Sailing the Wilderness of British Columbia

Our adventure begins aboard Outer Shores Expeditions, as we journey to the very edge of the Pacific Ocean. Photo © 2017 Aaron Saunders

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

With Outer Shores Expeditions’ Passing Cloud docked in Shearwater, British Columbia this morning, I went ashore in search of a latte and a newspaper.

I found the latte, but the newspaper was a ridiculous thought. First of all, even if there were newspapers here (which there aren’t), they would have to come up from the mainland, by air, to Bella Bella, on Pacific Coastal Airlines. Then, someone would have to load them onto the water taxi to bring them over to Shearwater. So the earliest you could reasonably expect to get the day’s news here would be about one in the afternoon. At best.

Passing Cloud sets sail from Shearwater, BC this morning, en-route to the Great Bear Rainforest. Photo © 2017 Aaron Saunders

Thanks to advancements in technology, I checked the news online on my iPhone. But imagine ten years ago, even: no news. You really are almost completely on your own in Shearwater; a small hamlet of a community nestled within one of Canada’s most prosperous Provinces.

My struggle with the news is a good reminder of the remoteness that lies ahead on this journey through the Great Bear Rainforest with Outer Shores. Today, our expedition began in earnest as guests embarked the Passing Cloud at 10:00am after a night spent in the nearby Shearwater Resort.

Following our orientation briefing from our Captain, Matt Lemay; First Mate Kyle Armstrong; and chef Natasha “Tasha” Sawyer, guests explored the Passing Cloud and began to settle into their staterooms.

Staterooms aboard Passing Cloud are small but cozy, filled with plenty of nautical flair. Photo © 2017 Aaron Saunders

Accommodations are private, but berth-style. Photo © 2017 Aaron Saunders

There are three staterooms aboard Passing Cloud, all of which can accommodate two people on upper and lower berths. If you’ve ever wondered where the term “berth” comes from, it is this most classic form of maritime sleeping arrangement.

All cabins have crisp, soft duvets; plush pillows; and in-room sinks and vanity areas with designer toiletries by Liberty and Green, ethically produced in England.

Each of the three staterooms has a small sink and vanity area…Photo © 2017 Aaron Saunders

…and Liberty and Green toiletries. Photo © 2017 Aaron Saunders

Plenty of storage space is available in each cabin, with nooks and crannies for tucking away books, jackets, shirts, and other items. You’ll want to bring a soft-sided, collapsible piece of luggage, however: big rollaboards won’t work well here!

The two forward staterooms feature ceiling skylights that open, while the midship cabin gets its natural light through a deck prism; a glass cone inset into Passing Cloud’s teak decking.

Looking aft from the forward, starboard-side stateroom into Passing Cloud’s Lounge. Photo © 2017 Aaron Saunders

Natural illumination in the Midship Stateroom is provided by a unique deck prism “light.” Electric lights are also available in each cabin. Photo © 2017 Aaron Saunders

Passing Cloud features a common toilet, or “head”, in maritime-speak. Note the deck prism in the upper-right corner. Photo © 2017 Aaron Saunders

A common toilet, or “head”, is located adjacent to the ship’s main lounge. The head also has a marine shower, which guests are encouraged to use every couple of days or so in order to conserve water.

Passing Cloud’s wood-clad lounge is a gem of a space, and one of my favorite areas aboard any ship. Warm, cozy and decidedly nautical, it evokes the golden age of sail in ways that few modern ships can replicate. Equipped with a spectacular selection of titles on every aspect of the British Columbia coast, it serves as the ship’s library, salon, and – in inclement weather – Passing Cloud’s dining hall.

Passing Cloud’s wood-clad lounge serves as the social hub of the ship, with an expertly-curated selection of relevant books. Photo © 2017 Aaron Saunders

A gas stove keeps things nice and toasty inside! Photo © 2017 Aaron Saunders

At 11:15am, our lines were let go and we headed out into the open waters. We would be motoring for most of the day in order to get ahead of some anticipated nasty weather that’s due to hit the West Coast later tonight.

However, time was still made for plenty of diversions. No sooner had we departed than we encountered a massive group of dolphins. There are regulations in place as to how far away we have to stay from the dolphins, but it’s tough to control their actions, particularly when they come right up alongside in order to ride in Passing Cloud’s 7.5-knot wake. They played with us for over half an hour before finally breaking off and heading north. Right out of the gate, it became apparent that this is a place like no other – and a vacation without equal.

As soon as we set sail…Photo © 2017 Aaron Saunders

…we ran into one of the most astonishing wildlife displays I’ve ever seen. Photo © 2017 Aaron Saunders

Dolphins played around the ship…Photo © 2017 Aaron Saunders

…and chased our wake…Photo © 2017 Aaron Saunders

…for over half an hour. Photo © 2017 Aaron Saunders

Photo © 2017 Aaron Saunders

Photo © 2017 Aaron Saunders

This afternoon, we set our anchor off of a chain of islands on the west coast, not far from the Tuft Islands. Ten minutes later, we were boarding the ship’s zodiac for a shoreline exploration.

Bordered by the vast expanse of Johnstone Strait, the entire western edge of these islands is exposed to the elements. Immensely rugged, their stark landscape serves as a reminder of the harsh storms that lash this region during the winter months.

As we sailed further…Photo © 2017 Aaron Saunders

…guests remained on-deck in search of wildlife. Photo © 2017 Aaron Saunders

Including this pair of eagles, perched on a rock. Photo © 2017 Aaron Saunders

For me, today’s highlight was our exploration of a small sheltered beach, nestled into a protected inlet. I don’t know where we were, or what island we were on, but it’s clear from the undisturbed sand that we’re the only humans that have been here in some time. And, after asking the group if they’d like to go ashore for a little walk to stretch their legs – and receiving a hearty ‘yes!’ from the group – Captain Matt pointed our zodiac ashore.

Disembarking the Passing Cloud…Photo © 2017 Aaron Saunders

…for an ethereal cruise through the rugged shores of British Columbia. Photo © 2017 Aaron Saunders

Photo © 2017 Aaron Saunders

Photo © 2017 Aaron Saunders

Driftwood City. Photo © 2017 Aaron Saunders

The beach required a ‘wet landing’ – that is, a landing in which you have to swing your feet over the side of the zodiac into a few feet of water. Outer Shores supplies high-quality rubber boots for use while onboard, so this isn’t an issue at all. In fact, it’s a lot of fun. However, you’ll definitely want to invest in a good pair of waterproof pants so you don’t have to worry if you do end up getting wet, either from the landings or the weather. This is a rainforest, after all.

Some images of our time ashore:

Coming ashore…Photo © 2017 Aaron Saunders

…on our very own deserted island. Photo © 2017 Aaron Saunders

Photo © 2017 Aaron Saunders

Even this remote place isn’t left untouched by human debris. Photo © 2017 Aaron Saunders

After about half an hour on-shore, we reboarded our Zodiac and made our way back onboard the Passing Cloud. Despite the chilly temperatures outside, Passing Cloud’s interior was filled with warmth from the stove and surrounded by the smells of Chef Tasha’s cuisine. As we motored to our overnight anchorage, some restorative wine was broken out – a perfect end to a great day of adventure.

Evenings on Passing Cloud are relaxing. After dinner, Captain Matt went over our route with us, using his laptop and the large flat-panel television mounted to the bulkhead of the lounge to give us an overview of where we’ve been – and where we’re going.

Idyllic: our first day aboard Outer Shores Expeditions comes to a conclusion…Photo © 2017 Aaron Saunders

…with our overnight anchorage in this secluded cove. Photo © 2017 Aaron Saunders

Tomorrow is already shaping up to be an exciting day, as we press on in a southerly direction before entering the more protected channels and inlets of the Great Bear Rainforest. It’s the kind of thing that’s nice to go to bed to: the idea that more adventures are still to come.

Our Voyage Report from Outer Shores Expeditions’ Passing Cloud in the Great Bear Rainforest continues tomorrow. You can learn more about travel in British Columbia by visiting the HelloBC website.  Follow along on twitter with @deckchairblog.

Springtime in the Great Bear Rainforest

May 29Arrival in Bella Bella
May 30Our Expedition Sets Out
May 31Beaches and Excavations
June 1A Day at the Hakai Institute
June 2The Abandoned Town of Ocean Falls
June 3Adventures on King Island
June 4Bears and Dolphins: a Wildlife Paradise in the Great Bear Rainforest
June 5One Last Day; Recapping our Voyage

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