be able to move around the perimeter of the boat in a hurry. There’s no center aisle, so you can keep hold of the whopping halibut (check out some great halibut recipes here). You also get more raised deck space and work area with a center console boat, which many anglers prefer.

A smaller center console boat under 20 feet long will usually have up to two seats for the skipper/captain/whatever term you prefer to go by, while a larger boat 20 feet and longer might be built with a whole bench seat and entertainment area, complete with grill, sink, storage and more.

A center console is a bit like that pickup truck that you’d use to go hunting but wouldn’t necessarily take into the city. Just like that Supercab or Crew Cab with heated seats, moon roof, and LED screen. Today’s center console models have also evolved to include a whole host of luxury features as well. They’re no longer just bare-bones utilitarian models meant for angling and not much else, but that’s what single consoles were designed for and what they excel at.

What Is a Dual Console Boat?yacht with dual console victoria bc

A dual console boat has two consoles. One houses the helm and the other is for passengers who want to get out of the elements without going into the cabin. This gives the driver his or her own space to do their thing in the cockpit, while passengers have their own separate area to hang out.

The dual consoles create a walking path. This lets boaters easily access the bow and stern seating areas without needing to go all the way around the boat. This layout also means more options for dry storage. With more room for storage of food, supplies and other gear, it’s easier to enjoy longer trips.

With more seating and more storage, as well as two covered areas for passenger and driver, a dual console is ideal for family fun on the water.  

Going with the vehicle analogy once again, a dual console is like the luxury minivan or SUV of the boat world – they’re loaded with features! You’ve got your multiple rows of seating, screens for the kiddies, tons of integrated storage, keyless access, and the cool sliding door that opens with a tap of your foot. Here, comfort is the highest priority, even though you might load it up with camping gear or drive it to your favourite hiking spot.

What Are the Pros of a Center Console Boat?

  • Usually, a larger helm panel with more room for additional electronics and devices
  • More deck space for baiting tackle and working with your catch
  • Fewer obstructions along the rails make it more convenient for anglersboat with center console
  • Ideal for watersports
  • Driver can have more privacy at the wheel

What Are the Pros of a Dual Console Boat?

  • Typically larger than center console
  • More entertainment and lounging spaces, like forward seating and convertible transom seating
  • More dry storage space
  • Best for leisure and group boating
  • Offers greater weather and spray protection with a wraparound windshield
  • Hardtop can cover the width of the boat to provide shade
  • Passengers can remain on deck and away from the elements in second console

What Are the Cons of a Center Console Boat?

  • Less weather protection
  • There’s more deck space but less storage
  • Tend to be smaller than dual console models
  • Helm is usually smaller on a center console model
  • Canopied console may not do as well in inclement weather

What Are the Cons of a Dual Console Boat?

  • Deck space is usually sacrificed for extra seating
  • Can move from bow to stern using the walkway, but can’t move around the perimeter
  • Less room to stow rods and gear under the gunwales
  • Less convenient for fishing

When Choosing Between Center or Dual Console, Think Pursuit Boats

After reading this, you probably have a good idea of whether a center or a dual console boat will fit your lifestyle the best. You can also read our blog post on choosing the right yacht for your needs.

The next step is to see the difference for yourself by viewing our range of watercraft in person! Seeing and touring the boats you’re most interested in will help you narrow your choices down.

At Van Isle Marina, we are the proud and exclusive dealer of Pursuit Boats right here on BC’s West Coast. We offer a spectacular collection of dual and single console vessels, designed to match your fishing, entertaining and cruising goals to a T. From the 26’ long C260 center console to the 37’ 11” D365 dual console model, there’s something to suit all needs. Made in the USA with the highest quality and dependability. One of these feature-packed Pursuits will be exactly right for you and whoever you love to spend time with on the water.

Ready to take the plunge? Come visit our team of dedicated brokers at Van Isle Marina. Located in beautiful Sidney, BC, we offer a wide range of luxurious new and used yachts and boats in addition to the complete line of Pursuit models. Call or email today to find the perfect fit for your boating needs.

Boat Maintenance Checklist PDF

Boat Maintenance Checklist

Use this Handy Checklist for Boats / Yachts Before Getting Back on the Water

Boat maintenance is a key part of keeping your boat cruising smoothly for optimal enjoyment, safety and resale value. At Van Isle Marina, we know there’s a lot to think about when it comes to maintaining your boat. This is why we’ve created this handy cheat sheet for the care and keeping of your boat.boat maintenance checklist PDF cover image

It’s a good idea to go through this boat maintenance checklist at the end of the season. This will give you plenty of time to schedule the required boat repairs and maintenance during the low season.

Completing all the maintenance needed for your vessel will make it easy to be out on the water as soon as the cruising season begins.

Boat Mechanics

To ensure a smooth trip, take the time to inspect the engine and all its parts. Replace items as needed to ensure your boat is in good working order.

  • Check the engine and operating temperatureboat maintenance checklist - check propellers
  • Check propeller for any damage
  • Test steering for any leaks
  • Check transom mount (if using an outboard)
  • Check fuel lines for weak points or leaks
  • Do an oil change
  • Check spark plugs
  • Check fluid levels
  • Check gearcase for water
  • Check belts, cables and hoses
  • Lubricate fittings (where required)

Boat’s Electrical Systems

Because your boat experiences a lot of vibration and hull flex, it’s important to properly troubleshoot and maintain electrical components.

  • Check battery charge level
  • Check battery connections and cables
  • Look for any acid leaks around terminals and clean as needed
  • Replace battery if needed
  • Check and/or replace interior and exterior lighting and wiring

Hull of the Boat

As the watertight part of the boat, the hull maintains the structural integrity of the boat, protecting the cabin, cargo, engines and all other components.boat maintenance checklist - waxing the hull

  • Check for any signs of leaks
  • Check for cracks or stressed areas
  • Check thru-hulls for rust
  • Check stringers
  • Wash with a pH balanced soap
  • Wax or paint hull

Boat’s Electronics

Not to be confused with electrical systems, the onboard electronics of the boat let you navigate and communicate effectively.

  • Check wiring for any corrosion
  • Check voltage levels
  • Update firmware to latest version

Boat’s HVAC System

Ready access to water as well as reliable heating and air conditioning are essential to an enjoyable trip out on your boat.

  • Check and refill water tank
  • Check the drain for clogs
  • Check for condensate in pan under evaporator
  • Clean air filters and raw water strainer
  • Reverse cycle the system to make sure heating is available
  • Check the water pump impeller and condenser coil for any build-up

Upholstery and Canvas on Board

Seasonal maintenance is needed to preserve and extend the life of the on-board upholstery and covers.boat maintenance checklist - clean the upholstery

  • Check for mould and mildew – clean as needed with vinegar solution
  • Remove and wash canvas
  • Check for waterproofing – reapply waterproofing spray if needed

Safety Equipment on Board your Boat

Ensure your safety equipment is in good working condition and within the expiry date. Replace anything that has expired or is in poor condition.

  • Check flare(s)
  • Check fire extinguisher
  • Inspect lifejackets for tears or missing parts
  • Inspect and restock first aid kit
  • Check flashlight and batteries
  • Check and refill spare gas can
  • Check EPIRB (Emergency Positioning Indicating Radio Beacon)
  • Check tender for damage
  • Check paddles and outboard motor on tender

Click here to download our boat maintenance checklist as a PDF.

Getting ready to get back out on the water this spring? Come and see us first. At Van Isle Marina, we’re a one-stop shop for all your cruising needs, from oils and additives to charts and tackle. We offer a great marine fuel discount program for recreational and commercial vessels. Enjoy full-service assistance with dock lines and fueling from our marine gas station team. We’re open 8 :00 AM – 4:00 PM daily (winter) and 8:00 AM – 8:00 PM daily (summer) and we look forward to seeing you in beautiful Sidney, BC. Contact us anytime for a service request for moorage, haul out, dry land storage and more.

How to Make the Most of Virtual Boat Shows

How to Make the Most of Virtual Boat Shows

Explore All the Options and Products from the Comfort of Your Own Home


In 2021, Canadian Boat Shows are going virtual in response to efforts to get Covid-19 under control. Vendors, brokers and presenters have had to get creative in this new online space, but they’re taking the challenge and filling their sails. As more virtual boat shows launch, the online platform could reach larger audiences than ever before. If you’ve always dreamed of attending an international boat show in Europe, now’s your chance.

Obviously, the experience is different from attending a boat show in person, but there’s nothing to say that you can’t still take advantage of an online showcase. In fact, it opens an opportunity to “visit” boat shows all around the world from the comfort of your own home. Whether you are brand new to yachting or already an experienced yachter, the new online format will have a plethora of online boating knowledge, tips and tricks for you to take advantage of.

Today’s boat shows feature live or pre-recorded interviews with brokers and builders, a detailed video walkthrough via Zoom, virtual boat tours or presentations to a registered audience and other exclusive features available to registrants. If you have a few boats in mind that you haven’t been able to see in person yet, give the virtual boat show a try! The one-on-one format could be one of the most relaxed, unscripted ways to “tour” a boat.

Tips for the Best Virtual Boat Show Experience

  • Find a quiet, comfortable space where you can talk and listen without being interruptedvirtual boat shows in 2021
  • Know the platform you’re using and test your audio / video before the show starts
  • Have a list of products and accessories you’re interested in and would like to learn more about
  • If you have a particular model or type of boat(s) in mind, this gives you the ability to do your own research and really get down to the nitty gritty with the builders and brokers. Rather than focusing on brochure basics, you’ll be able to really narrow down which model suits what you want in a boat.
  • Keep a set of questions on hand, for when you have an opportunity to ask fellow boaters or industry professionals. It’s easy to forget in the moment. You can also email the presenters afterwards.
  • During walkthroughs, take advantage of the chat bar to ask questions as the broker leads the “tour”
  • Take note of anything you notice that you’d want to upgrade or add, or anything you have a specific question about, like how the ventilation is in the cabin, how is the access to the engine room, etc.… all those things that you can only experience while on board.
  • Learn how to take screen shots with the device you’ll be using so you can save shots of specific angles and aspects of the layout, etc.… This way you can look back on it later.

The First Virtual Boat Shows

Palm Beach, FL started the trend with their first virtual show ever in May 2020. Next up, was the 2021 Virtual Toronto International Boat Show as Canada’s first-ever virtual boat show. These have prompted other regions and even different manufacturers and builders to follow suit.Toronto boat show

Up next is the 59th annual Vancouver boat show. Vancouver’s virtual boat show is being presented Feb 24-27 with free registration. It offers the chance to explore virtual exhibitor spaces without the hassle of crowds. Schedule a meeting, join a live chat, email your questions, and browse the products. Also, enjoy exclusive live content, live Q&A sessions with industry pros, and attend online workshops and seminars to learn all about the newest advances in the boating world. To register and receive more information, visit Vancouverboatshow.ca

Boatinternational.com is hosting an ongoing virtual boat show, complete with vendor map, spotlight on the latest and greatest yachts, exclusive announcements, and videos detailing the hottest new boats from bow to stern.  Boating enthusiasts can also take part in live discussions, interviews and events hosted by Boat International journalists.

Sail Magazine has also jumped on board, with their digital boat show. With new vendors added daily, the show is growing continuously. Learn about product information, watch boat testing and watch web exclusive videos like Reaching Reality – a Sailing Docuseries. While not as interactive as the Vancouver Boat Show and Boat International’s Virtual Boat Show, there’s a wealth of information here.

A Boating Boom

With most people sticking to their family bubbles, boating has become a prime option for enjoying a holiday away from home. Gone is the option to go to Mexico or any other warm Caribbean destination. Instead, Canadian boaters and outdoor enthusiasts are embracing what’s available in our own back yard. Here on the West Coast, we have an endless array of islands and islets and calm, scenic channels. Our coast is also home to world-class diving and serious salt and freshwater fishing.

It’s not just happening here on Vancouver Island either. According to a recent Global News article, demand for a new boat is up across the country.

Some stats from The Toronto Show:

  •  80% of exhibitors experienced a significant increase in enquiries/sales from new boaters and first-time buyers
  • Half of all exhibitors saw an increase in inquiries/sales from customers under the age of 40
  • 40% of exhibitors estimated an overall sales increase by 15% – 25%
  • Pontoons, bowriders, and personal watercraft like Sea-Doos and WaveRunners were some of the top-selling categories in 2020

If you want to be on the water this summer, don’t hesitate. At Van Isle Marina, we are happy to connect in person for a tour of our top-of-the-line Pursuit Boats. We also have a wide variety of previously loved yachts and cruisers, ideal for everything from a quick cruise to a weeks-long adventure. Come down and visit us at our world-class sales dock or get in touch with our brokers by phone or email. We look forward to helping make your boating dreams a reality!

3 different types of chowder recipes

Three Mouthwatering Chowder Recipes

Chowder is a dish that has stood the test of time since it’s so adaptable. It’s incredibly popular from coast to coast


In fact, Seafood chowder was even the backbone of a major fundraiser for the Vancouver Aquarium—that’s how much British Columbians LOVE their chowder! See the article by Vancouver Magazine here. All the way over on the East Coast, the soup is celebrated with its very own Chowder Trail in Nova Scotia.

The most commonly known is clam chowder, made in either New England or Manhattan style. New England style is the version with the rich, creamy white base, while Manhattan style is made with a lighter tomato-based broth. Both types are very hearty chowders that start with a base of bacon or salt pork and a mixture of potatoes, celery, carrots and onions.

You can make New England style chowders with heavy cream or lighten it up with 2% milk. You can stop at clams or add whatever seafood you love best. You can also skip the seafood entirely in favour of a combination like bacon, chicken and corn for a more down-home style chowder.

For a spicy take on chowder, we’ve also included a Bermudian favourite, the Bermuda Fish Chowder. Made with spicy bird peppers marinated in Sherry and served with dark rum, it’s a great example of how adaptable chowder is.

Where Did Chowder Come From?

Chowder used to be considered food for poor men and was made of whatever was on hand at the time, thickened with biscuits or stale crackers. With roots to the Latin word calderia (cooking pot or cauldron) and in French, Chaudière (cauldron) chowders were a one pot meal made from whatever was fished for, hunted, or grown in the gardens.

It’s believed that chowder originated as a fish chowder in Brittany, northwest France, and Cornwall, in Southwestern England as early as the 16th century. It can also be traced back to Natives along the Atlantic Coast of North America. Over the decades and centuries, chowder has been refined and transformed into many different varieties. Read the full history of chowder here.

Three of the Best, Crowd-Pleasing Chowders to Try

Maritime Seafood Chowder

Straight from the Dairy Farmers of Canada, this is a classic, rich seafood chowder.

  • 1 Tbsp (15 mL) butterMaritime Seafood Chowder
  • 2 stalks chopped celery
  • 1 chopped onion
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 tsp (5 mL) fresh dill or thyme
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 2 lg Yukon Gold potatoes (peeled and diced)
  • 2 C water or fish stock
  • 1/3 C (8 mL) all-purpose flour
  • 3 C (750 mL) milk
  • 2 C (500 mL) chopped raw skinless fish fillets or cooked seafood
  • 2 Tbsp (3 mL) lemon juice
  • Crumbled whole grain crackers

To Prepare

In a large pot, melt butter over medium heat; sauté celery, onion, bay leaf, dill, ½ tsp (2 mL) salt and ¼ tsp (1 mL) pepper for about 5 minutes or until onions are soft and browning. Stir the potatoes in and sauté for 2 minutes.

Bump the heat to medium-high; stir in the water and bring mixture to a boil. Cover, reduce heat back to medium and boil for around 5 minutes. Potatoes should be nearly tender.

Next, whisk flour into milk and stir into the pot; bring it all to a simmer, stirring often. Stir in fish or seafood and simmer, stirring often until fish flakes easily with a fork or seafood is piping hot. Discard the bay leaf, then stir in lemon juice and season to taste. Ladle into bowls and top with the crumbled crackers.

BC Ferries Manhattan Style Clam Chowder

When you live on the coast, a little ferry hopping is inevitable, and sometimes you get hungry! BC Ferries has been preparing their popular Manhattan style clam chowder the same way for many years and sadly, it’s no longer served on the main routes. However, the Times Colonist tracked down the recipe so you make it yourself. This makes three litres and freezes well— for quick and easy suppers on your boat.

  • 160 g ham, dicedBC Ferries Manhattan Style Clam Chowder
  • 743 g potatoes, diced
  • 335 g carrots, diced
  • 590 g onions, diced
  • 335 g celery, diced
  • 263 g green pepper, diced
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/2 tsp white pepper
  • 1/4 tsp crushed thyme
  • 1 Litre water
  • 252 g tomato paste
  • 650 g skinned whole tomatoes (crushed)
  • 57 g chicken base
  • 750 mL canned clam juice
  • 185 mL water
  • 270 g flour
  • 1 tsp Tabasco sauce
  • 2 tsp Worcestershire sauce
  • 1/2 tsp sugar
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 900 g clam meat, chopped
  • 1 tsp fresh parsley, chopped

To Prepare

Sauté the diced ham and vegetables in a saucepan until vegetables are tender and onions become soft and translucent (5 to 10 minutes).

Add in the garlic powder, white pepper, crushed thyme, 1 L water, tomato paste, tomatoes, chicken base, and clam juice; cover and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer 30-45 minutes. Potatoes should be tender.

Combine 185 mL water with flour and add to the soup slowly, stirring constantly to thicken.

Add in the sauces, sugar, salt, clam meat and parsley; gently fold in ingredients to incorporate.

Return soup to a simmer and serve.

Bermuda Fish Chowder

A classic, Bermuda style fish chowder recipe.

  • 16 C water or fish stockBermuda Style Fish Chowder
  • 680 g (1.5 lbs) white fish fillets (red snapper, rockfish, etc.…)
  • Salt, thyme, bay leaves, peppercorns, ground cloves
  • 2 Tbsp butter
  • 2 Tbsp oil
  • 907 g (2 lbs) potatoes, peeled and diced
  • 3 large onions, chopped
  • 8 celery stalks, chopped
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 2 green peppers, chopped
  • 6 carrots, diced
  • ½ cup parsley, chopped
  • 1 can (28 oz, 794 g) skinned tomatoes
  • 1 can (10 oz, 285 g) consommé
  • 1 cup ketchup
  • 2 Tbsp Worcestershire sauce
  • 2 tsp lemon juice
  • 2 oz Black Rum
  • 4 Tbsp Sherry Peppers Sauce
  • Ground pepper to taste

To Prepare

In a large pot add water, fish fillets, salt, and spices. Bring to a boil and let simmer for about 30-45 minutes.

In a frying pan, melt butter and oil. Sauté onions, celery, garlic, and green peppers. Add tomatoes and consommé. Simmer for 30 minutes.

Transfer the sauteed mixture to the fish stock and add in the remaining ingredients. Simmer partially covered for 2 hours and adjust seasoning to your liking.

Serve piping hot with Sherry Peppers sauce on the side. Dash with rum to taste.


Other Ideas for Chowder

  • Use heavy cream for the richest flavour
  • Add candied salmon to add a subtly smoky flavour to a seafood chowder
  • For a low-carb chowder, sub cauliflower for potatoes (reduce cooking time to keep cauliflower firm)
  • Use fish stock wherever possible to give it the most flavour
  • Garnish with chives
  • Use fish with firmer meat and leave the fillets whole while cooking them
  • Serve your chowder in a bread bowl
  • Use a lactose free milk, soy, or coconut beverage in place of milk or cream


Ready to catch your supper? If you’re on the market for a new fishing boat, check out our selection of fishing boats, including Pursuit Boats. Whether you’re looking for a sporty single console, a yacht for multi-day trips, or anything in between, contact our experienced sales brokers or come down to our sales dock today.