Ucluelet’s Hello Nature Adventure Tours owner Kevin Bradshaw tests the plexiglass shield at the kayak launch. (Nora O’Malley photo)

Marine activities open with COVID-19 measures

“I’m just happy to get back on the water.”

As Vancouver Island’s seaside resorts begin to cautiously navigate post-COVID-19 waters, marine tour operators are also starting to crank their motors for a safe re-opening.

From whale watching tours and sunset kayaking trips to family fishing charters, most guides are feeling optimistic about welcoming regional guests this summer and are confident the new COVID-19 protocols put in place will keep their communities safe.

Sea Kayaking

Hello Nature Adventure Tours owner/operator Kevin Bradshaw helped prepare a 52-page COVID-19 Best Management Practices document for the sea kayaking industry.

The document thoroughly outlines recommended cleaning methods for common equipment like spray skirts—dip in disinfecting solution—and offers direction on how guides can maintain physical distancing with novice paddlers during launching and landing.

“When you’re on the water, there are not too many scenarios where you have to get within two metres of another kayak,” Bradshaw said.

In the event of a rescue or emergency, “guides should remain calm and take charge of any situation keeping in mind the potential for COVID-19”, notes the Best Management sea kayaking document. Keeping gloves and a face-mask in a readily accessible location at all times is recommended for guides.

On June 1, Bradshaw quietly re-opened Hello Nature to locals only.

“We want to test our systems and we want to make sure our community is comfortable and we are comfortable,” he said, adding that he is inspired by the COVID-19 resource manual created for his industry.

“A lot of people are communicating and trying to figure out how to survive together,” he said.

Whale Watching and Bear Watching


Subtidal Adventures owner Brian Congdon and his family encountered about 30 feeding humpback whales on the South bank, about five miles from Ucluelet, on May 23. (Brian Congdon photo)

In addition to following guidelines from Transport Canada, the provincial re-start plan, and WorkSafe BC, the Pacific Rim Association of Tour Operators (PRATO) has been active with other whale watching organizations across the island, including Washington State, in an attempt to be as cohesive as possible with industry restart plans, according to Ryan Teremy, general manager at Jamie’s Whaling Station.

Brian Congdon owns the Ucluelet-based Subtidal Adventures whale and bear watching outfit. He has been taking guests on zodiac tours of the Barkley Sound since the early 1980s. He said he expects to see no international travel this summer and mostly regional tourists.

“It’ll be just one family per trip or social group and everyone will be wearing masks,” said Congdon. “I’ll be wearing a mask at all times,” he adds.

He expressed concerns about making a marine tour on a 12-passenger zodiac viable for his family business.

“Depending on the price of gas, I can cover wages and fuel with two passengers, but that doesn’t pay for rent, insurance or moorage fees. Six [passengers] would be great,” he said.

“If we can get to next March, things will kick in,” said Congdon.

He went on to tell the Westerly that all the restaurants and small businesses here the West Coast are a direct result of a thriving tourist industry.

“Yes we need to be careful, but everyone who enjoys all these amenities, needs to understand it’s because of a thriving tourist industry,” said Congdon.

Family Fishing Charters


Lance Desilets’ daughter shows off her catch. (Lance’s Sportfishing Adventures photo)

Lance Desilets owns Lance’s Sportfishing Adventures, a salt water fishing charter based out of Tofino. This summer will be his 18th season of taking visitors to fish halibut, salmon, and lingcod in the waters of Clayoquot Sound. He said he is officially re-opening his business on June 15.

“I’m looking forward to it. Just going to follow the protocols set out by the government and hopefully everything goes smoothly. We’re definitely excited to open. We feel it’s time,” said Desilets. The Tofino angler went on to say the Sport Fishing Institute of B.C. worked closely with the West Coast Fishing Guide Association to implement a plan that reflects the requirement of the government in order to operate.

“I’ll say that it’s about as clear as mud. It’s a little bit hard to sift through what the hard recommendations are as far as the phases go,” he said.

For guests aboard Lance’s Sportfishing, captain Desilets will host only one social unit per trip and he said wearing masks and social distancing will be encouraged and he will have a hand-washing stations.

“When we’re close together we will have to wear masks and if we have contact with equipment together then we will have to hand-wash and sanitize and be diligent, just be smart,” he said.

“I’m pretty proud of our communities. We’ve done a fantastic job. I think we’ve set the bar really high for the rest of the country. It’s been a struggle, for sure. I think a lot of people in coastal communities that have businesses that aren’t traditionally found in big cities maybe feel through the cracks a little,” said Desilets.

Sea kayak guide Bradshaw sums it up best.

“I’m just happy to get back on the water,” he said.

RELATED: Outdoor Council of Canada COVID-19 Guidelines for led outdoor activity



nora.omalley@westerlynews.ca

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

READ: Brendan Morrison cuts line on 2020’s Tofino Saltwater Classic

VIDEO: Humpback whales put on quite a show

fishingkayakingTofino,uclueletwhale watching

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Alzheimer’s society offering online support for caregivers in Nanaimo

Webinars explore ‘mindfulness’ in caring for dementia patients

Shopping resumes aboard Nanaimo ferry sailings

B.C. Ferries reopens gift shops on Queen of Cowichan and Queen of Oak Bay

City of Nanaimo reports on its salaries, expenses and payments

Municipality files statement of financial information with B.C. government

City of Nanaimo challenges families to Instagram their park explorations

ParkIt challenge set up to offer prizes to cap off days at the park

Nanaimo RCMP want speeding motorists to ‘slow the blazes down’

Police raise alarm after seeing 400-per cent rise in excessive speeding tickets last month

VIDEO: Alberta man rescues baby eagle believed to be drowning in East Kootenay lake

Brett Bacon was boating on a lake in Windermere when he spotted the baby eagle struggling in the water

Vancouver Island business ad unintentionally features OK gesture linked to white supremacy

Innocuous ‘OK’ gesture in cleaning franchise advertisement gets flak on social media for ‘supposedly’ promoting white supremacy

Minivan driver’s speed a factor in fatal 2018 Malahat crash

Driver was travelling at 110 km/h in a construction zone

Comox Valley RCMP looking for missing woman

Ami Guthrie was last seen in Courtenay in early July

Conservationists raise concerns over state of care for grizzly cubs transferred to B.C. zoo

‘Let them be assessed now before their fate is sealed,’ urges B.C. conservationist Barb Murray

B.C.’s COVID-19 job recovery led by tourism, finance minister says

Okanagan a bright spot for in-province visitor economy

Limit police access to lethal weapons in Indigenous communities: Justice Summit

Grassroots-organized National Indigenous Justice Summit was a free-to-attend two-day videoconference

City of Nanaimo takes inventory of its land for official community plan review

Report recommends high-density residential development, identifies shortage of industrial land

Campaign aims to raise $50K for young family of deceased Vancouver Island skydiver

James Smith, 34, died July 5 following incident in Nanoose Bay

Most Read