As we neared the Burrard and Granville bridges spanning False Creek in downtown Vancouver, colorful Aquabuses buzzed by, sailboats and powerboats made their way in or out, and the Public Market on Granville Island pulsed with a flurry of food and activity.
After spending weeks in the quiet, secluded anchorages of Desolation Sound and the Discovery Islands, the big city atmosphere was certainly a change, but an exciting and diverse one.
We called ahead for a slip at the False Creek Yacht Club located under the Granville Bridge, and once we got settled in, walked to a nearby Aquabus stop to catch a ride to the market.
Similar in some ways to the famous Pike Place Market in Seattle, the Granville Island Public Market is a cornucopia of fresh food from the ocean or field and much more. Between a fishmonger, farm stand and cheese shop, dinner was easily obtained and we made one final stop at the nearby Liberty Distillery to try some artisanal spirits in their well-crafted bar and tasting room. Their gin was particularly good, so it was only right to complement our onboard happy hour with a bottle.
With the water tanks topped up, showers taken and an overnight charge put on the batteries, we headed out the next day to anchor in False Creek in the shadow of the city.
Over the course of four days anchored in the creek, we explored many of the nearby parks, relaxed aboard in the sunshine and watched the movement of Vancouver’s waterfront unfold around us. The atmosphere of this metropolitan anchorage is certainly different than the region’s many beautiful islands, marine parks, coves and inlets, but that is what makes it such a unique, vibrant and worthwhile place to stop.
To combat a potential derelict boat problem and to keep live-aboards from taking up residence in the waterway, it is mandatory to obtain an anchoring permit before dropping the hook in False Creek — which can be done online here. A permit is required if you are anchoring for more than eight hours during the day (9 a.m. to 11 p.m.) or anytime between 11 p.m. and 9 a.m. the following day. The permit will allow you to stay at anchor for a maximum of 14 full or partial days of 30 days in the high season (April 1 to September 30) and 21 days of 40 in the low season (October 1 to March 31).
When you’ve obtained a permit, you are free to anchor in a number of places throughout the creek and it’s fairly easy to tell by looking at other boats where to go — be sure to stay out of the marked, navigable channel and you’re pretty much set. The bottom composition is sand/mud/shell and provides great holding. I’ve heard before that nobody comes around to actually check your permit, but we saw a guy with a clipboard motoring around checking names of anchored boats on two occasions.
Once your hook is set, the city of Vancouver is at your fingertips. Dinghy docks are scattered throughout the creek (see map above) and open up every side of the inlet for exploration. Granville Island and its various amenities is right there; David Lam, Charleson, Sutcliffe, Creekside and Vanier parks are well placed; Science World and a variety of museums are at either end of the creek; opportunities for shopping and dining are numerous and diverse; and several SkyTrain stops are within walking distance. Aquabus taxis are also available to conveniently shuttle you to locations throughout the creek.
If you’re looking to top up on provisions, Sav-On-Foods and Whole Foods on the south side of the creek near the Cambie Bridge are probably your best bet. Also, Granville Island has a public dock that provides a few hours of free moorage so you can visit the market, but be prepared to wait or moor somewhere else in the high season, as it can be quite full. For those who want to spend a night or two dockside, there are several marinas in False Creek that offer guest moorage (see map above).