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BC Marine Trails: Preserving BC coastal access for small craft users.

Risks and Hazards

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Getting started - covering the basics

1. Be trained. Rescue, navigation, basic skills and advanced skills are regularly offered course options. You can find a great selection of locations for courses on the BC Marine Trails member pages. An option is following the Paddle Canada accreditation program

2. Be prepared. The BC Marine Trails has a full selection of resources, information and links here.

3. Be connected. 

  • Carry a VHF radio. Know how to use it. Have a license so you can communicate with vessels when necessary.
  • Leave a float plan. 

VHF Channel information

Canadian Coast Guard Vessel Traffic Services broadcast channels are:

  • VHF Ch 11(South of Ballenas – Merry Is., Straight of Georgia, Gulf Islands to Victoria)
  • VHF Ch 71 (North of Ballenas – Merry Is.)
  • VHF Ch 12 (Vancouver Harbour, English Bay, Howe Sound)
  • VHF Ch 74 (Fraser River)

Canadian Coast Guard Marine Safety Search & Rescue Communications channels are:

  • VHF Ch 16 (Calling & Distress) *16 (Cell phone)
  • VHF Ch 83A (Working Channel)

Continuous Marine Broadcast (CMB) provides 24 hour up to date weather information and navigational hazards: 

Online information:

Specific hazards of the Gulf Islands Marine Trail

The British Columbia coastline is an inherently dangerous location, and marine trail users assume the risk of navigating the BC coast. The BC Marine Trails Network has pinpointed some key locations where risks are increased due to pre-existing known conditions or possibility of risk. However, marine trail users are cautioned that risk can occur at any time at any location, and proper equipment, clothing, rescue gear, preparation and training are recommended to ensure optimal safety. Recurring safety considerations include:

Currents and rips: Conditions will be lessened if not eliminated at slack times, so check the Tides and Currents Tables to find the safest time to cross or transit difficult locations. 

Long crossings: The Salish Sea Marine Trail requires two long (10 km) open water crossings to transit the Strait of Georgia. This represents a stretch of water for advanced paddlers only.  

Ferry Lane Crossings: Several busy ferry corridors must be crossed over the course of the Gulf Islands Marine Trail. Risk can be minimized by monitoring the appropriate Canadian Coast Guard Vessel Traffic Services broadcast channels (indicated above) and by calling in on that same channel to alert traffic to your presence. This is strongly recommended for groups crossing ferry lanes or in questionable conditions such as chop, darkness or fog that could make paddlecraft difficult to see.

Shipping lanes: Be sure to know where shipping lanes are located on your charts and monitor Canadian Coast Guard Vessel Traffic Services broadcast channels to track shipping movement. The following links can help you with traffic:

Pacific Pilotage Current Vessel Movements https://pilot.kleinsystems.com/public/PPA/PPA_CurrentTraffic.aspx

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