The restoration of Tod Inlet
Tod Inlet on the Saanich Peninsula south of Brentwood Bay is known for its incomparable protection, as well as the classy shoreside entertainments found at nearby Butchart Gardens, ranking it high on most cruisers’ list of preferred anchorages.
Tranquility is its middle name, the sort of place where there is little need to worry, least of all about weather, and you can focus on projects that don’t require shore power. The inlet’s peace and quiet allows you to sort out things like tricky electrical problems.
But there have been environmental worries here due to many years of industrial pollution. A clean-up project earlier this year in Tod Inlet aimed to lessen those concerns.
Tests and mapping of the seabed last summer revealed high levels of contamination. Debris from the old cement factory which early last century was on the site where Butchart Gardens now sits, as well other industrial activities and sunken derelict vessels, left behind layers of metal, brick and other pollutants.
That created a happy environment for moon jellyfish, which thrive in waters with low oxygen levels and in shade which comes from the steep shoreline around the inlet. Unfortunately, jellies gorge on plankton, leaving little to eat for the tiny fish which salmon feed on.
That’s where the SeaChange Marine Conservation Society stepped in. Partnered with the Tsartlip First Nation and BC Parks, as well as with funding from Fisheries and Oceans Canada, SeaChange launched a project to clean up the inlet.
Barges and cranes moved in this year to haul away contaminated sea bottom, repairing the salmon habitat. As well, a large section of sand beach was stripped away and replaced with fresh sand and gravel.
The seabed clean up is part of a larger project to restore the natural environment in Gowlland Tod Provincial Park, which also involved removing invasive plant species such as blackberries.
Boaters will benefit with the removal of navigational hazards and bottom debris which sometimes caused anchors to snag.
Nearby Brentwood Bay is the largest community on the east shore of Saanich Peninsula. Two marinas here accept transient vessels, with technicians on call and basic provisions nearby.
There is space to anchor off the docks in the south of Brentwood Bay among the many boats on private mooring buoys. Butchart Gardens also maintains four mooring buoys in Butchart Cove, free for overnight use by visitors to the famous gardens which are not to be missed if you are in the area.
Most transient boaters continue to Tod Inlet where there is typically lots of room to anchor, including areas to stern tie to shore if the inlet is especially busy.
From the park dinghy dock, known as the Nature Float, it is a short walk west along a trail to Wallace Road, which runs north to Brentwood Bay or south to Victoria. A few metres along the trail, a path forks north to meet Benvenuto Avenue and the entrance to Butchart Gardens, eventually also meeting up with Wallace Road.
From the Nature Float, it is about 3km to a Fairway Foods supermarket in Brentwood Bay. Walking or cycling, go north on Wallace Road. Fairway Foods is at the intersection with West Saanich Road.
The public library, with free WiFi as well as a few public computer terminals, is a few minutes’ walk from the supermarket. Turn left on West Saanich, left at Clark Road and left again at the Central Saanich Cultural Centre.
Along West Saanich Road, there is bus service north to Sidney and south for connections to Victoria. Ask the driver about transfers.
Tod Inlet is a delightful anchorage and also a lovely spot to meet friends from as far away as Victoria. At the Tod Inlet trailhead on Wallace Road, there are wide shoulders where visitors can pull off to park before walking in to rendezvous at the park dinghy dock.
(Brentwood Bay and Tod Inlet are covered in Salish Sea Pilot’s Cruising Guide to the Gulf Islands.)