Gulf Islands Sailing Expedition

By: Michaela Leaf

I know I am the type of person who finds the routine of an 8-5 office job constraining. I learn better with “hands on” experiences outside of the classroom. Chances are, if this internship intrigues you, we may have some similarities. I am someone who has had a huge passion for travel and new experiences. I enjoy a challenge and putting myself outside my comfort zone.

There may be many questions and uncertainties regarding an internship with Global Treks and Adventures. I was in your shoes. I wondered what the internship would be like on a day to day basis. What would it be like living on a boat? What would we eat? Where would we sleep. What should I expect? Will this be worth my time?

Well friends, the nice thing with having an internship with Global Treks is the freedom and creativity to research what YOU are interested in. This internship is intended to facilitate your growth and provide the opportunity to strengthen your skills and unfold your passions. Do you enjoy photography? There is something you can do with that. Love talking to people? There are many opportunities to meet locals and chances to interview them. Like exploring? There are plenty of beautiful views to encounter while hiking and sightseeing. Enjoy working with a team? This internship guarantees that. You will have a chance to meet with others across the country, learn from them, and collaborate together. Then your creative writing abilities will be utilized in the form of a publication.

As I reflect back on my internship on the Gulf Islands, I can say this was a once in a lifetime experience. I had the privilege of getting to meet some amazing people and an opportunity to research, observe, and examine an incredible area and its culture. I stepped out of my comfort zone, not really knowing what to expect and I was able to learn things about myself and the islands.

Day 1 (Thursday July 12, 2018)

Kyle Herdina (research director and captain) picked me up, along with two other interns Jack and Hetty.  Two hours later we arrived in Nanaimo where our sailboat was stationed. Being the last three interns to arrive, I remember feeling quieter than normal, and exhausted from flying the whole day. It was the start of getting to know ten other people over pizza. We all found a place to sleep on board and before we knew it, everyone passed out.

Day 2 (Friday July 13, 2018)

The weather was beautiful.  Blue skies, sunshine, cool breeze and 70 degree temperatures during the day.  Our first stop was to Gabriola Island. We anchored down in Degnen Bay and explored the area. The part of the island was pretty remote. We got to see some of Gabriola Island’s petroglyphs, where many images were carved into the stone by indigenous people. To be honest, This was the first time I saw a petroglyph.  While exploring the island, I could tell the group was slowly warming up to each other. That night, we anchored down in Clam Bay between the islands of Thetis and Kupor. We enjoyed watching the sunset and grilling hamburgers and hot dogs for dinner. (who knew you could grill out on a boat)! That night I got to experience something extraordinary, bioluminescence.  I learned that they are little species that light up at night under water when they are disturbed. They were like fireflies. What a way to end the day!

Day 3 (Saturday July 14, 2018)

On this day, we sailed to Montague Harbor and explored Galiano Island. All I can say is the locals here are so nice. The group decided to split up based off our research objectives. Interns Sam, Hetty, and I stayed together to go into town and find out information on tourism and the culture of the island. The others took a hike to the summit of Mt. Galiano to observe plant life, forestry, and wildlife.

At the marina, Sam and I got to talk to Amber at the tourist office. She talked to us about the hidden gems of the island. That included Bellhouse park, a place for whale watching,  an Orca mural painted by a local artists and hiking to Mt Galiano. We agreed our research would start at the Orca mural. But, how do we get into town without a car. Frank a local offered us a ride into town. (don’t worry it is safe on the islands). Frank and his “Mum” Rocky were so friendly and inviting. They gave us some bits and pieces of things to see and do.

They suggested we stop by at the Farmer’s Market that occurs Saturday mornings. They gladly dropped us off at the market where I came across a nice photographer named Sarah. She was retired and had been visiting the island for over 50 years. She was so happy to talk to me about questions I had on tourism. At the market, we enjoyed a local artist who played the trumpet, tamborine, and accordian. Listening to the music I noticed Canadians were calm, authentic, and content. Everyone made it seem like their lives were so simple and there was not a worry in the world. After the market, we walked to Bellhouse Park, where there was a beautiful view of the ocean with the mountains in the background. We came across many starfish, tidal pools, and honeycomb patterns along the shore. We spent some time in a local restaurant recuperating and split a BBQ pizza. The town was nothing but a small area with a hotel, bookstore, and a couple of restaurants. Everyone knew everyone and the community was super friendly. We finally came across the mural of all the artwork that looked like a big portrait of orcas. It was absolutely stunning. We finally met back up with the rest of the group and enjoyed the rest of the night in the harbour.

Day 4 (Sunday July 15, 2018)

What a day, we sailed to Cabbage and Tumbo Island and spent the day exploring the islands. It was nice not having to be on a time crunch, but rather make the most of it and explore. Intern Jules and I ended up hiking along the coast line and came across a group of seals, some starfish, and eventually a buck, who we named Mr. Bananas. (never thought of deer living on an island). Mr. Bananas was alert, yet calm and let us follow him to get a picture. We then met up with Hetty, Delaney, and Sam, where we hiked across the sandbar full of barnacles. We then came across a clear bay where we were able to soak our feet in the ocean for a bit. There were endless amounts of starfish and shells. We hiked to the furthest point in hopes of finding orcas, but sadly we did not come across any. We finally met up with the rest of the team and headed back to the sailboat where we cooked pasta for dinner. The day ended with a nice sunset along the horizon.

Day 5 (Monday July 16, 2018)

Wow! We are halfway done with the internship. On this day, we sailed to Poet’s Cove off South Pender Island, where I got to steer the boat for awhile! We got to stay at a four star marina with a beautiful view of the ocean. The group decided to take a hike to a lake that had several lily pads and still waters. We took a refreshing swim and man did it feel refreshing. This day definitely felt like a “self care” day. We got to take real showers, eat a nice meal, and had access to wi-fi. We enjoyed dinner at the local pub and boy let me tell you I pigged out on a three course meal. Intern Lindsay and I shared some truffle fries and wings as an appetizer. Then I enjoyed a black bean burger and some creme brulee for dessert.

After dinner, people split off to go swimming in the pool or took a sunset hike. I decided to go off by myself and enjoy the sunset by myself, reading and listening to music. It was nice to have alone time and reflect on the past few days. The team was definitely meshing well together. We all have very different personalities yet similar interests - that sense of independence, adventure, and ambition. I have come to appreciate that we are all “go with the flow” and have this very “do what you want to do” attitude. This internship has been nothing like your typical internship with a specific itinerary. It has been very flexible with many opportunities. I like how it appeals to everybody’s interests. We finally have it down living on a boat with 11 total people. Everybody is very good at personal space and giving each other time for solitude to read, nap, listen to music, and be in our own thoughts.

Day 6 (Tuesday July 17, 2018)

This morning a few of us woke up at 7am and took a hike on the Mount Norman Trail. The trail was nothing but steep the whole time, but the view was worth it. It was nice having the chance to talk to Kyle (our director) and get to know some of the other interns as we were hiking. When we got back, I was able to buy my first cup of coffee since leaving for United States. We decided to sail to Margaret Island and enjoyed a coastal hike while some people went snorkeling. I can’t believe the trip is almost coming to an end. What a pleasure it has been getting to know people from around the States. We headed to Long Harbour to anchor down for the night and enjoyed our last sunset together.

Day 7 (Wednesday July 18, 2018)

The trip is finally coming to an end. Delaney and I woke up early to cook the team pancakes, bacon, and eggs. We have a 5-6 hour sail ahead of us back to Nanaimo. How bittersweet it is to know that I will be going home soon, yet sad to leave the Gulf Islands and these people I have become close to the past few days. This day was nothing but a beautiful sail back. How can you get tired of the endless views of the sea? We made it back with plenty of time to rest, take showers, and eat one final meal together at the local pub. The night ended with card games, self reflection, and packing.

Day 8 (Thursday July 19, 2018)

And just like that we are all packed up and ready to go to the airport. Everyone said their last goodbyes and Hetty, Jack, John, and I were left. The four of us ended up grabbing lunch and headed off to the airport. We all ended up with the same layover in Seattle, where we ended up having dinner and reminiscing on the trip together. There were many laughs shared. Hetty and I had the exact flight back to Atlanta and enjoyed the last few hours waiting at our gate to get home.