The Nature of Our Expeditions

The Nature of Our Expeditions
and Small-Ship Travel

Outer Shores is an award-winning, carbon-neutral-certified, Green Tourism Gold-rated, niche adventure travel company. We believe that helping our guests understand and experience first-hand some of the most spectacular wildlife and ancient cultures on the planet is key to protecting and preserving these invaluable resources. We pride ourselves on our ability to provide unique, intimate, educational, fun, and authentic small-ship and small-group experiences in the luxury and comfort of our expedition sailing vessel, and on the knowledge and professionalism of our crew.

At the heart of Outer Shores is our commitment of connecting people with nature, fostering stewardship, and reducing our footprint on the planet. In this spirit, we integrate responsible ecotourism practices into all aspects of our operations. Outer Shores is Green Tourism Canada Gold-certified and carbon neutral, and we’ve received local and national awards recognizing our achievements in sustainable tourism. Please visit the “Our Commitment” page for more information.

Small-ship travel can mean many things. Here’s what it means to us: Our ship is the 70-foot (21-metre) classic wooden schooner Passing Cloud. We sail with six to eight guests and an expedition crew of four (Captain, Mate, Chef, and Expedition Specialist). Although we know where and when our expeditions start and finish, we have no fixed itineraries, and what we do on a daily basis is largely determined by weather, tides, wildlife sightings, and the interests and expertise of our guests and crew. We revel in the exciting adventure of never knowing what’s around the next corner.

Each year, our ship, crew, and expeditions undertake a migration throughout the BC coast, including the west coast of Vancouver Island, the Southern Gulf Islands and the Inside Passage, Northern Vancouver Island, the Haida Gwaii archipelago, and the Great Bear Rainforest. Our points of embarkation and disembarkation change depending on the region we’re visiting. In order to reduce the distances that we need to travel on each expedition, we feature one-way itineraries on some of our expeditions (including the Great Bear Rainforest) or utilize float planes (Haida Gwaii/Gwaii Haanas).

Our guests join us from around the world, with the majority being from Canada and the US, but increasingly from Europe, Australia, and Asia. Our guests are typically between 50 and 70 years of age, although we have happily welcomed ages ranging from 8 to 80! In general, our guests are active adventurers with a keen quest for learning. We proudly enjoy a very high rate of returning guests who are eager to explore all regions of our coastline.

Our expedition vessel is a 70-foot (21-metre) classic wooden schooner. Passing Cloud is a Transport Canada-certified passenger vessel and meets or exceeds the highest levels of safety. Designed for offshore sailing, Passing Cloud is an exceptionally seaworthy and comfortable vessel, and truly a joy to sail. Learn more about the history and technical specifications of Passing Cloud on the “Our Ship” page.

Our expedition crew typically consists of four persons: Captain, Mate, Chef, and Expedition Specialist. Our Captains and Mates are Transport Canada certified and have extensive experience operating on the BC coast. Our Expedition Specialists are experts in diverse fields, including marine science, bear and whale biology, archaeology, anthropology, forest ecology, and so much more. Our Chefs are masters of their art, typically culinary-school trained and/or Red Seal certified. Having a rotating roster of experts in their field provides a very unique and immersive experience for both crew and guests alike.  We consider ourselves very fortunate to have the ability to pull scientists and culinary craftsmen from their “active line of duty” to share their knowledge and skills with our guests.

Most of our guest’s culinary expectations are far surpassed in the quality of their meals on board. Our chefs prepare five meals per day, including a three-course dinner paired with local BC wine. Our menus feature West Coast cuisine, locally grown and harvested produce, and sustainably sourced seafood, meat, and poultry. Our Chefs cater to restricted diets to the greatest extent possible; however, there are limitations given the remote areas we operate in and the constraints of cooking in a ship’s galley. Please discuss your dietary restrictions with us as early as possible if you have any concerns and we will do our very best to accommodate your needs.

Guest accommodation is located off of the main salon in three private cabins. Each cabin has two berths, arranged as off-setting upper and lower bunks. Climbing into the upper bunks requires some agility. All cabins are double occupancy. Each cabin has a private vanity with a sink and hot and cold running water, a mirror, a hanging locker, and storage drawers. Bedding, towels, hand soap, and shampoo are provided.

There is a shared head (marine toilet) and shower also located off the main salon. Congestion for the head is rare. Crew accommodations and a crew toilet are in the aft cabin and the forepeak.

Guests need to be amenable to living in the relatively close quarters of a 70-foot (21-metre) sailing vessel, and healthy and fit enough to enjoy full and active days in the outdoors. A certain amount of agility is necessary to enjoy the trip and not impact the enjoyment of other passengers. Specific shore activities are always optional.

When going ashore, guests board our inflatable boat at water level from the ship and are then transported to the shore, where we disembark. This requires our guests to climb down the boarding ladder, step down into the inflatable boat, and then disembark, sometimes onto slippery rocks. The crew is always at hand to provide assistance. While ashore, we will walk along slippery shorelines and over the uneven terrain of coastal forests and estuaries.

There is something so peaceful about being immersed in the truly wild wilderness of British Columbia’s remote coast, far away from the sounds of bustling traffic and the din of civilization. In the wilderness areas we visit, there are typically few inhabitants, and there are no roads, docks, or marinas. Each evening we spend the night anchored in a protected bay or harbour of our choosing.

The daily activities featured on our expeditions differ somewhat between regions and seasons, based on wildlife-viewing opportunities, cultural site visits, travel distances, and the interests and expertise of our guests and crew. In general, however, our days include a combination of travelling between various locations and enjoying a wide range of activities. We typically go ashore at least twice a day to enjoy cultural site visits, interpretive beach and forest walks, and visiting with local communities or research organizations. We also frequently enjoy sailing, sea kayaking, inflatable boat excursions, whale watching, bear viewing, fishing, photography, and even snorkelling, swimming, and visiting hot springs. There are also plenty of opportunities to relax and enjoy a good book from our extensive library with the soothing sounds of the sea as your soundtrack.

Wildlife viewing is big part of all our expeditions, no matter which region we are operating in; however, the wildlife we are likely to encounter differs between regions and seasons according to the annual activities of the wildlife itself. In fact, many of our expeditions are timed in order for us to enjoy seasonal ecological events such as herring spawning (March/April), grey whale migration (March to May), berries and bears (May to June), salmon and killer whales (July to October), and salmon and bears (August to October). In all cases, minimizing our impact on the wildlife we encounter is extremely important to us. We meet or exceed guidelines and best practices for whale watching and bear viewing. Outer Shores belongs to numerous conservation and regulatory organizations, our guides are trained and certified, and our Expedition Specialists are often experts in the wildlife we encounter. We’ve been known to encounter rare and elusive species, such as pelagic sharks, the Queen Charlotte black bear, Risso’s dolphins, and the coastal sea wolf. Always have your cameras ready  you just never know what you might see!

Sailing, of course, is one of our favourite activities! We sail as much as possible and welcome guest participation. Cruising along under sail, powered by only the wind, is always an amazing experience, and completely carbon-free! The amount we sail on each expedition depends on two key factors: how much wind we have (we need a bit, but not too much!), and the travel distances we must cover each day (smaller regions generally mean that we can sail more). Look for our estimate of “Travel Distance” on each expedition page.

Sea kayaking is a much enjoyed (and completely optional) activity. No previous experience is required, but a moderate amount of physical agility is necessary for entering and exiting the boats. Our sea kayaking activities focus on exploring along the shore, in protected waters, and short distances away from and in sight of the ship (we do not provide “mother ship” sea kayaking). We carry two Delta10 single kayaks that are user friendly, a pleasure to paddle, and feature plexiglass viewing panels for underwater viewing and photography.

Weather is a key consideration for crew and guests alike. Our captains constantly monitor current and forecasted weather conditions and plan expedition activities and travel decisions accordingly. For our guests, expected weather is a big part of deciding how to pack for their expedition. In general, the Pacific Coast is a truly temperate climate  not too warm but not too cold. We get rain at any time of year, but certainly, our wettest expeditions tend to be in early April, late September, and October, so good rain gear is particularly important at these times. On the flip side, it’s certainly not uncommon for crew and guests to be wearing short pants and T-shirts in the peak summer months of June, July, and August. Rest assured that we’ll provide a packing list and help you prepare for your expedition.

We have extensive experience leading a wide variety of guests, and we want to ensure that your expedition exceeds your expectations and that you have the best possible experience. It is important that participants listen to and follow the instructions provided by our crew (as we like to say, “Please help us help you.”).  If you have any issues or concerns about your full participation in the trip, please discuss your situation with us upon registration, or at any time if an issue arises prior to your departure.  All information you provide to us in advance of the expedition is used to help our crew prepare. We respect the confidential nature of any personal information that you share with us.

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