One of the perks of being an “Explorer-in-Residence” with the Royal Canadian Geographical Society is that I occasionally get invited by travel companies to join them on some of their trips, usually to off-the-beaten-path destinations. For almost two years now I’ve been looking forward to joining a voyage with Maple Leaf Adventures aboard their catamaran Cascadia to round the northern tip of Vancouver Island, then head down the west coast to the Brooks Peninsula. Of course, the global pandemic put an abrupt stop to those plans, but as more and more Canadians got vaccinated, the trip was rescheduled, and I recently found myself on a flight to Port Hardy, at the northern end of the island. After a very long lull, adventure was back on the menu!
Of course, safety remains the number one priority when it comes to travel during these times, so I was very pleased that every single person setting foot on the Cascadia received a rapid COVID test. All 15 passengers and 10 crew got a clean bill of health, which put everyone’s mind at ease. It was time to raise the anchor and set sail.
Knowing that I specialize in documenting extreme forces of nature, one very cool and gracious thing that expedition leader (and Maple Leaf CEO) Kevin Smith did specifically for me was take us on a side-quest to Turret Rock in the Slingsby Channel. Here, the Nakwakto Rapids have the strongest tidal current in the world (16-20 knots). Turret Rock is nicknamed “Tremble Island” because it supposedly shakes from the force of the current when the tide shifts from the Pacific Ocean through Seymour Inlet. There are tales of people tying ropes to the trees on Turret Rock and water-skiing in the rapid current.
The Cascadia has two custom-built tenders that are launched by crane and can be used for going ashore or just for cruising around. We all piled into the two smaller boats and timed our arrival at the channel for when the incoming tide was going to be at its peak. The amount of water that flows through the narrow channel is wild. It’s not like being in white-water rapids on a raft; it’s more like surfing on a superhighway of water.