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Photos: You can sail through remote B.C. islands on a former Greenpeace ship

The breathtaking tours allow you to come up close and personal with orcas, bears, humpback whales, otters, seals, and more. 

Have you ever sailed through the Gulf Islands or to the Great Bear Rainforest?

Many people have visited the awe-inspiring islands along B.C.'s coast, but few of them have sailed through its pristine waters on a private tour.

Multiple cruise lines sail up the coastline up to Alaska — but most of them have upwards of 1,500 passengers on board; even some of the luxury lines carry close to 500 people. 

For a decidedly more intimate experience, a Vancouver-based company is offering tailor-made charter expeditions for a maximum of nine passengers. The eco-friendly cruises take passengers to places with protected waters that are home to an array of wildlife, including orcas, bears, humpback whales, otters, seals, and more. 

The expeditions take place on "The Curve of Time" — an ecotourism ship that served as an environmental awareness vessel for Greenpeace. Built in 1959 as a side-trawler, it was later converted for ecotourism and has decades of historical stories sailing the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans.

Owner and guide Sylvain tells Vancouver Is Awesome in a phone interview that the voyages take guests to secluded gems far from the mainland where they'll find neighbouring sea creatures, land mammals, and mountainous forestry.

When asked what sets The Curve of Time Charters apart from other companies, Sylvain says "we're nicer people" with a laugh, adding that the experience on and off the vessel is something folks won't find on other tours. 

For one, guests will learn about the history of the area as they sail across the smooth waters, as well as the local wildlife. And with kayaks and paddleboards onboard, they can look forward to peaceful morning and evening paddles during anchorages. Crab traps and fishing gear are also available to fish for fresh seafood, including lingcod, rockfish, halibut, and salmon.

"No question on every trip [guests] will enjoy fresh crab," notes Sylvain, who adds the captain hosts a sushi night during the trip.

Sylvain dives down and gently collects sea creatures from the ocean floor to bring up to show guests, which he says is always a big hit. 

"I bring up a whole bunch of living creatures and put them in a small aquarium and then we do an identification and then we put them all back," he explains. "People love it; people get excited.

"When we're tied up to a dock and we do it, everybody on the dock shows up on our vessel."

Meet the crew 

During shore excursions, a naturalist accompanies guests for plant identification during walks through the rainforest. "People will be able to collect their own [mushrooms] and learn to cook or dry them," explains Sylvain. 

Chef Mike, the onboard chef, has a background in "adventure dining," where he foraged for food and prepared it in remote places in the Yukon. Guests would hike or fly into locations "in the middle of nowhere" and enjoy elaborate meals on the top of mountains or by the edge of rivers. 

And weighing in at nearly 200 tons, the steel vessel is an exceptionally stable ship, affording maximum comfort to passengers.

"It's made for the biggest oceans in the world. So when we cruise it on these protected waters its just dead, dead flat calm," he describes, adding that ship is the most stable 12-passenger vessel in the tourism industry. 

Captain Matthew is a "lifetime adventurer, always eager to explore and discover," Sylvain says. Early in life, he travelled the Pacific as a diver in the Royal Canadian Navy.

The captain says  "the only two things I ever wanted were to be a navy diver and a radio DJ."  After his term in the navy, he chased his second dream with a successful career in broadcasting. 

But the "call of the sea" overcame the marine man, who plunged into the civilian maritime industry in 2005 when he acquired all the credentials required by Transport Canada to hold the position of Master on The Curve of Time.

Over the course of his adventures, Matthew has spent a great deal of time exploring and working in the Salish Sea, the Sunshine Coast and points sailing the west coast of Brutish Columbia.

"Matthew has an extreme passion for the science and art of navigation, and loves to share his knowledge with fellow adventurers!” adds Sylvain. 

Josh, who does marketing and development for the company, also sails on some of the expeditions. He underscores that the people on the ship truly set the experience apart from ones like it. They engage with the guests throughout the journey, offering an intimate experience. 

"Because it's super flexible, everything's going to be adapted to the group that's onboard," Sylvain adds. "Most of the people that end up purchasing these trips or groups or families."

The Curve of Time Charters offers five- to nine-day sailings on itineraries including the Gulf Islands, Desolation Sound, the Broughtons, and the Great Bear Rainforest.