Exactly a year ago now my dad and I went on a cruise. But this was no ordinary cruise. We spent 5 days and 5 nights on the MV Aurora Explorer, a 135′ steel landing craft. The Aurora Explorer is an active working vessel that takes 12 passengers per trip as it makes deliveries and pickups throughout the Broughton Archipelago along the west coast of Canada. We started our journey just north of Campbell River and headed north through Johnstone Straight, between Vancouver Island and the mainland. We delivered building supplies, fuel, food, beer, lots more beer, and machinery. We were way off the beaten path. This boat services areas that are not accessible by road and the majority of our days were spent sailing past wilderness without any sign of humans. We made stops at fish farms, logging camps, private vacation properties, and secluded towns. The Aurora Explorer is a working freight boat so when the crew were making deliveries we had to stay out of their way but at other times we had free rein of the ship.
A note on the crew, these 6 individuals were all incredible. Trudy, the steward, took amazing care of us. The accommodations were simple and clean but the service was exemplary. Sara, our cook, made 3 scrumptious meals a day as well as fresh cookies and bread. Captain Ron, his mate Kevin, the engineer Norm and deckhand Albert ran a tight ship. Literally, ha! These 4 gentlemen had so much knowledge about the shipping industry, the lands we traveled through, and the wildlife we saw. The hours I spent chatting with them truly enriched the journey.
A landing craft, as I learned from this trip, is unique type of boat that does not require a dock to make a delivery. It has a large drawbridge-like bow that when lowered allows the ship to drive straight into a beach. They call this “pushing the beach”. This vastly increases the locations the ship can reach as most of the places we visited simply had a small patch of rugged coast.
In addition to the gorgeous coastlines we were lucky to see lots of wildlife. We encountered dolphins, whales, bears, sea lions, and countless birds. For the photography geeks out there, I’m using a 70-200mm lens with a 2x tele-converter for most of the animal shots.
This was a one of kind trip. I have spent so much time exploring other countries it was nice for a change to explore my own. Even though this is only a tiny snippet of the vast land that is Canada. Thanks to the other passengers and the crew for making this journey so fun. But most of all, thanks to my dad. This is one trip I will never forget!Our first delivery at a fish farm.Our first dolphin sighting, Pacific white-sided dolphins swimming alongside our boat.We were allowed to hang out in the Wheelhouse and I think it was my favourite spot on the ship. Not only was it the best view but you got to watch the crew work and learn what they were doing.I spent many hours on this little bench at the back of the Wheelhouse. It was, well, sort of my Wheelhouse, ha!Some days were totally at sea and even when we were able to get off the boat we often couldn’t go too far. Fortunately there were these bikes so you could stretch you legs. I made it a point to have a little peddle everyday. Never have I enjoyed a stationary bike so much. A better view than any gym I’ve been to. Thanks to Jenny, one of the other passengers, for sending me this picture. When night fell we would hitch onto a log boom. Here is where we spent our second night.My dad and me. The camera my dad has hanging around his neck was my first “real” camera. It was with this camera that I fell in love with telling stories through pictures. I think it’s pretty cool that he is giving it a second life.The MV Aurora Explorer.As we passed by Robson Bight we got to witness quite the orca show. Robson Bight is a protected marine sanctuary for orcas so we had to keep our distance from the shore. We had made all our deliveries for the day so the captain cut the engine and we just drifted along watching them for a nearly 2 hours.A Pacific white-sided dolphin playing with the orcas. Don’t worry, this is a resident pod so they are not the kind of ocras that eat dolphins.HumbacksFog! We were in an absolute white out.This pod of dolphins was actually traveling towards us but decided to turn around to frolic in our wake.Bear in a tree eating apples.Our intrepid crew!