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The Official Magazine of the Bluewater Cruising Association

Salish Sea Pilot and The Perfect Anchorage (and a Discount for BCA Members)

Jim Burgoyne

Tayana 37 cutter
May 10th, 2022

This is the first of a brief series of advertorials that highlight the products and services offered by a select group of vendors who have supported the Bluewater Cruising Association in 2022 by purchasing advertising in either the BCA Member Directory and/or Currents. This month’s advertorial introduces Currents’ subscribers to Salish Sea Pilot. BCA is grateful for their support and appreciates the discount offered to our members (see details below).

We sailed into Singapore Harbour with no chart plotter, no cruising guides, nothing except a tattered paper chart that did not seem to match the real world. The shoreline was not remotely like what the chart promised. A closer inspection, by and by, revealed the chart was printed in the 1930s. I had purchased Quiver, a tiny cutter, seven years before in Thailand and discovering the browned chart in a locker, I thought: “Well, got that place covered, don’t have to worry about Singapore again until we get there.”

You are unlikely to be surprised to learn that Singapore has been incredibly transformed since the 30s, with vast stretches of sea reclaimed and filled by the tiny city state, very little unchanged.

And Lynne’s look of disgust, for me and my chart, is also not going to surprise you. While we sailed many miles around to find The Sisters, the islands where small vessels check in, she threatened to go below and have nothing to do with this leg of the journey, the stress was too much.

So I learned some things, in time, maybe about the resilience of Lynne, who did not disappear below decks, but helped me find The Sisters and so much else along the way. I also learned about the importance of preparation and the value of stress relief.

After we sailed home from Asia, friends we had met along the way wrote to ask about the Salish Sea, and what they would find when they sailed there. So we put together an e-book with some of our favourite anchorages and gave it to friends. It was the sort of guide we liked, hand-drawn illustrations, with words and photos kept to a bare minimum. Just the facts. And with an aim to relieve as much stress as we could.

Looking east from Sidney Spit Marine Park across Haro Strait to Mount Baker.

We decided to build a more-polished guide or two and offer them as free downloads. Our little company, Salish Sea Pilot, started with the Gulf and San Juan Islands. We figured if an advertiser got on board, that would be great. A couple did.

The foreign friends who promised to sail here never arrived, but it was fun to meet many interesting people and explore places we had previously sailed past. Our free guides were downloaded 17,000 times, according to our tracking software. We didn’t know there were that many sailors in the Salish Sea. Maybe it was just some bot programmed to download them, again and again.

But it took over our lives. We spent months at sea doing the research and months more in front of computers and on the phone with marina contacts. And every year we added new anchorages and updated the rates and facilities information at marinas, parks and public docks in the e-books, something that is so difficult and expensive with paper guides. The e-book guides are fully interactive, everything just a click away. They work on every computer, smartphone or tablet.

Our view from a mooring buoy as the sun sets over Saysutshun in Nanaimo Harbour.

We often tell the story of our banker, who patiently heard our story, then asked: “What part of ‘unsustainable’ don’t you understand?” So we started to charge a bit for them. Each guide is CA$17 each, with a package of seven costing CA$59. Anyone who has previously bought a full set can buy an annually updated and expanded package for CA$24.99.

The bots did not like the new price structure at all, and downloads slowed. But revenues ticked up some. Not exactly windfall profits, but enough to keep diesel in the tank.

Salish Sea Pilot has guides to the Gulf Islands, Sunshine Coast, Desolation Sound, Broughton Archipelago and West Coast of Vancouver Island in BC, as well as the San Juan Islands and Puget Sound in Washington. Each new guide we think is the last, but sailors we meet ask if we have thought about Haida Gwaii or Glacier Bay… In fact, we have. Time will tell.

Then some boaters and sailors over at the Bluewater Cruising Association said they liked our guides and wondered if we would like to be partners. They would trade some online advertising space in exchange for a discount on our guides for their members and a share of sales revenue. It was win-win. To us, it was like the perfect anchorage. Well-sheltered, with a bottom of firm, sticky mud. Stress free.

To take advantage of the Salish Sea Pilot discount, be sure to use the Promo Code (BCA123) in the Salish Sea shopping cart.


  1. Dan Campbell says:

    These are great and updated every year.

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