The Best of Both Worlds: Mothership Kayaking

April-May 1998

This is an article from WaveLength Magazine, available in print in North America and globally on the web.

by Barb Rowsell

Haida Gwaii, those misty islands in the northern latitudes of the Pacific, are known for their spectacular scenery, abundant wildlife and rich cultural values. They are also known for their somewhat unpredictable and sometimes hostile weather. A kayak mothership tour where you travel and stay aboard a comfortable boat takes the edge off the weather while letting you enjoy in the intimate context of the kayak the wonders of this unique archipelago.

We have travelled these waters for more than 20 years in a variety of craft and found that kayak mothership is the perfect combination. We built the 53' schooner Anvil Cove here on the Charlottes and launched her in 1990. We wanted to travel comfortably, with diesel heat and cooking, refrigeration, freezer, enclosed wheelhouse, west coast seakeeping capabilities and of course the kayaks for getting down and cosy with the environment.

Kayak mothership offers something for paddlers of all experience. The novice appreciates the opportunity to join a tour without the commitment of keeping up with the group in paddling or the rigours of outdoor living. Expert paddlers have the opportunity of accessing areas and conditions that would not normally be available to a group with mixed abilities. The big boat and quick response of our rigid-hulled inflatable offer security factors at whatever level you are challenging or just enjoying the Islands.

The freedom of a kayak, the comfort of a mothership!

Each day you select the ideal area for the day's paddle in light, empty boats, returning at the end of the day to the comfort of a delicious supper and warm dry bed. There is no packing up of soggy equipment, loading and paddling heavy boats or crawling into damp sleeping bags. If you are not feeling so energetic you may prefer to stay with the boat for the day, to read your book, beachcomb or explore the area in the inflatable boat.

In today's busier world many visitors want to maximize their valuable holiday time. Traveling on a large boat gives you the opportunity of covering a much greater distance than would be possible traveling by kayak alone. It seems that everyone coming here to Haida Gwaii wants to visit Ninstints and Hot Springs. And let's admit it, when you are paddling there are some crossings that are just an exercise in endurance. Wouldn't it be nice to give those a miss when it is raining and blowing 15 knots?

The really exciting opportunity that kayak mothership offers is the chance to paddle the otherwise inaccessible west coast of the Charlottes. The rugged west coast is very different from the more gentle east coast with steep mountains rising straight out of the sea. Visitors from the deep sea are common; humpback whales, albatross, puffins and more. Bonsai bogs, glacier scoured mountainsides, windswept trees offer an other-wordly landscape for excursions ashore. The coast is indented with many inlets, large and small, that offer wonderful paddling. Extreme paddling possibilities outside the inlets in the Pacific swells, to the absolute stillness of the grassflats at the inlet head.

Kayak mothership tours offer a variety of experiences for all levels of skills and interests in exploring the Queen Charlotte Islands. Take your pick: there is something here for everyone-the best of both worlds in the best world of all.

Barb Roswell is co-owner of Anvil Cove Charters 1-800-668-4288 in the Queen Charlotte Islands.