88-Foot Converted Tug

Swell is a beautiful, classic, converted tugboat. She accommodates up to 12 guests in 6 private cabins, and a crew of 5 or 6.

Ship Overview

An Elegant Expedition Ship

The gorgeous Swell is spacious with amenities offered by no other ship on the coast in her class. Her $4 million refit transformed her from a powerhouse working tugboat to a comfortable passenger vessel.

The renovations kept the warm character of her classic wooden construction, and each cabin is panelled with natural wood.

Virtual Tour

Experience Life Aboard Swell

You have access to sites, phenomena and people you cannot get on larger ships, often unable to access the special areas we take you. What’s more, you have access to this in a very personalized, human-scale manner. 

Ship Features

The Swell is an authentic, coastal tugboat. She’s the real deal. Her small size and ruggedness, combined with our special access permits and incredibly knowledgeable and well-connected crew, give you an unparalleled experience.

    An Elegant Expedition Ship

    The gorgeous Swell is spacious with amenities offered by no other ship on the coast in her class.


    Swell’s wood-panelled salon offers a tranquil environment to unwind, while also serving as the dining lounge for meals.


    Swell’s beautiful galley serves three meals and two snacks daily. Chefs pride themselves on the variety and beauty of their creations.

    Aft Deck Lounge, Main Deck

    Swell’s Main Deck offers panoramic views and a cozy, protected aft deck lounge for relaxation, socializing, and enjoying the scenery.


    A classic wheelhouse featuring stunning lines, comfortable seating, and excellent views, where guests can learn about navigation or enjoy wildlife spotting with binoculars.

    Aft Deck Lounge, Upper Deck

    Explore the upper decks of Swell with a 360-degree walk. You’ll feel immersed in the breathtaking wilderness route from the bow, ideal for whale watching. Comforts await in the aft deck lounge: a settee for lounging, and a semi-covered hot tub.

    Shore Boats

    Our two zodiacs provide ample space and great access to explore along shorelines, up rivers, near wildlife colonies, and onto beaches. 


    While at anchor, enjoy one of our four single kayaks. They are light and agile. With a clear floor window, see through your kayak to the ocean below!

    Fishing Tackle

    Aboard Swell, we have fishing rods and lures ready for jigging. Obtain your recreational fishing license prior to your trip and take a turn at jigging for halibut or lingcod.

    Other Equipment

    The ship provides guidebooks, visual aids, and a hydrophone to listen to whale sounds, enhancing appreciation of local flora, fauna, and marine phenomena.

    Main Deck

    Top Deck

Cabins (Category 3)

Largest Cabins

Cedar and Douglas Fir, feature outside doors with opening portholes, large private 3-piece ensuite heads, natural light, and small boat queen-sized beds. Cedar has walls on three sides of the bed, while Douglas Fir has walls on two sides. Both cabins offer storage options and occupy 120 sq. ft.

Cabins (Category 2, Option 1)

Mid-sized Cabins

Sitka Spruce and Western Hemlock are located on the top deck. These cabins offer 80 square feet of space and feature a double bed with an angled foot.

Cabins feature an outside door with opening portholes and a private ensuite. Cabins provide under bed storage designed to maximize comfort and convenience.

Cabins (Category 2, Option 2)

Mid-Sized Cabins

Arbutus is located on the main deck. This cabin offers 80 square feet of space and features two large up and down bunks. It includes a small desk and an en-suite bathroom.

Storage options include a tall cupboard with shelves, a small under-sink cupboard, and storage space under the bed, a practical and comfortable option for guests.

Cabins (Category 1)

Smallest Cabin

Red Alder features an outside door with opening portholes and a private ensuite head with a separate washbasin area. The cabin also receives natural light through a skylight and sleeps two on up and down small, extra-long single beds (79.5″ x 30″).

Storage options include a tall cupboard with shelves, a small under-sink cupboard, and storage space under the bed. Red Alder occupies 57 sq. ft.

Physical Eligibility

To fully enjoy your experience aboard Swell, there are a few physical requirements to keep in mind. To enter and exit your cabin, you will need to be able to step over a six-inch (upper deck) to ten-inch high (main deck) door sill.

Exploring the coast’s picturesque surroundings often means venturing onto a zodiac. With a helping hand, you’ll need to be able to comfortably step into and out of the zodiac from the ship’s deck or onto a beach with no docks. Disembarking the zodiac involves sitting on the side of the pontoon, swinging your legs over the side, and standing up, with some assistance from your crew.

Ashore, you need to be able to walk along uneven shorelines.

There is a regular staircase from the main deck (where the salon and zodiac loading are, as well as two of the cabins) and the upper deck (where the wheelhouse and upper deck cabins are).

The Maple Leaf is a very comfortable ship that welcomes guests of all ages, though if you have a physical limitation, you may consider Cascadia as our most accessible ship. For more guidance on the mobility requirements of our trips, visit this article.

History Of The Tugboat Swell

Swell’s Journey Chronicles a Century of Coastal Transportation and Adventure

The Swell is a historic ship with a rich history in British Columbia. Built in 1912 by Arthur Moscrop in Vancouver, she was commissioned by the Victoria Tug Company, owned by George McGregor and Capt. Dan McPherson. Initially powered by an 18 horsepower steam engine, the Swell played a vital role in towing operations, transporting various materials such as coal, wood, metal, machinery, and acid… the list goes on. As an essential mode of transportation in a region with limited road access and numerous islands, she contributed significantly to the coastal region of British Columbia.

In 1954, the Swell underwent a transformation when her power source was changed to a 400-horsepower diesel engine. She continued her service under the ownership of Island Tug and Barge until 1972. During this time, she even made an appearance in an episode of the popular television show “The Beachcombers.” In 2004, the Swell underwent a major refit, costing $3.5 million, and was converted into a passenger vessel. The refit was done with great care by the coastal tradespeople and shipwrights who worked on her. She became a boutique expedition ship, offering cruises throughout the coast of British Columbia and Alaska.

Today, the Swell continues to carry passengers on memorable voyages, blending her historic charm with modern comforts. Her remarkable journey spanning over a century is a testament to her enduring significance in the maritime history of British Columbia.

  • 1912: The Swell Is Born
  • 1912 to 1954: Coal-Fired Steam Tug Of The Coast
  • 1954 to 2004: Diesel Tug, TV Star And Changing Times
  • 2004 to Present: Swell Is Reborn As A Passenger Vessel

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