The west coast of Vancouver Island, British Columbia, Canada is famed for its rugged scenery. Big breakers roll in from the Pacific, drawing surfers to Tofino. Hikers test their mettle on the West Coast and Juan de Fuca Trails, which climb up and down steep hills, cross fast flowing streams and trace the edge of beaches. Whale watchers scan the waves from Ucluelet and forest gazers stand in awe of Cathedral Grove and Clayoquot Sound. Kayakers explore Barkley Sound, paddling amongst the shelter of the myriad islands with mountains in the distance, or testing their skills on the swells of the open ocean. Now rowers can experience this Pacific Coast Mountain landscape, on our beautiful BC rowing tour.
Much of our daily rowing takes place in an urban or semi-urban setting, not far from the dock and where we parked our bicycle or car. This rowing adventure takes us into the wilderness, albeit with the comfort of a roof over our heads at night. It takes some effort to get here, but you will be richly rewarded. Rowing is a new and unique way to experience this special part of super, natural British Columbia, and this trip also offers you the chance to experience a very different way to enjoy rowing, a long way from the dock.
Sometimes shrouded in mist, sometimes bathed in brilliant sunlight, the waters of Barkley Sound on the far side of Vancouver Island are superb for coastal rowing. Our first tour in 2019 explored the harbours, channels and islands in the vicinity of Ucluelet and Sechart Channel. The big, stable boats are perfect for this type of tour. When the water is flat, as it can be, they are a treat to row. If waves and swells come up, the boats easily handle the conditions. We would almost claim that they allow us to row where no one has rowed before, but given the history of whaling in the region, this is not the case. We are certainly exploring new waters for sliding seat rowing. Ideally, participants will have previous coastal rowing experience, but if not, a solid base of flatwater rowing, and comfort in changeable conditions are required.
GST of 5% will be added to the price on the invoice. Single supplement price upon request.
|Daily Distances||Boats||Group Size|
|10-25 km per day||Coastal coxed quads, doubles or singles||Minimum 9, maximum 14 rowers|
Note that water conditions, especially as affected by the wind, as well as weather and tides will determine the exact time and location of the rows. Safety is a priority. Thus, on some days, the actual program may vary from this description. Participants must be flexible and adaptable to changes, as well as being comfortable with and ideally experienced in coastal rowing.
We will leave Victoria in the morning to first drive the Trans-Canada Highway along the east coast of Vancouver Island before cutting across the island for the west coast. A required stop is Cathedral Grove, where the biggest trees are about 800 years old and measure 75 m (250 ft) in height and 9 m (29 ft) in circumference. We will also want a lunch break at our favourite cafe – just past the one with the goats on the roof. Really! We will spend the night in Ucluelet, a laid back fishing town with a surfer, west coast vibe.
We have a full day to explore Ucluelet and surroundings. Most importantly, we will enjoy a first row in the harbour. There will be ample time for a full briefing about safety and protacols, plus tips on coastal rowing for those less familiar with the sport. As we row, we might spot bears along the far shore, seals checking us out with curiosity, and bald eagles soaring. Ucluelet is an active fishing port, and we will row past wharves, trawlers and fish plants. In the afternoon there will be time for some hiking, perhaps including a walk on Long Beach, which extends for 16 undeveloped km within Pacific Rim National Park Reserve. On one side waves wash in from the Pacific, while the green rain forest edges in on the other side of the beach. Spectacular. Second night in Ucluelet. Dinner on your own with a chance to explore some of the small cafés in town.
In the morning we will drive a gravel road amongst tall trees into our launch spot at Secret Beach on Toquart Bay in the northwest corner of Barkley Sound. Our luggage will travel by ship to our destination, Sechart Lodge. Non-rowers will also travel by the ship to the Lodge, where a kayak will be waiting for them. For the rowers, our route takes us around Stopper Island, which has never been logged, into Mayne Bay, past the light at Lyall Point and amongst the Pinkerton Islands to reach the Lodge. This will be our home for four nights, which we will share with kayakers, cruisers, fisherman and other travellers who have all arrived by water.
For three full days we will explore around the edge of the islands of the Broken Group, a unit of the Pacific Rim National Park Reserve. There is lots to explore outside of the park, with myriad channels, islands and peninsulas. Many of the islands have lovely beaches where we can land for lunch or a break. There are also lagoons, sandbars and saltmarshes, in addition to the forests of tall trees. In tidal pools we can search for bat stars with their bright red or orange arms, or the moon snail, which can be as big as a dinner plate. Each day’s row will be determined by wind, weather and water conditions. Safety is a priority, but if conditions warrant, we will make a crossing of Imperial Eagle Channel to the beautiful beach on Stud Island. Last year we spotted humpback whales during the crossing – wouldn’t that be amazing to see again. While there is lots of wilderness to admire, it is fun to wend our way around Alma Russell Island and through Julia Passage, rowing past a series of cottages. Wait, how did those people get there? There are no roads? The answer is that all the cottages are houseboats! We might also decide to have a skills session, rowing in bigger swells and true coastal conditions. There is much excellent BC rowing to enjoy!
After a final hearty breakfast and packing our luggage onto the ship, it is time for our final row back to Secret Beach. We could take a different route there, perhaps following the shore along Macoach Passage or exploring down Pipestem Inlet. But all good things do come to an end. We will load the trailer and drive the five hours back to Victoria. We bid a fond farewells to our new friends and to rowing in the wilderness of beautiful British Columbia. Accommodation is not included this night, but we are happy to assist you with recommendations, if needed.