Saturday, February 19, 2011

Favorite Anchorages - Nanaimo & Newcastle Island Marine Park

Whenever we pass through Nanaimo on our trip N or S we always anchor at Newcastle Island Marine Park.  Some may consider this as Nanaimo Harbor too.  I call it Newcastle Harbor because of the absolutely great Newcastle Island Marine Park.  It's a great anchorage - good sticky mud that will hold your boat securely.  Fairly shallow about 10'-40' so you don't need much scope, I generally anchor with a 3:1 scope and have always done just fine, even when it's blowing 25+ knots out in Georgia Strait.  On the N end you are bounded by Newcastle Island and some shoals - very visible at low tide.  To the E you'll find Protection Island.  Good protection from summer NW winds and SE storms.

During the summer months this anchorage can get quite crowded, not only from visiting boats but also from Nanaimo locals who just venture out for the day or evening.  You will have to pick your anchorage spot between long anchored local boats - some colorful and eccentric to others seeming to be only a short wait from a watery grave.  All makes and types of craft from all over the world you can find anchored in Newcastle Harbor. Sometimes you'll return from shopping in town only to find a boat anchored within 20-30' from you.  And, it's not a quiet anchorage, more like a party and city anchorage.  You always seem to hear the noise from the city - bands playing in the waterfront park, a roaring Harley on the streets, or the siren from an ambulance or the RCMP.  And, it's not a dark anchorage because of all the Nanaimo city lights.  Oh, and did I mention that it can be a busy anchorage?  The small ferries from Nanaimo to Newcastle Island are regularly traveling through the anchorage as well as kayaks, dinghies, runabouts, and boats. Newcastle Harbor is hive of activity.  But yet despite all this it is a favorite anchorage of mine.

You are very close to good shopping - fuel, propane, water, groceries, liquor, ice, marine chandlery, and good restaurants.  All within very short walking distance. The Thrifty Foods store has all sorts of sumptuous pre-barbeque fare such as marinated shrimp or chicken, or beef on skewers, ribs, chops, and steaks.  (I like the Cajun shrimp skewers, and Thrifty Foods makes a great Tzatziki sauce for dipping veggies.)  The marine chandlery just up from Thrifty Foods is packed with all sorts of marine supplies, parts and "stuff."  They seem to have everything.  Once you tire of the city and its fast pace, you can quickly and easily escape to nice walks through deep woods, beachcombing, a kiddie wading area and play ground, and picnicking on Newcastle Island.  There's a park concession which serves snacks and ice cream.  By the way, the park restrooms are nice and clean and have got great showers - just make sure to have a "loonie" or two (Canadian $1 coin). For a special treat you can visit the floating Dinghy Dock Pub which is only a short row from your anchorage. As a result, I've always thought that to fully enjoy Nanaimo it takes you at least 2-3 days here.  It's a great place to re-provision and relax just after or before "crossing the Monster."

When venturing N up Newcastle Island Passage make sure you do not exceed the speed limit of 5 knots.  The RCMP routinely use a radar gun to ensure boats travel the proper speed.  And I've seen the RCMP write speeding tickets which are often followed up by a boarding and safety inspection - ugh.  Also make sure you follow the channel, too many times you hear about a boat hitting the rocks in Newcastle Passage.

Dodd Narrows is only about 4.5 nm away and so Newcastle Harbor can be used as a staging area while waiting for slack.

Nanaimo 2011 summer special events:
  • July 8 - 10 Dragon Boat Races & festival.  Teams from all over BC and the US will take part in the 9th annual Save On Foods Nanaimo Dragon Boat Festival -- a weekend of competition, camaraderie and celebration on Nanaimo's waterfront. 
  • July 23-24 Nanaimo Bathtub Race weekend.  Watch high powered "bathtubs" race from Departure Bay and out into Georgia Strait.


0s0-Pa said...

Those sure look like some beautiful places to visit! Thanks for sharing some pics too.
-Jackie @ Inlet Protection

Anonymous said...

42 mooring balls have been dropped in the prime anchorage of Nanaimo harbor only 12 of which can take a 40 foot or less boat the rest are for 30 of less, They are rated to a max of 30 knot winds which frequently happen in the harbor, 12 dollars a night, Good luck finding a place to anchor there now.