Exercise Northern Venturer Baidarka III was a Sea Kayaking expedition to Vancouver Island, British Columbia, Canada. The expedition was for 19 cadets and 6 adults from Strathallan School Combined Cadet Force and the cadets were drawn from the Royal Navy, Royal Marines and Army Sections. We were also supported by 6 local guides based out of Quadra Island. The expedition took place from 4th July to 17th July 2015. The expedition started at Brackendale on the British Columbia mainland as the Cadets had been on a school organised trip for the week prior. The expedition travelled by coach to the ferry terminal and then across to Departure Bay, on Vancouver Island. We then travelled north to the town of Campbell River.
The following day was spent shopping for provisions for the practice expedition. Sea Kayaking provides a significant group catering challenge and well planned and organised meals can make for an excellent trip. After another night in Campbell River we moved by ferry to Quadra Island where we met the kayak guides and loaded the boats. We also had a period of instruction on safety and rescue skills which complemented the safety and rescue training which had been given in Scotland. The first four days were the practice element of the Duke of Edinburgh Gold, expedition section. During this time the cadets were given the necessary skills to lead the qualifying expedition. Some groups were very fortunate and saw a great deal of wildlife. One group saw a pod of transient orca and a number of groups saw humpback whales. The weather during the first expedition was amazing but almost too hot. The air was thick with the smell of smoke from the numerous forest fires that were burning in British Columbia. The first expedition concluded with the cadets having had a very enjoyable and informative time. There were many lessons learned, especially on the catering front which would inform the planning for the qualifying venture.
We returned to Campbell River and once again went to the supermarket with newly amended shopping lists. The shopping process was much quicker than the first trip and groups seemed to have far more idea about what they were doing. We prepared for the following day and the long trip north to Telegraph Cove. We left for Telegraph Cove and reached the harbour later that morning. We packed quickly and set off and all but one of the groups had an early orca sighting. The qualifying expedition was 5 days in duration and was in much colder water. The change in temperature was welcome but the heavy rain on day three was not. During this trip the groups were spread over a wide area and they experienced a variety of wildlife which included humpback whales, transient orca, minke whales, Pacific white sided dolphins, dalls and harbour porpoises, sea lions, seals, bald eagles and many other species. One group were treated to a humpback whale bubble netting a shoal of fish and then seeing it come up through the middle to feed.
The trip concluded with all groups returning safely. We unpacked and repacked which was another challenge of the trip. Equipment management was paramount and the cadets needed to be organised and methodical, to make sure that nothing essential was lost or misplaced. We left from Telegraph Cove for the long drive to Departure Bay and the ferry back to the mainland. We arrived back in Horseshoe Bay and then picked up a coach to take us to the University of British Columbia. We arrived back late and the cadets were only interested in finding their beds.
The final day was a day of shopping and sightseeing in Vancouver. The cadets were refreshed from a good night of sleep in a proper bed. They had a tremendous time in the city and thoroughly enjoyed the experience. The final evening was to be the last supper at a restaurant in University Boulevard. We had invited former pupils from the school who were now living in British Columbia. The evening was excellent with plenty of food provided. The trip awards were presented and the cadets returned back to pack ready to go home. The following day we concluded our packing and departed for the airport at lunchtime. We left Canada in the late afternoon and travelled overnight to Manchester Airport. After a five hour coach journey we arrived back at Strathallan School, which concluded what had been an outstanding and memorable trip for all cadets involved.