From the United States
There are no ferries direct from the US. You should drive north on the I5, crossing the border into Canada at Blaine. From there, you can follow the signs to the BC Ferries terminal at Tsawassen, about a 20 minute drive. Here’s a quick summary:
On the Canadian side of the border, you’ll find yourself on Highway 99. Drive for about 17 miles, then take the exit for Tsawwassen and the ferries, you just keep driving until you reach the payment booths. (I used to have more details but they improved the route.) You want the Southern Gulf Islands ferry. Follow directions for “From the Lower Mainland” below for more.
From the San Juan Islands:
If you live in the San Juans, you already know more than I do about Washington State Ferries. The spring schedule is not posted, but I believe there will be one sailing a day to Sidney, on Vancouver Island, and one back. I also believe this would be the most economical route, given the cheaper fare from Vancouver Island to Galiano. See the section “From Vancouver Island” below.
From the Lower Mainland:
BC Ferries Southern Gulf Island Ferry leaves from Tsawassen, south of Vancouver. Here’s the schedule for sailings to Sturdies Bay on Galiano. Note that times vary with the day of the week, for example, if you travel on Friday it will vary from Saturday’s timing.
Be aware that fares from Tsawassen are one way only, so you must pay again to get off the island. Travelling on weekdays may be cheaper than on weekends, if this can be fitted into your plans.
You can reserve space both ways. Although space should not be a problem on these dates, there is no guarantee of space. There is a fee for reservations.
From Vancouver Island:
You catch the Southern Gulf Islands Ferry at Schwartz Bay (about 3 miles from Sidney). The good news is that your fare is a return fare, and it’s still cheaper than the Tsawassen ferry. You can see the schedule to Sturdies Bay here.
On your own keel:
From Sidney, on Vancouver Island, it’s about 15 nautical miles to Montague Harbour. From Nanaimo, it would be closer to 20. Read on for Chemainus.
If you are coming from the San Juans, or passing through them from Port Townsend, your most convenient entry to Canada is Bedwell Harbour (see also Poet’s Cove) on Pender Island. Going home, you can re-enter the US at Roche Harbor or Friday Harbor.
It’s a serious undertaking to sail over from the mainland, or from Puget Sound, as you will be crossing big water either way. Even sailing from Vancouver Island, another Gulf Island or the San Juans is potentially dangerous. Anyone contemplating any of these crossings must have a suitable, properly equipped boat and the expertise required for ocean sailing. Power and Sail Squadrons in both Canada and the US provide training, as do various other certified organizations. Your safety is your concern.
At a minimum, carry all the required safety equipment, charts and compass, tide and current tables, water and snacks. A VHF radio let you communicate and provides current weather information.
Your safety is your responsibility.
Kirk Coleman provided this information on an alternative launch from Vancouver Island
Launching from Chemainus for Montague Harbour
There is a boat ramp at Hospital Point, just west of the downtown area and ferry dock. The boat ramp is free and paved. There is parking at the ramp and cars and trailers can be left for several days. The ramp is fairly steep and launches at higher tides are easy. Low tides can be a problem as it shallows out at the bottom of the ramp. The ramp is also exposed to the Northwest and there can be breaking waves on the ramp if the wind is up from that direction. Keep an eye out for the ferry to Thetis Island as you must cross its path when heading for Montague.
When crossing the four miles of Stuart Channel, watch for Escape Reef off Kuper and North Reef just off of Tent Island. With a high enough tide you can cut between Kuper and Tent Islands, stay to the Kuper side as a long sand bar stretches out from Tent. Watch for random boulders as you go through. Tent is a great spot to take a break or even sleep over. The small bay on the Southwest side is well protected from both NW and SE winds, just watch for the wake of tugboats as they pass by. It has a sandy beach, perfect for open boats to beach on.
Houstoun Passage leads you four miles round the tip of Saltspring to Wallace Island. Watch out for the reefs just off the entrance to Conover Cove on Wallace. This island is another great place to take a break or camp. Conover Cove is a Marine Park with a dock and camping ashore. It is very well protected from any wind, but can be busy in the summer. There is little in the way of beach here so the dock is your only option to get ashore. We have anchored out and bummed rides ashore in the past.
From Wallace you make the 6-8 mile jump cross Trincomali Channel over to the Galiano side and from there to Montague Harbour. Trincomali is long and skinny, so the wind can build up in here, watch the weather.
Total trip length, about 16 nautical miles.