As promised we were promptly woken up around 4am as the engines started up on the Aurora Explorer. Due to tidal flows and the areas we were going to, our captain needed to get started early in the morning. I was still exhausted and promptly fell back asleep to the hum of the engines.
I didn’t even reawaken until 8 am, missing our first morning stop at a private lodge owned by the owner of Nichol Brothers on Stuart Island. I climbed up the stairs to the dining area, welcomed by the savoury aromas coming from the kitchen. It seemed everyone else was already awake and well into their hot breakfast. The pre-breakfast of fresh fruit, cereal was still out and a delicious premium yogurt was offered and graciously accepted.
From the large windows in the dining-room I watched as forklifts unloaded cargo from the deck of the ship two stories below. They seemed to be doing a sort of ballet on the deck as the forklift with smaller tires would position deliveries near the ramp of the ship. The second forklift would spin around and dart off the ramp that simply bridged the boat to the shore, shuttling supplies back and forth. I couldn’t resist leaving my seat. I just had to interrupt my meal and go outside to get some pictures of the action on the deck and shore below.
By the time I returned to my seat, my hot breakfast arrived. Banana pancakes and bacon complete with Canadian maple syrup. I had been warned to pace my meals but everything was too tempting to turn down. I simply had to try a little bit of everything.
It was only an hour later that we arrived at “John Wayne” lodge (not owned by the famous actor). We couldn’t see much other than a paved road down to the shoreline. Supplies were quickly unloaded followed by the exchanging of two full dumpsters of garbage with an empty one.
As we approached Western Thurlow Island we were called in for lunch. There was no way I was going to sit down quite yet though. This stop was at a bustling logging camp. A little tugboat danced around logs in the water, dragging them to sectioned off areas. On shore, large loaders emptied a logging truck packed full of giant “pick-up stix” into metal u shaped forks, perched at the edge of the shore. These three forked cradles of logs, once loaded, were wrapped with metal cable, cinched up and then tipped over. The log bundles slid down metal beams making a big splash as they hit the water below.
I was mesmerized by all that was going on in front of me and taking photos that I almost forgot we were unloading cargo here. Large bundles of rolled up cable were slowly being deposited on the edge of the shore by the crew on our boat. After about 30 minutes we started to pull away and I knew it was time to head in for lunch.
The chicken mushroom soup was so delicious I couldn’t resist going for a second bowl. It was the perfect meal for a cool overcast afternoon. I had to stop myself from returning to the bread, meat and cheese platters. I was eating way too much for a day on the ship where we were not going to have an opportunity to get off the boat for a walk to burn some energy.
We skirted around Thurlow Island to Loughborough Inlet. Currents in the water here were swift and added about 4 knots of speed to the vessel. Along the shore we could see whirlpools that were sucking in bits of kelp. As we reached the midway point climbing this long narrow inlet, a pod of 50 porpoises sped along behind us. For the next 30 minutes we watched as these black and white Dall’s porpoises (like miniature orca whales) seemed to be racing toward us at the stern of the freighter. They arched through the water in a wave of energy, racing for what seemed like forever. From time to time they would all of a sudden change direction in unison, zig-zagging across the wake of our boat. As we approached the end of the Inlet, the porpoises all of a sudden changed direction and were heading back to where we had come from. The water was obviously much shallower and we had reached another 20 year old logging camp with many trailers and other buildings located at the edge of the inlet.
We watched again as ice cream,mattresses, food and other supplies were taken to various places around this camp. Bundles of much fatter old growth logs were also being dropped into the water below. Booms of logs sat in the water to both sides of where we had landed on shore.
We returned back down the inlet enjoying the beautiful pine covered mountains on both sides of us. Wisps of cloud hung midway through the trees as we tried peeking through a cloud filled sky. A few times a drizzle of rain chased us indoors but not for long. We had plenty of time to look out at what the Aurora Explorer dubs as British Columbia’s working coast.
The evening dinner was served after dark, so there were no distractions from our meal at the last drop off point for the day. We were treated to a delicious three course meal. Salad, vegetables and duck followed by a tapioca pudding with blueberry compote. We had relaxed well, eaten well, enjoyed great conversation with others on-board. It was a magical first full day on-board the m/v Aurora Explorer.