Boundary Passage - Trip description
Swartz Bay to Portland Island (Arbutus camp site): 3.5 nmi (6.5 km)
Portland Island to Cabbage Island: 18 nmi (33 km)
Cabbage Island to Lyall Harbour, Saturna Island: 7.0 nmi (13.0 km)
Total distance, as paddled: 33 nmi (61 km)
Coordinates (WGS 84):
Swartz Bay government wharf (put-in): 48 41.261 123 24.440
Arbutus camp site, Portland Island: 48 44.087 123 21.984
Cabbage Island camp site: 48 47.868 123 05.284
Lyall Harbour government dock / ferry terminal, Saturna Island: 48 47.882 123 12.010
No. 3463: Strait of Georgia, Southern Portion (1:80,000)
No. 3462: Juan de Fuca Strait to Strait of Georgia (1:80,000)
No. 3441: Haro Strait, Boundary Pass and Satellite Channel (1:40,000)
Canadian Topographic Maps:
Mayne Island (92B14)
Located just south of South Pender and Saturna Islands, Boundary Passage is the southern-most corridor separating the Canadian Gulf Islands from the American San Juan Islands. There is a remarkably diverse range of geology through the area, although the vast majority of shoreline is composed of sandstone cliffs. For that reason, this journey should only be considered when the weather is good and winds are light - prevailing southerly and south-easterly winds can blow up JHaro Strait and make Boundary Passage a very rough place to be caught in any small craft. In addition, because of the shortage of suitable landing sites, paddlers should be comfortable spending up to 5 hours in the kayak at a time.
There are numerous campgrounds in the area, including three different parts of Portland Island; Cabbage Island, off the east side of Saturna Island; and Beaumont Marine Park, located between North and South Pender islands in Bedwell Harbour. Portland Island is usually quite busy in summer months, while Beaumont seems one of the least used camp grounds in the newly-formed Gulf Islands National Park Reserve. A personal favourite of mine, Cabbage Island boasts beautiful, sheltered sandy beaches alongside the camp sites, which means you'll likely have your own little slice of the perfect waterfront location. Cabbage Island is also popular among larger power craft and sail boats, due to the amount of sheltered anchorage. Because Cabbage Island's eastern shores are open to the Strait of Georgia, paddlers should ensure that the weather forecast is favourable to ensure a safe departure from the island. As always, bring enough extra water and food for an extended stay in case conditions turn less favourable.
Note that there is no publicly available fresh water on any of the islands. Saturna Island has a number of convenience stores but many are located towards the northern end of the island, so unless you enjoy long walks, plan on taking enough supplies to last your entire trip.
Caution: The currents in Boat Passage, between the north end of Saturna Island and Samuel Island, can be very strong and often create dangerous turbulence and large whirlpools. Ensure you have accurate current tables for the area before attempting to paddle through the passage.
There is a certain amount of free public parking available at the Swartz Bay government dock, and overnight parking is permitted. However, these spots fill up quickly and vehicles parked on adjacent streets and other areas with posted parking restrictions will be towed. Depending on when you plan to launch, you may consider dropping off your boat(s) and gear, and parking at the long-term BC Ferries lot at the terminal, then walking back to the government dock. Alternatively, there are numerous launch spots in the Sidney area, each of which will add at least 5 km to your paddling distance to Portland Island.
Trip Date: May 27 - 29, 2005
Weather: Clear skies, light winds; cool in the evenings
Water condition: Flat; some considerable currents
Submitted by: Mark Schilling
Images copyright: Mark Schillling