Category Archives: Tours

7th Annual Christmas Tea and Cruise

We started the winter cruises to get connected with locals who knew and loved the Columbia III from her earlier mission/hospital ship days, but now just about everyone wants to join us for our annual Christmas Cruises. We provide the tea, coffee, cookies and the vessel, you just show up and pay $10 if you have the money, and come for free if you don’t.

I ended up with dozens and dozens of calls waiting on my voice mail, all requesting reservations for 2-10 guests . . .  I finally just couldn’t keep up with the flood of interest. Oops! Next year I will change my voice mail message when the boat is full and it will take some of the confusion out of the process. I am always taken aback by how many people want to join these humble cruises. We  took about 88 passengers over two days but I think I turned many more than that away!  . . . . .

It was a nice winter day when we pulled the Columbia III  out of the shed in preparation for this year’s Christmas cruises.IMGP5024

But it was snowing by the time we made it to Campbell River and overnighted. It certainly looked like a “Christmas Cruise” when the guests arrived in falling snow.IMGP5029

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The docks were slippery but I kept a salt water pump running to keep the decks ice-free and safe.IMGP5069

Fern and Tavish spent several days baking literally buckets of cookies for the cruises.IMGP5068

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The weather was snowy but calm enough to venture down to the Cape Mudge lighthouse.IMGP5038  IMGP5033

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Pastor Tom has joined us several times. We seem to get a lot of repeat “Christmas Cruisers”IMGP5025

A nice Christmasy scene! Lots of snow for one of the two days.DSC_6669_2

MERRY CHRISTMAS EVERYONE, and a HAPPY NEW YEAR!

Reassuring . . .

It is common for guests to join us for a second tour.  Or a third tour. Sometimes a fourth . .  . .  And even a fifth!

Today I received an email from a “four-timer”, Scott, from the eastern USA.

“I have been to some amazing places the past few years but my love of paddling the Great Bear Rainforest with you guys overshadows them all…so lets go ahead and get me signed up…my credit card number has changed so give me a call at some point and I’ll give you the new one…ten months away and I’m already excited!!”

I called Scott and chatted, news of his work, Hurricane Sandy and our new grandson.

I have travelled a lot over the last two years. I went to South America twice last year alone and I LOVE it there, but there is no place in the world like the Great Bear Rainforest.  Sign me up,” Scott said.

Now that’s a pretty nice way for me to start my weekend.

Great Bear Rainforest 2012

This is just a “classic” Great Bear story. Graeme below, traveled from Scotland to join us and on the very first night, during introductions, when all the guests are asked if there was anything in particular they hope to see or do on their tour, Graeme let everyone know that he really, REALLY wanted to see a wolf. Howling! We all thought, “Wow. Great hope, but come now, that is a pretty tall order.”Scots man in the Great Bear Rainforest

The 10 day kayaking tour moved from one day to the next. We saw whales, black bears, grizzly bears and even a spirit bear, but no wolves. The weather was awesome, the paddling perfect, the company excellent . . .  but no wolves. No wolves howling unseen or seen. On the last full day we had our final dinner together toasting our good fortune. Accolades all round. But no wolves. We had to pull anchor the next morning by 9am to reach the out bound plane from Bella Bella.

So our intrepid guides had one last idea. We ran to a “bay” we “knew about” and dropped the anchor for the night. All the guests were given the plan and went to bed. At 0600 everyone was up and getting dressed in shore gear. Coffee and tea were ready early and everyone headed out in the dusk in the skiff, bundled up with toques and binoculars. . . .

And they quietly slipped into a grassy estuary, the smell of decaying salmon in the air and Luke pointed to everyone very quietly.  . . .  3 wolves in the grass!!!! and everyone readied their cameras and binoculars and then one wolf calmly tilted his head back . . .  and began to HOWL!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Needless to say, as I was pulling the anchor, the engine on the mothership ready to depart for the plane in 11/2 hours, the guests returned to the Columbia III with eyes the size of saucers and totally excited . . . .

Now that was a treat!

This fall we had the most spectacular weather! The waterfalls weren’t as vigorous but we weren’t going to complain. Day after day was gorgeous and the crew spent most of our time exclaiming over and over , “This is really, unusually good weather for this rainforest.”Calm anchorage, Seaforth Channel area, Mothership Adventures

It is easy to tell when there is wildlife around, check out the waiting arsenal on the chart table.

One of the narrower passages the COLUMBIA III transits is called, Rait Narrows. It is always fun to sneak through the narrow, cedar overhanging pass just up ahead in this photo.

Skipper, guide, oceanic sailor, son: Tavish

Robin slacking off, again. . .  “Floggings will continue until moral improves . . .”

And the BEAR in Great Bear rainforest . . .

I know they are just white, black bears but really, there is something so cool about these rare, rare animals.

Here is a fun story: One of our guides, Steve, has a great deal of bear guiding experience on the BC coast and in Hudson’s Bay with polar bears.  This summer he told a funny story. He had a group of mothership guests in a estuary watching two grizzlies foraging for salmon. “I told the guests that the two bears looked like semi-mature siblings, probably both males,” . . . and we watched them feeding for quite awhile. Then abruptly, one sat down and began to nurse the other . . . .  .” Sooooo, I guess they aren’t both males . . . !” A guide can’t always be right!Nursing grizzly momma Canada

Being a top-notch kayak guide has its downsides. The stress: the great vistas, ridiculously good food in fabulous settings, pleasant company with worldly guests, and of course, excessive wildlife view can cause even a young, resilient woman to go, well . . . just a little off. Here our guide, Robin, is working through a few issues on her portable trainer. It fits nicely on the back of her kayak for ease of access.

Here is a group that chartered the mothership for a kayaking tour in the Broughton in 2010 and they joined us in the Great Bear this summer. Here is a quote from the guest-log from this group . . . “Wow, what a super adventure, AGAIN! Thank you to this very special crew that has yet again made such a great impact on my travels and as always have/give such TLC always!! Tav, Farlyn, Steve, Robin what a wonderful time! I certainly hope to be back and experience yet another trip. Take care and all the very best for health and happiness. Big hugs, Stella”

Three friends whom have taken many trips together joined us this summer and now they are inquiring about chartering the whole boat for a week in 2013. Many of  our tours fill as charters with returning guests and a boat load of friends.

The humpback population is steadily increasing and on several occaisions we found groups of more than 50 humpbacks in the same area.

A classic coastal scene . . .

A little blurry, but I have a secret air raid siren mounted on the roof of the COLUMBIA III, and if a guest is being a bit cheeky, I just give the siren a toggle! Discipline is re-established!!

Cameras and binoculars. Two very common accessories on the mothership. We keep at least 6 spare pair of binos in the wheel house for quick access and we keep spare DVDs so guests can off-load their full camera memory cards. It just might have something to do with how much guests get to see from the mothership.

 

The rainforest grows trees. Big trees.  Here a western red cedar captures a group’s amazement.

A wonderful First Nation petroglyph near Bella Bella.

Although we had a wonderful run of good weather this fall, a couple of days of hard rain on the steep granite fjords of the Great Bear Rainforest still makes for intimidating waterfalls, especially if you approach them by kayak.

Here skipper, guide, naturalist, son-in-law, Luke pauses near the end of our Great Bear season, near the end of our 2012 mothership season. Again, the British Columbia coast has been ridiculously good to us. Just check out the 2012 photo gallery if you have any doubts about the richness of this coast. No single guest or crew gets to see everything. One group might have a stupendous encounter with white-sided dolphins and awesome bear viewing and another group might stumble onto a bunch of humpback whales lunge feeding. But everyone sees more than enough and  the crew is always tantalized along, peering around the next point just ahead, “Now what does this splendid coast have in store for us today. This week, This season.”Skipper Luke surveys his dominion

Another wonderful, safe and viable season.

Thanks to all our guests, hard working crew, the COLUMBIA III and of course, the BC Coast.