Southern Gulf Islands Day Tours

Whales, Wildlife, and Sailing the Salish Sea

No Availability Summer 2020

Thank you for your interest in Outer Shores Expeditions.

In our continuous efforts to adapt to the effects of COVID-19, the Passing Cloud has been commissioned on a long-term contract. Therefore, we will no longer be available for day tours this summer. We are working on an environmental conservation project that will be announced by the government on August 31 but since the announcement is out of our hands we need to wait until then to speak about it.

Further details on the status of our season and expedition updates can be found here:

Thank you for your patience and understanding in these unprecedented times. We look forward to welcoming you aboard in the future!

Outer Shores is excited to welcome you aboard our 70’ classic wooden schooner, the Passing Cloud, for a day of sailing, wildlife viewing, and learning as we explore the Southern Gulf Islands and Salish Sea. Through sailing, zodiac excursions, marine wildlife viewing, and interpretive walks and talks we look forward to sharing this remarkable region with you! Please see our options for full-vessel bookings for private groups of families and friends.

The Southern Gulf Islands, Salish Sea, and Gulf Islands National Park Reserve offer an exciting range of marine and land-based opportunities for enjoying the natural wonders of this incredible region. Whether you are keen to focus your day on sailing or spend more time exploring beaches and viewing wildlife, our friendly and professional crew will tailor your day on board with us to fit the interests and ambitions of your group.

As we cruise and sail the schooner Passing Cloud among the many islands and waterways we’ll be on the lookout for seabirds, seals, sea lions, porpoises, humpback whales, and killer whales – including the endangered southern resident killer whales that call these waters home during the summer months. If we do encounter these coastal icons, we’ll use our onboard hydrophone to listen in on their conversation to help us try to identify them. Going ashore, there are great beaches, rocky shores, and tidepools to explore that are home to sea stars, crabs, anemones, barnacles, seaweeds, and more – always a favourite for children and grown-ups alike. Thanks to the unique Mediterranean climate of this region, the lush but dry forests here are made up of Douglas fir, red cedar, and arbutus trees, as well as pockets of the endangered Gary Oak ecosystem. Bird lovers will enjoy watching and listening to the calls, croons, and singing of eagles, ravens, and migratory songbirds.

It’s no wonder that Coast Salish First Nations have lived among these islands for thousands of years. Shell middens – mounds of discarded clam and mussel shells and other shellfish, fish bones, and mammal bones – are ubiquitous features of the beaches and forests here, a testament to the large numbers of Indigenous people that once thrived among these island ecosystems.

“Thanks so much for the trip around the Gulf Islands on the Passing Cloud. It was a wonderful experience that I wouldn’t have had without you. The scenery was beautiful, the meals were great and the company was wonderful!” - Linda, BC, Canada

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Sail the classic wooden schooner Passing Cloud, renowned for her sailing abilities, racing history, and offshore cruising adventures.

Encounter whales, porpoises, eagles, ravens, seals, sea lions, shore birds, sea birds, and songbirds.

Explore this island archipelago, with its unique Mediterranean climate, Douglas fir and arbutus forests, endangered Gary Oak ecosystems, and Coast Salish cultural heritage.

Enjoy sailing, zodiac excursions, interpretive beach and forest walks, swimming, and more.

Itinerary Overview

Join us for a morning, afternoon, or a full-day of sailing and exploring the Southern Gulf Islands aboard the 70’ classic wooden schooner, Passing Cloud, and learn about the cultures and wildlife of this remarkable area. We will visit the incredible islands and beaches to explore the intertidal regions, and learn about the nearshore ecosystems, while always on the lookout for wildlife.

Sample Itineraries

The following SAMPLE itineraries are only intended to provide an idea of the timing and possible activities that may be included in our full- and half-day tours.

Departs From

Mill Bay, BC
(Brentwood Bay/Port Sidney/Ganges upon request)


Half-Day or Full-Day

Physical Requirements


Half-Day Sample Itinerary



Full-Day Sample Itinerary

2020 Expedition Dates and Availability

Thank you for your interest in Outer Shores Expeditions.

In our efforts to continually adapt to the effects of COVID-19, the Passing Cloud has been commissioned on a long-term contract and will no longer be available for day tours this summer. We are working on an environmental conservation project that will be announced by the government on August 31 but since the announcement is out of our hands we need to wait until then to speak about it.

Further details on the status of our season and expedition updates can be found here:

Thank you for your patience and understanding in these unprecedented times. We look forward to welcoming you aboard in the future!


Half-day sail: $175/person
Full-day sail: $325/person

Our prices are charged per person, and based on a *minimum of 6, quoted in Canadian dollars, and subject to 5% Federal Goods and Services Tax (GST). All payments must be made in Canadian dollars, by e-transfer, debit, or credit card. All prices are subject to change without notice.

*Please note we require 6 passengers to confirm, we will notify you no later than 5 days prior to your departure date.

We are pleased to offer a 15% discount for full-vessel bookings for private groups of 8-10 people.

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Frequently Asked Questions

What are your COVID-19 Health and Safety Protocols?

Due to COVID-19 Outer Shores has taken every precaution to ensure the health and safety of our guests and crew onboard the Passing Cloud. We are following all government and health regulations and have increased our cleaning protocols and preventative measures to reduce the spread of COVID.

Please see our Health and Safety section also on this page (tab to the left) for further details.

What’s included in the cost?

Captain, crew, and time sailing and adventuring aboard the Passing Cloud for both half-day and full-day sailings. Our full-day tours will have the opportunity to go ashore for interpretive beach and forest walks.

What group sizes can you accommodate?

To ensure social distancing, we are currently allowing up to 10 people in total. We allow individual booking and group bookings. We require a minimum of 6 guests to confirm a departure. We will notify you no later than 5 days prior to your departure date. To encourage fewer separate groups, we are pleased to offer a group discount of 15% OFF for groups of 8-10 people booking together for a private voyage. Please feel free to create a small group of your closest family members and friends within your bubbles.

Where do we depart from?

Our tours depart and return to the Mill Bay Marina 740 Handy Road, Mill Bay, on Southern Vancouver Island. However, we are happy to arrange a pick-up/drop-off from either Port Sidney or Brentwood Bay on the Saanich Peninsula, or Ganges Harbour on Salt Spring Island. Please let us know in advance if you would like to start or end at either of these locations. Additional charges may apply.

What are the physical requirements?

Our sailing tours require a moderate amount of agility while aboard the Passing Cloud. Climbing a short boarding ladder (3 rungs), moving around the ship and below deck to get to the head (washroom), requires balance and some agility. Our shore excursions may include uneven surfaces and slippery rocks and can be catered to your own capabilities and comfort levels.

What should we bring?

Please be prepared for a range of weather. It will be cooler on the water, so we recommend dressing in layers:

  • A mask for when social distancing is not possible
  • A wind-breaking shell or outer-layer jacket
  • A fleece or synthetic insulating layer
  • A base layer (t-shirt or long sleeve)
  • Long-sleeved sun shirt 
  • Closed-toed and comfortable walking shoes are recommended
  • A bathing suit and change of clothes, and a towel if you plan on swimming 
  • Sunglasses and sunhat
  • Sunscreen
  • Sunglasses
  • Binoculars
  • Camera

Is there a minimum age for children?

There is not a minimum age for children, however, the prices remain the same/passenger. Please feel free to use your own discretion based on your level of comfort for bringing your children on board with your group. However, parents must provide personal floatation devices (PFDs) for their children which children must wear at all times while underway.

Are food and beverages included?

We are pleased to provide complimentary coffee and tea, and drinking water (please bring your own to-go bottles); however, we will not be serving food at this time. Please feel free to bring your own beverages, snacks, and picnic lunches. Bridgeman’s Bistro at the Mill Bay Marina is taking orders for takeout, as well as dine-in to enjoy before or after your time aboard Passing Cloud.

Can we bring beer and wine?

You are welcome to bring a moderate amount of beer or wine onboard to enjoy responsibly with your meal.

Can we go swimming or snorkelling?

If you like! The waters remain cold year-round in the Salish Sea, but on hot summer days, a cool dip in the ocean is very refreshing! You are also welcome to bring your wetsuit and snorkel/mark to enjoy the underwater world as well – one of our favourite places to explore!

Health and Safety Protocols

Southern Gulf Island and Salish Sea Day Tours

As part of the BC Restart Plan, Outer Shores has been working closely with our colleagues across the Adventure Tourism sector and WorkSafeBC to develop, have approved, and implement our best practices and procedures for mitigating the risk of COVID-19 infection and transmission for our guests and crew, described below.

What to Expect On Board?

Our COVID-19 Best Practices on board include the now-standard precautions and principles, including hygiene and social distancing.

  • At the time of arrival but prior to boarding, all passengers will be asked to complete a brief health questionnaire that asks basic questions such as, “Have you experienced a recent cough, fever or other flu like symptoms?” Passenger contact information will be collected and held for 30 days, should contact tracing be necessary.
  • We will remind guests to please practice the hygiene essentials of: a) Coughing or sneezing into your arm; b) Avoid shaking hands; c) Avoid touching your face, and d) Wash your hands thoroughly and frequently.
  • While on board guests will be required to practice social distancing by maintaining 2 meters (6 feet) between anyone outside of their “social bubble”. By focusing on our day tours on private groups (i.e., social bubbles), social distancing will primarily apply to guests and crew.
  • If/when social distancing is not possible/practical, both guests and crew will be required to wear non-medical cloth masks that cover their nose and mouth.
  • On board signage will be present to remind guests and crew to practice social distancing, and where appropriate floor markings or signage will be used to promote avoidance of crew areas.
  • Having a vast amount of deck space, seating, and covered areas, the interior of our vessel will generally be off-limits for day tours, except to visit the washroom (head).
  • On board food services will not be available for our day tours. The crew will serve coffee, tea, and water, and limited pre-packaged snacks (e.g., granola bars, fruit bars); however, all guests are strongly encouraged to also bring their own water bottles/thermoses and snacks. Our full-day tour guests must bring their own lunches, and we can help you with nearby options for grocery stores, restaurants, and catering services.

Enhanced On Board Cleaning and Sanitation

  • One or more hand sanitizer stations will be available on board, and best practices signage for handwashing will be posted in the washroom (head) to help prevent the spread of COVID-19.
  • High touch areas on board the vessel and at the docks will be sanitized regularly. These areas include (but are not limited to): railings, seatbacks, doorknobs, radios, microphones, and helm areas.
  • Our crew will use only cleaning methods and products approved by Health Canada or the British Columbia Ministry of Health, including the use of gloves, whenever handling cleaning products, emptying trash, and foodservice items.

Behind the Scenes:

Although the above practices and procedures are the most visible changes that our guests will see, we also are implementing many less visible changes, particularly related to our crew members including:

  • All crew members will receive COVID-19 Best Practices training that includes (but is not limited to), policies and procedures, hygiene, and symptom recognition.
  • All crew members will complete a one-time health declaration stating that they agree not to come to work if: a) They have any symptoms of COVID-19; b) Have been in contact with any person known or suspected to have COVID-19; and/or; c) Have been traveling and are currently subject to a 14-day quarantine;
  • If a guest or crew member becomes symptomatic while aboard our vessel, every precaution will be taken to isolate that person until returning to the dock, and public health officials will be notified. In the event that a guest or crew member subsequently tests positive for COVID-19, Outer Shores will work with public health officials to assist with contact tracing as necessary.
  • Crew on board will comprise a “working group”.
  • All crew will be provided with a province-wide medical resource list which includes: a) Telephone numbers and website addresses for key medical resources; and b) Approved sources for COVID-19 information;
  • Outer Shores supports the right of crew members to refuse service to any guest displaying symptoms of COVID-19.


The hallmark of all our expeditions is that we have no fixed itineraries. Instead, our routes and activities are set by weather, tides, wildlife sightings, and the interests and ambitions of our guests. Our activities primarily include.

Sailing The Schooner, Passing Cloud

Passing Cloud features a traditional west coast pilothouse, spacious teak decks, an abundance of seating areas, and an impressive history of racing victories and offshore sailing adventures. Passing Cloud is a Transport Canada certified passenger vessel, and meets or exceeds the highest standards of construction and safety.


Wildlife Viewing

Viewing and learning about the wildlife we encounter is a big part of what we do. Our certified naturalists and marine guides love to teach our guests about the natural marine environment. The Salish Sea is home to the Southern Resident killer whales, as well as transient killer whales, sea lions, seals, dolphins, migratory sea and shorebirds, and occasionally, humpback whales too!


Shore Excursions

We head ashore to explore beaches, tidepools, and forests and enjoy interpretive talks and walks. Popular islands for us to visit during day tours include Russell Island, Portland Island, and Sidney Island.


Perhaps not surprisingly, wildlife and coastal photography is also a big part of what we do. Whether you are an amateur or professional photographer, you’ll find that there’s no end of subject matter for you to photograph. Incredible landscape and wildlife opportunities abound!

Things We Can't Accommodate

Fishing, SCUBA diving, Spear Fishing; Personal Watercraft, Drones, Smoking, Vaping, Recreational Drugs, or excessive alcohol consumption (a beer or glass of wine with your lunch or dinner is okay).

Check out what our guests have to say about this expedition!

"It is with deep gratitude and respect for you all that we leave our sailing adventure on the Salish Sea. The Passing Cloud is such a beautiful vessel, so lovely cared for. We had great wildlife sightings with many photo opportunities to capture the beauty of this area. Thank you, Russ, and Joel, for sharing your knowledge and passion and Graham for sharing your expertise in the galley! We had a wonderful time — Thank you!"

Allan and Geri , AB, CANADA

"I've searched the globe for authentic trips to build inspiration, appreciation, and a sense that we are all connected. Outer Shores and Passing Cloud gave this to our family. "

— Melissa, BC, CANADA

"A super trip! Four days was just not long enough which means I’ll have to come again!I had a great time kayaking and sailing!"

— Ngaire, BC, CANADA

"Thanks so much for the trip around the Gulf Islands on the Passing Cloud. It was a wonderful experience that I wouldn’t have had without you. The scenery was beautiful, the meals were great and the company was wonderful!"

— Linda, BC, CANADA

"You’ve made the right decision and we are all the better for it. Had a great time."

— Terry, CA, USA

"Russell, most inspirational time, it has meant a lot to our family."

— Roger, CA, USA

Wildlife Viewing Guidelines

Our responsible wildlife viewing practices are always first and foremost guided by the health and wellbeing of the animals we are watching and regulated by regional guidelines. Our crew are certified guides and are trained in the safety and best practices for coastal wildlife viewing. We have put together some resources to outline these guidelines around marine mammals, specifically the endangered Southern Resident killer whales of the Salish Sea.

Preparing for your visit to the Southern Gulf Islands

Explore and Experience the Gulf Islands National Park Reserve and the remarkable marine wilderness of the Salish Sea and Southern Gulf Islands Archipelago. Learn about the emerging wine growing region and the diverse agriculture of the Southern Gulf Islands. With easy accessibility from Victoria, Vancouver, and Seattle there is much to take in from the surrounding areas before, during, and after your time onboard the Passing Cloud.

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