Frequently Asked Questions
A Cruise of a Different Nature
About Our Tours
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How have you adjusted to Covid and what does this mean for us?
Please click here to find out how Archipelago Cruises has responded to Covid-19 and what this means for you when you come out on a tour with us.
What weather should I expect?
Before May 1st and after September 30th it frequently rains. May is mixed. From end of May until late September rain is infrequent and the weather is usually good. Good weather on the west coast means lots of clouds, broken clouds with sun, bright sunny days, and fog clearing to sun. It is usually a few degrees cooler than the other side of Vancouver Island.
In August (and to some extent at other times also) fog is common. There are two types of fog situations we deal with: Firstly, patchy fog that sits on the water, then lifts (the very odd day we delay our trip because of it) and secondly, fog that lifts to a low cloud that does not interfere with the trip. A typical summer day might start with morning fog that lies on the water but lifts to a high cloud by the time our tour departs. It usually lifts completely by the time we reach the Broken Group Islands and on most summer days we are able to enjoy anchoring in the sun at lunch time.
The day trip is 5 to 5.5 hours long - will the trip seem too long?
No. There is so much to see, the boat comfortable with lots of room to move around, the atmosphere relaxed and informal, that no one finds the trip too long. There is no way to see everything in less time unless we speed through this beautiful area or rush our wildlife sightings – we prefer a relaxed approach where nobody feels hurried.
Is there a shorter cruise?
Yes. Some days we run an Evening Wildlife Cruise.
- It is 2.5 to 3 three hours long but on this cruise we mostly don’t go into the Broken Group Islands and when we do, we see only a small section of this beautiful marine park.
- We do see wildlife on the evening cruise, however on our day trip there is usually more and our chance of seeing whales is greater.
Which tour do you recommend?
We see lots of wildlife on all of our cruises, but
- if seeing whales and wildlife is your main focus, we recommend the 5 – 5 ½ hour Broken Group Islands Wildlife Cruise. Because it is a longer cruise, we cover a much larger area which increases our chances of seeing whales (and other wildlife). We also feel the breathtaking scenery of the Broken Group Islands and the experience of having a gourmet meal while at anchor is worth the extra time.
- if it’s a scenic evening cruise you’re looking for, with some wildlife thrown in, then the Evening Wildlife Cruise is the one to take. Very romantic!
- Some families with toddlers or young children prefer the Evening Wildlife Cruise because of the shorter duration of this tour.
What is the maximum number of people aboard your boat?
The boat is licensed to take 22 passengers, however we limit numbers depending on weather. The Raincoast Maiden is a large, comfortable luxury yacht. Even when full there is lots of room and you can expect a high level of comfort and service. (Please note that in 2021 we will restrict passenger numbers in order to allow for physical distancing)
About the Wildlife
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Do you guarantee sightings?
No, we do not guarantee specific sightings. We always look for whales and bears (and other wildlife) but unfortunately this does not mean that we see them each and every day.
We feel that “guaranteeing” certain species creates inappropriate expectations. We always see a lot of wildlife (as well as spectacular scenery) and prefer that our guests appreciate what they DO see rather than be unhappy about what they DON’T see. When a company “guarantees” sightings, it means only that you may try again without charge, not that you are certain of seeing a whale or bear.
Although we see bears more often than not, your chance of seeing bears would be higher if you take a dedicated bear watching tour. (Please CLICK HERE for more info about bears).
At times when there are at least several whales within our range, we almost always manage to see one or more whales. However there are times when your best chance of seeing whales requires a journey that is well beyond our range or a long off shore journey (which may or may not be uncomfortable). At these times your chance of seeing whales is higher if you take a dedicated whale watching tour in a high speed boat. (Please CLICK HERE for more info about whales.)
We prefer to run our route as advertised. The alternative would be to miss the abundant wildlife, the unique beauty of the Broken Group Islands, and the relaxed and personal atmosphere of travelling in sheltered waters.
We record everything we see on every tour. If you are wondering about the chance of seeing a particular species, please contact us and ask. We can tell you your chances given the circumstances at the time (which change from year to year and season to season, sometimes even from week to week).
Which is the best time of year for seeing wildlife?
We see a lot of different species and most have seasonal movements.
- Starting in the spring until late September is typically a good time for whales. However over the last five years whale sightings have been unpredictable. (Please see our Wildlife Page for more info.)
- In May we see Black Bears about 40% of the time. From about mid June onwards we see them roughly half to two thirds of the time, at times almost daily.
- We always see the huge Steller Sea Lions, however the California Sea Lions leave this area from mid June until early/mid August.
- We always see Harbor Seals.
- In summer we often see Harbor Porpoises.
- Sea Otter sightings are becoming more common. In recent years we saw them almost daily during the summer months.
- Bald Eagles are abundant for most of the season, though we see fewer in the fall.
- We always see a variety of Sea birds (spring is best as that is when we see migratory species)
We log our sightings each day and are happy to give you an update on any species that is of particular interest to you.
Which type of whales do we see? How many?
We regularly see Gray whales and Humpback whales. The Killer whales that we see on the West Coast are mostly Transient Orcas. They are around quite often but always unpredictable. We see them only now and again on our tours.
There are days we see no whales, some days we see only one, other we see several, the very odd time more than a dozen. Some days we are able to get a close look, other times we have to be happy with seeing a whale from a distance. We see whales singly or in small groups. Seeing a mother with calf is very common.
Will we see bears?
We look for bears on every trip. In May we see bears on about 40% to 50 % of our trips, June through October about half to two thirds of the time, at times almost daily. Some days we see none, some days only one, other days several. Mothers and cubs are common.
Whether we can get a close view of bear(s) depends on the topography of the shore line. In Ucluelet Inlet the bears are at the water’s edge turning over rocks. We have a safe, close, and unobstructed view. In other areas where the shore line is rocky we have to be happy viewing the bear(s) through the binoculars we provide.
Who Can Go?
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Are your cruises suitable for children?
Most children love the trip. The boat is large enough that families with young children tend to pick a corner and settle in. The children are free to roam the boat. It is safe and we have life jackets for children to wear if parents wish.
Are your cruises suitable for pregnant women or infants?
No problem at all.
Do you allow dogs?
Unfortunately you cannot bring your dog(s) but there are various dog sitting options. All will take excellent care of your dog at extremely reasonable rates:
We recommend the dog sitting service offered by Janice at “Coast Canine” – click here to see Coast Canine Facebook Page.
You could also try Ocean Pet Supplies. Carla is certified and loves dogs.
We also have the telephone number of another well respected dog sitter.
(Please feel free to ask us about this via email if needed.)
If You Go
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What do I wear?
Dress warmly. We suggest wearing layers (like an onion). It’s always a bit cooler on the water, even on warm days. Any shoes are fine. We have blankets and mitts for colder days and rain capes in case we’re surprised by rain.
What do I bring?
Bring your camera. We have binoculars for each guest. There is free coffee, tea and water all day and we have juice, pop and alcohol for sale.
Will I get seasick?
We have a low incidence of sea sickness on our trips for a variety of reasons.
- We feel there is enough to see in sheltered water without going into rough seas.
- The boat has hydraulic stabilizers – it is the only tour boat in the area that does. These eliminate most of the sideways roll.
- At the start of the tour we give a lesson on sea sickness, ways to help prevent it, and what to do if it happens.
- We have motion sickness wrist bands and motion sickness pills on board, which we offer to everyone.
- Only the first hour to hour and a half is partially exposed. If there is too much motion on this portion, we take a more sheltered route into the islands.
What happens if the weather is bad on the day of the trip?
During summer we seldom have weather bad enough to interfere with having an enjoyable trip. We do however have some basic policies:
- Anybody who has a reasonable concern about weather is free to cancel without cost or obligation. However we do ask that you meet us on the boat at the appointed time. We then discuss our various options.
- On occasion we postpone the trip until later in the day. So far this has worked out well every time.
- On other occasions we’ve run a harbor cruise with lunch (instead of the full trip) and cut the cost accordingly.
- If none of our suggested options work for you, then by all means cancel. If you have ordered the lunch we ask that you pay for it and we package it for you to take with you.
What is your cancellation policy?
- We have a 48 hour cancellation policy.
- This means you can cancel (or change the date) free of charge provided you do so at least 48 hours prior to the departure time.
- When canceling within 48 hours the full amount of the reservation will be charged to the credit card used to secure the reservation.
- When we do receive a cancellation within 48 hours we do our best to resell your space (in which case we will refund you the portion that we were able to resell).
Best In Class
“We are so glad we picked this trip over the myriad other whale watching possibilities in this area…it’s a bit more expensive but you get so much more for your buck…. We saw black bear, seals and sea lions galore, orca, humpback , bald eagles , cormorants and the spectacular scenery of the Broken Islands and Barclay Sound from a super comfortable boat.. There are limited numbers on board so there is plentiful seating and space for everyone , wherever you are on the boat. Thoroughly recommended for all ages.”