A Nanoose Bay couple is hoping to cast their vision of ocean adventures to locals and tourists alike.
Kristi and Mike Bellis, the owners of Nanoose Bay-based Haida Gold Ocean Adventures, are offering scenic ocean and fishing tours from their boat which is moored in Schooner Cove. Haida Gold offers fishing tours, trips to Jedediah Island, Secret Cove and Thormanby Island, a sunset cruise and specialty charters.
Prices for the tours range from $400 to $1,100 depending on how long the tour is. The boat can also hold up to seven adults.
Kristi said when starting their business, they found there were people offering tours out of French Creek marina, but with a focus on fishing.
“When we started looking and talking to people, we found that there was a gap in the market for just an opportunity for families to get out on the water, so not necessarily fishing but beyond that, just to be able to get people on the water, be it locals or visitors,” Kristi said.
Kristi said the ocean is such a big part of Vancouver Island.
“We’re surrounded by this ocean. So many visitors come here and enjoy our beaches and look out on the ocean, but the opportunity to be on the ocean and experience it from that vantage, there wasn’t anyone specifically doing that,” she said.
To allow for those opportunities, such as bringing families onboard, Kristi said that was the goal behind getting a bigger boat “so that it would be spacious and stable and comfortable for people who may not have sea legs.”
Mike, who is the captain of the boat, said it is 30 feet, so it’s considered to be a small yacht.
Mike, who approached Kristi with the idea for Haida Gold, said fishing has always been a part of his life.
“What I would love to do is get a boat and take people out fishing,” Mike said. “I grew up on the water. I spent a lot of time on the water as a kid, through my 20s and definitely through my 30s.”
However, after spending five years away from the water, he said the ocean was calling him back.
Mike said when he approached Kristi with the idea for the business, he thought she was going to say no.
“I actually thought Kristi was going to say, ‘You’re an idiot. That’s a stupid idea,’ but she said it’s a great idea, but let’s expand on the smaller boat and taking people fishing,” he said.
“We expanded on the idea of just getting a couple rods and taking people out fishing. We wanted to entertain and offer different packages to people, not just fishing.”
Kristi said they had NEDC (Nuu-Chah-Nulth Economic Development Corporation) to thank for getting Haida Gold off the ground.
According to NEDC website, NEDC’s objectives are to promote and assist in the development and establishment of new and existing business enterprises on Vancouver Island.
“It’s an amazing, amazing program,” Kristi said. “It’s funding and business development support for Aboriginals. It is an amazing program and so because Mike is (Haida) First Nations, he was eligible for these programs so not only the template and the support to do the business plan, but then the business loan to buy the boat came through them.”
“We felt really lucky because I think it would’ve been a lot harder to go through the regular channels,” she said.”
With the help of NEDC, Kristi said, they were able to get the boat they wanted — which was closer to home than they had anticipated.
“We thought that we would have to travel and we actually had factored in that we would have to travel — at least to Vancouver, possibly to Washington to find the right boat,” she said.
The boat was actually already being moored in Schooner Cove, Kristi said.
“We had gone to boatyards and kicked the tire, sort of thing, just to see what was out there, but this was the first one we made an appointment with a yacht broker to see,” Kristi said of going to look at the boat they ended up purchasing.
“I remember we were trying to play it cool in front of the broker… I looked at Mike and said, ‘Is this boat for real? I can’t believe this boat exists and it’s in Schooner Cove which is where we want to be.’”
Kristi said they plan to have Haida Gold Ocean Adventures in service year-round.
“We know it’s going to be a hard sell in the winter, but there’s great fishing in the winter,” she said.