Travel Story - Whales, totems and tall ships 

Sailing adventure showcases wilderness and native culture

The Maple Leaf, a 98-year-old tall ship, will set sail Oct. 3-8, 2002 for northern Vancouver Island and the Broughton Archipelago, exploring the natural and cultural grandeur of this remote area, now famous as the home of orphaned Orca, Springer.

The Broughton Archipelago is alive in October with Orcas, bears, seabirds and sea lions all feasting on the returning Pacific salmon.

Cruising along the coast, the 92-foot, five-sailed schooner takes guests to a picturesque fishing town, where the Umista Cultural Center displays the native people's history as well as the art of world famous carvers.

Guests then travel into the heart of the island archipelago and visit ancient Kwakwaka'wakw village sites to view decaying totem poles – sentinels of time that remain as vestiges of a powerful and talented nation.

"Adventures on the Maple Leaf always have unexpected surprises," says Kevin Smith, captain of the Maple Leaf.

"White-sided dolphins love to streak across the ocean to greet and play with us, joyfully leaping and cavorting in the wake of the ship."

The Maple Leaf is B.C.’s oldest tall ship, built in 1904 in Vancouver Shipyard in Coal Harbour. She was designed and built by William Watts, the founder. Billed as the most expensive pleasure craft on the Pacific Coast, it was built as a personal yacht for prominent businessman Alexander Maclaren and wore sail # 1 for the Royal Vancouver Yacht Club.

During WW1 her lead keel and brass were stripped for the war effort. She was then converted to a halibut schooner. Re-named Constance B and later Parma, she fished for the next two decades for some of B.C.’s famous early fishing companies including Gosse and Millerd and Canadian Fishing Company.

The Maple Leaf was purchased in 1938 and completely rebuilt in 1943, at CN Dry-dock in Prince Rupert, by Harold Helland. He maintained her in peak condition and fished halibut in the Bering Sea with her until his retirement in 1976.

In 1978 the Canadian Government purchased her as part of the halibut license buy-back program.

In 1980 she was purchased by Brian Falconer and Susan Tweedie who did a six-and-a-half year extensive restoration and conversion back to a sailing ship.

From 1986 to August 2001 Brian and partner Erin Nyhan operated Maple Leaf Adventures, a company which offers Natural History and First Nations cultural trips in the most remot areas of the B.C. and Alaska coasts. They also operated the Tall Ship Program for the Royal Canadian Sea Cadets on the West Coast, training more than 3,000 cadets from across Canada, teaching seamanship and life-skills.

In 2001 the vessel was purchased by Kevin Smith, who continues to operate these programs.

More recently the Maple Leaf was chosen as the lead ship for the Tall Ships Festival in Vancouver Harbour in August of this year.

The Broughton Archipelago excursions are suitable for novice sailors and combine natural and cultural history with gourmet food and light cruising.

For further information call 1-888-599-5323 or visit the Web site at

The cost of this trip is $1,450 per person and set sail from Port McNeill, on the northern tip of Vancouver Island. Air connections can be made from Vancouver via Port Hardy, where it is approximately a 15-minute drive to Port McNeill.

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