Discoveries from aboard the SV Maple Leaf in the Great Bear Rainforest.

We’ve just departed the lovely Schooner Retreat, our anchorage in the Penrose Islands – a fitting place to keep a schooner for the night. We’ve hauled up the foresail and we’re heading south toward Cape Caution. The sun is shining through the morning fog, creating a pearly-silver world with no hard edges.

Here are a few updates from our Whales & Wild Isles trip to date.

We departed the port of Prince Rupert under sunny skies and have had amazingly stable, good weather the entire trip so far (24 hours to go). We’ve cruised to the outside edges of the Great Bear Rainforest, walking white sand beaches, observing thousands and thousands of rhinoceros auklets, gulls, murres, and murrelets feasting on the abundant fish in this coastal sea. All along our way, salmon have been jumping beside us as they pulse by the millions under and around us into coastal bays.


We’ve shared curiosity with a band of playful sea lions and had a humpback whale swim under us. Just outside the village of Klemtu, we spent an amazing time with one whale executing textbook bubble-net feeding techniques. In the calm green sea, its circular “net” of white bubbles were easy to spot. Small fish leapt from the water as the whale shot to the surface through the net, mouth open, capturing fish it had caught.

At Klemtu, George shared his culture and his community’s beautiful big house with us. Inside the huge house, he sang a song, demonstrating the proper drumming technique, which we all joined him in, on the huge cedar log drum at the foot of two monumental house poles. Outside, along the village road and beach, ravens trilled and croaked, gurgled and shouted, and we enjoyed the company of several other residents.

In addition to the outer islands of the Great Bear, we’ve explored the inner inlets and river estuaries. Here, firs and cedars infuse the air with their sharp scent. In one, a black bear chewed sedges as it waited for the salmon to enter the river. In another, eagles, gulls and seals had congregated, also awaiting the salmon.

The abundance of fish, seabirds, and marine mammals here is apparent every day and every place we travel.

All species seem to enjoy this abundance — including the human species! We’ve feasted well aboard the good ship Maple Leaf. In addition to chef Rafe’s superb fare (pumpkin muffins, glazed lemon cake, the best halibut cakes ever…), there has been some wild foraging. Huckleberries, blueberries, and thimbleberries; labrador tea and northern rice root.


Most spectacular of all, a school of opalescent squid entered a bay we were moored in yesterday and while most of us enjoyed a beach and rainforest hike, Capt. Kevin and Mate Brandon caught squid. Back aboard, as we cruised Fitzhugh Sound surrounded by diving humpback whales, Chef Rafe cooked the squid. On deck, where glasses of wine glinted in the late sunshine, we presented the calamari to our guests. So delicious was this freshest-calamari-ever, that everyone zoomed in on the platter, forks in hands, and in ten minutes, it was devoured. Maureen, standing in the middle and holding the platter, said she felt like a school of herring with rhinoceros auklets diving at it. It was hands-down, one of the busiest feeding frenzies of the trip! And a great way to participate in the abundance we have witnessed each day. Afterward, the sky changed to pink and red and purple, and the sea, glossy and calm, reflected it back. Kevin and Brandon threaded the ship between small islands to our anchorage as the spruce and cedars darkened to silhouettes against a pink reflecting sea.

We head now to the waters of Queen Charlotte Strait, Johnstone Strait, and Blackfish Sound. More adventures to come….

Updates contributed by Maureen Gordon of Maple Leaf Adventures.

Click to learn more about this Whales & Wild Isles trip in Canada’s inside passage.