Mitlenatch Island trip

Mitlenatch Island trip
by Winnie Ferrier, 2 June 2018

On Saturday twelve of us carpooled to Lund to begin an awesome adventure.   We were greeted by Skipper Mike Moore, and then shuttled by zodiac to the Misty Isles, already moored in Finn Bay.

There we were welcomed aboard by Jonas who is skipper-in-training, and Karie, their crew member.  We set off towards Mitlenach under cloudy skies and a cool temperature but Mike pointed out to us that there was a patch of blue sky over our destination and was confident that we would have sunshine.  While we were underway Mike gave us both a geographical and historical lesson of the islands that we were cruising past.

While we were anchoring we witnessed an exciting display of several California sea lions porpoising out of the water in succession. There were exclamations of excitement and cameras were quickly pulled out.

We were divided into two groups, with six participants being taken ashore with Karie for a walkabout on the island and six of us going with Mike and Jonas in the zodiac to circle the island by water.  As it was mating season there was an abundance of harbor seals, and both California and Stellar sea lions for us to view.  We saw large groups basking on the rocks and as we continued around a corner we were witness to about 50 juvenile male California sea lions tussling with each other, pushing their competitors off of the bluffs and into the water.  Our trip continued with Mike pointing out marbled murrelets, pigeon guillemots, black oystercatchers, bald eagles and a passing belted kingfisher.  We saw rookeries of pelagic cormorants on cliff faces and the larger double-crested cormorants nesting on the tops of the cliffs.

Our turn ashore started with Mike picking up from the shallow water a beautiful moon snail with its body, including its siphon, exposed for us to see.  We had a pleasant stroll with Karie along the assigned island paths, looking at numerous wildflowers along the way.  Amongst them were purple brodiaea, blossoms of wild onions and a gorgeous yellow bloom of a prickly pear cactus.  The most prevalent was the wild tiger lily which was scattered amongst the high grasses and along the edges of our pathways.  The sunshine, which Mike had promised, exemplified their beautiful colours.  We had the opportunity to climb up to a bird blind and watch mating glaucous winged seagulls.  Nature in action!  After a short visit to the cabin of the volunteering stewards of the island we returned to the shore where we were all again deposited back on Misty Isles.

On the return trip to Lund Mike had more stories and history to share and we were all treated to chai tea and Mike’s wife, Samantha’s delicious home made cookies.

A Mitlenatch day-trip

A Mitlenatch day-trip
by Marg Reckenberg, 29 June 2017.

What a warm, sunny, calm day as the twelve of us set out for Mitlenatch Island aboard the Misty Isles with Captain Mike Moore and assistant Amy.  We left Lund Harbor at 10 am after a quick stop at Nancy’s Bakery.  Then we were on our way, for the 2 hour trip past Major Rock, then through Baker Passage between Hernando Island and Twin Island.

Mike showed us our course on the marine map and told us interesting tidbits about the islands that we past.  We saw lots of white jellyfish in the water en route and an eagle skimming along the water with a large fish.  The eagle could not get airborne and had to struggle just to land his fish on shore.  Mike explained the optical illusion of Mitlenatch looking close but, in fact, it took us another 45 min. before we arrived.

The Island is surrounded by a fairly shallow rocky shoal so we anchored and half our group went ashore by zodiac.  (Note from Misty Isles crew – remember to bring water shoes as a dry docking is not always possible).  The group on shore looked at wildflowers – including one prickly pear cactus in bloom – the island has a desert-like climate and we visited the naturalist cabin and then the nesting areas of the seagulls and many of us saw for the first time gull chicks scooting under their Moms.

Meanwhile the other half of the group went around the island in the zodiac with Mike.

He was wonderful at pointing out the nests of Pelagic and Double-crested Cormorants, Black Oystercatchers, Harlequin ducks, Pigeon Buillemots, and Great Blue herons as well as crows, ravens, eagles and gulls.  We saw plenty of harbor seals and Stellar sea lions.  From their growling noises we understood where they got their name.  Then these huge sea lions began to take to the water – and soon afterwards we saw a nearby humpback whale.  If this wasn’t bonus enough we saw a humpback further away breaching.

It just doesn’t get better than this.  Of course, the two groups switched places halfway through the allotted time.  At the end of the leisurely afternoon we headed back to Lund.  Of note, on our return trip, was a brown scummy substance, widely spread across the water.  Mike thought this was likely an algae bloom that the changing tides brought our way.  It gave the boat’s wake a muddy appearance.

We returned, feeling that the day had been truly magical!

East Thurlow Island

East Thurlow Island 
by Caroline Brown, 29
 Aug 2016.

Pictographs, a “brand new” petroglyph, exotic geology, whales, dolphins, stories of gin and tonic sailors, mistresses, tall and not-so-tall tales were some of the highlights for twelve of the Malaspina Naturalists as we headed to East Thurlow Island aboard the Misty Isles – for three whole days!

For most of us, this was a new area to be explored and although the weather was not totally cooperative, it was a great three days and two nights (Aug 27-29). Mike Moore and his crew, Jonah Weyler, welcomed us in Lund and we set sail – well, not actually.  Although Misty is a gaff rigged schooner, Mike used its “functional seaworthiness of a west coast troller” for this trip.

Our first sighting was toward Little Mitlenatch Island, or as Mike calls it, an orca snack bar and also a hangout for glaucous-winged gulls and cormorants. As we passed through the waters of gorgeous Desolation Sound, known to have as many as 300 boats in Prideaux Haven, Mike reminded us of Captain Vancouver’s 1792 journal notes describing this area as “gloomy and dismal….dreary rocks.” Perhaps, but certainly not for us!

After travelling through the Gillard Pass and around the northern side of East Thurlow Island, our first night was on West Thurlow Island at Blind Channel Resort, originally the site of a thriving cannery.  A delicious salmon dinner completed Day 1.  Our accommodation was luxurious in the two, new, two-bedroom cabins, although one of our group opted to sleep on MI.

Before breakfast Sunday, several of the group explored the well-maintained trails behind the resort.  Soon after cast-off, Mike scooted to Mayne Passage, finding us 002 Pod – four orcas, including Tumbo, a large male with a bend in his fin. And later in the day, in Nodales Channel, we were entertained by a school/pod of Pacific white-sided dolphins.  The day had been chilly and wet and we all appreciated the warmth of the fireplace at Discovery Islands Lodge.  Our third meal of the day (all meals were provided by Mike and Jonah, with thanks to the pre-preparation of Mike’s wife, Samantha) was equally enjoyable.  The spacious, welcoming “great room” of the lodge allowed for good conversation.

Following a yummy breakfast prepared by our lodge hosts, we began our homeward journey.  Only the wished-for humpbacks were missing.  BUT the next day, our two Victoria participants saw a pair from the ferry.

Thanks to all our eclectic, delightful and well informed travelling companions for a memorable trip!


Twin Islands and Mitlenatch

Twin Islands and Mitlenatch
by Heather Harbord, 26
 May 2016. 

Ten members boarded the schooner, Misty Isles, at Lund on May 26th bound for Mitlenatch and Twin Islands.  It was great to have extra time on Mitlenatch especially as the Tiger Lilies were coming into bloom in the meadow and the Glaucous-winged gulls were beginning to sit on eggs.  The Stellers and California sea lions, Harbour seals, Pelagic and Double-crested cormorants, Black Oystercatchers and a few Pigeon Guillemots gave star performances which we watched from the zodiac.   As the wind was a bit strong we only circumnavigated the southern part of the island on both sides of Camp Bay instead of going all the way round.   As usual, Mike and his staff gave a knowledgeable presentation of what we were seeing supplemented by two of us (Janet May and I) who had been wardens the previous week.

We then went on to Twin Islands stopping at the rock where the Arctic Terns had been seen for the previous four years.  Unfortunately, they did not return for us.  The lodge at Twin Islands was fascinating and we enjoyed Mike Yip’s talk and photos of butterflies and birds. He is a wonderful photographer and some of us bought his books which he gave us a special rate on.  The following morning, we were on the go at 7am for a bird walk with Mike.  We did a bit too much exploring and didn’t have much time to spend at the swamp in the centre of the southern island where there was a Kingfisher and a Red-winged blackbird.  In the well-fenced garden a wobbly fledgling robin looked down on us from a tree.

After breakfast, the owner of the lodge, Mark Torrance, showed us his solar power system which he can control from his computer.   This was quite fascinating.  As we sailed away after lunch, we put up the red sails, got into the dingy and admired our handywork.

Thanks, Mike and Jonah, for another wonderful trip on Misty.


A day on Mitlenatch

A day on Mitlenatch
by Cindy Dalcourt, 9 May 2015. 

On a beautiful, sunny morning 12 members carpooled to Lund where we met Captain Mike Moore aboard the Misty Isles for a trip to the B.C. Park nature preserve Mitlenatch Island. The very personable Captain briefed us on what the trip would consist of and shared his vast knowledge of the area and surrounding islands as well.

Mitlenatch is approximately half way between the coast and Vancouver Island and its name means “calm waters all around” in the Coast Salish language. Being in the rain shadow of Vancouver Island it is considered semi-arid, even having prickly pear cactus growing on it. When the tides come in around Vancouver Island from the north and the south they meet at Mitlenatch, bringing with them lots of nutrients and sea life. This attracts all kinds of fish, sea mammals and birds. It is home to the largest seabird colony in the Strait of Georgia.

Upon arrival at the island we were divided into two groups. The first group went ashore and were met by members Janet May and Heather Harbord who were volunteer wardens for B.C. Parks that week. They toured a small part of the island keeping to the existing trails as the island has a very sensitive ecosystem. They walked through a meadow full of spring flowers including common camas and chocolate lilies. In small groups they went into a bird blind where they could watch the gulls more closely. The surrounding cliffs were full of birds, courting and nesting. They ended their tour at the rustic cabin where Janet and Heather were staying.

During this time the second group did a circumnavigation of the island by zodiac where they were curiously watched by large groups of noisy stellar sea lions. They also saw harbour seals as well as many different kinds of birds including Pelagic Cormorants, Black Oystercatchers, and Pigeon Guillemots. The birds were nervous about the presence of a few eagles and displayed some interesting flying manoeuvres to distract them. When the zodiac came back to shore the two groups exchanged places and were once again off to explore.

Too soon it was time to reboard the Misty Isles and after a snack of tea and cookies we arrived back in Lund. Everyone agreed that we had a wonderful day.


Susan MacKay – “Pinnipeds: Seals and Sea-lions”

Susan MacKay – “Pinnipeds: Seals and Sea-lions”
by Heather Harbord, 24 October 2013. 

Susan MacKay is the founder of Whales and Dolphins BC and President of the non-profit Wild Ocean Whale Society (WOWs).  She is also a member of the Marine Mammal Response Network, a group that responds to reports of injured, distressed or dead marine mammals.

Susan spoke about Pinnipeds, the group of marine mammals that have front and rear flippers such as seals, sea lions and walrus.   Of the 33 species globally, there are five species of Pinnipeds that frequent our local BC waters while a few of the others migrate through our waters, to and from their breeding grounds.  While some of these are considered true seals, some are not.

Apart from local species information, Susan spoke about their cute and quirky behaviors, as well as specifics of how they relate to nature’s balance in our oceans.