Vancouver Island

Canada travel information

essential information

Back to Vancouver

Find everything you need to prepare for a charter in Vancouver. From important base information to required documents for international travel, you can use this information as your guide before and during your charter. Don't forget to pack a copy to take with you.


Before you go

Sunsail Vancouver Island
Preferred Partner "Island Cruising"
10990 Madrona Drive,
North Saanich,
BC Canada V8L 5R7

Our Vancouver Island base is operated by our preferred partner, Island Cruising. They are located at the Deep Cove Marina in North Saanich, British Columbia on the tip of Vancouver Island. The marina is conveniently located for numerous inbound/outbound travel options and offers close access to both the Gulf and San Juan Island cruising areas.

Base hours
Mon-Sun: 8.30am-5pm.

If you plan to arrive soon after office closing hours, a marina manager will try to be on site to greet guests.

During peak season (July - August 31) charters are available to start from Saturday only. Only multiples of  7 nights  are allowed. If alternative duration or start day are  booked in error a member of the sales team will contact you to amend accordingly.

English is spoken throughout British Columbia and Canadian Rockies region of Canada.

What to bring

Passport and visas
International visitors (not US citizens or US permanent residents)

  • Must carry a valid passport and, if required, a visa. Citizens from the UK, France, Germany, Mexico, Japan, the Republic of Korea, Australia and others do not require a visa to enter Canada.
  • Countries whose citizens require visas to enter Canada, visit Citizenship and Immigration Canada.
  • Up-to-date list of required documents to enter Canada, contact your closest Canadian Consulate or Embassy

Please note country entry/exit requirements are subject to change. We are not responsible for any requirement changes.

Visa waiver, requires an entry into USA prior to landing in Canada. That entry permit now allows you to enter on a private vessel.

Travelling with kids

  • When travelling with children, carry each child's birth certificate.
  • When only one parent is travelling with the child(ren), he or she should carry written permission from the other parent.
  • Divorced parents who share custody should also carry copies of the legal custody documents. Adults who are not parents or guardians should have written permission from parents or guardians to supervise the children.

Criminal record
Anyone with a criminal record (including misdemeanours or alcohol-related driving offenses) may not be able to enter Canada without first obtaining a special waiver well in advance of any planned travel. Read more about criminal record waivers.

Customs + immigration
For up to date information on Canadian customs regulations, visit Canada Border Services Agency

Sailing licences
To charter a yacht in Vancouver Island, there must be at least one skipper and one crew member, both over 18 years old. The skipper should be competent at handling a yacht in close quarters, anchoring and mooring in varying conditions and be able to use navigation and pilotage skills to plan the day's sailing and know your position at any time. As a yacht skipper, you are required to have a sailing license or a certificate from a recognised sailing association as detailed below:

Skipper is REQUIRED to have one (1) of the following:

  • ICC (International Certificate of Competence), International–Prerequisites: RYA "Day Skipper Course" or similar/equivalent certification from any recognised sailing association or complete the ICC Assessment form to prove competence from previous experience.
  • IPC (International Proficiency Certificate), America–Prerequisites: ASA 104 or US Sailing "Bareboat Cruising Course"


  • UK: RYA Day Skipper practical (with our without photo)
  • USA: US Sailing "Bareboat Cruising Course", ASA "104 Bareboat Cruising Course" or above
  • Germany: Sportbootführerschein See" or above
  • Belgium: Algemeen Stuurbrevet/ Brevet de conduite général
  • France: Le Permis Plaisance

Or a similar/equivalent certification from any recognised sailing association

It is essential to have a sailing license for the skipper. This document has to be registered in the transit log and presented to the port authorities.

Canadian law does not require a formal sailing license for foreign non-residents operating a boat in Canadian waters for less than 45 days.

What's on board

Coolers are available at the base on a first come first served basis at no additional charge. Please sign for these and return them clean and undamaged otherwise they will be charged for replacement. Only one per boat.

Mobile phones
Your mobile phone may work when cruising around the Vancouver Island region of British Columbia, Canada. Please check with your service provider for coverage details and call costs. You will need to activate international roaming on your contract, if your provider does not offer coverage in Canada.

The use of flying drones may be restricted in some areas. For current drone regulations in this destination, please visit

Canada uses 110-120 volts AC (60 cycles) and the same plug configuration at the United States, compared to 220-240 volts AC (50 cycles) in most of Europe, Australia and New Zealand. If you are travelling internationally, downward converters that change 220-240 volts to 110-120 volts may be difficult to find, so bring one with you.

Island Cruising provides wireless Internet access at the marina. Upon arrival, you may request the wireless access code.

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About the marina

Marina facilities

The Deep Cove Marina offers full service amenities and is an excellent starting point for your charter, with a café, restaurant, pub, food stores, off licenses, museums, chandleries, gift stores and hotels all located nearby.

Shower facilities, fuel dock and customs are also available at Van Isla Marina on Vancouver Island.

Dock facilities
Your yacht is delivered with full fuel tanks. Your boat must be returned with full fuel tanks and empty holding tanks. Island Cruising reserves the right to charge a penalty fee (CAD 150, plus cost of fuel) if the boat is not properly returned.

Enroute to the base, stop at Van Isle Marina to re-fuel and empty your holding tanks.

Sailing licences

Experience level
Sailing experience: Level 3

Experience levels are based on sailing conditions and the length of passages within your chosen sailing area.  

Experience levels are based on the sailing conditions (weather, wind, tides, etc) and length of passages within your chosen sailing area. In the Vancouver Island cruising area, navigation is primarily line of site, however winds can be strong, tidal ranges are very large and a solid understanding of tidal tables and associated knowledge is imperative.

Sailing grounds

Skippered charter information
Skippers are available for charters, and will greet you for your charter. They are only on board up to a day on your charter.

The skipper's time is booked for a 24-hour period. If you have reserved him or her for the first day of your charter and have a 10am start, he or she will use this time to ensure he or she is happy with all aspects of the yacht and will be at the base to meet you upon your arrival.

Skippered yacht charter: a skipper is onboard for the duration of your vacation and will greet you at the base the morning of your departure at 10am or 4pm (with evening start).

The skipper is required to give you as much information as you need concerning the yacht, its systems, sailing skills and navigation in general, including a thorough briefing on all aspects of the yacht and dinghy. The skipper will assist you with planning an itinerary and advise you on how to contact the base, the return to base procedures and the emergency assistance procedures. It is suggested that you attend the scheduled chart brief that will be supplemented by the skipper during his time with you on the yacht. It is also suggested that you make it clear exactly what you want to cover, anchoring, docking, etc.

The skipper fee does not include food or beverages for the skipper and are the responsibility of the client. Skipper provisioning should be added to your contract at the time you request a skipper. The skipper must be provided with a cabin and bath accommodation.

The skipper is responsible for the safety of the yacht at all times. They are not permitted to dive with you, nor leave the vessel overnight, and they must conduct a safety brief with you before leaving the dock regardless of the duration of the contract with you.

For one day check out skippers, it is the client's responsibility to get the skipper back to the base. If you prefer not to come back to the base you must pay their expenses (ferry, taxi, etc.) to get back to the base. The average tip for a skipper is 15-20 percent of the skipper's fee. This is, of course, at the client's discretion.

Sailing area restrictions
The cruising area extends north to Desolation Sound and south to Victoria, Vancouver Island, BC. The cruising area does include mainland British Columbia and the San Juan Islands (USA). Chase boat support service will be provided within a 20-mile radius of the Island Cruising base (per the Sunsail Guarantee).

We may not enter US waters to service the yachts ourselves but will have a local person attend to any problems. We rely on them to respond, public holidays excluded.

Night sailing
Night sailing is not permitted; you must be moored at least one hour before sunset at all of our locations.

Charts + pilot books
All the charts and pilot books you will need for the sailing area are on board the yacht.

Moorings fees + taxes
Throughout the cruising grounds of The Gulf Islands, San Juan Islands, Sunshine Coast and Desolation Sound ample overnight options are available. There are numerous buoys and lots of room to anchor. There is ample transient moorage, but this is very popular, so it's best to make reservations. Moorage rates between CAD 35-55 per night.

A federal goods and services tax (GST) is charged throughout Canada and is a 5 percent tax on virtually all goods and services. In all provinces (except Alberta), an additional provincial sales tax is added to purchases and financial transactions. In British Columbia, a 'provincial' federal and provincial seven percent tax is levied on purchases and services.

Some hotels and shops include the GST in their prices; others add it on separately. When included, the tax accounts for the odd hotel rates, such as CAD 96.05 per day, that you may find on your final bill. All provinces and some municipalities levy a hotel room tax (seven percent in British Columbia). The Canadian government no longer offers GST or HST rebates of hotel bills or the cost of goods you purchase in Canada.

Health + safety

Swim Safe 
For your safety and for environmental reasons, the feeding of fish is not recommended and may be prohibited in some destinations.

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Around the base

The following hotels and inns are conveniently located near the base:

Sidney Waterfront Inn & Suites

9775 First St 
Tel: +1 250 656 1131 or +1 888 656 1131
Best Western Emerald Isle 
2306 Beacon Ave 
Tel: +1 250 656 4441
Bevansfield Inn 
Charming modern Edwardian Inn with breakfast and welcoming champagne included
9724 3rd Street
Tel: +1 877 420 5499
Cedarwood Inn & Suites
9522 Lochside Dr
Tel: +1 250 656 5551
Travelodge Sidney
2280 Beacon Ave
Tel: +1 250 656 1176
Sidney Pier and Hotel
2B-9851 Seaport Place
Tel: +1 250 655 9445

Local currency is the Canadian Dollar (CAD). Canadian currency is counted in dollars and cents. Coins include pennies, nickels, dimes and quarters as well as one and two-dollar coins (there are no dollar or two-dollar bills). Paper currency begins with CAD 5 bills. Currency exchange is pretty straightforward. Often Canadian businesses will accept US dollars in payment since the currency exchange rates are relatively comparable.

Credit card information
Credit cards are widely accepted in most establishments.

Banking hours are generally Mon-Fri from 10am-4pm. Some banks are open on Saturday. ATMs are found at banks and in retail areas.

Throughout the cruising grounds, you'll find boutique shopping, art galleries and locally produced goods to take home as mementos.

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For more information on what's included on your yacht, please view the full list here.

Choose Sunsail

Stunning Sailing Destinations 
Flotilla routes
Types of yachts
44 yrs
Creating holidays
4 hr
Service commitment