Sheltering at Port San Juan
Your vessel is tucked in as close as you dare at Thrasher Cove on the north shore of Port San Juan, attempting without much success to shelter from a stiff southwest wind.
On the beach, hikers off the West Coast Trail watch from their campfire as you rise and fall in the waves as darkness descends. You release your last bit of anchor scope, wishing there was more, and from the bow you see twinkling lights from Neah Bay across the Juan de Fuca.
If only you had gotten that damned NEXUS card. You and the first mate, who has not spoken for a couple hours, are returning from the Broken Group. You could have sailed for the fine shelter at Neah Bay where there is no customs dock. If you had NEXUS, you could have cleared in by phone and now be enjoying candles and wine.
Boaters who have been in that scenario, and haven’t we all, will be relieved to know that there will be a new player in Port San Juan from this Saturday (June 21).
“The site gets paved tomorrow (Friday) and then we’ll be ready to rock and roll,” said Paul McFadden, who is overseeing completion of the new 60-slip Pacific Gateway Marina for the Mill Bay Marine Group.
It was a long process for the marina to receive final approval, which involved different layouts and the addressing of environmental concerns.
The marina offers 700 feet of transient moorage behind a new breakwater in the community of Port Renfrew on the harbour’s southern shore.
The marina’s location near the legendary Swiftsure Bank ensures it will be popular with fishers. In fact, the official “hard” opening is June 17 during the facility’s annual Fathers Day fishing derby.
However, moorage will be available for yachts up to 80 feet, and vessels almost as large have already tested the facilities.
“Even though we were under construction, we had a 60-foot sailboat come in the other day in some bad weather and he spent three days with us,” said McFadden, the marina president. “And we had a 55-foot yacht from Anacortes come in after it met bad weather.”
The new breakwater is near 48°33.40’N 124°24.90’W, about 400 metres east of the existing government wharf at Snuggery Cove, and difficult to miss. On arrival, the marina office can be contacted on VHF 66A. The telephone number is 250-412-5509, but don’t count on cell reception in Port Renfrew.
Transient moorage is $38.50 for vessels up to 30 feet, plus $1 for each additional foot. Services will include a fuel dock with gasoline and diesel, as well as portable toilets on site.
Plans are for building a washroom facility in the next year, though only emergency shore power is in the marina’s short-term plans.
After tying up, take a staircase into town where there are restaurants and accommodations.
Hearing tales of crews suffering through bleak weather in Port San Juan and longing for Neah Bay, McFadden offered solace.
“You will be happy here,” he said. “There were 12-foot swells out there yesterday and our marina didn’t move. We are very well protected with a full breakwater, fully enclosed. It’s a 12-months-a-year operation now.”
Mill Bay Marine Group also owns Mill Bay Marina in Saanich Inlet, Port Browning Marina on North Pender Island and MK Bay Marina in Kitimat.