Alaska Adventure, MV Swell, July 19-27, 2015
Alaska brown bear, taken on a Maple Leaf Adventures trip. Photo by James Warburton
On the first day we spent time with a pod of Orcas – 45 minutes after we headed out of Sitka at the start of our trip. By then we had also already seen sea otters. We also had a couple of harbour porpoises pass by and lots of sea birds.
Today we had an amazing encounter with a sub-adult brown bear from a good proximity. He lay down in the creek in front of us. He rolled over in the creek and stuck his feet in the air!
We hiked up to a bog and a lake and picked blueberries before we made our way back through the rainforest. Later, after raising anchor and heading out, a gray whale in the bay breached 3 times!
- Report from Capt. Dave
Alaska Adventure, MV Swell, July 8-17, 2015
Soaking in hot pools beside a cold creek, Alaska. Photo by Kevin Smith.
Can you imagine a day that begins with Dall’s porpoises riding on the bow? And for those who missed the ones who came before breakfast, another group showed up after breakfast.
A little later we were floating in the skiff with curious sea lions all around us and a few humpback whales near by.
Our day ended with a few brave souls taking a dip in a glacial lake, and then we all headed to a beautiful hot spring for a soak right beside a beautiful waterfall. It was so wonderful, many did a repeat in the morning.
The morning also had a fabulous low tide, and we looked at the abundant sea life from the skiff and from kayaks. We had a great look at a young brown (grizzly) bear from the skill some time later and are now anticipating a great hike in the morning.
Brown bear at Pack Creek, Admiralty Island, on a Maple Leaf trip. Photo by James Warburton.
Admiralty Island has an extremely high concentration of brown (grizzly) bears. Over the last two days we have watched bears galloping through streams chasing salmon, standing up on two legs, settling down for a nap, and scratching their itchy places.
We have also watched salmon making their way up their natal stream to spawn a new generation and eagles and ravens have joined in the feast. We finished today with a pair of killer whales surfacing beneath a beautiful rainbow.
It was a great day for one of our guests to celebrate a birthday!
- update from naturalist Sherry Kirkvold
Calving glacier on an Alaska trip with Maple Leaf Adventures. Photo by Paul Smith.
One of the special things about coming to Alaska is the opportunity to visit towering walls of ice and hear the thundering rumble as chunks break off and fall into the ocean to drift away as icebergs.
We were just heading away from our visit to Dawes Glacier (where we experienced all of this), and after drifting in the skiff among icebergs, some thought it a good idea to warm up in the hot tub. As they soaked in the warm water with the glacier in view, they spotted transient killer whales on the hunt for seals.
We turned Swell around and all the seals had come out of the water on to the small icebergs. They were aware these stealthy predators were in the area. We never did see them again, but came away with a bigger understanding of life in this challenging environment.
- update from naturalist Sherry Kirkvold
It would be an understatement to say we had a whale of a day. As we cruised through Frederick Sound, were surrounded by these gentle giants for the last couple of hours. One whale gave us an amazing bubble net demonstration by blowing bubbles off our bow!
We eavesdropped with the hydrophone and were treated to some wonderful grunts and calls.
As if that wasn’t enough some curious sea lions swam right up to the boat to check us out. We are headed up to our anchorage now and will be on the lookout for icebergs!
… 90 minutes later this came in:
Well I signed off too soon. Just as we approached the next point we encountered a large group of killer whales. We had humpbacks on one side of the boat and killer whales on the other!
Arriving at the point we saw two moose right at the water’s edge. If that wasn’t enough, we then saw a sea otter swimming nearby eating a red sea urchin. Slow progress getting to our anchorage!
- reports from naturalist Sherry Kirkvold
Haida Gwaii and Emily Carr trip, SV Maple Leaf, July 5-13, 2015
Cape St. James, on the southern tip of Kunghit Island, Haida Gwaii
Just in from a fabulous trip in Gwaii Haanas. Seems like the warm waters are sweeping some unusual critters in this year.
The guests were intrigued by Vellela, the blue-rimmed By-the-Wind-Sailor jellyfish, which have tacked up onto the shores of SGang Gwaay by the thousands. Also sighted, the weird and wonderful Mola Mola, or Sunfish.
Had a great rounding of Cape St. James, on calm though current-raked seas, past teeming Steller’s Sea Lion rookeries– lots of sleek chocolate-brown pups, nursing and bleeting. And plenty of birds of course, Rhinoceros Auklets and Common Murres; I was thrilled to see both Horned and Tufted Puffins!
Spent the evening of our final night visiting the village of Cumshewa, our last stop in “the footsteps” of Emily Carr.
She has been with us in spirit in our readings from her wonderful tales of travelling here in the early 1900’s, in the images of her paintings and especially in our sketching expeditions. I like to think she would approve of our attempts to draw the poles and deep green forests of Haida Gwaii that she loved.
- report from naturalist and art expedition leader Alison Watt
Gwaii Haanas forest glade. Photo by Kevin Smith.
Anchored as the sun sinks, butter yellow, over Burnaby Narrows. Pretty much a perfect Maple Leaf day—started with a sail into Juan Perez Sound, with warm 12 knot winds, through a beautiful flock of Sooty Shearwaters, resting in the gentle troughs.
We carried on south—we had a tide to keep—3 feet in Burnaby Narrrows. Piled into the zodiac and drifted through the narrows, looking at kelp crabs, a spectacular, golden-mottled sculpin, and a rainbow of bat stars.
Spent the rest of the day nestled in a glade, drawing the moss-hung cedars, mixing greens on our paint palettes and talking over of how much Emily Carr herself would have loved to draw in this spot!
- Report from naturalist and art leader Alison Watt
Haida Gwaii, MV Swell, June 26-July 3, 2015
From from the ship in Haida Gwaii by crew member Jeff Reynolds.
The trip is epic….getting in all the major experiences, only K’uuna / Skedans left. Sun everyday pretty much.
At 18.30 July 1 we transited through Richardson Pass looking for orcas that had been seen earlier and we found them! A pod of 6 with 2 young. I will be giving away 2 Maple Leaf Adventures ball caps to the spotters during our hot tub deck, pre-dinner Canada Day celebration, with Sea Cider and Maple Leaf beer!
- report from Capt. Steve
Haida Gwaii, Schooner, June 23-July 1, 2015
Weather so calm we overnighted at Woodruff Bay (exposed beach at southern end of Haida Gwaii) and enjoyed breakfast at the Cape.
Humpbacks, puffins, albatross, mola mola, Cape St James sea lions, afternoon at hot springs with artists Elsie and Ken. Swimming and hot pools with Elsie; our short sail (no wind!); making it to all 5 Haida watchmen sites (SGang Gwaay, T’aanuu, K’uuna (Skedans), Windy Bay, Hot Springs); Low tides explorations…abalone searching ( and finding). Great food. And Louise Narrows on the first afternoon. On our way to Sandspit.
- Report from Capt. Russell
The Jun 18-26 trip on MV Swell and Jun 19-27 trip on SV Maple Leaf ...part way through the trips. Map of Gwaii Haanas area generated by OTrak software. Land day on Graham Island for each trip is not shown.
Haida Gwaii, SV Maple Leaf, June 19-27, 2015
Puffins and Rhinoceros Auklets before breakfast, a marvelous tour of the monumental poles and houses in the ancient Haida village of SGang Gwaay with Reg Wesley (a Haida Argillite carver) and then surrounded by Humpback whales breaching and surfacing in a glassy calm Pacific Ocean.
How could this day get any better?
One of my favourite and wildest places on earth is Cape St. James. Here the currents converge and upwellings support thousands of nesting Tufted Puffins, Cassin’s Auklets, Common Murres, Pelagic Cormorants, Pigeon Guillemots and a breeding colony of Northern Sea lions (also known as Steller sea lions). Cape St. James has the highest recorded sustained winds in Canada, but on this day it was sunny and relatively calm which allowed Captain Greg to navigate carefully through the Kerouard Islands to give us spectacular views of new born sea lion pups, puffins and the wild rocky islands at the end of the Haida earth.
On this longest day of the year, there were more adventures to be had!
Maple Leaf anchored in a beautiful bay on the east side of Kunghit Island, affectionately known as “Hawaii” for its crystalline blue waters and fine white sand beach. “Dinner on the beach!” A gourmet picnic of beef tenderloin, roasted vegetables, Caesar salad, Spinnakers Maple Leaf brew and Sandhill Syrah was served by our lovely chef Yasmin.
Greg packed up the marine plastic debris we had collected for Parks Canada to remove, the heartiest of our crew had a swim in the sea and we reluctantly headed back to the ship. It wouldn’t be bad to be marooned at this lovely beach, but there were more places to go yet!
We anchored for the night in Keeweenah Bay, enjoyed dessert of blueberry tart and sunset followed by a waxing quarter moon and Jupiter and Venus rising in the indigo sky.
- report from naturalist Trudy Chatwin
Haida Gwaii, MV Swell, June 18-26, 2015
June 20: The beautiful weather continues. We’ve come from a great visit at Windy Bay (Haida site) this morning and it’s flat calm around Burnaby Island. Signing off as we’ve just spotted a whale.
June 21: After the spectacular intertidal life and rainforest ecosystems of the Burnaby Narrows area, we’ve cruised all the way down the east coast of Kungit Island and around the tip. We’re anchored in Luxana Bay on the southern end of Haida Gwaii, facing south. It’s 10 pm, the sky still has some light, and we’re headed ashore for a beach bonfire to celebrate the summer solstice.
- reports from expedition leader Kevin
Learn more about the Haida Gwaii trips | Inquire about the trips
Haida Gwaii with Canadian Geographic and Wade Davis, both ships, June 10-18, 2015
Read the full report with photos – coming this week.
Haida Gwaii, MV Swell, May 30-June 8 (ongoing)
Today at a sea lion rookery we witnessed numerous newborn pups, with gulls eating up the fresh afterbirth. The sound and smell were also quite a sensory experience!
- update from naturalist Sherry
Great Bear Rainforest and Kitlope, SV Maple Leaf – May 23-30
The Kitlope River and estuary, and the terminus of the Gardner Canal, the longest fjord on the coast. Photo by John Zada.
Started the trip with a conversation at Kitamaat village with elder Cecil Paul. Everything we talked about with him stayed with us throughout the whole trip and we referred back often to his words and concepts.
Some other highlights included the scenery & waterfalls of the Gardner canal [the coast's longest fjord], travelling up the Kitlope River and making it up to the lake as per Cecil’s guidance; finding tracks of bears, wolves, cats, deer, moose & river otter in many places that we explored; seeing a spring bear.
Seeing mountain goats high in the hills. Soaking in 2 hotsprings. Seeing a group of close to 20 orca in a mini superpod with lots of playful activity & vocalizatons that we picked up on the hydrophone … possibly even some mating behaviour.
A great sail in Caamano Sound. Seeing fin whales including a group of 6 that came rushing towards the Maple Leaf. Many humpback whales, including a group of 6 that were doing coordinated group bubble-net feeding. We put the hydrophone down again, and listened to the ‘otherworldly’ bubble-net feeding calls. WOW!!!
[special bonus photos above and below of the Kitlope region from the airplane by John Zada - thank you, John]
- report from Capt. Greg
Kowesas (Chief Matthews Bay) in top left, Kemaano on bottom right, and the Gardner Canal slicing through the coast mountains. Photo by John Zada.
Part of the route of this trip, in the Gardner Canal, Great Bear Rainforest. Photo by John Zada.
Haida Gwaii (formerly Queen Charlotte Is), MV Swell – May 13-21 and May 22-30
Beautiful highlights as usual from Haida Gwaii, including the spectacular UNESCO World Heritage Site, SGang Gwaay.
We had an amazing Orca show in Richardson Inlet, a pod of about 5 to 8 feeding.
The weather was sunny every day, some folks did some kayaking in Island Bay and we mounted an expedition far up Rose Inlet.
We had an amazing inter-tidal show at Burnaby Narrows (aka Dolomite Narrows). Afterward the walk in the ancient rainforest to a culturally modified tree was a hit.
We had breaching Humpbacks at Scudder Point, and a huge line of moon jellies in Crescent Inlet and as always beautiful intertidal and sub-tidal life at Burnaby Narrows.
One evening in Bishchof Islands we decided to be a Pirate raiding party and jumped into the skiff and went to a float house in the inner bay and found a rat eradication work party of Parks Canada employees. They gave us a Rat-Pack of traps, poison and stickers.
The raiding party was successful, we returned with booty.
Also at Bischoff Islands we found a nesting pair of bald eagles. A good photo op.
– reports from Capt. Dave
Vancouver Island to Great Bear Rainforest, SV Maple Leaf – May 6-13 (updated)
Just got the anchor down behind the Walkem Isles in Johnstone Strait.
It’s been an epic day, with 3 great shore trips, including an exploration of Vondonop Inlet, a hike up to a favourite hidden lake, and then two hours of a low-tide, intertidal float through, with naturalist Barb in a wetsuit and snorkel, in a high current pass / beach area.
The afternoon’s highlight was a pod of 4 transient / Bigg’s orcas, that seemed to be headed for Hole in the Wall at the same slack tide we were heading for.
[editor's note: The Orca Navigators & Hole in the Wall
On the BC and Alaska coast, huge surges of water through narrow passageways, as the tide rises and falls each day, create very strong currents, and sometimes whirlpools.
These currents are dangerous to navigation and some of them should only be transited when the current is 'slack'. Slack is the small time between the ebb (when the tide goes out) and flood (when the tide comes in). The water is not really moving at slack, so there is no current. This is a safe time to transit. There are usually 4 slacks a day.
All competent navigators keep track of these moments of slack, and plan their trips to go through passes at slack tide. The time of these moments of slack changes every day by about half an hour.
When I said all competent navigators above, I mean all competent navigators ...whether they are human or another species! People on the coast have observed for a long time that the orcas also know when slack tide will be at these passes. One of coastal boating life's great joys is to transit a pass in the company of a family of orcas -- who are so clearly seeming to be doing the same thing you are, for the same reason.]
Today, we accomplished a big travelling day, with stops, the entire length of Johnstone Strait and out to Queen Charlotte Strait.
We had great Pacific White-sided Dolphins with us for a long ride today up Johnstone Strait.
Then a great hike in the Broughton Archipelago, from a place called Pig’s Ranch (no pigs or ranch now just rainforest) up to spectacular views at Eagle Eye, on on a hot afternoon.
Naturalist Barb was great with entertaining info and I even got our chef out for the hike, complete with an epic picnic lunch we provided for everyone at the look-out on top.
Tonight, en route to our anchorage, we spent time with a lovely humpback whale. Anchoring in Sunday Anchorage tonight.
- report from Capt. Kevin
A morning spent with charismatic sea lions. Then some fishing en route to a beautiful cove on Northern Vancouver Island. Here’s a photo of one of our guest’s catches: a ling cod.
An epic day as we left the islands of southern BC and in flat calm weather crossed to the mainland and rounded Cape Caution. Heading to the Hakai Recreation area and a great beach.
- Reports from Capt. Kevin
The last couple of days have included exploring an offshore island group we rarely get to – always exciting to see who and what is living in these rugged and remote places that nonetheless have plenty of food for marine life due to strong currents bringing lots of nutrients through.
On our last morning, a gift from the Great Bear Rainforest: One of the elusive coastal wolves allowed us to see her or him, and to spend time together in the estuary.
- Reports from Capt. Kevin
Haida Gwaii (Queen Charlotte Islands), MV Swell – May 5-13 (updated)
Weather is absolutely GORGEOUS in Haida Gwaii, yesterday, today, and in the forecast for a few more days at least. Pinching ourselves and enjoying the moment!
After the land day exploring northern Haida Gwaii and the Masset and Skidegate areas, last night was spent at anchor in Thurston Hbr.
Today we did a skiff tour around the Tar Islands – very impressive intertidal life.
Enjoyed 4 hours ashore at Windy Bay – beautiful new Legacy pole, friendly watchmen, very informative, plus a forest hike with the watchmen through old growth and the old village site.
Several breaching humpbacks (including a mother that seemed to be teaching her calf how to breach) on the way to Ikeada Cove.
Anchored here overnight for early departure to SGaang Gwaay tomorrow morning.
- Report from Capt. Alex
Another epic day!
Whales at Garcin Rock. Puffins at Flat Rock.
Great low tide beach exploration. Skiff tour up Louscoone Inlet. A real paradise cove found at North end of Skindaskun Island.
SGang Gwaay in the evening. Brilliant day!
- Report from Capt. Alex
The anchor is down Carmichale Pass, and we’re putting on a last night wine and cheese party (and smoked sablefish), with a slideshow.
This morning we visited K’uuna (Skedans), and as we approached we had another humpback whale on the starboard side.
We counted 100 bald eagles at Skedans Islands.
Another great day today!
- Report from Capt. Alex
Vancouver Island’s Inside Passage (south), SV Maple Leaf – Apr 22-29
Captain Tavish reported it was a beautiful trip, starting in the very south of the southern Gulf Islands National Park reserve and finishing at Campbell River.
The trip started with a humpback whale feeding in Boundary Pass (the boundary referred to is the Canada – USA boundary), and abundant marine birds and mammals in the outer Gulf Islands.
Days of beach-combing, some epic sailing, rainforest walks and hikes, waterfalls, porpoises, beach bonfires, island explorations and 4 cool transient orcas (killer whales) rounded out the trip.
Photo of the Maple Leaf on this trip sailing in Georgia Strait with all five sails up is by Tavish Campbell.
- Report from Capt. Tavish.