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Boat camping around vancouver island - how to camp by boat

Boat Camping Around Vancouver Island

Where and How to Camp by Boat

Camping by boat might not be what comes to mind when you think about heading into the great outdoors. Usually, it involves planning when and where you want to go before packing everything into your car, not your boat. But, for boat owners, camping can take on a whole new dimension. There are two ways to go camping by boat:

  • By Yacht. With a yacht, your opportunities for camping by boat are virtually endless. After all, you can cook and sleep in your boat and take a dinghy or kayak out for exploring. 
  • By Canoe. Launching from a boat ramp and paddling your canoe through one of our many lakes and rivers can certainly be a way that you can go camping by boat. Everything you take must be able to fit into your canoe, however, so pack smart! 

Check the Weather Before Going Boat Camping

Inland boat campers may get a little soggy in poor weather, but those going camping by boat can face much more extreme weather. Check the forecast for the places you intend to visit, but make sure you check the marine weather too. This type of forecast gives you valuable information concerning wind speed, wave height, precipitation, storm watches, air temperatures, and more. Learning how to understand a marine weather forecast will help you plan a safe trip. 

Staying Safe

Staying safe while boat camping

Camping by boat doesn’t just involve loading up and leaving. There are three critical things to consider when you are getting ready to go out on a boat:

Take the time to ensure that your boat is safe and that you and your guests understand how to enjoy camping by boat safely. Transport Canada requires – by law – that the following items be present:

  • One correctly fitted Personal Flotation Device/ Lifejacket for every passenger
  • One buoyant heaving line at least 15m in length
  • A manual propelling device or anchor with at least 15m of rope
  • A selection of visual signalling devices
  • A sound signalling device
  • A fire extinguisher
  • A bailing device or hand pump

If you are canoe camping, safety measures are a little more straightforward. Make sure you have the above items and that everybody knows what to do in an emergency. If you have a yacht, you will also need to think about a few extra things:

  • Are your fuel and oil levels good?
  • Are all the onboard batteries charged?
  • Are all the lights working?
  • Is the radio working?
  • Do your guests know what to do if you are incapacitated?

Ready, Set, Let’s Go Boat Camping!

As with any trip, camping by boat requires a few last-minute preparations so that everything is well-planned and organized. The most basic preparations involve making sure you have enough clothing, bedding, food, water and first aid to cover the entire trip. In addition, you will need to make sure all your essential documents – such as licences and ID – are easily accessible. Finally, you will also need to consider the weather forecast for the entire span of your intended trip to determine potential safety issues.

If you are heading out on a yacht, there are a few things to prepare before you leave:

  • Put your essential papers in a safe, accessible place
  • Check your onboard machinery
  • Check that your safety devices are not expired 
  • Have all the maps and charts you will need for the trip 
  • Calibrate your compass
  • Check your anchor and ropes
  • Check your engine
  • Check for damage, including the electrical and sanitation systems
  • Make sure someone you trust knows where you are going and when you expect to be back

The Top 3 Spots to Boat Camp Around Vancouver Island

Buttle Lake, Strathcona Park

buttle lake, strathcona parkAwe-inspiring Strathcona Park is almost at the center of Vancouver Island. It extends from midway between Parksville and Courtenay to just northwest of Campbell River. It is the oldest provincial park in British Columbia, having been incorporated in 1911. While you get to the Buttle Lake, Karst Creek and Ralph River campgrounds and boat ramps by vehicle, there are also campsites on the lake that are boat access only. Over 23 kilometres in length, Buttle Lake features these popular camping spots:

  • Rainbow Island
  • Mt Titus Marine Campsite
  • Wolf River
  • Phillips Creek

All campsites have pit toilets and several pads for tents. Along with fantastic boating opportunities for kayaks, canoes, and motorboats, Strathcona Park boasts some of the most scenic hiking trails on all of Vancouver Island. You can also enjoy rock climbing, fishing, swimming, waterskiing and abundant wildlife watching.

Broken Group Islands

Located between Ucluelet and Bamfield on Vancouver Island’s west coast, you will find Barkley Sound, home to the lush forests of the Broken Group Islands. While visitors are encouraged to explore and go camping by boat to their heart’s content, onshore camping can only be done at these designated areas:

  • Hand Island
  • Turret Island
  • Gibraltar Island
  • Willis Island
  • Dodd Island
  • Clarke Island
  • Gilbert Island

Access to the Broken Group Islands is boat-only, but there is plenty to see and do onshore and offshore. You can explore tidal pools or take a leisurely paddle through the emerald-green waters that surround the islands. Be on the lookout for eagles, bears, whales, sea otters, and so much more!

Each designated camping area features solar composting toilets, but visitors must bring in their own water and take out any refuse and protect the local ecosystem. 

Rugged Point Marine Provincial Park

Rugged point marine provincial park

Located ¾ up the west coast of Vancouver Island, this boat-access-only park sports one of the most stunningly beautiful stretches of coastline on the west coast of Vancouver Island. Its protected beaches are quiet and serene, contrasting sharply with the wind-swept waves of the Pacific.

Rugged Point Marine Provincial Park is a haven for explorers and boat enthusiasts, but not many know that you can camp onshore there. The designated camping area is small, featuring only four tent platforms, but you are allowed to pitch your tent on the beaches if you wish.

Alternatively, you can spend your nights offshore and stretch your legs in the day-use area. There you will find a sheltered picnic area, a pit toilet and a food cache.

Rugged Point Marine Provincial is popular for canoeing and kayaking, but you can also fish, windsurf and see wildlife.


Do we have you thinking about going camping by boat? Our experienced crew will help set you on the right path. Contact Van Isle Marina today!

A Guide to the Best Boats for Your Summer Water Sports

Best Boat For Water Sports

A Guide to the Best Boats For Your Summer Water Sports

What’s the best boat for water sports? Let’s find out! 

As summer heats up, there are plenty of ways to cool down in the water including lots of fun water sports.

Spending your summer by the lake or the ocean means lots of opportunities to enjoy exciting and relaxing water sports. Whether you use your boat to simply carry yourself, your friends and your water sports equipment to a suitable anchor point, or if the boat is part of the water activities, there are lots of options.

But what type of boat best suits your lifestyle and the water sports you want to enjoy? While the options are endless when it comes to water sports, some boats and yachts are better suited to certain water-based activities.

Before you head out for a water adventure check out this guide to water sports and the best boats to do them with.

Power Boats are Perfect for Surface Water Sports

Power boats are perfect for surface water sports

Water sports such as water skiing, knee boarding and wake surfing all fall under the surface water sport family and are easily enjoyable with the right boat. Feeling extra adventurous? Kitesurfing is also in this category, but you should seek the guidance of a professional if you’re new to this activity.

With surface water sports comes a need for speed, and the ability to turn quickly which is why power boats are ideal.

Suitable boats for these kinds of water activities include:

  • Jet Boat: In terms of speed, the jet boat is a great deal of fun. They’re easy to manoeuvre and are very small. They’re also good in shallower waters. 
  • Ski and Wakeboard Boat: If tubing is your water sport preference, this is the type of boat you need. A wakeboard boat produces higher waves behind it. Seasoned water skiers or wakeboarders would benefit from this type of boat as well. 

 Check out these additional powerboat classifications for more inspiration.

Best Boats for Cruising, Sailing and Boat Trips

best boats for cruising sailing and boat tripsRelaxation, sightseeing cruises, and celebrations go hand in hand with boats, especially if you prefer more sedate water-based activities.

Dock or anchor your yacht to enjoy swimming or snorkelling in shallower water. Or stay on board and enjoy a cool drink while tanning on your deck.

Here are the best boats for cruising, sailing and boat trips:

  • Yacht: Modern yachts are loaded with accessories to help you host a lunch, take a little trip or just enjoy the wind in your hair when you head out for a spin. Yachts are smart, sporty and dressed to impress. 
  • Trawler Boat: The perfect boat for cruising, a trawler boat is excellent to take longer trips. Venture out to discover different islands and areas and fill your summer with exciting destinations.

Check out these great reviews by Canadian Yachting, covering boats that are spacious and versatile for cruising and more. 

Fishing – The Ultimate Water Sport?

Fishing - the ultimate water sportFishing is a great summertime activity to indulge in. Whether you’re a novice or a seasoned pro, fishing is refreshing, peaceful and a lot of fun. Take these boats for a spin during your next fishing trip and you’ll be sure to reel in the catch of the day with their swift, unalarming manoeuvres. 

  • Pursuit Console Boat: A traditional fishing style boat that provides shelter and weather protection.
  • Convertible Fishing Boat: A large boat that is best suited for both offshore fishing and distance cruising. If you’re looking for a boat with a large cabin, this one’s for you.
  • Cuddy Cabin Boat: These small boats are great to fish with. They have a smaller overhead which can be used for weather protection. They also come with a walk-around or accessible bow, which can be useful for offshore fishing.

Paddling is People Powered Water Sports

paddling is people powered water sportsNon-motorized water sports are trendy, peaceful, and enable you to enjoy relaxed activity in calmer waters. Paddle-powered water sports include stand-up paddle boarding, kayaking, and canoeing. Stand up paddle boards have been called the must-have boating accessory, while kayaking and canoeing are classic water sports loved by many. With water sports such as these, you have a different range of options in terms of boat choice, but if you want to transport your equipment to different locations on board, look for larger boats with more deck space:

  • Deck Boat: This has lots of space which makes it ideal for hauling water sports equipment. They are also great for swimming, so try an adventurous new water sport like snorkelling. 
  • Bowrider: Seats 8 or more people and is a good boat for beginners. They’re also great for shallow waters and fishing, as well as water sports.

Versatile Boats for All Fun Water Sports

If you are interested in the faster, motor-powered water sports, you can’t go wrong with investing in a power boat which has great versatility for many types of fun water activities.

Here’s Boat Safe’s guide on what to look for when buying a great power boat.

If you’re looking for a boat that can do it all, consider a Pursuit Boat. As Vancouver Island’s exclusive Pursuit dealer, Van Isle Marina can help you find the perfect model. 

Sporty, offshore, dual console, center console and spacious, pursuit boats have it all. They are the perfect balance between entertaining and interactive for whatever type of water sport or summer water activity you’re looking for. If you’re looking for the best boats for water sports, Pursuit boats are a great choice.

Go Downsize endorses the quality of Pursuit Boats, showing their durability and top-notch build when it comes to value for your money. They are one of the best boats you can invest in.

Try Out Some New Water Sports This Summer on a New Boat from Van Isle Marina

Whether you are looking for your first boat, or if you’re in the market for a new one, the right vessel is key to power your aquatic adventures.

Let our knowledgeable yacht sales team at Van Isle Marina find you the ideal boat to carry you, your friends and your water activity equipment. Contact us if you’re looking for the best yacht for water sports.

Boat distress Flares - What they are are why you need them

Boat Distress Flares – What They Are and Why You Need Them

The Essential Safety Equipment you need for any Boating Trip

Boat distress flares are one of those things that no one really thinks about until they need it.

Being out on the water can be a wonderful way to spend a day, a week, or even a month. There is nothing quite like enjoying the sunshine while gliding through the water on your yacht, or perhaps dropping a line or a crab trap off the side of your fishing boat. 

But if you found yourself in an emergency situation, would you know how to attract attention using a visual distress signal such as a flare?

Chances are, you’ve got a pretty good idea about what you need to take with you on a boating trip in terms of food, drinks, clothing, equipment and so on, but do you also have the basic safety equipment that all boats are required to carry?

In this blog, we will discuss the types of boat distress flares available, how you should store them and what the rules are about using them, but first let’s look at the basic safety equipment you need to have on board.

Your Boating Safety Equipment Checklist

Your boating safety equipment checklist

No matter the size of your boat, you should carry a boating emergency kit  on board in case of an emergency, which should include:

  • A propelling device, in case of engine failure
  • An anchor, with 15-meter rope, in case of engine failure
  • A heaving line, for water rescues
  • A fire extinguisher
  • A bailer or hand pump, in case of flooding on board
  • An emergency kit, including First Aid, boat documentation, communication tools, navigation tools, extra batteries, water, snacks, weather items, a knife, and a change of clothes.
  • A selection of visual signalling devices, such as flares and waterproof flashlights
  • A sound signalling device, such as horns or whistles.

Some of the above are simply a good idea to have on board your boat, but some – like distress flares – are required by law. Most importantly, carrying these items aboard can save you in the event of an emergency.

What are the Requirements for Boat Distress Flares in Canadian Waters?

what are the requirements for boat distress flares in canadian waters

Different countries have different rules about the use of distress flares on boats, but Canadian laws regarding distress flare requirements are as follows:

  • While on an ocean or a body of water where it is possible to travel over 1 nautical mile from the shore, you are required to have flares on board.
  • While on a body of water where it is not possible to travel over 1 nautical mile from shore, you are not required to have flares on board.
  • Boats under 6 meters must have 3 distress signals (in addition to smoke signals).
  • Boats between 6 and 9 meters require 6 distress signals (in addition to smoke signals).
  • Boats between 9 and 12 meters require 12 distress signal flares (half of which should not be smoke signals).
  • Boats over 12 meters require 12 distress signals (half of which should not be smoke signals).
  • Distress signals must only be used in the event of an emergency. Any non-emergency use is illegal.

When you have the required equipment on your vessel, you can relax a little more, knowing that you’ve covered all your bases and planned for an emergency. 

What are the Different Types of Distress Flares?

Boat distress signals type D - smoke signals

Knowledge is power, especially when it comes to the devices that could very well save your life one day. There are four main types of distress signals: rocket parachute flares (Type A), multi-star flares (Type B), handheld flares (Type C) and smoke signals (Type D). 

Boat Distress Signals Type A: Rocket Parachute Flares

As the name indicates, Type A distress signals have a rocket capable of launching the flare 300 meters into the air. Once the flare hits its maximum height, a parachute billows out and the flare burns red for 40 seconds while descending. This type of distress signal is viewable up to 20 nautical miles away. 

Boat Distress Signals Type B: Multi-Star Flares

Type B distress signals shoot off two or more red stars (like fireworks) at intervals of up to 15 seconds, with the stars burning for around 4 seconds. With a maximum height of 100 meters, Type B distress signals can be seen up to 12 nautical miles away.

Boat Distress Signals Type C: Handheld Flares

These handheld distress signals are easier to see from the air than from the surface of the water, assisting rescuers who are within a few nautical miles. These flares are shaped like a long tube and are designed to burn bright red while the operator waves them slowly back and forth.  

Boat Distress Signals Type D: Smoke Signals

Type D distress signals can be handheld or able to float on the water. The buoyant type will produce orange smoke for a minimum of 3 minutes on calm water, while the handheld variety produces smoke for a minimum of 1 minute. The important thing to remember about Type D distress signals is that they are only usable in clear daylight, since smoke signals rely on high-visibility weather conditions.

There are a few other distress signal types, including LED flares, but these are not approved by Transport Canada. Distress signals onboard Canadian vessels need to be picked from the four approved types listed above. 

Each type of distress signal has its own unique features, but one feature that they all share is that they are valid for 4 years after their manufacture date. Expired distress signals need to be disposed of promptly, according to the disposal instructions on the device itself.

How Should You Store Your Distress Flares Onboard?

The single most important thing about distress signal storage is that they need to be kept away from heat sources and flammable liquids or gases. Your distress signals should be kept upright in a waterproof container somewhere cool, dry, and easy to access. After all, an emergency device is useless if you can’t get to it quickly and easily.

It’s a good idea to paint the storage container with a bright colour and label it “Distress Signals” so that other people on the craft can easily identify the container.

Stay Safe and Enjoy the Trip!

Now that your boat is fully stocked with all the necessary safety equipment, be sure to go over their location and usage instructions with any passengers before setting off. 

At Van Isle Marina, our knowledgeable staff can help you with sourcing any safety equipment you require while you are moored with us. We offer long and short-term moorage options and a wide range of amenities for overnight guests including showers and a business centre. Contact us today to find out more or book a slip.

A Complete Guide to selecting your Lifejacket or pfd

Your Complete Guide to Selecting a Lifejacket or PFD

What’s the Difference Between a Lifejacket and Personal Flotation Device (PFD)?

In this post, we’ll take a deep dive into lifejackets, PFDs, and what factors to consider when selecting the right lifejacket or personal flotation device for you. 

As important as it is to enjoy your time on the water, it’s equally important to follow essential boating safety practices. One of the best ways to protect yourself while boating is to wear a lifejacket or personal flotation device (PFD).  

lifejacket vs PFD: whats the difference?According to a joint recreational boating surveillance report by the Canadian Red Cross and Transport Canada, a properly-worn lifejacket or PFD is the most important piece of boating safety equipment in the prevention of accidental drowning. 

The report found that only 12% of boating immersion victims wore a personal flotation device and 4% of them wore it incorrectly.

So, what exactly is a personal flotation device or PFD? And how does it differ from a lifejacket or life vest? 

Lifejacket vs. PFD: What’s the Difference?

Lifejackets and PFDs are often confused with each other by both new and experienced boaters alike. Since they perform the same function of helping people stay afloat in water, many use the names PFD and lifejacket interchangeably. 

Despite their shared purpose and similar appearances, there are some key differences between the two:

  • Lifejackets are more heavily padded at the front and generally bulkier than a PFD.
  • All lifejackets approved by Transport Canada provide thermal protection, but only some PFDs offer thermal protection.
  • A PFD feels lighter and more comfortable to wear than a lifejacket.
  • A lifejacket is self-righting. It is designed to always flip your body face up when immersed in water, while a PFD will simply keep you afloat.
  • PFDs come in a wide array of colours, sizes, and styles. On the other hand, Canadian-approved lifejackets are only available in limited colours and sizes. 

What are the Different Types of Lifejackets?

How to choose the right lifejacket or personal flotation device for you

Lifejackets offer the highest level of protection and flotation for boaters. To maximize visibility in the water, lifejackets approved in Canada only come in three bright colours: yellow, red, and orange. 

From the most to the least amount of protection, here are the three types of lifejackets approved in Canada: 

  • Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS) Lifejackets
      • When it comes to safety and performance, SOLAS lifejackets are the gold standard in lifejackets. 
      • These types of lifejackets pass the highest standards, offer the most buoyancy, and can be worn on any vessel. 
      • SOLAS lifejackets are capable of instantly self-righting. Regardless of whether a person is conscious or not, the lifejacket will turn them on their back and keep their head above water, to help them breathe.
      • These keyhole-style lifejackets are available to boaters in two sizes: for adults (who weigh over 32 kg or 70 lbs) or for children (who weigh less than 32 kg or 70 lbs). 
  • Standard Type Lifejackets 
      • In terms of protection, a standard type lifejacket follows closely behind the SOLAS lifejacket. 
      • These types of lifejackets can be worn on any vessel except for SOLAS vessels. 
      • Similar to the SOLAS lifejacket, a standard type lifejacket is also self-righting and can turn a person, conscious or not, over onto their back.
      • The standard type of lifejacket comes in the keyhole style with one size for adults (who weigh more than 40 kg or 90 lbs) and another size for children (who weigh less than 40 kg or 90 lbs). 
  • Small Vessel Lifejackets 
    • This is the third and last type of Canadian-approved lifejacket. 
    • As its name suggests, these lifejackets can be used on small vessels. 
    • The small vessel lifejacket is designed to turn your body face up, albeit more slowly than the other two types of lifejackets.
    • Canadian boaters can choose between two styles (keyhole or vest) and three sizes based on weight: over 41 kg (90lbs), less than 18 kg (40 lbs), and in between. 

What Types of PFDs Are Available?

What types of PFDs are available

Unlike lifejackets, approved PFDs come in a wide variety of colours, sizes, and styles. Canadian boaters who prefer to wear a PFD enjoy the luxury of selecting a personal flotation device with features specifically designed for their chosen water-related activity. 

It’s important to distinguish between an inflatable PFD and a standard PFD. Inflatable PFDs, which manually, orally, or automatically inflate when immersed in water, are prohibited for certain uses under Transport Canada’s Safe Boating Guide and are best used by competent swimmers.

Canadians are not permitted to use inflatable PFDs under the following circumstances: 

  • The person is younger than 16 years or weighs less than 36.3 kg (80 lbs). 
  • The person intends to operate or be a passenger on a personal watercraft. 
  • The person intends to participate in white-water paddling activities. 

How To Choose the Right Lifejacket or Personal Flotation Device for You

When worn correctly, a lifejacket or PFD offers protection against drowning in the event your boat capsizes, or you find yourself unexpectedly immersed in cold water. Here are a few factors to consider when selecting a lifejacket or PFD that is most suitable for you and your needs: 

  • Is it a Canadian-approved lifejacket or PFD? 
    • The lifejacket or PFD should have a label stating that it was approved by Transport Canada, the Canadian Coast Guard, or Fisheries and Oceans Canada. 
  • Are you a strong swimmer? 
    • If you don’t know how to swim, it’s best to avoid inflatable PFDs altogether. In the event that inflation fails, it might be difficult for you to orally inflate the device using the backup inflation tube. 
    • Canadians who aren’t as confident in their swimming abilities would benefit more from the maximum flotation, high visibility, and self-righting design of an inherently buoyant lifejacket. 
  • Which water-related activity would you like to participate in? 
    • There are Canadian-approved PFDs for all kinds of water-related activities. 
  • How important is comfort to you? 
    • PFDs tend to be more comfortable and lightweight than lifejackets. If you expect to wear the device for a long time, a PFD might be the best fit for you. 
  • What is the weather like? 
    • While Canadian boaters may not be able to control the marine weather, they can certainly prepare for the cold by opting for a lifejacket or PFD with thermal protection. 
  • How does the lifejacket or PFD fit you? 
    • All lifejackets and PFDs should feel snug. If it rides up while you’re in the water, it’s most likely too large for you. 
  • Is the PFD or lifejacket for a child? 
    • To ensure that the lifejacket is not too big for the child, check to see if it rides up when you lift the device around their shoulders. If there is more than 7.6 cm (3”) between their shoulders and the lifejacket, they probably need a smaller size. 
    • A PFD or lifejacket with safety features such as a whistle, handle, safety strap between the legs, and more padding around the collar would be most suitable for a child. 

Van Isle Marina – Your Safety Matters to Us 

Canadian boaters are legally required to have at least one Canadian-approved lifejacket or PFD per person on board their vessel. However, it’s always a good idea to wear your lifejacket rather than just have it on hand. 

Whether you’re a new or experienced boater, one of the best ways to ensure a safe and enjoyable boating experience is to invest in a good Canadian-approved lifejacket or PFD. 

If you want help in finding the right one, the friendly and knowledgeable staff at Van Isle Marina would be happy to help you. Our full-service marina, located in Sidney, BC, offers numerous amenities including a marine store that carries a wide variety of boating equipment. Feel free to contact our friendly staff to find out more about our marina services and amenities.

Top beaches of vancouver island accessible by boat

Top Vancouver Island Beaches Accessible by Boat

The Best Boat Accessible Beaches to Explore on Vancouver Island and the Gulf Islands

For those who are lucky to live or vacation here, we know that Vancouver Island beaches rank easily among the best in the world. 

At over 450km from the northern tip to the south, and surrounded by well over 220 smaller islands, Vancouver Island has a bit of everything for those seeking a quality beach-going experience. 

To help you plan your next big boating and beach trip, we’ve made a list of some of the best boat-accessible beaches on Vancouver Island and the surrounding Gulf Islands. Whatever your preferred beach activities, there is something for everyone.

Explore the Tropical White Sands at Grant Bay

explore the tropical white sands at grant bay

On the northwest coast of Vancouver Island lies a white sand beach that could easily rival the best that Jamaica has to offer. 

Grant Bay is a haven for people who don’t mind going the extra mile to find a quiet, secluded bit of paradise fit for explorers, swimmers, sunbathers and water sports enthusiasts alike. The expansive beach is nestled among rocky shores, making for a setting that is as stunning to look at as the waters are inviting.

Although this beautiful beach can be accessed via logging roads and an easy 5 to 10-minute hike, getting there by water is much nicer.  

To get to Grant Bay by yacht, you can follow the west coast north from Tofino and moor at Winter Harbour. From there, a pleasant day trip by canoe or kayak will take you directly to the beach. For a more adventurous trip, launch at Port Hardy and sail west around Cape Scott on the northern tip of Vancouver Island.

Popular Miracle Beach Has Room for Everyone

Popular miracle beach has room for everyone

Miracle Beach, located halfway between Courtenay and Campbell River on the east coast of Vancouver Island, is a popular vacation spot for both locals and visitors. Like many of the beaches on Vancouver Island, Miracle Beach can be accessed by road, by canoe or kayak, or you can sail up the east coast and anchor your larger boat offshore.

While the pebble beach itself is a popular spot, there is so much available space that you won’t be clamoring for room no matter what you choose to do. 

Whether you choose to go swimming or stand-up paddling, you’ll find the water is nice and calm in the summer months.

Relax at UNESCO Hot Springs Cove

While it’s not technically a beach, Hot Springs Cove offers an inviting and memorable experience that puts it easily shoulder-to-shoulder with the best of the Vancouver Island beaches on this list. 

Located in picturesque Maquinna Provincial Park, northwest of Tofino on the west coast of Vancouver Island, Hot Springs Cove is a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve. It features natural geothermal springs, where you can soak in luxuriously warm waters against a backdrop of stunning scenery.

The best way to access Hot Springs Cove by yacht is to launch from Tofino. Once you get there, simply put down the anchor and enjoy a beautiful boardwalk path to the springs.

Bird and Sea Life Watching in Abundance at Sandy Island Marine Park

bird and sea life watching in abundance at sandy island marine park

Before it became a park in 1966, Sandy Island Marine Park was used by the Canadian military for exercises. These days, Sandy Island Marine Park is a small but beautiful island park that is located 6 miles off the northern tip of Denman Island. It is accessible by boat during high tide, but avid sea floor explorers can walk to it along an exposed sandbar during low tide. 

Sandy Island offers ideal conditions for coastal birdwatching and an abundance of other activities, like swimming, fishing, canoeing, hiking trails and hunting for waterfowl (in season and with licenses and tags). 

While making your way to the island by yacht, you may be lucky to see loons, seals and even dolphins! 

As one of British Columbia’s many beautiful provincial parks, Sandy Island Marine Park is equipped with all the basic amenities. The star attraction, however, is a lovely sand beach for swimming, sunbathing and picnicking. 

Dionisio Point Provincial Park is Only Accessible by Boat

Dionisio point provincial park is only accessible by boat

Located on the northern tip of Galiano Island, Dionisio Point Provincial Park offers rocky shores, beautiful sand beaches and stunning views. This secluded beach is only accessible by boat meaning there is always plenty of space for sunbathers, frisbee throwers and picnickers. 

Both Galiano Island and Dionisio Point are named for the Spanish explorer Captain Dionisio Alcala Galiano, who, in 1792, discovered the Gulf Islands. The park began its existence as a summer camping area for commercial fishermen coming from Vancouver Island and has since become one of the area’s hidden gems. 

As a Provincial Park, Dionisio Point is equipped with pit toilets and picnic tables, making your visit there that much more comfortable.

Wildlife is abundant, both on and offshore. While visiting, you might see black tailed deer, bald eagles, raccoons, loons, grebes, mergansers and much more. On your way to Dionisio Point, you may even come across orcas, dolphins or seals.

To access Dionisio Point Provincial Park, sail up the east coast or launch anywhere between Nanaimo or Duncan for a shorter trip. Mooring is by offshore anchor.

Surprising and Sandy Savary Island

Savary Island, situated in the middle of the Strait of Georgia, is essentially one big exposed sandbar. The island is surrounded with warm sandy beaches. The shallows and gradual slope of the sandbar around the island mean the beautiful turquoise water warms up nicely. 

Launch from Courtenay or Campbell River for an interesting sail through the Gulf Islands to this unusual sandy spot.

Enjoy Beachcombing at Blackberry Point

Blackberry Point, on Valdes Island, is widely considered to be one of the brightest gems in the Gulf Islands. With 300+ feet of shell and pebble beach, there is plenty of space for sunbathing and games. 

Explorers will have fun searching the beaches for interesting rocks and shells. If you’re arriving in a larger yacht, you’ll need to anchor offshore and paddle in. The easiest and most direct point of launch is from Blue Heron Park in Nanaimo, since it is almost directly across the water. 

Explore Vancouver Island Beaches in a New Yacht from Van Isle Marina

Any of the Vancouver Island beaches listed here will make a memorable day trip for you and your loved ones. We at Van Isle Marina suggest picking your favourite and planning to spend at least a day to thoroughly soak up the beauty and get the best experience possible.

If you’re looking for a new, or new to you, yacht for exploring Vancouver Island’s many beaches, check out our new and used boat listings. Contact our yacht sales team today, who will be pleased to get you set up for future beach adventures.

halibut fishing around vancouver island

Halibut Fishing Around Vancouver Island

What You Need to Know About Fishing for Halibut

If you enjoy fishing, chances are you have dreamed about heaWhere and when to fish for pacific halibutding out onto the ocean to try your hand at Pacific Halibut fishing. The waters around Vancouver Island are home to halibut all year round, with abundance during the spring and summer months, making the area a great choice for halibut fishing in B.C.

Fishing for halibut requires a slightly different approach than for other fish species, but once you know the tricks, tips, and equipment required, you’ll be all set for a successful catch.

Where and When to Fish for Pacific Halibut

Pacific Halibut are the largest species of flatfish on the West Coast of Canada. They have a distinctive diamond shape with a white underbelly that makes them easily recognisable.

While the most commonly caught halibut tend to be in the 10 to 50 pound range, they can grow up to 400 pounds and 8 feet long – that would take some hauling in!

Pacific Halibut live mainly on the deep ocean floor, or on shelves at the edge of underwater plateaus. They are bottom feeders, so anglers must target these areas to be successful.

Good locations to fish for halibut around Vancouver Island include:

  • Victoria and the southern Juan de Fuca Strait
  • The entire West Coast, from Port Renfrew to Quatsino Sound, especially the Clayoquot Sound and Tofino area
  • The northern tip of the island from Cape Scott to Port Hardy

Pacific Halibut do not have a migratory cycle, which means they are around throughout the year; however, spring and summer are the best times to fish for them as the weather conditions and temperatures make for a more enjoyable experience.

What Equipment Do I Need for Halibut Fishing?What equipment do I need for halibut fishing

Where Pacific Halibut live and how they prefer to eat means anglers need some specific equipment. Follow this checklist to make sure you have all the right equipment to make your next halibut fishing trip in B.C. a successful one.

  • Rod and Reel: If you will be regularly fishing for halibut, invest in a halibut rod. These are 6 to 7 feet in length, strong, balanced and lightweight, enabling them to withstand the heavy weight and powerful pull of the halibut. A reel with a large handle will make the long reel-in easier and more comfortable.
  • Line: Because Pacific Halibut can live 200 to 300 feet underwater, a long and strong line such as an 800 foot long, 60 to 80 pound braided nylon, is essential.
  • Hooks and weights: A common halibut rig setup includes a large hook with a hoochie or other attractor, tied to one end of a spreader with strong line. A circular weight is attached to the other end of the spreader to ensure the bait stays on the ocean floor.
  • Bait: Halibut use sight and scent to find their food, so aim to create a strong scent trail with live bait. Fresh octopus, herring, crab or cod are good bait options that halibut are attracted to.
  • Halibut Spear: Not essential, but a spear will help to bring the halibut in at the surface of the water, before it is able to wriggle off the hook.

Consult your local fishing equipment expert for more information and advice on setting up your halibut fishing rig.

Tips and Tricks for Successful Halibut Fishing

Consider these additional tips and tricks to help you have a successful halibut fishing trip:

  • Check your marine charts and depth finder to locate plateaus where halibut are likely to be found.
  • Review catch limits and closure notices for the area you are fishing in. Current catch limits on the British Columbia coast for halibut are either one measuring 90 cm to 133 cm in length (head on), or two each measuring under 90 cm in length (head on).
  • To attract halibut to your bait, lift and drop the weight regularly to distribute the scent and send out seafloor vibrations.
  • Bright teasers or beads will attract halibut to your bait.

Caught a Halibut? Here’s a Tasty Recipe to Try.

Congratulations, your halibut fishing trip was a success and now you have a beautiful fresh fish to serve up for dinner. If you know how to fillet a halibut, you will be able to get the maximum meat from your fish and cook and eat it fresh, or flash freeze it for another day.

halibut recipes

The quickest and simplest way to enjoy fresh halibut is pan-fried. This method is easy enough to do right in your yacht’s galley so you can enjoy your haul the same day you caught it.

Pan Seared Pacific Halibut with Lemon Butter Sauce

  • 4-6 Halibut fillets
  • 2tbsp Olive Oil
  • ½ cup butter
  • 1 lemon
  • Salt and pepper
  • Garlic (fresh or powdered), paprika, fresh herbs – optional and to taste


  1. Pat halibut fillets with paper towel to dry them off
  2. Season with salt and pepper and other seasonings of your choice
  3. Heat olive oil in a skillet, once hot lay halibut fillets in pan
  4. Allow filets to sear without moving or turning for 3-4 minutes (this prevents the fish from falling apart when you turn it)
  5. Flip fillets and cook for additional 2-3 minutes
  6. Remove fish from pan and keep warm
  7. Reduce the pan to medium heat. Add butter, allow to melt and cook until light brown
  8. Add juice of 1 lemon and simmer until liquid is reduced by half
  9. Serve halibut fillets drizzled with lemon butter sauce sprinkled with your choice of fresh herbs
  10. Serve with steamed veggies or a crisp salad

Prefer something different? Choose from this list of 10 quick and delicious halibut recipes.

Go Halibut Fishing in a New Yacht from Van Isle Marina

Van Isle Marina is ideally placed to be your base for a halibut fishing trip. Located in Sidney, B.C. on the southeastern corner of Vancouver Island, many halibut fishing grounds are within easy reach of our full-service marina for a single or multi-day trip.

Need a new yacht to access those halibut fishing hotspots? Our knowledgeable yacht sales team can find you the perfect vessel with room to pull in a big fish. Contact us today for more information.

foghorns as a navigational tool

Foghorns – A Historic Navigational Tool

How Foghorns are Used Today and the Signals you Need to Know

We all recognize the iconic sound of a foghorn, the deep resounding note that booms out through the mist to warn boaters of danger or other vessels in the water. But, did you know the foghorn is a Canadian invention?

Foghorns, or fog signals, were historically used on land, from a lighthouse or other building, to warn sailors away from dangers when visibility was poor. In more recent times, they have adapted into an on-board navigational tool, used internationally as a sounding device.

Although their design and purpose may have changed somewhat since they were first used, foghorns remain a vital piece of equipment, and all boaters should be familiar with the signals they may hear or need to use while on the water.

The History of Foghorns – a Canadian InventionThe History of foghorns

Fog and poor visibility are arguably the biggest obstacles a sailor can face. Sound signals have been used for hundreds of years in an effort to prevent tragic outcomes. Originally, bells, gongs and even canons were used to get the point across. These had to be struck continuously by hand by a designated person.

The first automated foghorn was steam powered and was designed by Robert Foulis, a New Brunswick-based inventor. He was said to have realized the benefit of low-frequency sound when he heard his daughter practicing piano scales through the fog. 

Foulis’ design was for a horn which made noise when air was pushed through it using a steam-powered compressor. Another Canadian engineer, TT Vernon Smith installed the first-ever foghorn, from Foulis’ design, at Partridge Island, NB in 1859.

In the early 20th century, a compressed air version of the foghorn, the diaphone, was developed and that device was used in hun

dreds of lighthouses across the western and eastern coastlines of Canada until the 1970s when an electric-powered air horn replaced it.

These days, lighthouse foghorns are rare as the development of modern navigational tools, like onboard compressed air horns and GPS, has made them redundant. In British Columbia, lighthouse foghorns were shut down in the early 2000’s to save money, although there are a few remaining foghorns on the east coast.

Foghorns Today – an On-Board Navigational Tool

Today's Foghorns

These days the foghorn sounds you hear coming through the haze are from vessels that are navigating through restricted visibility. It is a legal requirement for boats to carry sound signalling devices, to be used for both communication with

other vessels when underway and in poor visibility.

According to Transport Canada, any sail or powerboat under 12 meters must carry at least one sound signalling device from:

  • Compressed gas foghorn
  • Whistle 
  • Electric horn

Boats between 12m and 20m must have one of the above devices plus a fitted whistle, while those over 20m must also have a fitted bell.

Some yachts now come with built-in, electronically controlled horns. Large ships and cruise liners also have strict requirements and are

 identifiable as their foghorns are deeper and louder than a pleasure boat.

Sound Signalling – Foghorn Signals You Should Know

Sound Signalling w/ Foghorns

Imagine being at sail on the ocean and getting caught unexpectedly in thick fog. Ensuring you don’t collide with another vessel, run aground or drift into a shipping path will be of prime concern. 

You will need to make quick decisions about your course of action, begin making the required sound signals, as well as listening out for signals from other vessels.

Read our previous blog to find out more about safe boating in poor visibility and the steps you should take if you find yourself in a low visibility situation. 

Anyone who is in control of a boat should be familiar with the international standard for sound-signalling, not only to be able to make others aware of your own presence, but to understand the signals you hear.

In good visibility, foghorns, or electric horns should be used to notify your intention when passing another vessel.

When approaching head-on:

  • 1 short (1 second) horn blast = I will pass you on my PORT (left) side
  • 2 short horn blasts = I will pass you on my STARBOARD (right) side

When passing from behind

  • 1 short blast = I will pass on your STARBOARD
  • 2 short blasts = I will pass on your PORT

In clear conditions, sound signals should also be used to warn of the following:

  • 1 long (4-6 seconds) blast = I am leaving dock or departing slipShelter from Foggy Conditions at Van Isle Marina
  • 3 short blasts = I am operating in ASTERN (reverse) position
  • Combine 1 long and 3 short blasts to = I am backing out of dock
  • 5 short blasts = danger signal, use as a warning to others

In poor visibility, use the following guidance and signals:

  • Continue on your set course, reducing to a speed that will allow quick adjustments.
  • Turn on your running lights.
  • Allocate a passenger to be lookout.
  • Turn on GPS and radar to establish position and for early warning of landmasses, sandbanks and other vessels.
  • Start making the appropriate sound signals.

Sound signals repeated at 2-minute intervals will make other boats aware of your position and whether you are underway or stopped. Common signals for boats in poor visibility include use of foghorns and bells (each repeated every 2 minutes):

  • Under sail (wind power) = 1 long and 2 short blasts
  • Under motor (engine power) = 1 long blast
  • Underway but stopped = 2 long blasts
  • At anchor = ring bell rapidly for 5 seconds
  • Run aground = 3 bell strokes, 5 seconds of rapid bell ringing, 3 more bell strokes

Shelter from Foggy Conditions at Van Isle Marina

If the marine weather forecast is predicting low visibility, choose to stay safe and moor at Van Isle Marina. 

Located in Sidney, BC, our state-of-the-art marina is fully loaded with facilities such as a business centre, laundromat and shower facilities, so you can make the most of your day at the dock. Why not check out our on-site restaurant too?

Contact us today for more information about mooring with us.

are electric boats the wave of the future

Electric Boats: The Wave of the Future?

Going Green With Electric Boating

Electric boats come in all shapes and sizes, from small fishing boats to large yachts. They can be powered by either an onboard battery or a plug-in charger. Some electric boats are powered by a combination of batteries and solar panels or are hybrid models with a gas-powered engine as a backup.

Electric boats are becoming increasingly popular due to their environmental benefits. They produce zero emissions, which makes them a more environmentally friendly option than gas-powered boats. 

Looking to buy an electric boat? You’re not alone! Sales of electric boats are on the rise, as more and more people are looking for ways to reduce their environmental impact.

Here’s a breakdown of everything you need to know.

What Are Electric Boats and How Do They Work?

What are electric boats and how do they work

Simply put, electric boats are vessels that use an electric engine powered by a battery, instead of a gas-powered combustion engine. They come in a variety of models. These models range from fishing skiffs to leisure cruisers to luxury yachts.

Some things to know about electric powerboats:

Battery Power:

  • The batteries, usually lithium-ion, come in a variety of strengths. They are measured in kilowatts. The higher the kilowatts, the more power that can be fed to the engine.
  • The batteries need to be recharged after each use. This can be done using a regular electrical outlet.
  • Battery bank life is dependent on engine size, weight, size of the boat and what the main use of the boat is. 

Electric Propulsion Engines:

  • The electric power outboard motor is battery powered. Every 1,000w of engine power is equivalent to 3hp of traditional engine power. 
  • Minimal maintenance is required for an electric engine as there are no fluids or oils to top up.
  • The speed capability of an electric boat can range from 5 knots per hour up to 35-50 knots in the latest high-tech electric foiling yachts
  • The more battery power the boat has, the faster it will go. As battery technology develops, more powerful batteries that take up less room will lead to increased capability in electric boats. We’re already seeing this in our smartphones, tablets, computers and even pickup trucks. Compact batteries for boats are sure to follow suit!

The Pros and Cons of Electric Boating


Pros and Cons of electric boating

  • Low noise levels: Great for wildlife watching, fishing or relaxed boating.
  • Environmentally friendly: Electric boats don’t produce any smelly emissions, C02 or nitrous oxide and there is no risk of oil leaks.
  • Instant torque: Can respond very quickly to acceleration. 
  • Low maintenance: No regular engine maintenance is required, no fluids to check and fill and winterization is not needed.
  • Low running costs: Charging overnight at regular 110v power (faster with a rapid charger) will cost just a few dollars each time.
  • Latest technology: New Wi-Fi connectivity allows owners to check power levels and start the engine using an app.


  • Initial cost: At this time, electric boats remain more expensive than other boats. Much like electric cars though, as their share in the market grows and technology develops, prices will start to come down.
  • Range limitations: The biggest concern for many considering going electric is whether the battery will run out while on open water. Knowing the capacity of your vessel’s engine and keeping an eye on your power gauge is important. The more power your boat needs, the more battery power it will use. It will last longer on a leisurely tour than it would speeding and towing wakeboarders.
  • Charging stations required: You need to moor or trailer yachts somewhere with electrical hookups available.
  • No overnight or deep-sea excursions: No electric boat battery bank will currently last long enough for long-haul trips.

Considering an Electric Boat? Ask Yourself These Questions First

Considering an electric boat

Although still a small percentage of overall sales, the number of electric boats being developed and purchased is growing fast. Investments in this technology mean that the performance and quality is rapidly becoming equal to internal combustion engines.

Whether you are a first-time boat buyer or a current boater who wants to change to something more eco-friendly, consider these questions when looking at electric boats.

  1. How many people do you want to transport? The performance of an electric boat is affected by weight. You’ll need to consider the power required for the number of people you want to transport.
  2. Where will you keep your boat? Will you have access to a charging point or fast-charging station at your marina? Do you have room to store it at home?
  3. Where will you primarily use your electric boat? Traditionally, electric boats have been considered more suitable for calm boating on inland waterways and lakes, but newer models perform well on open water without significantly draining energy.
  4. What is your budget? Electric boats do still tend to cost more than a traditional gas engine boat. You need to factor in insurance costs, safety equipment, and storage or trailer. However, electric boats require very minimal maintenance in comparison and have substantially lower running costs.

Ultimately, consider what you want to do with your boat. Are you looking for a leisurely lake cruiser, a fishing trip vessel or a powerboat for watersports? There are electric boat options that are able to do all these things, but make sure you choose one with adequate battery power, top speed and top range for your requirements.

Not Quite Ready to Commit to an Electric Boat?

If you’re not quite ready to go fully electric, there are some hybrid models on the market, which include a gas combustion engine that is used as a backup or to power up the batteries while in motion.

If you already own a yacht or other vessel and don’t want to get a brand new one, you can also consider electric outboard engine replacement. A great option for a renovation or instead of expensive maintenance. 

Let Van Isle Marina Find You the Perfect Electric Boat

With so many electric options on the market now, choosing the right one is a big decision. The Yacht Sales team at Van Isle Marina will be happy to help you navigate the choices and find a solution that fits your budget and needs.

At our full-service marina, located in Sidney, BC, electric boat owners can access metered electrical supply in both our marina slips and our yacht park, making for convenient battery recharging.

Don’t hesitate to contact us for more information about purchasing or storing an electric boat at Van Isle Marina.

How the internet of things is changing boating

How the Internet of Things is Changing Boating

Technology Can Make Boat Ownership Easier Than Ever

Technology and the Internet of Things impacts every aspect of our lives, home, car and lifestyles. So, it is somewhat inevitable that demand for this type of connectivity would eventually reach the boating world too.

Boat owners are beginning to turn to smart technology on their vessels to monitor, track, protect and enhance their boating experiences. Today’s top technologies allow you to connect with and monitor your boat and its systems while you are away. It also allows you to receive up-to-the-minute information while on the water for things such as bilge level alarms or important weather updates.

Boat manufacturers recognize the interest in this kind of technology. As a result, more boats are now being created with smart technology built in. Just recently, Yamaha purchased one of the front runners in boating connectivity devices, Siren Marine, with the intention of integrating its products on all their vessels moving forward.

So, what exactly is connected boating and what does it offer boat owners?

What is Connected Boating?What is connected boating

Connected Boating is the overarching term for the use of smart technologies to enhance boat ownership and boating experiences. 

Just like in other areas of our lives, the boating industry and boat owners are turning to smart technology and connected devices to improve security, monitor systems and offer real-time updates and alerts.

Specific devices or entire systems can be added to vessels that use sensors to collect data which is then sent to an information hub or cloud, using Bluetooth, Wi-Fi or even satellite technology. 

This information is instantly and continuously analyzed. The information is sent back to the owner via an app subscription, downloaded onto their smartphone or tablet. In many cases, the owner is able to control and manage devices and switches directly from these apps as well.

How Can Smart Technology Enhance My Boating Experience?how can smart technology enhance my boating experience

All boat owners will know the worry of leaving your vessel unattended. Even in secure and safe marinas, issues such as electrical failures, drained batteries, water intrusion or fire could occur. 

Smart monitoring devices and systems can give you peace of mind by providing you with information about your vessel even when you are not near it.

A simple connected boating system for your yacht will usually include or have options for:

  • Positional monitoring and alerts (GPS tracking)
  • Bilge level alarms
  • Smoke / fire alarms
  • Battery level monitoring
  • Tilt warnings
  • Security / intruder alarms
  • Temperature sensors
  • Loss of shore power alarms

An even more advanced smart technology system may also offer:

  • Remote controllability of some functions via phone app including:
    • Thermostat control
    • Ability to turn air conditioning and lights on or off
    • Remote engine start
  • Collision alert warnings and automatic avoidance action
  • Digital switches – control of main functions of vessel via touch screen
  • Automated response to alarms – for example automatic temperature adjustments when senses indicate a change outside set parameters.

What Are the Benefits of Using Smart Systems on My Yacht?

People who love technology gadgets such as home hubs, smart watches and GPS in their vehicles will appreciate having similar devices on their boat.

Installing a system with the capabilities listed above, or buying a yacht which has pre-installed connectivity, brings many benefits, such as:

What are the benefits of using smart systems on my yacht

  1. Remote monitoring: If your yacht is unattended most of the time, there are multiple benefits to remote monitoring systems. You can be alerted to early changes, such as a low battery or intake of water early, so you can take action before serious damage is caused or a day on the water is lost.
  2. Control from anywhere on the boat: Use the phone app to monitor and control devices and switches from anywhere on your boat, so you don’t have to walk away from your fishing rod to check your fuel gauge.
  3. Remote control: Imagine being able to turn the air conditioner on from your cell phone, so your cabin is already cool when you arrive. Imagine being able to double-checkthat all lights are off (preventing battery drain). Connected boating enables owners to easily interact with and maintain the daily workings of their boats and yachts.
  4. Automatic adjustments: As the Internet of Things has developed, smart systems are now able to analyze the data they receive from your devices and systems. For example, the system can identify a problem, such as a drained battery, and automatically take action to solve it, by turning on the engine to recharge the battery. 
  5. Reduced insurance costs: Although there is some initial cost to installing a smart system, which can range from a few hundred to a few thousand dollars, some insurance companies offer reduced rates for connected boats. 
  6. Save on maintenance and repairs: Being able to identify and solve issues before they get serious will save in repair bills over the yacht’s lifetime. Some smart systems are even able to monitor and advise when maintenance is required making sure you’re only doing what you need to.

Can I Install Smart Technology on My Yacht?

Although many brand-new yachts now come with smart technology built-in, or the option for it, you don’t have to buy a new boat to benefit from connected boating.

A number of companies are now providing systems, including base, sensors and even in-person monitoring, which you can link to via an app on a smartphone or tablet. These can be installed in any existing boat, even older ones, and you can start benefiting from the connection right away.

Experience Connected Boating with a Smart Yacht From Van Isle Marina

Interested in upgrading to a connected yacht, or installing a smart system to enable your current vessel to be connected? The yacht sales team at Van Isle Marina will be glad to help identify and locate the right solution for your needs.

With complimentary Wi-Fi throughout our Sidney, BC Marina for moored boats and guests, keeping your smart systems connected is easy. 

For more information on purchasing a connected boat

Sextant - Celestial Navigation Tool for Boaters

The Sextant – a Celestial Navigation Tool

What is a Sextant and How Do You Use It?

Before the invention of satellite GPS tracking, gyro compasses and marine radar, vessels had to rely on manual navigation tools to be able to identify their position in the ocean. One of these tools (which has been in use since the early 1700s) is the sextant.

The sextant is an instrument that uses reflecting mirrors to determine the distance between a celestial object (sun, moon, planet, star) and the horizon, in order to calculate the latitudinal position of the vessel.

What was a sextant originally used for and is it still used today

You may have heard of the sextant, or have even seen an example of one in a maritime museum somewhere. Despite their museum status, they are far from an obsolete tool! Being able to use a sextant is a valuable skill that anyone spending a lot of time on the water should learn.

What Was a Sextant Originally Used for and Is It Still Used Today?

The first version of the sextant was introduced in the 1730s by John Hadley and Thomas Godfrey, although the origins of the tool were later discovered in an unpublished work of Isaac Newton’s from the late 1600s. The sextant became a hugely important tool during explorative voyages of the 18th century as mariners were able to more accurately pinpoint their position and distance from their destination.

Anyone who spends time on the water knows that having good and reliable navigational tools are vital. The majority of recreational boaters can be confident that the GPS, VHF radio and radar equipment on their yacht, along with a basic understanding of marine charts and weather will be sufficient for any journey they make.

However, for crews of larger ships and tankers or sailors that make ocean crossings, using a sextant is still relevant as it is considered to be the ultimate fail-safe option. It doesn’t rely on any kind of power to work and can be used in the day or at night. This makes it a useful emergency backup navigation tool.

How Does a Sextant Work? Step by Step Guide

A sextant is made up of the following parts:

  • A frame in the shape of 1/6th of a circle.How does a sextant work
  • A pair of mirrors – an index mirror and a horizon mirror.
  • An arm which moves the mirrors – called the Index Arm.
  • A sighting telescope.
  • Sun shades.
  • A micrometer gauge.

To take a reading — otherwise known as a sighting — from the sextant, take the following steps:

Prepare the Sextant for Navigation

1. Remove the sextant from its case ensuring you hold it correctly:

  • Use your left hand to hold the frame and your right hand to hold the handle. The arc should be at the bottom with the eyepiece pointing towards you. Use your left hand to operate the shades and index arm.

2. When you look through a sextant, you see a reflection of the horizon that is split in half vertically.  For an accurate sighting, the two halves of the horizon should show as a straight line, therefore the first step is to make the following corrections to your instrument. 

  • Perpendicularity Error – Occurs when the index mirror is not perpendicular to the plane of the instrument resulting in the arc looking broken or stepped.
  • Side Error – Occurs when the horizon mirror is not perpendicular to the instrument resulting in the horizon looking stepped.
  • Index Error – When the index mirror and horizon mirror are not parallel. When the instrument is set to 0o resulting in a horizon that isn’t in line.

Any errors can be corrected by making adjustments using screws and gauges on the instrument. For guidance on making these adjustments see this guide from Casual Navigation.

Take the Sightingsextant - take the sighting

3. Set the micrometer scale to 0o then locate the celestial body you are using for your measuring point through the scope. If you are looking at the sun or another bright object, use the shades to protect your eyes. The body should be in the centre of your image.

4. Move the entire instrument until you see the horizon line in half of your image. At the same time, move the index arm using the clamp, so the celestial body remains in the centre.

5. Using the micrometer, adjust the image until the celestial body appears to be resting on the horizon.

6. To confirm you have the correct sight, rock the sextant from side to side, so the body moves in a curve across your view. Adjust again if necessary.

7. Read and note the measurement on scale arc (degrees) and micrometer drum (minutes).  Note the exact time of the reading in hours, minutes and seconds. 

Calculate your positionsextant - calculate your position

8. Once you have your reading there are further adjustments that are required. These are:

  • Dip: An adjustment to allow for how high your eye line is above sea level.
  • Refraction: Allows for distortion from bending of light rays.
  • Semi-Diameter: When using the sun or moon, this adjustment makes the measurement as if from the centre of that body.
  • Parallax: Adjustment for fluctuations in the celestial body’s distance from earth.

The information required for these adjustments can be found in the Nautical Almanac, an essential tool for sextant use.

9. Once all the adjustments have been applied, you have your true altitude. Subtract this number from 90 to find your latitude.

Full explanation of the process, adjustments and calculations required can be found on wikihow. As a process it requires a lot of practice and patience. Taking lessons from someone who already understands the process is a good starting point. Before you know it, you’ll feel perfectly comfortable using a sextant for navigation.

Get a Yacht with Modern Navigation Tools from Van Isle Marina

If using the sextant seems like it might be a step too far for you, no need to worry! Today’s modern yachts come loaded with all sorts of reliable navigational tools that are easy to use and understand. 

The Yacht Sales Team at Van Isle Marina will be glad to help you find a new boat with the latest satellite GPS and radar gear. 

Contact us at our state-of-the-art Sidney, BC marina today for more information.