Sandy's trip report. Spirit Bear 2006

On Sunday Sept 3 we had a very early flight from Dayton to Seattle, changing planes in Chicago. We flew United and upgraded to 'economy plus' on the second leg of the trip, and had a very comfortable flight. We arrived in Seattle mid-morning and took the Downtown Airporter shuttle to our hotel. We stayed the night at the Crowne Royal Hotel which was within walking distance of the downtown attractions we planned to visit. The hotel was fine - the price was reasonable, the location good, the room was pleasant.

We walked to Pioneer Square (stopping to chat with a guy out walking his pet ferret along the way :-) and had a good lunch at Taco Del Mar, then visited the Klondike Goldrush National Park and wandered into some nice shops. Then we took the Underground Tour which teaches you about the 'lower level' of Seattle - the city was originally beneath where it is now!

Later in the day we walked around the Pikes Market and ended up having appetizers with our wine tasting at The Tasting Room on Post Alley. We bought some Washington wines, some of which we consumed later aboard the Spirit Bear. We ended the night with a snack at The Pink Door. This was a nice place, and had been recommended to me by a coworker who used to live in the Seattle area.

We learned that Seattle has a large Somalian population. Three of four cab drivers we had in Seattle were from Somalia!

Monday (Labor Day) we met up with Helen and Cece, and had an early booking on the Victoria Clipper. Andy had arranged this in advance. The water was choppy and the clipper took a longer route than usual to avoid some rough water, so the trip was an hour longer than advertised. It was foggy and damp and for the most part we stayed inside in the comfortable seats for the journey. When we arrived in Victora tho the weather was lovely. Getting through customs did not take long, and when we emerged David from Northern Lights was waiting for us. He had graciously offered to come take our luggage from us so that we could enjoy walking around Victoria without bags in tow. Very nice!

We had a few hours in Victora, which is the capital of British Columbia. We walked around the parliment buildings and the Empress Hotel, and visited some shops. We had a pretty mediocre lunch at a Mediterranean place on Wharf street - I wish I had made note of the name of the restaurant. The food was ok but the service was terribly slow - it took an hour to get our food. This really chewed up the amount of time we had to explore Victoria.

We took Empress Taxi up to Sidney. I had arranged this a few days before, so we had a van and could all ride together comfortably. Sam and John met us at Tsehum Harbour, where David had already dropped off our luggage. We set off on the Spirit Bear shortly after 5pm, making our way to Sidney Island, where we anchored for the night. We had this bay - John called it Murder Bay - to ourselves that night.

Tuesday morning we went for a paddle around Mandarte Island which is a bird sanctuary. We saw many birds on the island, along with a ton of Harbor Seals. In fact we saw Harbor Seals every day of the trip. It was as if they were stalking us :-) After circling Mandarte Island we beached farther up Sidney Island and explored the beach there. John came and retrieved us there, and we set off looking for orcas. (By the end of the trip I was really loving that 'call John and he comes and gets us' thing! Its very cool to be able to travel in just one direction and not have to paddle back, or to paddle til some members of the group are tired, have them get picked up, and allow the other members to keep paddling!)

John found orcas off the point of Saturna Island, and we watched them for a while. Andy took some good photos and we got some video too! These whales were southern residents. The guy we took the most photos of seemed to be J1 (Ruffles), who was closer to us than the rest of the pod. After watching the whales for a bit we travelled around Tumbo Island and anchored between Tumbo and Cabbage Islands for the night . John took us over to Cabbage Island in the RIB (a new acronym we learned - Rigid Inflatable Boat) and we explored it for a while while Sam worked on dinner.

Wednesday we moved over to Narvaez Bay on Saturna Island. Here we found otters playing in the water. John and Cece went fishing and the rest of us paddled around the island and saw a lot of sea stars, kelp crabs, urchins, and anemones. The anemones were amazing, a huge community of them blooming under the water. After lunch we moved to the Pender Islands and paddled there, going from Port Browning between North and South Pender, and ending up near the south end of these Islands. We saw otters again on this paddle, actually hanging out on a dock! Andy spotted them but they took off before we could get the camera out. We called our taxi from here and John brought the Spirit Bear to meet us. We anchored near here for the night.

Thursday we moved up to Ganges on Salt Spring Island. This town is well known for local crafts. Andy bought me a nautical chart of this area there, and I bought me some jewelry. We also picked up some souvenirs for friends and family. Lunch was ready when we got back to the Spirit Bear, and we ate as we motored down to Princess Margaret park on Portland Island. We paddled around this island and beached at one point to explore the shore a while. John retrieved Helen and Cece, and Sam and Andy and I paddled from there over to and around Knapp Island. We felt we needed a little more exercise to work off some of the great food Sam had been feeding us! We spent the night near Knapp Island, and went for a night paddle around this island after dinner.

On Friday we moved up the west side of Salt Spring Island and docked at Musgrave Landing. We went for a walk here and then had a paddle up around the Sansum Narrows. We beached at one point, where we saw lots of oysters on the shore. The taxi picked up Helen and Cece, and Sam and Andy and I continued along the west side of the passage. Andy and Sam, both rock climbers, checked out the inviting rock they saw here. We had our hardest paddling of the trip when we turned south again and had a headwind and current against us. The workout felt good. We also had our closest seal sightings here, as we accidently came upon some when we rounded a corner. Sorry guys! We eventually had John come get us too, and the RIB was a welcome sight.

For our last night on the Spirit Bear, John moved us down into the bay between the Saanich Peninsula and the rest of Vancouver Island. This was a beautiful spot. We went to shore for a hike while Sam prepared dinner, and after dinner we did another night paddle. It was darker here than on our other night paddle, and we were able to see the bioluminescense in the water. Over night we had rain - the only rain of our trip. For the most part the days were sunny and the weather was actually warmer than we had expected.

Saturday we headed back to Sidney, and said goodbye to John, Sam, and the Spirit Bear. John had pre-arranged our taxi for us, and Empress Taxi took us back to Victoria, where we rode the Clipper back to Seattle. There were some sea lions as we got close to Seattle. Wish we had had a camera out!

Our Saturday night hotel in Seattle was a simple hotel near the airport. We checked in and then Andy and I went back into town. We went to Pikes Market again and watched the famous fish tossing. We had a cup of chowder at Etta's and walked around the waterfront, and walked to and around the City Center. Unfortunately we were there too late in the day to visit the museums there. Our wanderings brought us to Icon Grill where we had had coffee drinks and split a yummy dessert. Just what we were looking for!

The next day, after another uneventful flight, we were home.

Back Copyright 2006 Andrew, and Sandra Welter Last Modified: 09/2006