The Schooner Maple Leaf
The Coast's Most Expensive Yacht
Maple Leaf is a classic, 92-foot schooner. She has a rich history of operation on the coast and draws an admiring crowd when we are alongside.
Maple Leaf is extremely safe and comfortable. She has an enviable reputation as both a beautiful and sea-worthy vessel.
Completely restored from 1980-1986 to new condition, Maple Leaf is fully inspected and certified by the Canadian Coast Guard as a passenger vessel, and is manned by a certified, competent crew. She is fully-equipped with the latest safety and navigation equipment including radar, G.P.S., E.P.I.R.B., radio-telephone and satellite communications.
Interior and Accommodations
Maple Leaf's interior is in harmony with her heritage: modern conveniences and good space design sense, melded with a decor that nods to her Edwardian past.
Her accommodations are very comfortable.
The spacious main cabin is open and airy by day, and the sleeping areas offer large comfortable beds (bunks), six-and-a-half feet long, with fluffy duvets, pillows and throws and brass reading lamps. They have walls on two-and-a-half sides and thick, heavy curtains on the other one-and-a-half sides.
As one journalist recently said, "they resemble nothing so much as very spacious, luxuriously appointed 1930s train compartments".
There are three bathrooms (heads) with hot showers.
A dining lounge also holds the ship's library and is a pleasant place to sit and read, chat, or enjoy a cup of tea.
The above-deck wheelhouse offers another seating area and the ship's natural history library.
Maple Leaf has lots of deck space, on which people may choose to sit and watch the coast's scenery, chat with others, steer the ship, or have quiet time alone.
Her deck is divided into three distinct areas, at different heights:
the foredeck (and the bowsprit for those who wish to "fly" over the ocean!),
the protected well deck (where people like to sit and read and watch the world), and, up a couple of steps, the aft deck (where you can chat with crew, sit and read or stand by the wheel).
A hand-crafted wooden ship
Like any well-engineered, one-of-a-kind, hand-crafted ship, Maple Leaf is a work of art. She is made of coastal Douglas fir and cedar, with mahogany brightwork.
Her curved deck planks, mahogany and glass butterfly hatches, fir beams, mahogany cabinetry and the sweep of her long cap rail are a pleasure to look at.
We often dine on deck (on occasion, a picnic or barbeque ashore).
However, the comfortable dining area provides a perfect atmosphere for sharing the day's experiences with new friends over a glass of wine and a fine meal.
The ship's extensive library includes excellent references covering marine biology, ornithology, flora, fauna, native history and art, environmental issues, and some novels.
Kayaks and Shore Expedition Boats
Maple Leaf has two 15-foot Polaris rigid-hull inflatable boats for shore excursions and wildlife viewing.
These fantastic boats, made by Polaris in Vancouver, B.C., have taken us to some of the most exquisite and remote beaches, fantastic bear viewing, seabird watching and marine mammal viewing.
We also carry good quality kayaks that are fun for anyone to paddle around an anchorage.
Maple Leaf has 5 huge sails: a jib, a staysail, a foresail (gaff-rigged), a mainsail (half the size of a basketball court!), and a square fisherman sail (a schooner's equivalent of a spinnaker).
A Brief History of Maple Leaf
Maple Leaf (BC's historic tall ship) was built in 1904 in Vancouver Shipyard at Coal Harbour. She was designed and built by William Watts, a well-known Canadian shipbuilder and designer.
Billed as the most expensive pleasure craft on the Pacific Coast, she was a private yacht for prominent businessman Alexander Maclaren and wore sail # 1 for the Royal Vancouver Yacht Club.
She was the first ship north of San Francisco to have electric lights and carried her crew and society guests into the Gulf Islands and the fjords of the B.C. coast.
The War Changes Maple Leaf's Fate
During the First World War, her lead keel and brass were stripped for the war effort. She was then converted to a halibut fishing vessel.
Re-named Constance B and later Parma, she fished for the next two decades for some of the province's famous early fishing companies including Gosse and Millerd and Canadian Fishing Company.
Maple Leaf and Harold Helland: Hearts Like Lions
She was purchased by Harold Helland in 1938, and in 1943, when building new ships was prohibited due to the Second World War, Harold completely rebuilt Maple Leaf (at CN Dry-dock in Prince Rupert).
Harold, Maple Leaf and a loyal crew fished halibut in the dangerous Bering Sea until the mid-1970s.
They repeatedly outfished other, newer vessels in the fleet. Harold maintained his ship in bristol condition, washing the decks with salt water each day and caring for her as if she were still a private luxury yacht.
He reportedly threw off the ship all people who were not sufficiently respectful of her - including a mechanic flown in from Vancouver, B.C.
In 1978, after Harold's retirement, the Canadian Government purchased Maple Leaf as part of the halibut license buy-back program.
Rediscovery: Maple Leaf Sails Again
In 1980, Brian Falconer and Susan Tweedie discovered the ship's original hull lines.
They spent 6-½ years restoring and converting Maple Leaf back to a sailing ship.
From 1986 to August 2001, Brian and partner Erin Nyhan operated Maple Leaf Adventures, a company that offers Natural History and First Nations cultural trips in the remotest areas of the BC and Alaska coasts.
They also operated the Tall Ship Program for the Royal Canadian Sea Cadets on the west coast, training over 3000 cadets from across Canada, teaching seamanship and life-skills.
Maple Leaf World Renown for BC & Alaska Ecotourism Destinations
Since 2001, Kevin Smith has been the leader of Maple Leaf Adventures. A businessman and coastal explorer with an unwavering ecotourism ethic, Kevin has worked to bring knowledge of both Maple Leaf and the amazing British Columbia coast to more of the world.
Under his leadership, the company and ship have won acclaim from the National Geographic family of publicatons, Outside magazine, as well as the Parks Canada Sustainable Tourism Award in 2012 and the (international) Virgin Responsible Tourism Awards honourable mention for tourism in a marine environment in 2011.
Kevin and Maple Leaf have continued her tradition of helping to protect the places of the coast, including bringing places like the Great Bear Rainforest to international media audiences.
Maple Leaf Adventures oversees a comprehansive annual maintenance program for the Maple Leaf, making her better than ever each year. At tall ship festivals, many visitors have commented that she may not be the largest tall ship, but she's the most exquisitely cared for, with friendly crew who are happy to share their knowledge.
A Century of Adventure
She draws an admiring crowd whenever we are alongside.
Many in B.C. and Alaska ports still know the ship from her fishing days with Harold Helland.
Recently, model builder John Gough, at the Maritime Museum of British Columbia, created a replica of the ship.
It was over 500 hours of work - complete with the dolphins and orcas that often play in her wake.