Casting Anchors

Situated off Canada’s Pacific Coast, Vancouver Island is a playground for adventure, offering the chance to break away into the unfamiliar, even for those who live there. Feelings of escapism weigh strong on the minds of intrepid inhabitants longing to explore wilderness, and leave the day-to-day behind for just a while.

Words & Photos by Gavin Johnstone

We caught up with old friend Gavin Johnstone, a marine technician by trade and wave-hungry photographer whenever he gets the chance. As a youngster, Gavin’s ambition was to spend as much time in the air as possible, a dream that would soon clash with an already idyllic way of life...

2 surfers carry longboards through the trees towards the beach
A man smokes freshly caught salmon on a traditional smoker
A sail boat waits anshored in a Canadian lake

“I grew up in an aviation family, and all I wanted since a young age was to be a pilot in the Royal Canadian Airforce. By the time I finished my degree and went down the path to becoming a pilot, I decided the lifestyle sacrifice I would have to make was not on the table for me anymore. The thought of leaving the ocean behind didn’t feel right. My life now revolves completely around the ocean, and I’m always eager to explore. So when an adventure with like-minded friends presented itself, “let’s go” was all I needed to say.

The trip was kind of a last minute plan I guess. One of my best friends, Kyla, called me up and told me she was buying a sailboat and going to sail to Alaska. So I was like, well, lets meet up at the tip of the island and cruise for a few weeks through the Great Bear Rainforest. Our other two friends, Jac and John also purchased a sailboat and were going to be doing the same trip. I sent out a few text messages to other friends to see who was available. In the end there were 5 of us on my boat.

An aerial view of a beach with driftwood and dense trees
A female surfer with her dog waits for waves

We headed north past the top end of Vancouver Island to Pruth Bay on Calvert Island. We spent days on its vast, empty sandy beaches enjoying some down time. I wanted to head back to an old mill town called Ocean Falls, a fascinating place that is now largely a ghost town. And finally we headed up the Dean Channel in search of grizzly bears and hot springs.

The two-week trip was filled with incredible wildlife, waves and unusually stunning weather. We pretty much had beautiful weather for the entire trip in fact. There were two days of mist and light rain but other than that the weather was unreal. We saw orcas, grey whales, black bears, eagles and dolphins.

Man tends to a small fire inside a smoke stack
Aerial view of boats tethered together next to dense trees
The fin of an Orca can be seen infront of a misty forest backdrop

We revisited a beachbreak that I’d found a few years prior and by chance there was swell getting in. We lucked out I guess because there was swell on an absolute bluebird day and we spent the whole afternoon having a ball. Call me old fashioned but I am a strong believer in the need to keep some places close to the chest and allow others who are motivated enough to find them themselves.

The trip was made that much more special by the crew I was with. Although the locations were stunning, it wouldn’t have been the same without everyone involved. Even though we were living in fairly cramped conditions, we were by no means roughing it. We’re all a tight-knit bunch, but embraced every opportunity, once anchored, to go and explore on our own and enjoy a little bit of solitude away from the limited space on board. After all, that’s what adventure is all about; being able to reconnect with friends and nature.

Photographer sits looking out at waves after a surf
Low autumn sun sets behind the waves and trees
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