Sailing the Gulf Islands with Outer Shores Expeditions

We're headed back aboard the classy 70' schooner Passing Cloud, this time in British Columbia's Gulf Islands! Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders

We’re headed back aboard the classy 70′ schooner Passing Cloud, this time in British Columbia’s Gulf Islands! Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders

I have been told I’m an ‘old salt’; a sailor at heart. The truth of the matter is that I’ll take any ship of any shape or size, be it big or small, modern or old-fashioned. As long as it floats, I’m up for whatever adventures lie ahead.

Tonight, I’m in Sidney, British Columbia; a quaint little community just east of the capital of Victoria. Tomorrow morning, I’ll head down to the Sidney Marine Pier to board one of my favorite ships out there: the strikingly beautiful, eight-passenger Passing Cloud.

Operated by Outer Shores Expeditions, my journey is a quick one: a three-night, four-day taster cruise through British Columbia’s Gulf Islands. There’s no set itinerary; we’re heading wherever conditions are favorable. The only firm thing on the books is that we’ll return to Sidney on Thursday morning. And with more than 200 islands of varying shapes and sizes that make up the Gulf Islands that lie between Vancouver Island and the B.C. mainland, we’ve got no shortage of choice!

August 6, 2014: Outer Shores Expeditions' Passing Cloud sailing off the coast of Haida Gwaii, Canada. Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders

August 6, 2014: Outer Shores Expeditions’ Passing Cloud sailing off the coast of Haida Gwaii, Canada. Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders

I first sailed aboard the Passing Cloud back in 2014, when I ventured up to Haida Gwaii for what would turn out to be a deliciously educational, expedition-style sailing adventure through one of British Columbia’s most remote and misunderstood areas.

My Voyage Report from onboard Passing Cloud in Haida Gwaii:

Outer Shores Expeditions - Sailing Haida Gwaii

DAYACTIVITY
Day 1Arrival in Sandspit and boarding Passing Cloud
Day 2Whales and Woodruff Bay
Day 3Kayaking the Gordon Islands
Day 4Visiting the Haida Gwaii heritage site of SGang Gwaay
Day 5Exploring South Burnaby Narrows
Day 6Windy Bay and the Legacy Pole
Day 7A Chance Meeting on Tanu
Day 8Recapping our Journey

To start with, sailing aboard this classic, 70-foot long Schooner built in 1974 is a real treat. She’s been lovingly maintained throughout the years and is refurbished every season by Outer Shores founder, Russell Markel, and his dedicated team of crewmembers. Polished brightwork glistens like new, and the ship’s rich woodwork lulls you into a wonderful sense of nostalgic relaxation.

Staterooms are small, but cozy and wonderfully nautical – right down to the crystal deck lights that let in natural light into cabins from the decking above. Electric lights are provided in each cabin, along with a small sink and vanity area. A common shower and toilet are shared amongst guests.

Daily briefings are conducted each night in Passing Cloud's beautiful lounge. Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders

Daily briefings are conducted each night in Passing Cloud’s beautiful lounge. Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders

Passing Cloud’s main lounge is a beautiful throwback to the sailing days of old, complete with a small cast iron oil-burning heater that does an excellent job of warming the entire room in no time. Books on British Columbia history line the walls, and evenings are spent here in conversation with your fellow guests, or perhaps plotting tomorrow’s route or listening to one of the crew members serenade guests with a few songs on the guitar.

The educational component of these cruises is huge. Markel has a PhD from the Department of Zoology at the University of British Columbia, and focused his research in three general areas: the effects of over-fishing and over-hunting top predators on coastal ecosystems and human communities; relationships between changing ocean climate and marine fish population dynamics; and the design and effectiveness of marine protected areas.

Markel and Passing Cloud’s entire crew work to educate passengers about the history of the areas of British Columbia in which they sail, and to promote sustainable tourism that is both informative and, above all else, fun. The atmosphere onboard is academic, but very accessible.

Exploring the old-growth forests and Haida culture in Gwaii Haanas National Park. Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders

Exploring the old-growth forests and Haida culture in Gwaii Haanas National Park with our expedition guides. Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders

Embarrassingly for a former British Columbian, I knew nothing about Haida Gwaii when I sailed there back in 2014. I came away with knowledge and memories that changed the way I viewed the world in general. I became more conservationist, more environmentally-minded. I saw that the world around me, and the sea that I loved so much, is a fragile thing. All it takes is one oil spill or natural disaster to set things back centuries.

Tomorrow, my journey through the Gulf Islands begins. It may be the shortest cruise I’ve done all year, but I have no doubt it will be one of the most impactful. I can’t wait to see what the crew of the Passing Cloud have in-store for the next four days.

Because there’s no internet onboard, this won’t be a completely ‘live’ report. Instead, we’ll begin our coverage on Sunday, October 23, 2016 and run it through the length of next week. And then, we’ll have another Live Voyage Report beginning on Halloween – from a very faraway place.

So stay tuned – there’s more cruising fun to be had, From the Deck Chair.

Our Live Voyage Report aboard Outer Shores Expeditions’ Passing Cloud will begin on Sunday, October 23, 2016! Be sure to follow along on twitter by following @deckchairblog.

Outer Shores Expeditions - BC's Gulf Islands

DATEACTIVITY
Monday, October 17, 2016Embarking Passing Cloud in Sidney, British Columbia, Canada
Tuesday, October 18Circumnavigating Saturna Island and overnighting on Prevost Island.
Wednesday, October 19Saltspring Island and Russell Island
Thursday, October 20Disembark Passing Cloud in Sidney; Recapping our Journey
 

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