For our first book review*, it seems appropriate to begin with our favorite cruising guides for our local cruising grounds: British Columbia including the Gulf Islands and Vancouver Island and the San Juan Islands of Washington State.
Incidentally, if you haven't read about the Pig War and the division of the Gulf and San Juan Islands between Canada and the US, chuckle over this.
Hands down, our favorite local guides are the Dreamspeaker Series. The six volumes are an excellent set to have on board while cruising BC and the Pacific Northwest. We own three volumes and have cruised with all of the others after checking them out of the Vancouver Island public library system.
Because many of the lovely nooks and crannies that make up anchorages around this area are too small for the scale of the local charts (paper or C-MAP, both of which are excellent in the area), after 3 years of cruising this area I can say that we have come to trust the hand drawn charts in these books over any other source when coming in to a small anchorage. We always cross-reference the book with our paper and electronic chart sources first of course.
The books each begin with an introduction to the cruising grounds and the local weather systems with an emphasis on the summer months when most people cruise. As year round cruisers we would have appreciated a few sentences on the winter months, but I guess if you are going to be sailing in the winter around here, you should have your act together about the weather!
Finally, the anchorages are organized in sections by geographical area and in addition to the excellent drawings, each description includes information about the depths, holding ground, protection and things to do in the surrounding area.
The series is designed more for gunkholing than marina hopping although marina information is given in all of the provisioning ports and urban centers.
Vol. 1 - Gulf Island and Vancouver Island
Vol. 2 - Desolation Sound & the Discovery Islands
Vol. 3 - Vancouver, Howe Sound, & The Sunshine Coast
Vol. 4 - The San Juan Islands
Vol. 5 - The Broughtons
Vol. 6 - The West Coast of Vancouver Island
In addition, we highly recommend keeping a copy of Waggoners aboard while cruising in this area. It is encyclopedic in nature and is an excellent resource for figuring out provisioning and fueling. It has the phone numbers and VHF information for virtually everything marine and covers the Puget Sound past Seattle. Ours is a 2007 which has most of the pages falling out from overuse so we are upgrading to a 2010 this year.
If you are considering these books or cruising in this area we would be happy to chat. Leave a comment here or contact us with the email posted at the bottom of this page.
*I will be reviewing books we loved, books we hated and everything in between. Caveat Emptor: If you click through one of these links and buy a book, we benefit.