Wednesday, October 30, 2019

A Season to Celebrate: Haida Gwaii 2019

A Season to Celebrate: 

Haida Gwaii 2019

As Bluewater Adventures finishes a fulfilling season in Haida Gwaii we reflect on the memories created by our renowned Haida Resource Guides like artists, Robert Davidson and Terri-Lynn Williams-Davidson, Haida matriarch, Barb Wilson and Elder, Captain Gold. It is always a treat for our guests and Crew to have a "front row seat" to the unfolding art, history and culture of the Haida people through their stories.

On our expeditions, Bluewater Crew capture all wildlife encounters in a log book to share with researchers and for our own historical data. 2019 was a very active year! Just a few of the highlights in Haida Gwaii were, "2 humpbacks breaching 50 times", "1000's of ancient murrelets", transient (Biggs) orcas on the hunt", "a pod of 70+ offshore orcas", "6 fin whales and a grey whale" and "witnessing hundreds of puffins take flight!"

Breaching humpback whale. Photo: J Varley

We tend to have some unusual encounters too! This year Crew and guests spotted a fur seal, Risso's dolphins, mola molas and a salmon shark.
Rissos dolphin. Photo: T Stoeri

Risso's dophins can grow up to more than 3.5 metres long and can dive to at least 1000 feet. They are typically found in warm or temperate waters but have been seen off of Haida Gwaii presumably due to its rich foraging areas. They feed mostly at night on anything from krill and small fish to cephalopods like cuttlefish, octopus and squid.

Mola mola or Sunfish. Photo: R Elliott
The mola mola or ocean sunfish is probably one of the strangest creatures we encounter on our expeditions. They can grow to be up to 3 metres across and females can lay about 300 million eggs at one time. They are most often spotted when floating on their side at the ocean surface, absorbing the heat of the sun to regulate their body heat. They are also deep divers - probably drawn to the Continental Shelf and its rich supply of nutrients. Believe it or not, their main diet is jelly fish.

Haida Gwaii trips take place May through August on both Island Roamer and Island Solitude.  Inquire about an upcoming trip here.

A Season to Celebrate: Southeast Alaska 2019

Iconic Southeast Alaska sunset. Photo: P Goldstein

2019: A Season to Celebrate

Southeast Alaska

Alaska - Land of the Midnight Sun. Although Bluewater Adventures doesn't travel far enough north to experience round the clock sunshine, this itinerary is no less spectacular. One thing that we have learned over the many years exploring this coast is that seasons bring similar patterns in coastal wildlife viewing, but you can never count on it being the same.

This year, Frederick Sound was off the "bubble-net feeding charts" with many experiences of the co-operative feeding technique used by only some humpback whales. Biologists believe that bubble-net feeding is a "learned behaviour". 

Humpback whales bubble-net feeding in Southeast Alaska. Photo: P Goldstein
One departure hosted a photo group from the UK and the planets aligned with wonderful weather, calm waters and once in a lifetime photographic opportunities. Like they say - "pictures say a thousand words" - thanks to Paul Goldstein (@paulgoldstein) for this collection!

Black bear closeup at Anan Creek Wildlife Observatory. Photo: P Goldstein
It was a dry start to July with salmon arriving to spawn and some rivers too shallow to navigate. This can all change in an afternoon of heavy rain - which it did, prompting the bears to arrive with serious appetites. Overall, Southeast Alaska saw a very strong pink salmon run and the bears at both Anan Creek and Pack Creek clearly reaped the rewards.

A coastal wolf "allows" us to observe it. A rare and welcomed sight. Photo: P Goldstein

Southeast Alaska remains as one of our most prolific wildlife expeditions with outstanding scenery from tidewater glaciers to emerald-green grottoes. Sunsets that change your surroundings to an other-worldly, hot pink has to be experienced to be truly understood.

Friday, October 25, 2019

A Season To Celebrate: Northern Great Bear - Khutzeymateen Grizzly Sanctuary 2019

A grizzly in spring grazing on sedge grass. Photo: N Shearar

2019: A Season to Celebrate

Northern Great Bear - Khutzeymateen Grizzly Bear Sanctuary

British Columbia's north coast is one of those places where we hope to raise the sails. With a good wind, we make way out of the port of Prince Rupert to a remote estuary called the Khutzeymateen Grizzly Bear Sanctuary. Only just a few vessels are permitted to venture where we go which makes visiting this off the map place so special.

Transient (Biggs) Orca hunting a Steller sea lion. Photo: E Boyle
The outer Islands always provide superb opportunities to explore with colourful spring flowers, nesting kittiwakes and a massive Steller sea lion haul out monitored by a few dozing "beach masters". These males appear to be as big as Volkswagen vans!. Transient (Bigg's) orcas patrolled the waters for inquisitive, juvenile sea lions, who found cover in between our towed zodiacs, hoping they would be forgotten by those apex predators of the sea.

Dr Barrie Gilbert

Late May/ June is a unique time to visit. It is mating season for this important population of grizzlies. The large males tend to spend their time upriver, foraging away from human contact. Now they beeline it for the estuary to find the females, some still with cubs. Bear behaviorist, Dr. Barrie Gilbert, provided our guests with all the answers (and punchlines) for an area he knows so well. 

The dynamic suddenly changes with the arrival of the large male grizzly, from foraging and quietly to "the pursuit" - and the females are not always willing participants. Captain Neil captured one such occasion.

"The pursuit" lasted for more than 2 hours up a mountain and back. Photo: N Shearar

Crew noted "lots of bears" and "lots of mating" this year – a good indicator that we will be in for more incredible bear viewing Khutzeymateen Grizzly Sanctuary will in 2020...  ;)

Northern Great bear/ Khutzeymateen expeditions take place in late May/ June. Check out the sample Itinerary for more information on this unique wildlife expedition. BOOK NOW!

Wednesday, October 23, 2019

Haida Gwaii - Then & Now

Hand made Haida canoe paddles. Photo: Rick Hulbert
Haida Gwaii translates to “islands of the people". The two main islands in Haida Gwaii, Graham Island to the north and Moresby Island to the south, are among approximately 150 smaller Islands making up this breathtaking archipelago.

Haida Gwaii black bear 
Haida Gwaii is also referred to as the Galapagos of the North. During the last glaciation of BC, ice in Haida Gwaii receded about 2000 years earlier than the rest of the province. This resulted in some plants and animals evolving into genetically distinct species like the Haida Gwaii black bear, the largest known subspecies of black bear.

The iconic images of Haida Gwaii you see are usually of  SGang Gwaay - a UNESCO  World Heritage Site located at the southern-most point of Moresby Island. It is a magical place where we contemplate what life must have been like in this 19th-century, sea-side Haida village.

Our Haida Watchman guides take us through the village site to interpret the longhouse, middens, mortuary and memorial poles and the bounty that the location offered. It is just one of the village sites that we visit on our Haida Gwaii expeditions.

A visit to SGang Gwaay. Photo: R Burke

Since 1993, Gwaii Haanas National Park Reserve has been protected from the ocean floor to the mountain peaks and is co-managed by the Haida Nation and the Canadian Government. A new plan called Gwaii Haanas - Land, Sea People Plan was introduced in 2018. It oversees the management of the archipelago, "unimpaired" for the "education and enjoyment of future generations". Central to the vision for the protection of Gwaii Haanas is "the recognition that land, sea and people are interconnected."

 Captain Gold  Photo: T Thayer
Captain Gold, a Historian, the founding Watchman and Bluewater Adventures Resource Guide, travelled with us on Island Roamer in June 2019. He regaled us with Haida history, shared his proud knowledge and passion for the Islands and introduce us to the rich marine and plant life of Haida Gwaii. 

We are grateful for the friendships that have been forged over the years with esteemed biologists, carvers, historians, Elders and conservationists. 

Stay tuned  to hear about the 2020 Season and who will be leading each trip!

Sign up for Bluewater ENews and learn about great opportunities and upcoming trips.

Wednesday, October 16, 2019

Rising of the Salish Sea

A map of the Salish Sea
Map: Salish Sea Marine Sanctuary
The term “Salish Sea” (pronounced ‘SAY-lish’) was first proposed in 1989 by professor Bert Webber (previous owner of MV Snow Goose), as a means to unite an interdependent area and help promote protection of its ecosystem.
This transboundary sea includes the Strait of Georgia, the Strait of Juan de Fuca, Puget Sound, and associated smaller waterways. Comprising about 17,000 sq. kilometers and 7,470 kilometers of coastline, the Salish Sea stretches from Desolation Sound at the north end of the Georgia Strait, around the Canadian Gulf Islands and U.S. San Juan Islands, to Oakland Bay located at the south end of Puget Sound. These rich waters are home to a multitude of animals, many of which are at risk. One such species is the Southern Resident Orca. With no surviving calves in the past three years and further deaths this summer leaving only 73 whales remaining, this crisis has now reached global attention.
Bert & Sue Webber - right centre
Bert Despite Bert Webber’s efforts, it was not until 2009 in the United States and 2010 in Canada, that the name “Salish Sea” was officially adopted. A means to pay homage to the collective history of the Coast Salish peoples – the diverse nations of the Pacific Northwest sharing a common linguistic and cultural origin – who traversed these waters for thousands of years.
Although it has been ten years since ratification, if you are still unfamiliar with the "Salish Sea", you are not alone. In a survey performed by Oregon State University and the SeaDoc Society earlier this year, it was found that only 9% of Washingtonians and 15% of British Columbians identified the overall body of water as the Salish Sea. While the name “Salish Sea” is meant to complement – not replace – existing names, it is meant to raise consciousness by defining the entire co-dependent region. Therefore, these results perhaps raise questions on how we might better protect this interconnected ecosystem through improved geographic awareness.

Bluewater Adventures is excited to present an opportunity to explore the myriad of Islands located in the Canadian Gulf Islands in the northern reaches of the Salish Sea - spring of 2020 - dates still available for a family charter or just book on yourself - contact us for more details. 

Thursday, September 26, 2019

A Remote Refuge

A Remote Refuge...

Photo: Neil Shearar
It is one of those remote places that is barely on the map. It’s name, Khutzeymateen – pronounced “Khootz-ee-mah-teen”, is a Tsimshian word meaning “confined space for salmon and bears”. The protected area consists of over 44,000 hectares and contains the largest concentration of bears in Canada . Although British Columbia passed a law forbidding trophy hunting of grizzlies, the Sanctuary is off limits to visitors, unless you have a permit. This manages the number of people that visit per year minimizing stress for the bears.

The Khutzeymateen is located in the Northern reaches of the Great Bear Rainforest. With Prince Rupert, BC as our port, guests board Island Roamer in quaint Cow Bay before heading north towards this very important and remote refuge.  Award winning writer, Phoebe Smith, captures her experience in the Khutzeymateen wonderfully in her article published this summer.

Photo: Erin Boyle

We sail through changing landscapes on this expedition. Past wildfower-dotted islands with white sand beaches and others that are mountainous with incredible, hanging bogs. While keeping watch for transient (Bigg's) orca and humpback whales, we may silently travel under sail - one of the benefits of traveling on a sailing vessel. Our compass then turns to the Khutzeymateen Inlet. It is the catchment for salmon bearing streams, important to local First Nations like the Lax’Kwa’alaams and the Metlakatla, as well as the bears and the rest of the ecosystem..

Photo: Neil Shearar
Late May is breeding season for the bears of the Khutzeymateen. Typically, the large male bears prefer to forage in areas away from humans. But breeding season brings them to the estuaries in pursuit of females (and oblivious to us), resulting in some rarely witnessed behaviour.

Few have visited this special place because it is about as easy to find as it is to pronounce. If you are drawn to "off the beaten path" places, then this experience is for you. Escape the masses and immerse yourself in BC’s Northern Great Bear Rainforest. 2020 Dates available for booking now.

Questions? Shoot us a quick email -

Or, give us a call - 1-800-877-1770 / 604-980-3800

Waking Gwaii Haanas

Waking Gwaii Haanas

Photo: Chris Wheeler

As we enter into Fall and all Bluewater Adventures' vessels are experiencing some of the best wildlife watching in the world, we begin looking toward next year. How we craft our expedition schedule is largely dictated by the rhythms of nature. We make sure that we are present in each area of the British Columbia Coast and Southeast Alaska when it is the very best time to be there.

Haida Gwaii Black Bear
Haida Gwaii black bear 

One great example is Haida Gwaii – it is glorious come spring. Ancient cedar groves yawning to the rising sun after a long winter of quiet stillness in between passing storms. Vitality returns, the forest floor bursts with life and the mosses and lichens take on an even more vibrant shade of green. It is easy to understand how the Gwaii Haanas ("Islands of Beauty”) earned its name. 

We spend most of the trip exploring Gwaii Haanas National Park Reserve. Thousands of sea birds migrate to the southern regions of the park to nest and raise their young each spring. One such bird is the endangered Ancient Murrelet, who returns from the sea only to lay her eggs. In late May, tiny grey fluff balls emerge from their forest dens, and travel down the beach to greet their calling parents at the water’s edge.

Ancient murrelets - parents and chicks reunited Photo - Terry Carr

Spring tides off Haida Gwaii are rich in small fish and krill – welcome nourishment for hungry foragers. Some years have seen Risso’s dolphins and salmon sharks, while other years brought orca and mola mola. One massive creature we are sure to see are humpback whales returning from their birthing grounds further south.

A main highlight that has been bringing us back for over 40 years is the Haida hospitality and their story telling. Their culture is rich with history kept alive through music, art and oral history. We are grateful for the opportunities over the years, to travel with Haida Elders like Captain Gold and Barb Wilson - Kii'iljuus, who lead our trips as resource people. In sharing their family stories, personal adventures and knowledge of the village sites we encounter, our guests and Crew are brought closer to a time when the Haida thrived and villages teemed with activity.

Photo: Lindsay Janes

This unique place is incredible to explore throughout summer, but to witness the “waking” of Gwaii Haanas in spring; to celebrate the passing of winter and welcome new life to this remote and extraordinary archipelago is a powerful testament to the change of seasons.

Questions? Shoot us a quick email

Or Call: 1-888-877-1770/ 604-980-3800

Thursday, December 6, 2018

Journey of Moments

Each season, our guestbooks on board the boats fill with accounts guests have left behind of beautiful words conjured by wild places. This is one of them.

 'Journey of Moments'

Island Roamer at one of the many waterfalls on BC's central coast Photo: Sherry Kirkvold

A"trip" is not just something you "take"
It gives you something in return.
It is a journey of moments.
Those moments:
Create memories
Create awareness
Create understanding and learning of the world we live in.

A slumbering Great Bear Rainforest grizzly Photo: Andrew Wright

That in turn can change your perception:
Of learning who you are,
And who you are not.
It pushes you to new limits of what you believe you are capable of.
Of how you perceive the world.
Of seeing things or people you encounter in a new way.

Exploring an estuary in the heart of the Great Bear Rainforest Photo: Marni Grossman

It makes you aware of what is important.
What is REALLY important.
How do you live it?
What do you see in your future? And the future of the environment around you?
What can you do to change the world to make a positive impact with the time 
That is given to you.

A humpback whale comes for a visit Photo: Lindsay Janes

So travel.
Open your eyes,
Open your mind,
Open your heart,
Open your soul,
And make your journey of moments count!

JM (guest) - Riverton WY 
Aboard SV Island Roamer exploring the Great Bear Rainforest 2018

Thursday, November 22, 2018

An Expedition: Conservation of BC's Salish Sea

An Expedition: Conservation of BC's Salish Sea

Ross Dixon Nov 13, 2018

Ocean sunset

The Gulf Islands are located in the Salish Sea, a labyrinth of remarkable coastal waterways. From shallow embayments to deep fjords, rocky reefs and soft river deltas, these waters provide countless places for marine plants and animals to live. When these geographic features are combined with varying amounts of sunlight, salt and oxygen, have created a food web so rich that it supported the world’s smallest and largest creatures for millennia. Even more compelling is the extent to which endemic (locally unique and native) species occur on the coast: Two-thirds of the mammal species and subspecies that are found only in BC occur nowhere else in the province but the coast.

Marine Mammals

Twenty-seven species of marine mammals have been observed in the Salish Sea. Thirteen of them can be found regularly. For these animals, the Salish Sea serves a multitude of purposes—feeding, breeding, resting, overwintering, or simply as a migratory corridor. Some species, such as killer whales and Pacific white-sided dolphins, range widely, but others, such as sea otters, are more closely associated with specific areas.

Harbour seals hauled out on a rock

Wings over the Salish Sea
Bonaparte gulls flying on the BC Coast

The Salish Sea lies along the path of the Pacific Flyway, a critical migratory route for millions of marine and terrestrial birds that stretches from South America to the high Arctic. The Salish Sea region provides habitat to more than 170 species of marine birds, offering food, shelter, a place to find mates, socialize, moult, and overwinter. Some of these birds are year-round residents and others are visitors as they move around the margins of the Pacific Ocean and beyond. In addition to marine birds, the Salish Sea watersheds are home to land-based bird species. Although no exact numbers are available, roughly 130 species of land-based birds inhabit the terrestrial areas bounded within the Salish Sea watersheds

The People

Dr Paul Paquet
Dr. Paul Pauquet is recognized as a world authority in conservation science, Paul brings to us over 30 years applied research experience. He has published not only seminal works in Conservation Biology but also broadly using ecological, geographical, and ethical approaches.
Dr Paquet has also worked extensively on real-world management and conservation, which according to him depends largely upon human attitudes. He serves on many international government and NGO advisory committees dedicated to conservation of carnivores, including the Species Survival Commission (SSC) of IUCN-World Conservation Union, the Large Carnivore Initiative for Europe, WWF International, and the European Union. He is a long-time fellow of World Wildlife Fund Canada. Paul was a founder and director of the Conservation Biology Institute, Corvallis, Oregon. Most important to Dr Paquet, however, is the contributions he makes as Senior Scientist for the Raincoast Conservation Foundation.

About Raincoast Conservation Foundation

Raincoast’s mission is to protect the land, waters and wildlife of coastal British Columbia. 

Within the Salish Sea, Raincoast’s conservation efforts include research and advocacy to support the recovery of the endangered Southern Resident killer whale population.  For more than a decade, Raincoast has been using science, public education and the courts to try and protect Canada’s endangered population of salmon-eating killer whales. With their Chinook salmon stocks in serious decline and targeted by fisheries, and a noisy and polluted ocean, they face extinction under existing conditions. The good news is they can recover if these conditions are reversed. Paul has co-authored  two Population Viability Analyses (PVAs) on the SRKWs. A PVA can be a powerful analysis that evaluates and ranks threats to wildlife populations and assesses the likely effectiveness of recovery options. This research shows that SRKW could be functionally extinct (less than 30 individuals) with a century existing under conditions.  Conversely, reducing vessel traffic (small and large boat noise and disturbance) and increasing Chinook abundance increases their likelihood of long-term survival.

Island Solitude in a quite bay

Salish Sea Conservation Expedition with 

Bluewater AdventuresRaincoast Conservation Foundation 

Join us this April for a unique trip to explore the Gulf Island’s and Salish with the Raincoast Conservation Foundation, a charity dedicated to science-based conservation on the British Columbia coast. Partial proceeds of this trip go directly towards the protection of BC's Salish Sea.

April 23 - 27, 2019 (5 days) $3435 per person 

(+$300 sustainability fee & 5% GST )

Visit for more information or to book.

Friday, February 23, 2018

“Walk softly, Tread carefully, and listen”…

“Walk softly, Tread carefully, and listen”…


SGang Gwaay - photo: Tom Stoeri


SGang Gwaay – previously named Ninstints (after one of the village chiefs) is an ancient Haida village, located on Anthony Island, at the southern end of Haida Gwaii. Accessible only by boat or plane, it is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and contained within the National Park Reserve and Heritage Site, Gwaii Haanas. But even if it didn’t boast all the formerly mentioned credentials, it would still remain one of the most magical places on our coast.

One aspect of SGang Gwaay’s magic is the stories that contribute to the village’s history. For several thousand years it was the home of the Kunghit Haida, historically some of the most feared warriors on the west coast. When the small pox epidemic hit in the late 1800’s, SGang Gwaay’s population was decimated from around 300 to 30 and those who survived moved north to Skidegate. The village was abandoned in 1884.

In 1959 a CBC, a crew from the B.C. Provincial Museum and University of British Columbia visited the village to remove several of the Haida poles in order to protect them from the weather and from poaching. Two of the crew members were Bill Reid, world renowned Haida carver and Wilson Duff, Provincial Museum curator. The removed poles were so large that they had to cut them into sections in order to transport. Today you can visit these ancient poles at UBC’s Museum of Anthropology.

Captain Gold - photo: Tom Thayer
Another person whose has been a key player in the recent story of SGang Gwaay is Captain Gold. In the 1970’s he paddled a canoe down from Skidegate to SGang Gwaay, nearly 250 kms of hazardous seas. People thought he was mad – they knew the village was full of the spirits of the ancestors, and couldn’t understand why he’d want to be there alone. But Captain Gold saw the importance being there to welcome visitors and make sure that the village remains were not removed. He single-handedly changed the image of the village and became the proto-type Haida Watchman. By the late 1980’s the Haida Nation decided to send other elders to other uninhabited villages with the same purpose of watching over the area. In 1987 when Gwaii Haanas was officially created, the Haida Watchmen became the figurehead program that employs local Haida, gives youth a chance to learn more about their heritage, and allows visitors a chance to hear the stories from the Haida people, themselves.

SGang Gwaay is indeed a magical place, full of stories, so if you get the chance to visit this incedible village site, heed the advice of Captain Gold’s sister, Haida watchman Irene - “Walk softly, Tread carefully, and listen”…

Join Bluewater Adventures on one of our early Haida Gwaii trips to experience the solitude of SGang Gwaay during the slow season.

by Randy Burke

Monday, January 29, 2018

Khutzeymateen, "A Magical Place"

Khutzeymateen, a place I had never heard of, became my first foray into the wilderness.  My apprehension over the word ‘bear’ was soon dispelled as we entered the Khutzeymateen Grizzly Bear Conservatory under the learned ‘Bear Whisperer’ Barrie Gilbert’s tutelage and guidance. We walked their paths, following footprints embedded in the earth, finding their resting places, their rub trees and learned of the biology of these great carnivores.

Grizzly bear. grizzly, khutzeymateen, BC, Bluewater Adventures
Grizzly grazing on protein-rich sedge grass
We soon learned that the this place is not just about bears, and that other animals benefitted from this sanctuary as well.  Animals like wolves, wolverines, deer, and others live as they should in surroundings natural to them. Because visits to the Khutzeymateen is limited to few tourists every year, it remains pristine and we soon appreciated that our presence was a privilege. 

British Columbia, BC, Khutzeymateen Inlet, Bluewater Adventures
Stillness - Khutzeymateen Inlet
We sailed past the outer islands shared by numerous species of birds and bellowing sea lion bulls that were surrounded by their harems. Dall's porpoise flashed past the vessel like a flurry of bullets with orcas in fast pursuit. Great humpback whales surfaced and silently floated past and disappeared, only to later, interrupt our dinner with a spectacular breach. 

Steller sea lion, BC, Bluewater Adventures
Steller sea lion haul out Photo: Terry Carr

During our trips ashore, we examined tidal pools, rich with colourful creatures; we hiked into hidden beaches - some covered in centuries of sparkling, broken sea shells and wildflowers.

We walked sandy beaches - the only footprints being ours and something wild. We climbed craggy hanging bogs covered with succulents, sun dews and mosses and picked berries and edible greens- seen again at dinnertime.
SV Island Odyssey - our home for 7 days
And that unforgettable afternoon, while the sails bellowed, we encountered a Steller sea lion being hunted by transient orcas - an experience that cannot be put into words.
First Nations petroglyph, "The Man Who Fell From Heaven"
Our visit to a coastal First Nations village was an inspiration as we listened to the proud spokesperson sharing century-old tales of his village and its people, the tribal conflicts, the hieroglyphics and the prized petroglyph of ‘The Man Who Fell From Heaven’.
The Khutzeymateen, forever imprinted in my memory as a magical place!

By Lorraine Alden, Guest – Khutzeymateen/ North Coast with Bluewater Adventures