NAU in the Marine Environment of British Columbia, Canada:
Exploring the Intersection of Environmental Ethics,
Policy and Science by Sailboat
July 30 - August 13, 2021
Faculty Leader: Jeffrey Downard
The aim of this program is to study the interface of environmental ethics, policy, law and science in the settings of national parks in the coastal and marine environment of the islands between Seattle, Washington and Vancouver Island, BC, Canada. As the class explores the marine and coastal environment of this area, students will engage in hands-on projects and learn the skills of good seamanship while traveling aboard a chartered sailboat. Daily excursions will be made by paddle-board, kayaks, and by shuttle into the city of Victoria, BC.
July 30 - August 13, 2021
Jeffrey Downard - Associate Professor
Tentative Itinerary (subject to change):
The professor for this course has 20 years of experience teaching environmental ethics, with a background in law (J.D.) and in biology. He has a special interest in the questions that arise at the intersection of ethics, public policy and science when dealing with issues concerning environmental protection and restoration. In addition, he has 35 years of sailing experience in including 20 years as captain of a coastal cruising vessel.
Day 1 – Friday (7/30/2020) arrive in Seattle (SEATAC airport in the afternoon), transport by van or shuttle to the harbor in Bellingham. Board the boat in the late afternoon. Provision for the trip. First dinner together aboard.
Day 2 – Saturday (7/31/2020) Depart Bellingham for Sucia Island. Breakfast before departing and then cast the shore lines and head out for a brisk sail across Bellingham Bay to Lummi Island, up scenic Hale Passage, to the most popular of the marine parks. Wander the scenic trails onshore or explore pebbly beaches lined with unique sandstone formations. (18 NM)
Day 3 - Sunday (8/1/2020) Stuart Island. Today can be a short day or a longer day depending on how you would like to spend it. The destination is either Prevost or Reid Harbors on Stuart Island. Both flank a state park with fascinating trails. If you've chosen a shorter day on the water and would like a good, long leg stretch, continue beyond the state park trails and along the quiet country lanes to the Turn Point Light house (4 miles each way). Along the way stop at the old schoolhouse where t-shirts are sold on the honor system and there is a small but interesting museum to explore. For those who would like a longer day on the water, this is a good day to sail south along the west coast of San Juan Island to look for orca whales before back-tracking to Stuart Island. (4 NM to Reid, 7 NM to Prevost)
Day 4 - Monday (8/2/2020) - The largest town in the San Juan Islands, Friday Harbor offers shopping, a large grocery store, and plenty of restaurants to choose from. While there, consider a visit to the Whale Museum or visit a lavender farm or winery. (7 NM to Jones Island)
Day 5 - Tuesday (8/3/2020) Deer Harbor. Several options fit well for today, depending on your mood. You could head east to Jones Island, where there are trails to wander and deer eat apples from your hand. Or, consider staying at charming Deer Harbor, where you can find provisions, ice cream and a nearby restaurant.
Day 6 - Wednesday (8/4/2020) Poet's Cove (Bedwell Harbor, S. Pender Isl.) or Ganges (Salt Spring Isl.) West across Boundary Pass, watching porpoise and Orca. Clear Customs at Bedwell Harbor on South Pender Island ...perhaps stay at Pet's Cove resort in Bedwell Harbor (15 NM, 1-888-512-7638). Or anchor in one of the pristine finger coves on nearby Prevost Island. (26 NM total).
Day 7 - Thursday (8/5/2020) Telegraph Harbor. Montague Harbor Provincial Marine Park on Galiano Island, then up the Trincomali Channel to dip beneath Kuper Island. (20 NM from Ganges).
Day 8 - Friday (8/6/2020) Nanaimo. Northwest up Trincomali Channel, through the Gulf Islands; pass Dodd Narrows at flood or slack tide. (41 NM)
Day 9 - Saturday (8/7/2020) Pender Harbor. Out and back through the magnificent fjords to Pender Harbor. (30 NM)
Day 10 - Sunday (8/8/2020) - Roche Harbor or Parks Bay. Float with Killer Whales across Haro Strait; clear Customs at Roche Harbor (14 NM, 1-360-378-2155) and stay at the marina or anchor in the protected bay off the resort. Another option is to head east through Speiden channel and down through San Juan Channel to anchor in idyllic Parks Bay on Shaw Island. Then anchor in this idyllic Shaw Island bay. (22 NM total)
Day 11 - Monday (8/9/2020) Pleasant Bay. Meander through the central San Juans; lunch at Obstruction Pass State Park; anchor in this protected bay a few miles south of Bellingham. (21 NM from Parks Bay, 31NM from Roche Harbor)
Day 12 - Tuesday (8/10/2020) Ganges. Cruise the northern edge of the Gulf Islands; duck through Porlier Pass (on ebb or slack), down the channel, and into this artist town on Saltspring Island. (20 NM) (optional day trip into Victoria, BC)
Day 13 - Wednesday (8/11/2020) Roche Harbor. Cruise southwest along Orcas Island, through Harbor Porpoise territory, to this historic resort. As you pass south of Spieden Island keep your eyes open for Mouflon sheep, European fallow deer and Japanese sika deer (imported to the island around 1970) grazing on the grassy hillsides. Roche Harbor Resort offers a restaurant/bar, cafe, a small grocery store, pool and spa. Of interest nearby are a sculpture garden, distillery and the unusual Afterglow Vista. (16 NM)
Day 14 – Thursday (8/12/2020) Cypress Island. Back into US waters to clear customs at Friday Harbor, then through the San Juans to a state park buoy or anchorage on the northeast shore. (43 NM)
Day 15 – Friday (8/13 /2020) Return to Bellingham in the morning. A short cruise across Bellingham Bay while savoring the memories. Depart for SEATAC by van or shuttle after checking out at the marina. (13 NM)
The itinerary leaves many options for places to explore and things to do. For more information, see the cruising guide:
The students who are enrolled will meet before the trip in April for a pre-departure orientation. During the month of May, students will be required to engage in two weeks of guided readings and assignments online as part of each of the courses. Final papers and projects will be due at the end of June to allow students time to explore more of the Pacific NW before returning.
Activities Designed for Cross-Cultural Experiences
Before the trip to British Columbia, the faculty leader will host a gathering to learn about some differences between American and Canadian environmental attitudes, policies and laws as these pertain to the protection of marine and coastal habitats in the Pacific Northwest. During the trip, there will be daily opportunities to interact with individuals living in maritime communities, where the economies were traditionally supported on activities such as fishing and logging. We will examine the ongoing transformation of these local communities as the more traditional ways of life have been adapting in response to contemporary forms of productivity, transportation, and the like. Prior to departure for Canada, students will read Joshua Slocum’s classic Sailing Alone Around the World. This will provide background on the various coastal communities that he visited on the first solo trip around the world, and will provide context for the differences between early 20th century oceanic and coastal environments and those we will see on our trip.
Students should submit a short statement of purpose with a brief description of prior experience in marine environments aboard boats and on the water, and an unofficial transcript..
See "Costs" above
March 12, 2021