Learn more about our news and special events, both here at the marina or out and about on Vancouver Island and the Gulf Islands.

Bird Watching in Sidney B.C.

Previously, bird watching has been known as your “Grandmother’s hobby”, but more recently it has become a wildly popular past-time for all ages. Due to Sidney’s many ecological reserves and parks, local birdwatching has taken off. With Vancouver Island’s mild climate, there are large selections of birds who permanently nest, as well as migratory birds who only show themselves seasonally.

Keep an eye open for bird sanctuary signs like the one below that indicate areas for bird watching. Frequently there are information signs with listing common species to the area and information on their habitats.

Check out our local favourite spots below:

Robert’s Bay – Shoal Harbour Bird Sanctuary


Robert’s Bay is only a few steps away from Van Isle Marina. It is home to many native shrubs and trees that provide hunting grounds and nesting sites for many mammals, not just birds! The mud flats at Robert’s Bay are an important part of the local ecosystem as many mud shrimp and small creatures are found here, which feed many birds. The ever first photo documented record of the rare Laughing Gull in British Columbia took place here!

Common birds:

  • Harlequin Duck
  • Great Blue Heron
  • Bonaparte’s’ Gull

Land’s End Road

Land’s End Road is the northern-most point of the Saanich Peninsula, mostly commonly known for being home to the Swartz Bay Ferry terminal. This area is also home to a significant amount of birds who rely on the sandy beaches and low tides to feast. The dense forests surrounding the area provide shelter from the elements and provide perches to nest.

Common Birds:

  • Black Oystercatcher
  • Bald eagle
  • Killdeer

Victoria International Airport

Even with constant airplanes passing over, sightings of rare birds are frequent in this area! The airport is the only place in North America that you can spot Skylarks. The Victoria International Airport Authority has worked alongside the Victoria Natural History Society make the lands that surround the airport more of a suitable habitat for the Skylarks. As these birds are ground nesters, initiatives include mowing specific plots of land to make the area more suitable to nests. The 9 km pathway around the airport is a great way to see birds by foot or by bike.

Common Birds:

  • Black-capped Chickadee
  • Bald Eagle
  • Northwest Crow

Sidney Spit

During Fall and Spring migrations, Sidney Spit is a birder’s paradise. Due to recent efforts to better preserve the spit and surrounding area, Purple Martins have made a comeback and can be seen in the nesting boxes along the docks.

Common Birds:

  • Purple Martins
  • Nighthawks
  • Marbled Murrelets

Are any of your favourite bird watching locations on the Saanich Peninsula? Let us know in the comments!

Fresh Crab Recipes

The crabbing season in British Columbia is officially in full swing!

Waters around Sidney are great for catching large Red Rock crab. They tend to prefer rocky bottomed waters and require the protection of bays. While typically Red Rock crab is less meaty than Dungeness crab, they are equally as tasty. Dungeness are much meatier, but larger legal sizes are more difficult to come by in Sidney waters. For more information regarding crabbing regulations in British Columbia, please click here.

Whether you purchased it in store or caught it yourself (using bait from the Van Isle Marina Fuel Dock!), this crab is delicious and versatile for a variety of recipes. Here is a list of our favourites!

Mini Crab Melts

Has Gruyère cheese ever led you to a bad recipe? This dish is simple to make and is sure to impress any guests you have on board your boat. If a broiler is not available, a BBQ will do the trick. For a local twist, try using sourdough from Portofino Bakery, and fresh tomato and dill from the Sidney Market (if you are unfamiliar with the Vancouver Island Farmer’s Market scene, check out our blog post).

Garlic Crab Fried Rice

This recipe is a great way to use up any left-over crab! Make this recipe your own by adding chopped red peppers, peas, and a few dumplings on the side. Make sure your wok is extra hot to avoid mushy rice.

Crab and Ricotta Cannelloni







Pasta, cheese, and crab… There is no greater combination. This meal can be made ahead of time as it can be refrigerated up to three days prior to cooking, so it is a great option for bringing on the boat. If you are around the Gulf Islands, a quick pit stop at Salt Spring Cheese is sure to add flair to your crab cannelloni.

Crab Omelette

Who says you can’t have crab for every meal? This crab breakfast dish is finished with heavy cream and parmesan cheese for a rich and creamy taste. Pamper yourself by pairing your omelette with a mimosa (or two!).

Do you have a favourite Crab recipe? Share it below in the comments!

Gulf Island Farmer’s Markets

July is one of the most fruitful (pun intended!) months for fresh fruits and vegetables, so every week during the summer there are markets that pop up across the Gulf Islands, and on the Saanich Peninsula.

Farmer’s Markets are a wonderful way to connect with the community, find new recipes, and shake hands with the farmers who grow your food. On Vancouver Island and the Gulf Islands, the climate is very moderate, which enables farmers to grow a wide variety of produce ranging from apples and eggplants, to figs and kiwis. By buying local foods, you can be ensured that your fruits and veggies are fresh, harvested sustainably, and tastier than those that have travelled across the world to reach the shelves of your Supermarket. At these markets, you can also expect homemade foods, local wine, cider and beer, arts & crafts, and live music!

Check out our list below to see when the local markets are, and what type of produce you can expect!

Where are the Markets?

  • Sidney Street Market (Thursday evenings from June to August, 5:30 to 8:30 p.m. – Beacon Avenue, Sidney B.C.)
  • Saltspring Saturday Market (Saturday mornings from April to October, 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. – Oceanside at Centennial Park in the heart of Ganges)
  • Galiano Saturday Market (Saturday mornings from May to October, 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. – 922 Burrill Road)
  • Pender Island Farmer’s Market (Saturday mornings from April to October, 9:30 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. – Privateers Road)
  • Saturna Island Saturday Market (Saturday morning from July to August, 10:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. – 101 Narvaez Bay)

What’s in Season?

January: Apples, beets, cabbage, carrots, garlic, holly, kiwis, leeks, microgreens, parsnips, potatoes, rutabagas, turnip

February: Apples, Leeks, microgreens, parsnips, potatoes

March: Apples, fruit trees, leeks, peppers

April: Cauliflower, fruit trees, herbs, lettuce, peppers, rhubarb, tomatoes

May: Asparagus, beans, cauliflower, celery, fruit trees, herbs, kale, lettuce, peppers, rhubarb, spinach, swiss chard, tomatoes

June: Asparagus, beets, broccoli, carrots, cauliflower, celery, cherries, currants, garlic, herbs, kale, lettuce, peas, potatoes, rhubarb, salad greens, spinach, squash, strawberries, swiss chard, turnips, zucchini

July: Apples, beets, blackberries, blueberries, boysenberries, broccoli, cabbage, carrots, cauliflower, celery, cherries, corn, cucumbers, currants, figs, garlic, herbs, josta berries, kale, lettuce, loganberries, marionberries, melons, onions, peas, potatoes, raspberries, rhubarb, saskatoon berries, spinach, squash, strawberries, swiss chard, turnip, zucchini

August: Apples, beets, blackberries, blueberries, boysenberries, broccoli, cabbage, carrots, cauliflower, celery, corn, crabapples, cucumbers, eggplant, figs, garlic, gourds, grapes, herbs, kale, lettuce, loganberries, marionberries, melons, onions, peaches, pears, plums, potatoes, raspberries, squash, strawberries, tayberries, turnip, zucchini

September: Apples, beets, blackberries, blueberries, broccoli, brussel sprouts, cabbage, carrots, cauliflower, celery, corn, cranberries, cucumbers, eggplant, figs, garlic, gourds, grapes, herbs, kale, leeks, lettuce, melons, onions, parsnips, peaches, pears, plums, potatoes, pumpkins, rutabagas, shallots, squash, strawberries, turnip, zucchini

October: Beans, beets, broccoli, brussel sprouts, cabbage, carrots, cauliflower, celery, corn, crabapples, cranberries, eggplant, figs, garlic, gourds, grapes, kale, kiwi, leeks, parsnips, pears, potatoes, pumpkins, quince, rutabagas, shallots, squash, turnip, zucchini

November: Beets, brussel sprouts, carrots, cauliflower, eggplant, gourds, kale, kiwi, leeks, onions, pumpkins, shallots, squash, turnip

December: Beets, brussel sprouts, carrots, cauliflower, holly, kale, kiwi, onions, potatoes, rutabagas, squash, turnip

What are your favourite recipes using fresh, local produce? Share in the comments!

A New Way to Travel – Northstar Air Tours

A New Way to Travel – Northstar Air Tours

Vancouver Island is a big and beautiful place. The Island stretches 460 kilometers in length and 100 kilometers in width for a total of 32,134 km2 in area. We are surrounded by some of the most pristine and beautiful coastlines in the world, attracting people from across the globe. Our forests are dense and populated by hundreds of thousands of different species, some of which are exclusively ours. A major criticism that Islanders express is that we are limited in means of travelling on, off, and around the Island. A few different methods of travel, such as ferry and float plane are available, but these can sometimes be inflexible and unreliable.

Northstar Air Tours have opened a departure base at the Shell Aero Centre at Victoria International Airport – approximately 10 minutes from Van Isle Marina. Their They offer scheduled trips from Victoria to Friday Harbour and Eastsound and back, at reasonable rates and times. They also offer charter trips to many different locations, including the San Juan Islands, Tofino and more. Imagine having the flexibility of being able to have your guests meet you partway through your trip, at your convenience! Their fleet of planes, “Super Q Islanders” can take off and land in grass, gravel or paved runways. These planes have ample room and storage for up to 9 passengers.
For more information, please visit Northstar Air Tours website at https://www.northstarairtours.com/.

What Type Of Boater Are You? – A Quiz

Van Isle Marina’s Courtesy Bikes are back, and better than ever!

Van Isle Marina’s four brand new Norco bikes are easy to use and are a breeze to ride. The step-thru design makes the bikes suitable for people of all athletic abilities and can accommodate heights ranging from 5’2” to 6’2”. As always, baskets, locks and helmets are included with your courtesy rental!

Sidney and the Greater Victoria Area is known for it’s extensive network of bike paths and trails. Here are our local favourites!

The Lochside/Galloping Goose Trail:

The Lochside Trail is a popular route reaching from downtown Victoria to the Swartz Bay ferry terminal. It is designed to be an easy commuter trail that is accessible for all activity levels. Much of the path is paved and fairly flat, even when while winding through some of the most beautiful farm land that Saanich has to offer. Along this route you will find many farm stands, a food truck, bridges, a pig farm and scenic ocean views.

From Van Isle Marina, this route would take approximately 1 hour and 40 minutes each way.
Extending past Victoria, the Lochside trail turns into the Galloping Goose trail, which in total length from Swartz Bay is 55 kilometers. This route can take you as far as Sooke!

Victoria Airport – “The Flight Path”:

This route is a 9.3-kilometer loop around the Victoria International Airport and is a favourite of locals! The entire loop is paved and marked at every kilometer, with historical information signs every few kilometers. The Flight Path’s views range from the ocean at Patricia Bay to the airport runways. At “Mile Zero” you will find parking, washroom facilities, a water fountain and a war memorial.
From the marina, it is a 10-minute bike ride. The loop is roughly a 35-minute ride.

Resthaven/ Lochside Loop:

This loop is a great way to see Sidney and an excellent route if you are looking to do some provisioning! The route takes you down Resthaven Drive, right to the middle of town, down Fifth Street down to the waterfront by Tulista Park. At the roundabout at the end of Fifth Street, head West down Ocean Avenue to meet the Lochside Trail. The trail will take you alongside the Patricia Bay Highway until you reach MacDonald Park Road/ Resthaven Drive. It is a 7-kilometer loop, and very rider friendly.



Check in with the Front Desk at Van Isle Marina to borrow a courtesy bike and get out on the road!

Spring Cleaning at Van Isle Marina & Green Boating Tips

The Pacific Northwest is one of the most beautiful and busy cruising grounds in the world. To keep this environment pristine for future generations, we all must do our part in limiting the amount of pollution and wastes that we are responsible for. Van Isle Marina is doing their part by hiring a crew of divers to scour the ocean floor around the marina to pick up any debris. Not only does this help the local wildlife, but it also ensures that Van Isle Marina remains clean and immaculate.

See below for our tips on how to make your boating experience eco-friendly:

Proper fueling procedures are important for keeping oil and gas out of our waterways. Oil and fuel in the water can impact bottom sediment, marine life and shore birds. When fueling, prevent spills by filling fuel tanks slowly and catching drips and spills with absorbent pads. Don’t ‘top it off’ or overflow your fuel tank.

On-board sewage management is not a fun thing to think about, but it is a necessary part of your boat’s system. Van Isle Marina has a pump-out facility located at our Fuel Dock so be sure to use ours or another pump-out facility whenever possible. When tied up to the dock, use onshore facilities. Encourage guests to take advantage of the onshore restrooms before you set out for a day trip. Obey the law-keep untreated sewage out of all coastal and inland waters.

Waste Management & Recycling
To reduce your impact on the environment, it’s important to properly dispose of your boating waste and recycle when possible. More than an eyesore, trash in the ocean is one of the world’s most pervasive pollution problems. Make a rule that nothing goes overboard and that all your waste comes back to shore into the proper trash or recycling receptacle.

Regardless of your boat’s size and systems, routine inspections and maintenance can alert you to potential problems. Prevent oily discharge from the bilge. Keep your engine well-tuned to prevent fuel and oil leaks. Place an oil absorbent pad in your bilge and under your engine where drips may occur. Check the pads often; don’t let them clog the bilge pump and dispose of them as hazardous waste at a marina or local hazardous waste collection center.

Boating Ecosystem
For many, one of the greatest joys of boating is being able to immerse oneself in nature. Whether you enjoy scenic landscapes, birds and wildlife viewing or you are an avid recreational angler, boating provides an escape from day to day life and an entry into the natural world. Maintaining a healthy ecosystem benefits us all. It’s important to know how to be a sustainable angler and to be aware of the impact of invasive species.

The boating lifestyle is a great way to spend time with family and friends, enjoying the water. And as boaters, it is our shared responsibility to help keep the waters and resources that we use healthy for generations to come.

Five Nautical Knots to Know

5 Need to Know Sailing Knots

It is time to dust off your boat knot tying skills! Here are 5 must-know nautical knots to have you boating like a pro, in no time at all.

Sailing Knots – Round Turn Two Half Hitches

easy boat knots

This is a practical and easy-to-learn knot that is great for beginners and advanced boaters! This knot is used to secure the end of a rope to a fixed object. A round turn wraps the rope around the object, while the two half hitches secure the end around the standing part.
Practical Uses:
• Tying a fender
• Tying to a bull rail

Sailing Knots – Sheet Bend (& Double Sheet Bend)

nautical knots to know

This knot is used for tying two ropes together, generally of different sizes. The traditional Sheet Bend involves the working end looping around the standing end once, and you guessed it, the Double Sheet Bend involves wrapping the standing end twice. This rope is very effective when joining two ropes together that are under loading, however it will likely become untied if the ropes are not under load.
Practical Uses:
• Making nets
• Joining lines

Sailing Knots – Figure Eight Knot

sailing knots you need to know

Also known as a Flemish Knot, the figure of eight knot is a simple and effective way to stop a rope from slipping out of a device. It is very popular for boating as well as a primary knot for rock climbing! It is simple to tie, and easy to undo.
Practical Uses:
• Stopping a line from sliding through rigging

Sailing Knots – Bowline

bowline boating knot


Quite possibly the most important knot for a sailor & boater! This knot creates a loop at the end of a rope and has endless uses! If you’ve done the knot correctly, the knot should resemble a person wearing a lifejacket.
Practical Uses:
• Tying a line to a stanchion
• Fastening a halyard to a head of a sail
• Safety harness for rescuing

sailing knots to knowSailing Knots – Reef Knot (Square Knot)

Originating from its use with reef sails, this knot is used to secure a single line around an item. It is one of the first knots that sailors learn, as it is easy to learn through the chant of “right over left and left over right”. Under tension, this knot is very secure however it is very easy to untie.
• Tying two lines of the same material and density to each other
• Reefing sails
• Securing a bundle of items to each other

Remember, practice makes perfect! Don’t worry if these knots don’t come out right the first few times you try them. With enough practice, they will become like second nature. Armed with just these few knots, when it’s time to tie up to the dock or put out the fenders, you will be able to do so like a pro.

Register Now for the 2018 Riviera and Belize Festival of Boating

We’re proud to advise that you can now be the first to register for the 2018 Riviera and Belize Festival of Boating.

Registrations are now open exclusively for Riviera and Belize owners to attend our educational and social events program.

We encourage you to visit our Festival of Boating website by simply clicking on the coloured link buttons below to review the full extent of our 2018 boating education workshops and seminar program.

As well, you can be the first to purchase tickets to our exclusive headline social events that we have created just for the Riviera Family this year.

We look forward to you joining the Riviera Family from all over the world for a fantastic four days of boating education, inspiration and fun at the home of Riviera – Coomera on Australia’s Gold Coast.

Please do not delay your registration or ticket purchases as many workshops and our events do book-out early.



Our annual Festival of Boating is strongly focused on education. In 2018, we have a choice of 40 individual boating workshops hosted by 27 individual boating experts. Each workshop has been fully revised and our experts have been given the opportunity to expand on specific areas of interest and we have allowed even more question time.

Places are limited so please book early.


Our very popular Ladies Luncheon will be held this year at the Sheraton Grand Mirage Resort at Main Beach. This is certain to be another special occasion as the latest fashions from White Label Noba and exquisite pink diamond jewellery from Hardy Brothers are presented exclusively to our Riviera ladies.

Places are limited so please book early.


Welcome to the Caribbean and an inspiring celebration Riviera-Style, of this most evocative island paradise. This year we will whisk you away on a vibrantly colourful journey to the sparkling Caribbean, where spiritual music converges with joyful dance and the rhythm is everything.

Places are limited so please book early.


This year the Festival shares the same dates as Sanctuary Cove Boat Show. Our red-carpet showcase of new premieres and selected models is so extensive that it will be divided between the Riviera yard at Coomera and the Sanctuary Cove Show. For Festival registrants only we have exclusive parking and ferry transfers to and from Coomera to Sanctuary Cove.


Riviera has secured special packages with selected accommodation providers to help you enjoy your visit to the Gold Coast even more in May.

The Festival of Boating website has full details of these options and client codes for these exclusive Riviera packages. We will also offer a transfer each day to the Festival from these accommodation locations. This transfer can be booked via the Festival website.

Places are limited so please book early.

We look forward to welcoming you to Coomera in May


Spring Boating Start-Up Checklist

Spring is in the air; is your boat ready to get back to cruising? If you did winterize your boat, you saved yourself some spring boat prep time and possible headaches now, which means the road between your boat and the water is shorter! Although it is always best to winterize a boat before putting it into storage, if you didn’t, don’t worry. Here are some tips to get your bow pointed in the right direction:

Have Your Manufacturer’s Manual Handy

If you have a copy, fantastic. If you don’t, it would be a good idea to get one. You’ll need it to replace fluids and parts properly. Never take apart anything without consulting the manual first.

De-winterizing Your Engine

This will be the biggest and messiest task, so it is recommended that you start here. If you didn’t change the oil at the end of last season, do so now. At the same time you change the oil, be sure to change the oil filter. Change the oil in the transmission or the outboard’s lower unit as well. Next, fill up the cooling system. Be sure you examine the hoses for any cracks and empty out the strainer. Finally, check the batteries and replace them if needed. Use a battery tester to check out the amps and volts and perform a thorough engine test.

Inspect the Canvas & Vinyl

Check your bimini top, seats, covers, and other vinyl and canvas items for tears, mildew and dirt. Repairs tears and holes, and then clean with the proper cleaner for canvas and vinyl.

Inspect the Hull and Propellers

Check the hull for abrasions, scratches, gouges, etc. and repair if needed. Inspect and replace zincs if necessary. Touch up or replace bottom paint. Check the propellers for dings, pitting, cracks and distortion.

Clean and Wax the Hull

First clean your boat’s exterior using a marine safe cleaner from a marine supply store. Van Isle Marina is also able to supply or order in almost any product you may need. Then, wax the hull as necessary.

Polish the Metal and Teak

Metal and teak are referred to as ‘brightwork’ and enhance the look of your boat. Also, prolonged neglect of metal and teak can compromise the integrity of the materials. To protect the metal, use a metal polisher. For teak, it is usually recommended that you sand it and then apply stain and varnish.

Test All Electronics

Bring all the electronics back on board and do a thorough test to be sure they are working properly. Test the radio, GPS, compass, depth finder, and any other marine electronics.

Clean the Interior

Whether you have an open deck or cabin with full galley, clean the area thoroughly to remove dirt and debris.

Van Isle Marina’s Yacht Park is available to help you with any springtime preparation you may require.  Our Sea-Lifts and Brownell submersible trailers can haul-out up to 70 feet or 45 tons.  You can book a full or half haul-out depending on your needs.  Half Haul-outs are convenient for inspections, zinc changes or marine surveys.  If you have never been to the marina before, our videos are an excellent introduction to the haul-out process.