Reports from Shipyard

Seemingly unending sunny skies and spring weather are giving the Maple Leaf Adventures crew a huge boost at our annual shipyard work this year.

Reports will come soon on what we’ve done to make the ships beautiful and ready to go for their expedition cruise season on the British Columbia and Alaska coast.

In the meantime, we hope you enjoy these photos. We’ll update them periodically.

Liam and Grace painting the Swell's hull under blue spring skies. Photo by Jeff Reynolds Photography.

SV Maple Leaf and MV Swell, out of the water at Maple Leaf Adventures' shipyard. Photo by Jeff Reynolds Photography.

The first evening at shipyard, after power washing the two ship's hulls. SV Maple Leaf on the left, MV Swell on the right. Photo by Kevin Smith.The MV Swell being lifted out of the water for her annual shipyard session. Photo by Kevin Smith.

Lifting MV Swell out of the water for her annual shipyard maintenance. Photo by Kevin Smith.

Ask about a trip on the Maple Leaf or the Swell in BC and Alaska.

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New Inside Passage Small Ship: Inaugural Voyages with a “Swell” Tugboat History, Inside Passage, Canada

Boutique expedition ship Swell at anchor. (c) Kevin J Smith/Maple Leaf Adventures

A new, boutique ship begins offering expedition cruises along the Inside Passage in 2015. The classic, restored tugboat Swell – owned by the award-winning Canadian company Maple Leaf Adventures – begins service with two inaugural voyages in April and May. She joins Maple Leaf’s other classic ships in the fleet.

The first, Swell’s Maiden Voyage, runs in the balmy Gulf Islands National Park in southern Canada, Apr 20-24, 2015. Guests on the maiden voyage will be part of the ship’s blessing ceremony with some very special guests, and will receive commemorative gifts including a special bottle of wine from the local Saanich wine-growing region. (Inquire)

The second trip is the Swell’s Inaugural Inside Passage Cruise, Apr 25-May 2, 2015. This 8-day journey covers the inside passage of Vancouver Island, a historic waterway that the Swell herself has plied for over 100 years as a working tugboat before her conversion to a passenger vessel. (Inquire)

With just 10 guests on each, the trips provide an experience of surprising exploration, accessing beautiful islands and islets that are not accessible by ferry, as well as coastal villages.

Shore destinations include wildlife colonies, remote beaches, historic farms, and other areas of natural and cultural significance.

Natural history highlights in late-April and early May include:

  • spring wildflowers (white fawn lilies, pink shooting stars, purple camas, blue-eyed Mary, brown chocolate lily)
  • congregations of seabirds around upwellings filled with krill and small fish
  • flowering heritage fruit trees on old, historic farmsteads
  • visits by transient (Biggs) orcas to the Salish sea
  • sea lions, seals, river otters, bald eagles, ravens, turkey vultures
  • forest songbirds
  • mild weather

The gourmet food, expert local naturalist and crew, and plenty of shore explorations that characterize Maple Leaf’s trips are also highlights of this trip on the Swell.

About the MV Swell

Swell's classic beauty. Photo (c) Kevin Smith / Maple Leaf Adventures

The Swell is an 80-foot, classic wooden tugboat, built in 1912. She has been lovingly restored with exquisite craftsmanship and is a Transport Canada certified passenger carrying vessel.

Swell is the first of her kind of the coast with all-private staterooms with full ensuites. She also has a main salon, an enclosed aft lounge and an open-air top-deck lounge with hot tub. Guests are invited to join the crew in the ship’s wheelhouse or paddle one of the ship’s kayaks. She features expert naturalists and local guides. (View more about the ship.)

Both trips are open for booking.

Swell Maiden Voyage, Gulf Islands, BC, Canada
Dates: Apr 20-24, 2015, 5 days / 4 nights
Depart: Sidney, BC (just outside Victoria, BC)
Return: Sidney, BC (just outside Victoria, BC)
All-inclusive fare: Category 1 stateroom Cdn $2600, Category 2 stateroom $2900 plus taxes

Swell Inaugural Inside Passage Voyage, Vancouver Island, BC, Canada
Dates: Apr 25-May 2, 2015, 8 days / 7 nights
Depart: Sidney, BC (just outside Victoria, BC)
Return: Port McNeill, BC (a 45-min flight from Vancouver, BC)
All-inclusive fare: Category 1 stateroom Cdn $2875, Category 2 stateroom Cdn $3190 plus taxes

Inquire about Swell’s inaugural voyages.

About Maple Leaf Adventures
Selected for Canada’s “Signature Experiences Collection” by the Canadian Tourism Commission, Maple Leaf Adventures has provided conservation-focused, big adventures aboard small ships since 1986. With a reputation as one of Canada’s top sustainable tour operators, its multi-day excursions give guests one-of-a-kind experiences in some of the most beautiful and rare places in the world, often in areas that were once under threat of destruction or in dire need of protection. In 2012, Maple Leaf was awarded the Parks Canada Sustainable Tourism Award, for promoting the appreciation of Canada’s natural, cultural and aesthetic heritage, while also protecting them. As a long time practitioner of ecotourism, Maple Leaf Adventures pioneered travel in BC’s Great Bear Rainforest and northwestern Vancouver Island and has made significant contributions to conservation. National Geographic Adventure has rated Maple Leaf Adventures one of the “Best Adventure Travel Companies on Earth”. For more information, visit www.MapleLeafAdventures.com.

Photos: Gorgeous professional photos are available upon request.

Media Contact:
Maureen Gordon, Maple Leaf Adventures
Maureen@MapleLeafAdventures.com 250-386-7245 (o) or 250-881-6143 (m)

Posted in Gulf Islands (BC) National Park, News, Trip Insights & Experiences, Vancouver Island & Broughton Archipelago | Leave a comment

Brown Bears of Pack Creek, Admiralty Island, Alaska

Wildlife photographer Phil Armitage shared our Pack Creek visit with Capt Kevin and our guests, in Alaska in 2013.  Pack Creek, on Admiralty Island, is one of the places we view brown bears on our boutique Alaska adventure cruises.

Phil made this lovely and informative short video about the first half of the day …on the mudflats where bears catch salmon, eat sedges and dig for clams. The second half of the day, at viewing stands in the forest over a creek, are not included in this video.

The Pack Creek area is a special haven for brown bears. The bears have been habituated to human presence for many decades and, since they haven’t been hunted in this area, they calmly accept our presence and go about their lives around us. This is not the case everywhere in Alaska for brown bears — nor even on the whole of Admiralty Island.

Visitation at Pack Creek is restricted to 12 people per day, and only to commercial operators with a very special permit. We are fortunate to have been awarded this permit, so that our guests can gain an understanding of the true nature of these fascinating, intelligent, and often subtle animals, each with a unique personality.

You’ll also see the SV Maple Leaf at anchor near the beginning of the video. Nice work, Phil! (You can see more of his work here.)

Learn more about Maple Leaf Adventures’ boutique Alaska expedition cruises.

Posted in Alaska, Animals, Wildlife Research, Expedition Notes, Trip Insights & Experiences, Video | Leave a comment

MV Swell’s Maiden Voyage – Special Guests and Commemorative Gifts for Guests on This Special Trip

Photo by Jason Bradley

Guests on Swell’s maiden voyage with Maple Leaf Adventures, Apr 20-24, will be part of the ship’s blessing ceremony with some very special guests, and will receive commemorative gifts including a special bottle of wine from Saanich as we celebrate putting our new ship into service.

Photo by Kevin J. Smith

The MV Swell is Maple Leaf Adventures newest ship, a classic converted tugboat. After her decor and sustainability upgrade this winter, her maiden voyage takes place April 20-24, 2015 in remote parts of the Gulf Islands National Park Reserve.

The trip provides a trip of surprising exploration, accessing beautiful islands and islets that are not accessible by ferry. These include wildlife colonies, remote beaches, historic farms, and other areas of natural and cultural significance.

Natural history highlights in mid- to late- April include:

  • spring wildflowers (white fawn lilies, pink shooting stars, purple camas, brown chocolate lily)
  • congregations of seabirds around upwellings filled with krill and small fish
  • flowering heritage fruit trees on old, historic farmsteads
  • visits by transient (Biggs) orcas to the Salish sea
  • sea lions, seals, river otters, bald eagles, ravens, turkey vultures
  • forest songbirds
  • mild weather

    Photo by Kevin J. Smith

The gourmet food, expert local naturalist and crew, and plenty of shore explorations that characterize Maple Leaf’s trips are also highlights of this trip on the Swell.

The trip begins with a blessing ceremony and champagne toast by the ship’s new honorary godmothers. These are prominent British Columbians with a relationship to the vessel, and who represent the values of Maple Leaf Adventures: coastal conservation and wildlife, coastal cultures, education, and eco-adventure travel. Following the blessing, the ship will embark from the harbour and the godmothers will cruise with the Swell’s guests before returning to Sidney by zodiac, as the trip continues.

Photo by Jason Bradley

The maiden voyage is open for booking.

Dates: Apr 20-24, 2015, 5 days / 4 nights
Depart: Sidney, BC (just outside Victoria, BC)
Return: Sidney, BC (just outside Victoria, BC)
All-inclusive fare: Category 1 stateroom $2600, Category 2 stateroom $2900
Inquire about the Swell maiden voyage

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William Watts – The Maple Leaf’s Colourful Builder

This is the final piece in a series of articles celebrating the SV Maple Leaf’s 110th birthday, in 2014.

Capt. and Mrs William Watts ca 1912, courtesy Vancouver Archives

Strong, fast, and up for adventure: the SV Maple Leaf shares these three traits with William Watts, the man that made her.

While Alex Maclaren was the businessman that had her built, William Watts was the businessman that built her. He also built one of the most important entities in Vancouver, BC, one that still operates to this day: Vancouver Shipyard (now Vancouver Shipyards).

Here is a thumbnail sketch in tribute to William Watts, his vision, and his craftsmanship in constructing the famous Maple Leaf.

It is fair to say that boats were in William Watts’ blood. His father, also William Watts, arrived at Collingwood Ontario and began that town’s well-known tradition of boatbuilding in 1850.

Vancouver Shipyard and her staff, circa 1902, at Coal Harbour (Burrard Inlet), Vancouver, BC. William Watts is standing in the back row, centre, with arms folded. Courtesy Vancouver Archives.

William the younger moved to British Columbia in 1887. After ferrying miners up Harrison Lake for a couple of years, Capt. Watts and business partner Edward Trott opened a boat building business in 1889.

The Maple Leaf under construction at Vancouver Shipyard, Coal Harbour, in 1904. Courtesy Vancouver Archives.

In 1902 this business became Vancouver Shipyard. It was located at Coal Harbour in downtown Vancouver, and this is where the Maple Leaf was built. Now, Coal Harbour is one of the city’s upscale neighbourhoods, filled with high-rise condominiums, parkland, marinas, rowing clubs, and restaurants between downtown and Stanley Park.

William Watts, BC Single Sculling Champion in 1890. Photo taken at Victoria, BC. Courtesy Vancouver Archives.

It’s fitting that rowing clubs are a part of the scene in this part of Burrard Inlet, because one of Capt. Watt’s notable achievements involved rowing. He broke records for speed and, in 1890, he won the BC rowing championships in a rowing shell he designed and built himself! Not a bad choice to design the fastest racing yacht on the coast in 1904.

(Coincidentally, Capt. Kevin Smith, who now runs Maple Leaf Adventures that owns the Maple Leaf, was also a BC single scull rowing champion, almost exactly 100 years later!)

Capt. Watts remained adventurous all of his life.

William Watts, driving, with Mrs Watts and friend in the back seat. Take a look at the condition of the roadside and imagine it in a rainstorm! At the start of a cross-continental road trip in 1922. Courtesy Vancouver Archives.

This photo, from 1922, marks the start of just one adventure: Capt. Watts and his wife DROVE from Vancouver to Boston! Although automobile use was skyrocketing in 1922 (by 1923 there were cars for 1 in 7 Americans), it was still early days for cars and roads. Driving Vancouver to Boston these days is a big trip. Imagine what it was like when you know you’d have to fix your own car multiple times during the trip. A great adventure!

In addition to rowing and driving, Capt. Watts was also an avid sailor and sports fisher. And, according to his family, he liked a bit of fun. He loved to visit Hawaii and while there he actually learned to hula the right way, in a grass skirt. One historian refers to Watts as “one of BC’s most colourful personalities since the turn of the [20th] century.”

The Maple Leaf under sail in the Salish Sea, with William Watts' descendents aboard, 2004 (the year of Maple Leaf's centennial). Photo (c) Kevin Smith / Maple Leaf Adventures

In 2004, the year of the SV Maple Leaf’s centennial, descendants of William Watts sailed aboard the ship on one of our Gulf Islands National Park Reserve trips.

They brought with them a treasured album, with photos and history of Capt. Watts. It’s kept aboard the Maple Leaf for our guests to peruse and get to know the man whose drive and vision created two of the most enduring pieces of boating history on the BC coast: Vancouver shipyard, and the schooner Maple Leaf.

Learn more about the SV Maple Leaf here.

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The Wild Within – Does BC’s New Video Inspire You?

We were so pleased to see the organization that promotes travel to British Columbia, Canada, publish this video …a sort of manifesto of all that is precious and special about this stunning province. What do you think? Watch it below.

Inspired to travel the coastal portion of BC? You may enjoy Maple Leaf Adventures’ boutique expedition cruises in BC and Alaska.

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Conservation Travel Practices Net International Green Tourism Award Nod for Canada’s Maple Leaf Adventures

November 4, 2014 – The international sustainable tourism certification body, Green Tourism, has shortlisted three Canadian companies for its GoldStar awards next month, and British Columbia’s Maple Leaf Adventures is one of them.

Maple Leaf operates boutique expedition cruises in the fjords and archipelagos of British Columbia and Alaska. Focussing on providing peak experiences for small numbers of guests – for example, naturalist-led wilderness bear viewing – the company has always operated according to the principles of eco-tourism, since its inception in 1986.

These principles, and the company’s very high results on Green Tourism Canada’s independent, on-site sustainability assessment, netted Maple Leaf Adventures the award nomination.

“People aren’t satisfied any longer with vague promises about environmental or ethical responsibility – this became clear in a recent study by the Business Development Bank of Canada,” said Andrea Nicholas, manager of the international Green Tourism Business Scheme. “The businesses shortlisted for the GoldStar awards, including BC’s Maple Leaf Adventures, are real examples of those who have done the most to promote true sustainability while also benefitting the bottom line.”

With the addition of its second boutique ship for 2015 trips in Canada’s Great Bear Rainforest, Haida Gwaii and Vancouver Island region as well as Alaska, Maple Leaf Adventures has proven that there is a growing market for conservation travel. The term conservation travel denotes trips that contribute to the conservation of wildlife, natural places and local communities as a natural outcome of business activities.

“As entrepreneurs, we are interested in improving things in the world,” said Maple Leaf Adventures’ marketing manager and co-owner Maureen Gordon. “We appreciate the challenge of creating a business that proves you can be successful and not destroy the planet in the process. Certification bodies like Green Tourism Canada are essential to separating the green-washers from the authentic businesses, so we are truly honoured to be nominated for this award.”

The awards will be announced on November 10th at the Green Tourism Conference in Manchester, UK.

For information on Maple Leaf Adventures’ boutique expedition cruises by classic ship, see www.MapleLeafAdventures.com or call +1-250-386-7245.

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Sample tweet: Canada’s conservation travel company @MapleLeafAdvent nets green tourism award nom from @the_gtbs! http://bit.ly/1EfXusw

PHOTOS available from http://mapleleafadventures.com/about_maple_leaf/press_kit.php

Media contact: Maureen Gordon, Maple Leaf Adventures Maureen@MapleLeafAdventures.com or 1-250-386-7245 / 1-250-881-6143 (mobile)

About Maple Leaf Adventures

Selected for Canada’s “Signature Experiences Collection” by the Canadian Tourism Commission, Maple Leaf Adventures has provided conservation-focused, big adventures aboard small ships since 1986. With a reputation as one of Canada’s top sustainable tour operators, its multi-day excursions give guests one-of-a-kind experiences in some of the most beautiful and rare places in the world, often in areas that were once under threat of destruction or in dire need of protection. In 2012, Maple Leaf was awarded the Parks Canada Sustainable Tourism Award, for promoting the appreciation of Canada’s natural, cultural and aesthetic heritage, while also protecting them. As a long time practitioner of ecotourism, Maple Leaf Adventures pioneered travel in BC’s Great Bear Rainforest and northwestern Vancouver Island and has made significant contributions to conservation. National Geographic Adventure has rated Maple Leaf Adventures one of the “Best Adventure Travel Companies on Earth”. For more information, visit www.MapleLeafAdventures.com.

About Green Tourism Business Scheme and Green Tourism Canada

With over 2,000 members in the UK, Ireland and Canada, we are the largest and most established sustainable grading programme in the world. Green Tourism offers credible, trustworthy, independent guidance to tourism businesses wishing to operate sustainably.      Green Tourism is recognised by UK national and regional government as a crucial part of its drive towards sustainability. Our aim is to build on this strong position and ensure that the UK remains at the forefront of sustainable tourism in the future whilst extending our work around the world.

Green Tourism is independently validated by the International Centre for Responsible Tourism (ICRT) on behalf of VisitEngland, VisitWales and the Northern Ireland Tourist Board and endorsed by VisitScotland and Failte Ireland. For more information visit www.green-tourism.com

Posted in Conservation, Ecotourism, Green Business, News | Comments Off

Autumn 2014 Getaways – Wildlife, Nature & Great Food!

Fall wildlife and harvest drive October tours

When the weather cools, things heat up for Maple Leaf Adventures boutique tours in southern BC waters – from the Broughton Archipelago to the Gulf Islands.

Wildlife migrations to our coast and seasonal food are the themes of Maple Leaf’s fall cruises in October.

Their three boutique-style October adventures, available for booking now, are:

  • Whales & Totems & Discovery Islands – this 5 night cruise explores the humpback whales, orcas and other marine mammals of northern Vancouver Island and adjacent island groups. Oct 11-16, $2700 plus tax all inclusive (depart Port McNeill, return Nanaimo).
  • Gulf Islands National Park Reserve – this 4-night cruise explores the fall wildlife and nature of hard-to-reach parts of the  Gulf Islands. These are wild and peaceful small islands such as Cabbage, Tumbo and Prevost. Oct 21-25, $1850 plus tax all inclusive (depart and return Sidney).
  • Tall Sails & Alescraft beer, the fall harvest and food star in this cruise that features 50 top BC craft beers, brewing historian Greg Evans, exclusive meals with brewmasters and cruising the Gulf Islands. Oct 26-31, $2385 plus tax all inclusive (depart and return Sidney).

Maple Leaf’s award-winning trips have received the top level of certification for green tourism in Canada. Trips include a maximum of eight guests along with an expert crew of five including local naturalists.

For info or to book: www.MapleLeafAdventures.com, email us, or call 1-250-386-7245 (toll free in Canada and USA at 1-888-599-5323).

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Southeast Alaska: Whales & Glaciers on a Maple Leaf Adventure

Just received reports via satellite from Naturalist Mary Morris aboard SV Maple Leaf in Alaska.

We got going extra early today to make the trip into the head of Endicott Arm to see the Dawes glacier. We knew right away when we were in the inlet as there were lots of bergy bits and a few enormous icebergs too, going by.

We read up on glacial processes and why the ice front is blue, and were lucky enough to be in the zodiacs a safe distance (but we sure felt close!) away from the ice front in time to watch two huge pieces fall. Arctic terns circled overhead.

Most impressive were the large swells that rolled out from the fallen bergs to ride the inflatables up and down a good metre or so in the rolling concentric waves.

We all agreed that there’s been something (or four things!) totally incredible every day but seeing real calving glaciers today was a highlight of our trip for sure. We had the sense of going back in time as we threaded our way through the floating ice, up the fjord towards the glacier, along the vertical rock walls and U-shaped hanging valleys. Breathtaking.

Further spectacular daily events for us are the meals from the galley by Chef James. Every meal a delicious blend of flavours, including fresh halibut, caught while drifting in south Frederick Sound watching humpback whales .

Not sure which was more exciting, having two whales rise together to spout just off our stern, or the grinning face of the successful halibut fisherman, posing for photo next to the big flat fish…and all was unfolding before morning coffee break.

Tomorrow promises to be another incredible day as we are scheduled to visit the grizzly bear sanctuary at Pack Creek on north Admiralty Island.

What an amazing place, this vast landscape of Southeast Alaska.

Report by: Mary Morris (Maple Leaf Naturalist Extraordinaire)

Learn more about our Alaska Adventure Cruises!

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Canadian Geographic Great Bear Rainforest Expedition

Ursula channel, between Gribbel Island and mainland North America (Great Bear Rainforest) Monday, June 23, 2014, 9:22 am

By: Maureen Gordon

Mist rises from cedars and spruce on the hillsides, and an inky sea mirrors the blue-white sky and mountain rock faces. In this watery “valley”,  the SV Maple Leaf is the only ship to glide through the mirror.

Our guests, captain Kevin, and special guest naturalists Robert Bateman and Birgit Freybe Bateman linger in the galley after breakfast over coffee and stories. Our destination this morning is Hartley Bay, a small Gitga’at community tucked into a fold in the Great Bear Rainforest’s undulating coastline.

Yesterday morning, anchored in one of the coast’s most spectacular inlets, we zodiaced up the river, past a meadow of Lyngby’s sedge, lupins, paintbrush, buttercups and northern rice root. At a bank, next to the foot of a two thousand foot high mountainside, we met with the Kitasoo-Xai’Xais bear research team, who are working with Raincoast Conservation Foundation’s scientists to study the region’s bear population.

Near us, a mother grizzly bear carefully watches her triplet cubs. We move to a better viewing area after our chat with the researchers. A mother of three little grizzlies has to be extremely cautious – one cub exploring too far from cover and from mum’s side is an easy target for a predatory male bear. Last night, we had a short viewing of this group of four before the mother shooed her cubs up the mountainside to cover.

This morning, however, she rewards us with her trust. As her cubs climb and slide off fallen trees, dig in them for bugs and bat at each other, she is more concerned with keeping a watch out up river for the threat of a male bear.

She is a mother bear we know from previous years. Maybe she recognizes us. Maybe she just recognizes the opportunity that eco-tourists provide: a bit more safety for her cubs since the big males prefer not to be too close to us humans. As we sit for hours, taking thousands of photographs, she slowly moves herself and her cubs closer to us, eating sedges all the while.

She must eat these protein-rich sedges morning ’til night, to get enough sustenance for herself, and calories to produce milk for three active cubs. They are little bears, born this January in the den. The cubs of course provide a variety show of entertainment. In between mouthfuls of sedge, they climb everything in the vicinity, stand on their hind legs to look at us in the same way we are looking at them.

When we finally say goodbye and float downstream, we notice the mother bear shoos the cubs back toward the forest’s edge.

We cruise up Princess Royal  Channel, the main line of the Inside Passage, before turning off it into a side channel. At the end of  this channel: natural hot springs. A pre-dinner soak under the cedars is pure bliss before dinner.

Posted in Great Bear Rainforest, Trip Insights & Experiences | Comments Off