San Manuel, Pechanga casinos to close temporarily amid coronavirus fears

San Manuel Casino in Highland and Pechanga Resort Casino in Temecula announced Saturday, March 14, that they would  temporarily suspend operations through the end of the month, amid growing concerns over the novel coronavirus.

San Manuel announced in statements on social media and on-site television screens that it would be closing through the end of the month starting at 5 p.m. Sunday, March 15 and Pechanga announced in a statement that it would be closing through the end of the month starting at noon on Monday, March 16.

“The health and safety of our guests, team members, and Tribal Citizens is our highest priority,” part of a statement provided by San Manuel officials said. “We have volunteered to temporarily suspend casino operations effective at 5 p.m. on Sunday, March 15th  through the end of the month. In consultation with the State of California and in consideration of the governor’s guidance on large gatherings, we feel this is the best course of action for our community.”

“As a Tribal Government and major employer of thousands of people, we have made the difficult decision to temporarily close Pechanga Resort Casino for the health and safety of our Team Members, Tribal Members, and guests due to the COVID-19 pandemic,” Tribal Chairman Mark Macarro said in a statement provided by the Pechanga casino. “No matter what, the Pechanga family will rise to this challenge together with the strength, compassion, determination, and resilience that our ancestors instilled in us.”

The decision by the casinos to close follows a day of closures by card rooms and casinos in Los Angeles County, including The Commerce Hotel & Casino, The Gardens Casino in Hawaiian Gardens, The Bicycle Hotel & Casino in Bell Gardens,  Hollywood Park Casino and the Hustler Casino in Gardena. All of those facilities announced planned closures beginning this weekend. 

Other casinos in the region, including Agua Caliente Resort Casino Spa Rancho Mirage, Fantasy Springs Resort Casino, Harrah’s Resort Southern California, Morongo Casino, Resort & Spa and Soboba Casino Resort had not yet announced any planned closures on their websites or on social media.

Earlier in the week, many of those casinos announced plans to either postpone or cancel some of their upcoming comedy and music shows as concerns over COVID-19 mounted. 

 

 

Read more about San Manuel, Pechanga casinos to close temporarily amid coronavirus fears This post was shared via Orange County Register’s RSS Feed

Powered by WPeMatico

Housing costs, migration expected to crimp Southern California’s economy

Southern California’s economy remains strong, but it’s expected to lag slightly behind the state through 2021, according to a new report.

As with other regions, housing affordability and a net migration inland pose challenges to growth and the efficient movement of people and goods, the Los Angeles County Economic Development Corp. forecast said.

On the plus side, per capita income growth is expected to continue to outpace the nation and state, buoyed by strong employment in the construction, logistics, professional services and healthcare industries.

Shannon Sedgwick, director of the LAEDC’s Institute for Applied Economics, which prepared the report, said the region has definite challenges.

“We have housing issues and a declining population,” she said. “With a decreased labor pool productivity remains low and that makes future economic growth difficult to achieve.”

Regional investment

Long-term regional investments in transportation — most notably the Southern California Optimized Rail Expansion — will help boost growth in the area, the report said. The $10 billion capital improvement program, which runs from 2018 through 2028, includes track additions, station improvements and better signals and grade crossings to improve safety where trains cross surface streets.

It’s projected to generate 1.3 million jobs and provide a $684 billion boost to Southern California’s economy.

The forecast expects the regional economy to expand by 1.8% this year and next year, well below the more robust growth the region saw in 2018 (3.1%), 2017 (3%) and 2015 (4.6%).

The biggest job gains

Southern California is expected to add 129,800 jobs this year and 128,300 in 2021. This year’s biggest employment gain of 52,500 jobs will come in education and health services, the report said, with other sizable increases in leisure and hospitality (20,600), professional and business services (18,900) trade, transportation and utilities (13,200) and construction, natural resources and mining (12,100).

Sedgewick noted that, while the region’s overall economy is still relatively good, many Southland residents are not earning a living wage.

“Twenty-five percent of households with children in L.A. County are receiving some form of public assistance,” she said.

Home values are out of reach for many and will continue to climb, largely as a result of the region’s limited inventory. Southern California’s median home price — the point at which half the homes cost more and half cost less — is expected to reach $593,111 this year, up from $589,249 in 2019, and it will rise to $606,649 next year, the report said.

The forecast also breaks out highlights for each county:

Los Angeles County

  • Economic expansion: 1.8% this year and 1.6% in 2021
  • Employment growth: 48,400 this year and 42,200 in 2021
  • Unemployment rate: 4.3% this year and 4.1% in 2021
  • Median home price: $658,339 this year and $674,463 in 2021

Orange County

  • Economic expansion: 1.7% this year and 2% in 2021
  • Employment growth: 16,200 this year and 19,600 in 2021
  • Unemployment rate: 2.7% this year and 2.6% in 2021
  • Median home price: $745,385 this year and $764,271 in 2021

San Bernardino County

  • Economic expansion: 2% this year and 1.8% in 2021
  • Employment growth: 15,000 this year and 15,200 in 2021
  • Unemployment rate: 3.9% this year and 3.8% in 2021
  • Median home price: $380,640 this year and $394,179 in 2021

Riverside County

  • Economic expansion: 2.3% this year and 2% in 2021
  • Employment growth: 13,600 this year and 12,100 in 2021
  • Unemployment rate: 4.3% this year and 4.2% in 2021
  • Median home price: $390,548 this year and $403,761 in 2021

The report defines Southern California as a 10-county region that includes Los Angeles, Orange, San Bernardino, Riverside, San Diego, Ventura, Santa Barbara, Imperial, Kern and San Luis Obispo counties.

Read more about Housing costs, migration expected to crimp Southern California’s economy This post was shared via Orange County Register’s RSS Feed

Powered by WPeMatico

8 trends behind South Orange County’s $238-a-night hotel business

South Orange County area hotel room rates are higher year-to-date through May as occupancy decreased, a new report shows.

Here are eight trends to know from CBRE Hotels’ latest reports on how local operators are doing filling up their rooms vs. countywide patterns year-to-date through May …

1. South Orange County hotels charged an average $237.91 per night, up $6.39 in 12 months or 2.8 percent.

2. Think that’s pricey? Among seven Orange County regions tracked by CBRE, South Orange County ranked only No. 3 priciest.

3. Countywide, room rates averaged $191.36 per night, up $7.14 in a year or 3.9 percent.

4. South Orange County hotels in 2018’s first five months were 72.7 percent full, down from 76.5 percent a year earlier.

5. South Orange County ranked No. 6 among seven Orange County hotel districts in terms of hardest to find an empty room.

DISNEYLAND: ALL YOU NEED TO KNOW!

6. Countywide occupancy was 79.5 percent, up from 79.3 percent a year earlier.

7. A key measure of hotel cash flow known as “RevPar” for South Orange County dropped 2.4 percent from a year earlier.

8. Countywide RevPar was up 4.1 percent in a year.

ICYMI: California critic’s ultimate critique: He moved to Pennsylvania!

Powered by WPeMatico

8 trends behind Newport Beach’s $290-a-night hotel business

Hotel room rates in and around Newport Beach ran higher year-to-date through May as occupancy rose, according to fresh statistics.

CBRE Hotels’ latest report reveals eight trends to know about how local operators are doing filling up their rooms vs. countywide patterns year-to-date through May …

1. Newport Beach hotel rooms on average cost $290.31 a night, up $5.16 in 12 months or 1.8 percent.

2. Among seven Orange County regions tracked by CBRE, Newport Beach room rates were the priciest.

3. Countywide, room rates averaged $191.36 per night, up $7.14 in a year or 3.9 percent.

4. Newport Beach hotels in 2018’s first five months were 81.6 percent full, up from 80.9 percent a year earlier.

5. Newport Beach ranked No. 2 among seven Orange County hotel districts in terms of hardest to find an empty room.

DISNEYLAND: All you need to know is here!

6. Countywide occupancy was 79.5 percent, up from 79.3 percent a year earlier.

7. A key measure of hotel cash flow known as “RevPar” for Newport Beach increased 2.7 percent from a year earlier.

8. Countywide RevPar was up 4.1 percent in a year.

ICYMI:  California critic’s ultimate critique: He moved to Pennsylvania!

  • The lobby at the Fairmont Newport Beach. The hotel sold earlier in 2017 for $125 million. It’s been temporarily branded as Duke Hotel Newport Beach. The 10-story hotel was constructed in 1973 and renovated in 2007. It sold for around $281,500 per room. It has 42,000 square feet of meeting space, an 8,000-square-foot spa and a rooftop pool.

  • The Balboa Bay Resort in Newport Beach was named a new Forbes Travel Guide four-star hotel in the 60th annual Forbes Travel Guide Star Awards. (Photo courtesy of the Balboa Bay Club)

  • Sound
    The gallery will resume inseconds
  • Aqua Lounge’s Happy Hour, pictured, draws a crowd on Thurs., Oct 12. Oak Grill and Aqua Lounge, separate venues at the Island Hotel in Newport Beach, have tweaked happy hour offerings under new executive chef Peter Lai. (Photo by Cindy Yamanaka, Orange County Register/SCNG)

  • Newport’s newest hotel, Lido House, mirrors the developer’s personal residence.

of

Expand

Powered by WPeMatico

8 trends behind Costa Mesa’s $149-a-night hotel business

Hotel room rates in and around Costa Mesa ran higher year-to-date through May as “No Vacancy” signs were barely less common, according to fresh statistics.

Here are seven trends to know from CBRE Hotels’ latest reports on how local operators are doing filling up their rooms vs. countywide patterns year-to-date through May …

1. Costa Mesa hotel rooms on average cost $149.15 a night, an increase of 84 cents in a year or 0.6 percent.

2. Among seven Orange County regions tracked by CBRE, Costa Mesa ranked No. 5 priciest.

3. Countywide, room rates averaged $191.36 per night, up $7.14 in a year or 3.9 percent.

4. Costa Mesa hotels in 2018’s first five months were 78.6 percent full, up from 78.5 percent a year earlier.

5. Costa Mesa ranked No. 4 among seven Orange County hotel districts in terms of hardest to find an empty room.

6. Countywide occupancy was 79.5 percent, up from 79.3 percent a year earlier.

7. A key measure of hotel cash flow known as “RevPar” for Costa Mesa increased 0.6 percent from a year earlier.

8. Countywide RevPar was up 4.1 percent in a year.

DID YOU SEE? California critic’s ultimate critique: He moved to Pennsylvania!

Read more about 8 trends behind Costa Mesa’s $149-a-night hotel business This post was shared via Orange County Register’s RSS Feed

Powered by WPeMatico

Cal State Fullerton students learn how to turn that part-time server job into a career in hospitality

  • A sign for the MGM Grand is seen along the Las Vegas Strip in front of the gold towers of the Mandalay Bay Resort & Casino, the pyramid of the Luxor and the castle-themed Excalibur in 2004. (AP Photo/Steve Marcus, Las Vegas Sun)

    A sign for the MGM Grand is seen along the Las Vegas Strip in front of the gold towers of the Mandalay Bay Resort & Casino, the pyramid of the Luxor and the castle-themed Excalibur in 2004. (AP Photo/Steve Marcus, Las Vegas Sun)

  • Billy Idol performs at House of Blues Anaheim last year. (Photo by KELLY A. SWIFT, CONTRIBUTING PHOTOGRAPHER)

    Billy Idol performs at House of Blues Anaheim last year. (Photo by KELLY A. SWIFT, CONTRIBUTING PHOTOGRAPHER)

  • Sound
    The gallery will resume inseconds
  • Dancers perform during Mulan’s Lunar New Year procession at Disney California Adventure  on Jan 26. (Photo by Jeff Gritchen, Orange County Register/SCNG)

    Dancers perform during Mulan’s Lunar New Year procession at Disney California Adventure on Jan 26. (Photo by Jeff Gritchen, Orange County Register/SCNG)

  • Actress Samantha, right, and two stunt doubles pose at a display in the new “Wonder Woman” exhibit at Warner Bros. Studios in July. (Photo by David Crane, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

    Actress Samantha, right, and two stunt doubles pose at a display in the new “Wonder Woman” exhibit at Warner Bros. Studios in July. (Photo by David Crane, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

  • Natalie Fulton is special events manager for Warner Bros. Studios (Photo courtesy of Natalie Fulton)

    Natalie Fulton is special events manager for Warner Bros. Studios (Photo courtesy of Natalie Fulton)

  • Chris Dyer, regional human resources manager for Live Nation (Photo courtesy of Chris Dyer)

    Chris Dyer, regional human resources manager for Live Nation (Photo courtesy of Chris Dyer)

  • Morgan Popalaski, executive director of sales for Luxor Hotel (Photo courtesy of Morgan Popalaski)

    Morgan Popalaski, executive director of sales for Luxor Hotel (Photo courtesy of Morgan Popalaski)

  • Ralph Grippo, president of Irvine Company Resort Properties (Photo courtesy of Ralph Grippo)

    Ralph Grippo, president of Irvine Company Resort Properties (Photo courtesy of Ralph Grippo)

  • Kevin Rohani, vice president of development and acquisitions for Dream Hotel Group (Photo courtesy of Kevin Rohani)

    Kevin Rohani, vice president of development and acquisitions for Dream Hotel Group (Photo courtesy of Kevin Rohani)

  • Maribel Denner, director of sales for Marriott Southwest Group Sales (Photo courtesy of Maribel Denner)

    Maribel Denner, director of sales for Marriott Southwest Group Sales (Photo courtesy of Maribel Denner)

  • Jim Doyle, general manager of Disney California Adventure Park East (Photo courtesy of Jim Doyle)

    Jim Doyle, general manager of Disney California Adventure Park East (Photo courtesy of Jim Doyle)

of

Expand

Many new college graduates shed their part-time restaurant or hotel job along with their gown and mortarboard.

But some executives and managers in the hospitality field have some advice for those students: Not so fast.

That part-time job might just turn into a well-paying career that could be just as rewarding, and probably more fun, than a lot of other work out there.

Combine it with a degree in hospitality management, and graduates can set themselves on a career path that might lead to a six-figure job, they said.

That’s if the student enjoys serving people. And doesn’t mind that the day might not end at 5 p.m.

Cal State Fullerton students recently heard a panel of seven representatives of the hospitality industry talk about how they got their start in the business, the importance of networking and the advantages of a hospitality degree. They talked about the impact of Airbnb on their industry and gave specifics about what students should put on their resume.

“The beauty of hospitality is there are so many opportunities to enter the industry — with restaurants, clubs, hotels,” said Ralph Grippo, president of Irvine Company Resort Properties. “There’s just so many part-time jobs that turn into full-time jobs and vice versa.”

The breadth of the panelists’ employers demonstrated one of their most important points: Jobs in hospitality go way beyond the restaurants and hotels that most people think of. Representatives from fields including live entertainment, space rental, special events and theme parks told about how varied their responsibilities can be:

Natalie Fulton is special events manager for Warner Bros. Studios, selling the event space to outside groups. She joked that her first job in the field was planning her high school prom. She then worked the front desk at a Hyatt.

Chris Dyer is the regional human resources manager for House of Blues Entertainment under Live Nation. He took on the challenge of closing the HOB at Downtown Disney and reopening at Anaheim GardenWalk.

Morgan Popalaski went from selling 200,000 square feet of convention space at Bellagio to overseeing the team that sold 2.1 million square feet of space at Mandalay Bay.

Ralph Grippo’s first job was at the front desk at a Howard Johnson’s. “They said ‘You’re good with customers.’ ” He later traveled to Japan and China to open hotels for Ritz-Carlton.

Kevin Rohani started at a cellphone kiosk at Costco before he entered CSUF. He’s now vice president of development and acquisitions for Dream Hotel Group.

Maribel Denner started as a part-time hostess at Marriott. She’s still with the company, overseeing  Southwest group sales.

And Jim Doyle, well, he had a career start that many CSUF students can identify with — running a ride at Disneyland (the defunct Skyway). He’s now general manager of Disney California Adventure Park East.

“We are in the people industry, that’s what the service industry is,” Doyle said. “It’s understanding others. It’s understanding how to avail yourself, your skills and your abilities to others.  And how to understand that about others and place them into roles in which they’ll best thrive.”

Those talents and skills are valued by a lot of businesses that aren’t thought of as hospitality or even in hospitality, the panel agreed.

Rohani said those skills came in handy at a previous job at Gensler, a global architecture and design firm, when clients wanted a warm welcoming feel.

“Hospitality is one of those people-facing businesses,” he said. As society becomes more and more reliant on technology, that people-facing aspect is important; it’s part of building a relationship and making people feel like they’re getting great service.

“If I was starting over now and didn’t know what I wanted to do, I’d get a hospitality degree just to understand how to work with people better,” Rohani said. In fact, he said that while a business degree has traditionally been a door opener for such graduates, he’s seeing more applicants using a hospitality degree as a ticket into various businesses.

Doyle echoed that having a hospitality degree is critical. So many industries are service-based, he said, and we are all consumers who want the best service we can get.

“When you have that degree, you come in with an understanding of what is expected in that realm – the ability to apply, the ability to learn and an interest in the industry,” he said.

There are few degrees that teach people to run a ride or a theme park specifically, he added. “But a hospitality degree helps you understand how all the elements come together: How we serve our guests, how are we creative in the way we serve our guests. And that will definitely help someone advance.”

Those components are what made the panelists confident Airbnb won’t take much of a bite out of their business.

“People still seek interactions and engagement with people,” said Grippo, as well as services and facilities that Airbnbs don’t offer.

Convention attendees like being able to just go downstairs to the meeting space, said Popalaski, executive director of sales for Luxor Hotel.

And even when people stay at an Airbnb, added Rohani, they often visit a nearby hotel for dinner and drinks, boosting revenue.

“I stayed at an Airbnb in Rome,” he said. “I loved it.”

The symposium and job fair were sponsored by CSUF’s Center for Entertainment and Hospitality Management, which is in Mihaylo College of Business and Economics (see accompanying story). The center estimates the average entry-level salary is $33,000 annually for such jobs as front office agent and event planner, rising at mid-level to an average $49,000 for such jobs as lodging manager or food service manager, and topping out at an average $103,000 for facilities manager or hotel general manager.

The industry has been the target of campaigns to raise wages at the bottom of the scale, which have been called out for being below living wage in expensive areas such as Orange County.

Kim Tarantino, the center’s executive director, urges students to stop thinking low and reach higher.  The industry offers unique opportunities, such as travel perks, and the possibility of six-figure salaries, she said.

Kim Tarantino, executive director of Cal State Fullerton's Center for Entertainment and Hospitality Management (Photo courtesy of Kim Tarantino)
Kim Tarantino, executive director of Cal State Fullerton’s Center for Entertainment and Hospitality Management (Photo courtesy of Kim Tarantino)

With bonuses from hotels, sales people in the hospitality business can get to over $100,000 pretty fast, said Popalaski. “It’s how hard you work,” she said.

Entry-level employees can move up the ranks by demonstrating interest and commitment to the industry, Doyle said. They must understand the changing needs of guests; personalized, custom experiences are becoming a trend, he said as an example.

“Are you willing to place the needs of someone else above your own?” he asked. “If you truly are, it shows.”

Grippo said salary growth depends on how employees grow their personal brand, how they gain experience, create and use knowledge, and expose it to those above and around them so management sees the value in to promoting them and growing them into a new role where they will make more money.

“But the reality of it is: It takes passion, it takes drive, it takes hard work,” Grippo told the students, remarking that new college graduates are in a generation with a different work ethic than previous generations. “I think we have the greatest jobs in the world. We get paid to make people happy. But it’s not easy because we don’t close at 5. Sometimes you get up at 5. And we’re not closed on weekends.”

Rohani added some perspective in wrapping up the event: “We’re talking about how hard it is to get there, but when you get there, oh boy is it fun!”

How do you get a hospitality degree?

Though the Entertainment and Tourism Management undergraduate program is in Mihaylo College of Business and Economics, non-business majors can enroll in classes starting in the fall as long as they have junior standing.

A minor is in the approval process.

Alumni work in companies including Paramount Pictures, the Resort at Pelican Hill, Disney-ABC, Disney Consumer Products and Interactive Media, William Morris Endeavor and Pechanga Resort & Casino.

In addition, the College of Communications has an undergraduate concentration in Entertainment and Tourism Communications and a graduate concentration in Tourism and Entertainment.

The Behind the Scenes student-industry alliance at Cal State Fullerton provides students with the chance to interact with members of the entertainment and tourism industries as well as fellow students and professors.

 

Powered by WPeMatico

Exploring the Canadian Galapagos

  • Amanda Fletcher takes a morning kayak trip.

    Amanda Fletcher takes a morning kayak trip.

  • Sea lions lounge portside of The Swell.

    Sea lions lounge portside of The Swell.

  • jeff-reynolds-3

  • Mortuary poles at UNESCO World Heritage Site at S'Gang Gwaay.

    Mortuary poles at UNESCO World Heritage Site at S’Gang Gwaay.

  • Bristol Foster naturalist with Maple Leaf Adventures

    Bristol Foster naturalist with Maple Leaf Adventures

  • tavishcampbell.ca-9656

  • sherry-kirkvold-1

  • greg-shea-2

  • _DSC0831

  • _DSC1605

of

Expand

Sunlight shines through the trees, highlighting the riot of green growing from the top of a centuries-old mortuary pole, the carved images of a raven and a grizzly bear easier to see in the bleached wood once the watchman points them out.

This is S’Gang Gwaay, a village site of the Haida First Nations people, part of the Gwaii Haanas National Park Reserve at the southern tip of Haida Gwaii, British Columbia, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. These are the last remaining totem poles in a settlement that thrived for centuries before being decimated by smallpox in the 1800s. There will be no conservation effort. The Haida believe these burial poles are a representation of the life cycle; once they fall, they will be reclaimed by the forest.

It is impossible to stand on this hallowed ground and not feel something – there is a sense of awe but also of urgency – in the knowledge that this special human place will soon be gone but that it will also begin again as something new.

I rode on the bow of a wooden boat guided by Maple Leaf Adventures to get here. I sat in front of the wheelhouse under the watchful eye of Capt. Alex Ruurs. My fellow passengers stood around me, pointing out bald eagles, oystercatchers and cormorants sailing past our heads. “Humpback whale breach off the starboard side,” someone yelled, handing me binoculars. We coasted over crystal waters full of spiny sea urchins, stroking the backs of starfish. We watched a black bear feeding at low tide, heard the crunch of crab shells between his massive jaws. We touched the tentacles of a baby octopus and watched the arms of anemones wave in the current before finally arriving on this beach to hike through the woods and stand in front of the totems of S’Gang Gwaay.

Known as the Canadian Galápagos because of its wealth of endemic wildlife, Haida Gwaii is an archipelago off the northern coast of British Columbia known as the Queen Charlotte Islands until 2010. Largely covered in temperate rain forest, more than 150 islands form the shape of a bird’s wing – the largest, Graham and Moresby Islands, in the north, and the smaller collection of Gwaii Haanas to the south. To the east there is Hecate Strait and the mainland; to the west, the straight drop of the continental shelf and the open waters of the Pacific.

This is a place of possibility – where, if you listen, you might just hear the earth breathe.

For an Orange County resident, it’s a land of what ifs: What if there were no drought? What if the redwoods weren’t so desperate for a drink? What if we were free from the fear of wildfire? What if instead of the crackle of dry grass underfoot there was an emerald carpet
of moss, just begging to be touched. For
a native Canadian like me, who has made her home in Southern California for most of her adult life, it’s some strange alchemy that lets me be in both places at the same time, like living inside my own deepest desires.

***

Selected for Canada’s Signature Experiences Collection by the Canadian Tourism Commission, Maple Leaf Adventures has provided conservation-focused big adventures aboard small ships since 1986.

“We had a modest sailboat growing up,” explains Kevin Smith, who is Maple Leaf’s president. “I worked as a salmon researcher and with the Coast Guard to pay my way through school. I found that I needed to be out in boats, and I’ve been able to turn my passion for the ocean into my business.”

Smith has created “eco-adventure cruising,” using the principles of preservation, education and hands-on experience to offer a unique experience for travelers who crave more than a superficial, just-passing-through kind of trip.

This is not your average cruise ship. It’s a 88-foot converted tugboat, known as the Swell. Built in 1912, it hauled other ships for close to a hundred years. After $4 million-plus in renovations, it’s a passenger vessel of incomparable beauty, its interiors paneled in polished wood, its silver portholes gleaming. Morning kayak trips mean searching the shore for bears but also taking photos of our boat, the snow-topped peaks and a forest of trees reflected in the water around it. It is impossible not to feel lucky. Swell accommodates up to 12 guests in six cabins with high-thread-count sheets and limited-edition prints. Every room has its own bathroom, every shower runs hot, and you can drink the water straight from the tap, thanks to a state-of-the-art desalination system.

A crew of five includes the captain, the first mate, a deck hand, the chef and a naturalist. Not only are they experts in their own fields, but each has a connection to the environment and an adventurous spirit that infuses each

day with expectation. On this trip, anything could happen.

***

Between expeditions ashore, from Tanu to Rose Inlet and back to Windy Bay, guests fish off the side of the boat and the crew drops baited traps in the hopes of further enhancing our three-course, locally sourced meals. Who wouldn’t want to add an appetizer of Dungeness crab to the pan-seared salmon with black beluga lentils and farro from Alberta?

“We forage as much as we can,” says first mate Kristina Long, “but it’s seasonal. We find salmonberries, strawberries and blueberries, mint, and morel mushrooms in the fall. We only take as much as we need, though. With the crab traps, if we get 20, we only really need six for everyone to try it.”

Our only catch was a single sea urchin. Naturalist Bristol Foster split the spiny sphere, produced a spoon and digging it into the creature’s wet depths asked, “Who wants to try some uni?”

***

On Haida Gwaii, really anything can happen.

Named one of the 50 Tours of a Lifetime by National Geographic Traveler, Haida Gwaii is “best experienced without expectations or itineraries” because Mother Nature makes her own plans. Excursions begin with a land tour of the inhabited islands, an overnight at Alaska View Lodge in Masset, and an afternoon at Skidegate’s Haida Heritage Centre. While the Swell has a loose idea of where it’s headed, once it’s boarded in Cumshewa Inlet, our crew meets in the wheelhouse every morning to make adjustments to the day’s plans, contingent on the weather, whale sightings or potential foraging expeditions. One thing is constant, however: Every evening the captain steers into a quiet inlet along the route where the water is like glass, so you can enjoy your cr¯me brûlée without having to stop your utensils from rolling off the table.

After dinner, while guests lounge on the aft deck under a yellow cedar carving by Tim Motchman, sipping their last glass of a B.C. wine, the engine is turned off. Any overnight power needs are supplied by a silent bank of batteries.

It makes sense that the Swell is available for full-ship charters, because of how easily strangers become fast friends here. The Haida people’s history is an oral one, passed from generation to generation. Honoring this tradition, we meet in the galley on our first night to talk about where we’ve come from and how it is that we’ve arrived on the Swell. One of the other passengers realizes that the sailboat her late sister once owned has since found a home with the first mate’s mother. “It makes me feel good to know that a piece of her lives on,” she says. “It’s like I was meant to meet you.”

This is a powerful place, where the ties between things feel especially strong. It’s a common theme in Haida mythology, where humans are found hiding in the eye of a killer whale, beneath the skin of a bear or their limbs protruding from a clam shell. And after talking to one of the watchmen on Tanu, it’s obvious they don’t put much stock in linear time either. Children are believed to be the reincarnation of their elders. They are given the same names, and the actions of their namesake are attributed to all – past, present, future and supernatural. Stories are relayed in the collective “we” and take place in the ever-present now.

I am comforted by this way of looking at the world, the importance of community. My mother died when I was very young, yet I can feel her presence here like she is hiding within my skin. Making my way into the forest on a path that stretches out in front of me like a spine, it is her feet I see, one in front of the other, her hands reaching for my camera. And when we finally spot a pod of orcas – even after being told it probably wouldn’t happen – the captain stops the engine and lowers the hydrophone into the water so we can listen in.

I hear these killer whales talking and I recognize their cries immediately: It is the sound of my heart I hear, calling out to my mother.

Haida Gwaii. These things happen here.

4-10 nights, $1,890 to $11,251

:: mapleleafadventures.com

 

 

Powered by WPeMatico