Crew Training Aboard the Passing Cloud

April was a busy month marked by two exciting new partnerships; an internship with Outershores Expeditions and a new relationship with who in turn sparked a connection with Helly Hansen.

After having spent the winter holidays and weekends packing the resume with necessary certifications to find work at sea (and slowly round out the idea of whether or not I want to sail around the world), Russ Markel of Outershores Expeditions surprised me with the offer of an internship.

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The sun sets in Barkley sound as we cruise back in the zodiac from a sunset reconnaissance mission.

After finishing off an eight-day Wilderness First Responder course in Squamish (lookup Takuya Ota for arguably some of the best instruction I’ve ever received) I pulled the choke on my 1990 VW Jetta Diesel, Rhonda the Red Rocket and drove to Ucluelet for crew training aboard the schooner the Passing Cloud.

Pulling into the small craft harbour at 1am I pitched my tent behind three garbage cans across the water from a whole slew of commercial fish boats (this was a bad move). Forgetting that fishermen wake up early, and enjoy a good wee off the boats, I woke up to the gargle of large bore diesel engines churning to life and the sight of a few grubby guys starting their day.

Captain Matt Lemay shows first mates Joel White and Liam Ogel the appropriately named "Burrito Technique" for wrapping up the sails.

The Harbour Master, Kevin, also had these words of wisdom to share when he finally found me, “these are my docks, you can’t sleep here.”

With a smile, the tent stowed, and a slow shake of my head I walked down the docks with my eyes on the tall wooden masts of the 70' schooner.

Now part of the Pacific Rim National Park Reserve, the Broken Islands were home to the densest populations north of San Francisco. An estimated number of 8,000-10,000 first nations people lived here pre-contact (In comparison 1,600 people live in Ucluelet, and 150 in Bamfield today).

Built by the passionate and eccentric shipwright Brian Walker in the mid-1970’s the Passing Cloud is one of the most elegant wooden sailing vessels I’ve ever seen. And, given that she’s modelled on plans drawn by the same designer who penned the Bluenose, she’s also fast.

Nowadays she operates as a high-end eco-tourism base camp for Outershores Expeditions. Plying the waters from the Southern Gulf Islands to Barkley Sound, up to Haida Gwaii and through the meandering fjords of the Great Bear Rainforest the vessel aims to take intrepid travelers into some of BC's most remote locations. Clients come expecting five-star meals, the expertise of a naturalist, archaeologist, or photographer as well as the skills of a first mate and captain.

The Passing Cloud lies at anchor as we go off in search of Fin whale skulls. Bamfield lies directly behind the island in the foreground.

I was also the cook, which was pretty funny because Russ didn’t tell that until we were leaving the docks.

An eagle rests in the late days light atop mossy strewn cedar bows.

Big tree. Maybe the largest coastal cedar I've ever seen!