Health and Safety Updates Regarding
February 24th, 2021
Re: 2021 Expedition Season Update
It’s hard to believe that we have reached the 1-year anniversary of the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic and all the events, challenges, and tragedies that have occurred since. It’s been a very tough year, and our hearts go out to everyone who has been impacted by this disease. Fortunately, with the roll-out of vaccines currently underway, we can finally look forward to the world returning to something more like normal over the months ahead. Today, I wanted to provide you with some updates with respect to our current outlook for Outer Shores’ 2021 expedition season.
At the moment, Canada’s borders remain closed to non-essential international travel; travel within Canada is strongly discouraged, and within British Columbia, numerous health orders remain in effect to limit social gatherings, and social distancing and masks are mandatory in all public spaces. In addition, all of the First Nation communities that we normally visit each year remain closed, including Bella Bella, Klemtu, Hartley Bay, and all of Haida Gwaii. For these reasons and the lead time required prior to expeditions, we have currently suspended all of our 2021 departures in April, May, and June.
That’s the bad news. The good news is that we do expect to see a gradual easing of restrictions and re-opening of communities and tourism this season as more people are vaccinated and infection rates decline. Unfortunately, no one knows when exactly this will occur, or when we’ll be able to begin scheduling and delivering expeditions. However, we are still hopeful that we’ll be operating expeditions in July, August, September, and October.
Over the past weeks, I’ve been in touch with all of our guests who are currently scheduled for expeditions in both Gwaii Haanas and the Great Bear Rainforest this July through early October. Many of you have chosen to wait and see how things evolve over the months ahead and decide whether or not it’s possible for you to travel when we eventually know what the options are. Others, particularly our international travelers, have already decided to move your bookings to 2022. The reason for this is primarily due to the uncertainty of when Canada will re-open its borders to international travelers, and the difficulty this causes for travel planning. From what we are hearing now, this may happen as early as July 2021, or as late as early 2022.
Regardless of your decision at this time, I do want to emphasize that Outer Shores’ first priority is to take care of all our guests who have been affected by these events. Until we clarify which of our 2021 expeditions we are able to operate we are not taking any new bookings for 2022 so that we can accommodate our 2021 guests next year, if necessary. Waitlists, however, are available for all 2021 and 2022 departures.
We’ll continue to stay in close contact over the weeks and months ahead and I hope that you’ll contact us anytime to discuss your travel plans. We truly look forward to hearing from you!
Russell Markel, PhD
December 23, 2020
Season’s Greetings and Thank You!
As we enter this holiday season and 2020 draws to an end, I wanted to take this opportunity to reflect on this most unusual year. It’s been nearly 10 months since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic and all the hardships and changes that have come with it. Although vaccinations are beginning and, gratefully, we can look forward to our lives returning to a new normal over the course of 2021, there’s no doubt that the pandemic-related events we’ve all experienced will permanently re-shape our perspectives, particularly around health and well-being, financial security, and travel and tourism.
For myself and Outer Shores Expeditions, the loss of our entire 2020 expedition season presented us with previously unimaginable challenges. However, these events also brought the opportunity to work closely and collaboratively with our industry and First Nations partners, and to slow down, reflect, and re-envision new adventures as we plot our course forward and recover from this setback over the months and years ahead. In doing so, foremost in my thoughts has been the incredible outpouring of support that we’ve received from so many of our guests as we’ve navigated this difficult year, for which I am incredibly grateful, thank you!
To all of our guests who were supposed to travel with us in 2020, I want to express my heartfelt appreciation for your patience and understanding, and your honest communication and the conversations we shared, as we navigated these events and the impacts they’ve had on you together.
For those of you who have moved your expedition bookings to 2021 or beyond, thank you very much. I look forward to being in touch with you early in the New Year to discuss the current outlook for our 2021 expedition season and your travel plans.
August 19, 2020
Re: Day Tour Availability Update
In our continuous efforts to adapt to the effects of COVID-19, the Passing Cloud has been commissioned on a long-term contract from August 19th-September 28th. 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.
In addition, we will be out of the office from August 19-September 8th. We hope to resume operations as usual next year and will be announcing our 2021 schedule in the coming months.
Thank you for your patience as we navigate these unprecedented times.
June 26, 2020
Re: Southern Gulf Islands Day Tours
Even as British Columbia slowly enters into Phase 3 of the BC Restart Plan, the COVID-19 pandemic continues to threaten our communities and severely impact travel and tourism, both locally and globally. At the time of writing, Canada remains closed to all international travel, most remote Indigenous communities remain closed for the foreseeable future, and numerous public health orders remain in effect.
As a result, over the past few weeks, Outer Shores has notified all of our guests that it simply will not be practical (or desirable) to attempt to deliver any of our multi-day, liveaboard, expeditions scheduled for 2020. Instead, however, we are excited to announce that we will soon begin offering sailing and wildlife day tours, locally among the Southern Gulf Islands and the Salish Sea.
Day tours have the distinct advantages of allowing us to share this remarkable region with our guests but without the inherent challenges associated with providing accommodation and meal services in the present climate of COVID-19. Initially, our full and half-day tours will cater to private groups, comprising one or two “social bubbles” (i.e., groups of family and close friends who do need to socially distance). Given the size and spaciousness of the schooner Passing Cloud, we have conservatively set our maximum group size at 10 people in total.
We look forward to sailing with you this summer!
May 27, 2020
Re: 2020 Gwaii Haanas Expeditions Update
Gwaii Haanas National Park Reserve, National Marine Conservation Area Reserve, and Haida Heritage Site (collectively known as “Gwaii Haanas”), is known for its rich cultural history, as well as its incredible marine and terrestrial ecosystems and wildlife. Gwaii Haanas is also where Outer Shores calls home for the majority of our expedition seasons and is truly near and dear to our hearts.
As the COVID-19 pandemic has progressed over the past weeks and months, we’ve been watching and waiting anxiously, not only for news about how our season would be affected by these events but for how the remote island archipelago of Haida Gwaii and the Haida Nation may be impacted.
At the moment, Gwaii Haanas is officially closed until June 30th, and we anticipate this will be extended further. Regardless of the official decision from Gwaii Haanas notifying if/when we can operate there this season or not, it’s become clear that several other factors are highly likely to prevent our Haida Gwaii expeditions from taking place, including: 1) the Canada-US border is likely to remain closed for several months yet to come; 2) it’s not yet clear what Transport Canada, as well as provincial health authorities, will require of small-ship tour operators with respect to re-opening; and 3) most importantly, the Haida Nation is doing everything they can to protect their communities, elders, and language and knowledge holders – in other words, their cultural well-being and future. Haida Gwaii remains closed to all non-resident visitors by order of the Council of the Haida Nation, and neither Outer Shores nor our guests want to put any additional pressure on them at this time.
For these reasons, Outer Shores has now officially suspended all of our 2020 Gwaii Haanas expeditions. Even though in the coming weeks we will see provincial and federal restrictions loosening, we’ll continue to monitor Haida Gwaii’s response to this pandemic and respect their nation-based decisions for non-essential travel at this time. We hope that all of our friends and colleagues, and all the communities in Haida Gwaii, continue to remain healthy, safe, and resilient. We look forward to our return to the islands next summer if and when it is safe and welcome to do so.
In the days ahead we will be posting our revised 2021 expedition schedule, and look forward to re-scheduling all of our 2020 guests who have been affected by these events. Thank you to everyone for your understanding and patience as we continue to find our way through these unprecedented events.
April 29, 2020
Re: COVID-19 – 2020 Sailing Season Update
As the public health, social, and economic effects of the COVID-19 pandemic continue to be felt worldwide, it’s clear that everyone has been impacted one way or another, and certainly Outer Shores and all our guests.
Here in British Columbia, a wide range of travel restrictions, public health orders and advisories, states of emergency, and institutional and community closures have now resulted in the suspension of all of our 2020 expeditions through June 30th. In particular:
- The Canada-US Border remains closed until at least May 21st.
- All remote First Nation communities of the Great Bear Rainforest and Haida Gwaii are closed to non-resident visitors, indefinitely.
- Gwaii Haanas National Park Reserve, National Marine Conservation Area Reserve, and Haida Heritage Site is closed until at least June 30th.
- All BC Parks and Conservancies are closed, indefinitely.
- Pacific Coastal Airlines has suspended all flights coast-wide until at least May 31st.
We will continue to monitor and work closely with a wide range of federal, provincial, and Indigenous governments, and industry associations to determine what the remainder of our expedition season may look like. Any further changes to our 2020 schedule will be communicated to our guests as soon as we possibly can.
In the meantime, without knowing exactly how all of this will work out, we’ve taken all necessary steps to ensure that Outer Shores is well prepared to weather this storm, and we’re looking forward to resuming our normal operations as soon as it’s legal, practical, and ethical to do so.
Over the past several weeks we have been working closely with all of our guests who have been, or may be, affected by these events and uncertainties. I’d like to take this opportunity to thank our guests, industry partners, and government representatives for all the incredible support, patience, and understanding we’ve received as we’ve been navigating these uncharted waters. Thank you!
We hope everyone is staying safe, healthy, and well during these difficult times.
March 17, 2020
Dear Outer Shores Guests, Family, and Friends,
In light of recent and rapidly-evolving developments, here in British Columbia, across Canada, and globally, we have come to the regretful conclusion that it is no longer logistically possible, or socially responsible, to attempt to operate our 2020 expedition season as planned.
As such, we are announcing today that, due to circumstances out of our control, we will not be operating our Pacific Rim National Park expeditions in April, or our Spring Great Bear Rainforest expeditions in May. We will be monitoring developments closely and will provide further updates on the rest of our expedition season.
Foremost, it is critical that everyone do everything they possibly can at this pivotal point in time to reduce transmission of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19). Our governments, health authorities, experts, and scientists are telling us that in order to “flatten the curve” of this global pandemic, we must suspend all unnecessary travel and practice social distancing. We must all stay home and stay healthy.
Here on the British Columbia coast, many of our expeditions visit, and depend upon, remote Indigenous communities and cultures that are disproportionately at risk for severe outcomes of COVID-19 infection and transmission. As such, any efforts to put additional pressure, and risk, on these communities and cultures, and our friends and colleagues, would be unconscionable.
To our International travellers, yesterday the Government of Canada closed our border to all non-Canadian visitors, with the exception of our American neighbours, but with the stipulation that all visitors entering Canada must self-isolate and self-monitor themselves for symptoms of COVID-19 infection for at least 14 days. As a result, for the time being, it’s simply impossible for you to travel to British Columbia under these unprecedented circumstances.
To our Canadian travellers, many of whom I’ve spoken with recently, we appreciate that everyone has been willing to continue with your expeditions if at all possible. However, it’s clear now that for the time being, the risks are simply just too high – for you, our crew, the communities we visit, our families, and our business.
Given how quickly the current landscape of events is changing, I want to express my commitment to taking care of all our guests the best we can during these difficult and uncertain times. In the days ahead, we’ll be reviewing our cancellation and payment policies to look for ways to create more flexibility for everyone, and will be reaching out to all of our guests to discuss your circumstances and figure out next steps. I look forward to speaking with each of you in the days and weeks ahead.
Thank you in advance for your patience and understanding as we navigate our way through these unknown waters. I hope you and your families stay healthy and well.
March 17, 2020
As of yesterday, Monday, March 16th, the Government of Canada has implemented a travel ban for all travellers who are not Canadian citizens, permanent residents, or Americans.
Further, every individual entering Canada must now self-isolate and self-monitor themselves for symptoms of COVID-19 for 14 days.
These restrictions functionally prevent all non-Canadian travellers from visiting Canada for the foreseeable future.
The Public Health Authority of Canada (PHAC) continues to assess the public health risk associated with COVID-19 as Low for the general population of Canada. However, it notes that the higher risk of more severe outcomes for people who are:
- Aged 65 years or older
- Have compromised immune systems
- Have underlying medical conditions.
The Provincial Government of British Columbia is strongly requesting that all visitors, including those from the United States, please do not travel to this province the time being.
Similarly, remote Indigenous communities in British Columba are requesting that visitors do not visit their communities for the foreseeable future, due to the disproportionately high risk of COVID-19 infection in these communities.
Public Health Agency of Canada – Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19)
BC Centre for Disease Control – COVID-19
HealthLink BC – Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19)
Government of Canada Travel Advisories
Transport Canada – Marine Safety
British Columbia COVID-19 Dashboard