Staying Connected and Working Remotely

Remote working in Santa Fe, NM in 2020

During most of our travels around North America, we have worked online as our primary source of income. Our employment has required that we be connected 3-4 days per week during the heavy times of the year and 2-3 days during the slow weeks. This demand on our time has necessitated that we stay connected to the internet far more often than we would prefer, scroll down to find out how we stay connected while living in our skoolie!

Continue reading “Staying Connected and Working Remotely”

Your Next Adventure Should be the Overland Experience at Overland Expo

This article originally appeared on 01/29/2020.

Whether you have been traveling by vehicle for decades or you are just discovering the world of overlanding for the first time, one of the best investments you can make in your future as a vehicle based traveler is the Overland Experience at Overland Expo.


You can only learn so much from YouTube videos and reading books about overland travel. Overland Expo assembles the best training teams in the industry to make sure that your time in the classroom is a good investment.


7P Overland sets the bar in the off-road and overland training industry! 7P trainers bring to the table hundreds of years of combined vehicle-based travel experience, most of it off-road as well as professional skillsets ranging from engineering, medical, applied sciences, and military training.

Courses offered by 7P cover a wide variety of topics and skills from the basics of vehicle recovery and picking a line, to more advanced topics of failing a hill climb or when and how to engage locking differentials. 7P provides a comprehensive training experience that will leave you more prepared to tackle your next trip safely and confidently!


Motorcycle training at Overland Expo is provided by DART (Dragoo Adventure Rider Training). Bill Dragoo is a life-long adventurer with loads of experience and a laundry list of accomplishments in everything from writing and story telling to mountain biking and most notably, adventure motorcycle travel. Bill and his team of experienced riders and teachers provide a positive and encouraging training experience that builds confidence while teaching and refining skills that will undoubtedly improve your next MOTO excursion.

Training staff at Overland Expo teach skills in a classroom environment as well as hands-on training in your vehicle or on your motorcycle while navigating the on-site driving and riding courses.


The Overland Expo build team consists of the best course builders in the off-road industry that coordinate and plan an epic off-road training course in conjunction with the instructors from 7P and DART to make sure the driving course is challenging, safe, and fun to learn on! The driving course is a fantastic place to hone your skills and learn new techniques in a controlled environment from instructors that have traveled the world and taken their vehicles to the very edge.

©Alison DeLapp
©Alison DeLapp

The build team at Overland Expo strives to bring new challenges to each training course and build courses unique to each event. The trainers will take you through obstacles, teach you along the way, and build confidence for your next off-road adventure.


There are very few places in the world where you can learn such a wealth of knowledge about the newest technology, planning and travel techniques and strategies and the various overland destinations in the world as you can at Overland Expo. Real-world overland travelers from around the globe present courses on a variety of topics including gear and vehicle analysis, route and destination planning, photography and story-telling and more!


Want to know how to operate the new Garmin Overland?

Planning a trip across Africa and want to learn from travelers who have done it?

Curious about how to finance full-time travel?

If there is something you want to learn about overland travel, chances are, you will find it at Overland Expo!




The extras that come along with the Overland Experience package at Overland Expo are great!

  • From the beginning at Check-In you are greeted with a unique attendee bag that is exclusively for Overland Experience attendees, a customized schedule of courses and sessions that are only open to Overland Experience pass holders, and a boat-load of swag from Overland Expo exhibitors.
  • Overland Experience attendees have their own campground area that is closer to the event with easier access to classes, roundtables and amenities such as food and showers. The Overland Experience camping area is strategically placed to create simple and easy access to the training area.
  • Enjoy your evenings at the bar spending your complimentary drink tickets or winding down in camp with other like-minded overland enthusiasts.


©Ruth Belcher

From the world travelers that have crossed continents in their purpose built expedition vehicles to the weekend warriors that just want to spend time with their family in the woods, there is a place for everyone at Overland Expo and that is what makes it special. The best reason to attend the Overland Experience at Overland Expo is the community of motorcyclists, off-roaders, weekend-warriors, and full-timers- all enthusiasts with a passion for seeing the world.

Staff, volunteers, exhibitors, and sponsors put a ton of effort into making Overland Expo THE destination for checking out new gear, learning new skills, and making new friends. There is a reason that so many epic overland adventures have begun at Overland Expo, I recommend you come check it out and see for yourself!

Beachgiving- Vanlife Thanksgiving on the Beach

2019 has been a year of new experiences, being in new places and having new stories to tell. So to keep with the idea of new, we celebrated Thanksgiving on a beach in Florida. This is a first for both of us, but hey, 2019 has been all about firsts!

However, I can only handle so much newness, so the meal will be traditional.

The Menu

  • Turkey
  • Mashed Potatoes and Gravy
  • Bacon Wrapped Green Beans
  • Sweet Potato Casserole
  • Pumpkin Pie

Shopping List

  • Turkey for two
  • Butter
  • Onion
  • Celery
  • Carrots
  • Potatoes
  • Sour cream
  • Milk
  • Gluten free gravy mix
  • Bacon
  • Green Beans
  • Brown Sugar
  • Sweet Potatoes
  • Pecans
  • Gluten free pie crust
  • Canned Pumpkin
  • Pumpkin Pie Spice
  • Eggs
  • Heavy Whipping Cream

To be proactive and not cook everything on Thursday, I made the Pumpkin Pie Wednesday evening. I love our new Camp Chef oven! Not wanting to try pie dough in the bus, I did something very out of the ordinary. I bought a pie crust, shh, don’t tell my mom! Wal-Mart had a ready made gluten free crust and it tasted just fine. Not homemade, but still good. 

Thursday morning was beautiful, the sun was shining and we watched dolphins swim next to a ship while we drank our morning coffee. Turkey prep began. Turkey is in the oven, cooking and smelling wonderful. Next step, sweet potatoes. While the water is heating up I step outside. When I come back in there is an odd smell and I look and look. Then I notice the water isn’t boiling and it should be by now. Then I notice there is no blue flame. Discussion begins and we realize the last time the propane was changed was in Nova Scotia, in August. Good news, the Camp Chef is way more efficient than the traditional Coleman. Bad news, it’s Thanksgiving, I have ingredients everywhere and neither of us want to move the bus to search for propane, on Thanksgiving. So, the trusty Coleman is pulled out of the back and put back into commission. It came in clutch, everything in our Thanksgiving feast, except the Pumpkin Pie, was made on the Coleman camp stove!

The turkey was cooked in the cast iron. Mashed potatoes and gravy were always a stove top item. Instead of baking the bacon wrapped green beans, they were cooked with the lid on. It ended up caramelizing the butter/brown sugar mixture much better than the oven ever has. Then the sweet potatoes were mixed and cooked on the stove top. We still wanted the marshmallows to be browned, so out came the MSR Pocket Rocket. We used it like a creme brûlée torch and it worked!

The picnic table was set and we feasted! 
Pumpkin pie with homemade whipped cream for desert was the best way to round out this Turkey Day.

After stuffing ourselves we took a leisurely stroll down the beach. We spotted several types of birds, saw a few fish jump and then watched as two dolphins played. Sharing Thanksgiving together was a special day and one that we won’t forget!

Okienomad’s Holiday Gift Guide for the Vanner in Your Life

This is a guide for those that have a van-lifer in their family or friends that are building or hope to build a van, skoolie, or overland vehicle. We own most of these products and can attest to their usefulness in a mobile lifestyle.

This is not a guide of things that we want for Christmas! We already have a ton of stuff and we have whittled down what we own to fit into our little bus and everything works really well.

Sea to Summit X-Pot

This thing is so useful that we have replaced our standard kitchen pot with the 2L size. The silicon sides make handling the X-pot a dream and the vented lid lets moisture escape the pot and also works as a handy strainer for pasta dishes. The best feature in our opinion is that the X-pot collapses to about 2 inches thick which makes it a storage dream. We have been using the X-pot for two years almost daily and it is still crushing it!

Viair 88P Air Compressor

Every vehicle needs a portable air compressor to keep in the trunk for low tires. We have used our portable air compressor more times than we can count. From airing down in Baja to topping off our bus tires after sitting for a while, the 88p does everything we ask it to. With the purchase of an adaptor we have even been able to air up our stand up paddle boards with the 88P. If you run bigger tires, VIAIR makes many different models and we wouldn’t hesitate to throw money at anything with the VIAIR name on it.

Blue Sea Systems 12V USB Outlet

One of our favorite additions that we made to our skoolie was a couple of 12V charger ports on each end of the bus to charge our phones, camera batteries, GPS, and anything else that uses USB to charge. We originally cheeped out and bought Chinese knock-offs and that was a bad idea because one has already died after being in use for a very short time and it was replaced with the Blue Sea unit. Blue Sea Systems sells a fast charge version of their USB outlet that will crank out enough juice to charge your iPad or cell phone in no time.

Helinox Chair One XL

Had you told us two years ago that we would be using $100 lawn chairs, we both would have laughed in your face. What we have learned is the saying “Buy once, cry once” is a real thing and definitely applies to camp chairs. Our hand-me-down fold out camp chairs from Wal-Mart were beginning to succumb to the hundreds of uses in creeks and sandy beaches as well as bouncing around in the rear of the bus and truck for some 50,000 miles of travel. Once one chair became too derelict to use, we chucked it and put the other in deep storage as there was a new chair in town: the Helinox. The stored size is perfect for any number of cubby holes and the chairs are truly top notch quality. We expect to use these chairs for a long time!
Rand McNally Road Atlas

Rand McNally Paper Map

There are times that we feel like old-folks…when we go to bed at 6PM and read until we fall asleep with a book on our faces and when we use paper maps to navigate. Our jobs take us around some of the most hi-tech navigation setups in the overlanding world and we still rely on a cell-phone with offline maps and a paper atlas. There is something soothing and adventurous about following your navigator’s finger on a map instead of a dot on a screen. 

Just a head’s up: this page contains affiliate links. If you use one of the links scattered throughout this page, a portion of your purchase price will help fund our adventures (at no cost to you). Thanks for reading and shopping with our links!

A Case for Traveling with a Paper Map

If you were as fortunate as we were growing up you had the opportunity to go on a few road trips before the cell phone was invented. I remember riding in the trunk of our 90’s Chevy Astro Van on a trip to South Dakota and the navigator was armed with three tools at their disposal: a bag phone that was astronomically expensive to make voice calls on, an AM/FM radio that played cassette tapes, and a paper road atlas. Consumer GPS and Google Maps were still at least a decade away and the only way to get from point A to point B was to follow the map. 

To this day, we still travel with a paper map for a few reasons. First, technology is fickle. Although phones, tablets and computers have come a long way since they became commonplace in most every American home, there are still times where batteries die, maps don’t load, and phone GPS beacons simply don’t work. Once while exploring the four corners region of the Southwest US, our phone started giving us wonky directions. More than wonky, it was telling us to go South when our destination was clearly North. We opened the Apple Compass app and sure enough, the compass was pointing the opposite magnetic direction that we were traveling.

We use paper maps when we are backpacking, bike touring, or exploring in our kayaks too! Follow the link below to find out how we download and print National Geographic Topographic Maps:

Download FREE Nat Geo Topo Maps

 A second reason that we prefer traveling with a paper map is the value that we place on the big picture. By looking at an entire state you have options- when you work remotely and you don’t always plan where you will be at the end of the day, it’s nice to have a big picture view of where you are off to next.

The third and most important reason that we keep paper maps in our bus is the tangible feel associated with a paper map. Similar to a good soft cover book or journalling on high-quality paper, holding a map in your hands is warm, simple, and relaxing. Technology is cold and brings along all of the other distractions of email and application notifications that are normally the reason why we are navigating out to the wild in the first place. A paper map is honest and true (if it’s current) and it doesn’t present you with the fastest route or a way to avoid traffic, it takes you where you want to go with as much true adventure as a piece of paper can generate, and that’s very valuable to us.

One of the best gifts we received from our wedding was a Rand McNally print atlas that we still travel with today. We plan with it, we real-time navigate with it, and we will only give it up when it is too torn up to use.

Just a head’s up: this page contains affiliate links. If you use one of the links scattered throughout this page, a portion of your purchase price will help fund our adventures (at no cost to you). Thanks for reading and shopping with our links!

Gear Review: Helinox Chair One XL

This piece of equipment was an investment, there is no doubt about that. Spending over $100 on a camp chair seems like a lot, which is why we didn’t buy a set when we left in 2018 on our round-the-country skoolie adventure. In hindsight, I wish we had because the Helinox Chair One XL camp chairs are worth every penny. We picked up a pair of chairs at Overland Expo 2019 EAST and put them to the test in the months following. 

Our comparison for the Helinox is coming from our use of the most basic standard camp chairs that everyone’s grandparents have tucked away in their garages-they come in a bag and they are clumsy to say the least. Obviously a $100+ chair will work better than a $12 Wal-Mart chair, but will the improvement be enough to justify the cost difference? We think so. If you are a fan of the tried and true fold out camp chair and you don’t see any reason to upgrade, more power to you. If like us, you have always looked at the fold up camp chairs in your rig as a monstrosity that need to be replaced with something small, lightweight, and comfortable that is built to last a really long time, keep reading. 

The biggest improvement from our old chairs to the Helinox chairs is the size; these chairs pack up small without compromising on comfort, but more on that later! The Chair One XL is the biggest of the square Helinox chairs and packed it measures 4.5” x 5” x 18.5”, a huge improvement over the nearly 5” x 5” x 36” dimensions of our old school camp chair. The Helinox is also a winner in the weight department, coming in at a slim 3.3 lbs. whereas our old chair weighed nearly 9 lbs. if you count all of the small grains of sand still stuck in the legs from our last beach trip. The new chairs are light enough that we would consider taking them on an extended paddle trip or an ultra luxurious bike tour. We are now much more confident in being able to pack our chairs for a walk to the park or up the trail for a picnic a few miles away. 

Another alluring factor that drew us toward the Helinox is the manufacturer’s 5-year warranty! You read that right-FIVE YEARS! Do you know how long your camp chair warranty lasts? I do, until the moment you sit down in it the first time. The peace of mind associated with a 5-year warranty on a product that we use weekly is invaluable!

The only area where the Helinox is not a clear winner for both of us over a standard camp chair is comfort. For me (Zach) that’s not to say that the Helinox is not comfortable, it is, just not any more comfortable than a normal camp chair. Rachael finds the Helinox much more comfortable than the camp chair which I can attribute only to the fact that I am an ogre and she is much smaller. There are also no cup holders on the helinox chairs which is not a huge miss for us, but some might not enjoy sitting their beverage on the ground. 

The Helinox is a worthwhile upgrade for you if:   

  • You use your camp chairs as a piece of furniture for full-time travel  
  • You are tired of trying to find a good place to store huge camp chairs    
  • You use your gear enough to value a 5-year warranty

The Helinox might not be worth it for you if: 

  • You don’t like gear that is expensive   
  • You don’t use your gear enough to warrant the price

For us, the Helinox is a no brainer and we are disappointed that we didn’t upgrade sooner. We will decommission our old chair that is still functioning to storage and maybe put it in storage for when the niece and nephew come to visit some day. Until then we are going to keep enjoying our Helinox chairs!

Just a head’s up: this page contains affiliate links. If you use one of the links scattered throughout this page, a portion of your purchase price will help fund our adventures (at no cost to you). Thanks for reading and shopping with our links!

Gear Review: Sea to Summit X-Pot

We were first exposed to the X-Pot at Overland Expo 2018 WEST in Flagstaff, AZ when we worked a little bit at the event and decided to splurge on a piece of gear from one of the vendors. We settled on the 2.8L Sea to Summit X-Pot and fell in love.

2 years later- Stress cracks and discoloration, but does not effect performance one bit!

The X-Pot is downright versatile! Below are some of our favorite features:

  • BPA free, heat resistant silicone – built to EU food-grade standards
  • Hard anodized 6063-T6 aluminum base conducts heat really well for outdoor gourmet cooking
  • Durable translucent strainer lid
  • Stainless steel ring embedded in the rim provides stability

The ultimate feature of the X-Pot lies in it’s ability to collapse to about the thickness of our bus dinner plates and stow away flat and out of the way. Check out the image below for a size comparison.

The X-Pot heats just as well as any of the cheap cookware that originally found their way into our bus and we are just waiting on something else in our kitchen to break so we can replace it with a Sea-to-Summit unit, we like our X-Pot that much!

Our X-Pot has started to discolor around the aluminum base but the color does not effect performance one bit and to be honest, we are really hard on gear. We expect this unit to last a good while longer and we can’t wait to take it on an overnight paddle or bike trip next time we get a chance.

2 years later- Careful with the simmer, stuff can get caked pretty easy.

We have used our X-Pot on a variety of cook tops including our MSR Pocket Rocket, Coleman Camp Stove, and our new Camp Chef Oven top with great success across the board. We have simmered veggies at low heat and boiled water on high with no complaints. This pot is essential gear for anyone with limited space in their kitchen.

Just a head’s up: this page contains affiliate links. If you use one of the links scattered throughout this page, a portion of your purchase price will help fund our adventures (at no cost to you). Thanks for reading and shopping with our links!

Top 4 Things to See at Overland Expo 2019 EAST

It’s amazing to think that it is time again for Overland Expo 2019 EAST! It seems like just yesterday we (the tough ones at least) were trudging our way through 6-inch deep mud to see some of the coolest rigs and brands from the Eastern U.S. This year will be a bit different with new ownership, a new venue, and a new month. It seems like all of the changes have been good so far and we are pumped for the new venue and the all-weather title that it claims. We have scoured the exhibitor and training list and these are the top 4 things that you can’t afford to miss at Overland Expo 2019 EAST.

DIY and Showcase Area

This is where the real folks exist. Most of the rigs found in the DIY area are self-built and not funded by an off-road brands marketing budget. Most of these vehicles are well-built and practical and many have been very well-traveled. Take a stroll through the DIY/Showcase area to see real rigs built by real people on real budgets.


Okienomads Class Pick: My Overland Vehicle: 1964 Ford F350 (Robert Lahr)

Visit the Author Tent

There are truly some gems to be discovered in the Author tent including twice round the world adventure motorcyclist Ted Simon. Take a stroll through the tent and prepare yourself for stories and sage advice to begin flying from the pages of books outlining travel around the world on various modes of transportation. There is truly something for everyone in the Author Tent.

Okienomads Book Pick: Finding Jupiter by Ted Simon

Track Down Your Favorite Brands and Discover New Ones

The Exhibitor area seems to grow more and more each year and there are truly some great products being sold at Overland Expo 2019 EAST. Maybe you have some critical gear-storage problems, stop in Blue Ridge Overland Gear. Or perhaps you’ve been debating upgrading to a pop-up camper, now is the time to sit in a Four Wheel Campers and prepare to have your definition of quality and attention to detail changed forever. There are products at Overland Expo for every budget, travel style, and experience level!

Okienomads Product Pick: ARB 4×4 Accessories Awning + Room

Cruise the Camping Area

When you get tired after scheduling too many classes and talking to all of your favorite brands about your upcoming trip to the Finger Lakes, take a stroll through the campground to check out some of the everyday rigs that folks are exploring in all over the country. You will be amazed at the resourcefulness and creativity that some of the attendees bring to Overland Expo. Some of my greatest inspirations for changes to rigs has happened not in the EarthRoamer booth, but in the back-40 having a beer with someone that has put a lot of time into their rig.

 Okienomads Campground Tip: Try tracking down the volunteer camping area. These are the folks that take off from work to travel across the region to help make the show happen. High-quality events can’t exist without a high-quality group of volunteers. A lot of the volunteers are full-time travelers or are at least on the road several months out of the year. They have stories that you want to hear. 

There is still time to purchase tickets to Overland Expo EAST. Check out for more information!

Our Favorite Podcasts

We drive…a lot! We have racked up over 40,000 miles in the last year and a half and neither of us do well with idle minds so we constantly have something on the speakers including online radio, talk radio and podcasts. Below we list our top 5 podcasts that we listen to weekly without fail. We enjoy one so much that we recently went to a live show in Portland, ME!

Stuff You Missed in History Class
Hosted by Tracy V. Wilson and Holly Frey, Stuff You Missed in History Class is a hilarious podcast that brings historical events into the present day in an entertaining and funny way.

Suggested episode: The Bisbee Deportation

The Village Church
Although technically not a podcast, we find that keeping looped in with a church congregation while we are on the road and unable to attend a consistent church is extremely rewarding and balancing. The lead pastor, Matt Chandler, has an amazing story of deliverance from illness and sin and he teaches biblical principals in a no-nonsense style that is refreshing in today’s church climate. 

Suggested episode: All of them. Seriously, start at the beginning and follow the journey of this church as it grows in its biblical role as the bride of Christ.

The Dirtbag Diaries
Exactly as the name implies, The Dirtbag Diaries is an artful and well-produced podcast telling stories from the slopes, waves, hiking trails, and every other corner of the natural world. Stories are told by the writers of each story and tell of growth, defeat and overcoming trials of all shapes and sizes. 

Suggested episode: Winnebago Warriors

Freeakonomics Radio
What would happen if Economists ruled the world? Now you don’t have to wonder anymore. The award-winning book Freakonomics takes to the airways narrated and produced by writer Stephen Dubner. Co-Author Steven Levitt is an Economist at the University of Chicago is a regular guest along with many distinguished experts in fields from education, behavioral economics, healthcare and more.

Suggested episode: America’s Hidden Duopoly

Stuff You Should Know
Arguably the most entertaining of all of the podcasts that we listen to, Stuff You Should Know brings humor to a myriad of topics including history, technology, pop-culture and more. Hosts Josh Clark and Chuck Bryant are hilarious as their banter navigates the most interesting topics in podcasting.

Suggested episode: Iran-Contra Affair: Shady in the 80’s

Rachael’s Podcast Pick

Coffee Break-German
Want to learn a second language? Do you have some spare time where headphones are acceptable? Learn a language while listening to a podcast with the Coffee Break podcasts. Rachael uses Coffee Break-German to keep her German skills in check while we travel.

Zach’s Podcast Pick

Jocko Podcast
Former Navy Seal and leadership consultant Jocko Wilink interviews veterans, reviews books, and uses his vast knowledge and experience in combat to navigate the most pressing challenges of modern business. 

Honorable Mention

The Tim Ferris Show
Millionaire investor Tim Ferris breaks down top performers in various industries and professions and teases out the habits and practices that lead to success. If you are easily annoyed by product pitches and salesmanship, learn to fast forward through the first 5 minutes of Tim’s show.

That’s the list! Do you have a favorite podcast that you listen to while traveling? We would love to hear about your favorites, so leave a comment or send as an e-mail at

Whale Watching with Captain Mark in Pleasant Bay, Nova Scotia

Rachael and I had one big regret from our time in Baja this winter, we didn’t do a whale watching tour. These massive mammals make colossal journeys along the coasts of North America and we only caught a glimpse of them from a beach near Cabo San Lucas. When we started planning our trip to Nova Scotia and Cape Breton Island, we decided that we would book a tour and take our chances seeing these creatures on the opposite end of the continent in St. Lawrence Bay.

Enter Captain Mark. When you research whale watching on Cape Breton Island, this shop comes up over and over- fantastic reviews of a fun and educational experience with a local who respects the animals and knows the area extremely well. Sit tight as this is another review about how AMAZING our time with Captain Mark was. 


Booking our trip was dead simple. Captain Mark’s website is super easy to use and processing was fast and secure. It took me less than five minutes to book our boat and are we glad that we did. The docks were littered with people who neglected to book early and were high and dry because they didn’t book early. Book early folks, Captain Mark fills up quickly. 

Pre-Adventure Check In

We arrived 30-minutes early as the instructions online had told us to and the staff got us checked in, provided a receipt and had us sit tight for life jackets and departure. The life jackets were top of the line and were the smaller CO2 filled variety. This was a pleasant departure from the big clunky orange jackets that we were expecting. 

Captain Mark greeted us on time and led us down to the boats. The pre-departure chat was informative and included all of the safety precautions about what to do if you go overboard or if the captain is rendered unresponsive. All required safety equipment was on board and we felt very secure in the Zodiac. 

Let’s talk about the boats for a minute. When researching, I was expecting a large boat (think lobster fishing boat) with a ton of people on board and a creeping slow engine. We chose Captain Mark’s because they utilize a smaller, faster, and much more environmentally friendly watercraft, a Zodiac. The Zodiac is a combination of inflatable pontoons and a rigid frame that is one of the most common short distance watercraft in the world. Organizations that rely on speedy and concise travel in the water like the US Navy Seals and environmental protection agencies from around the world use the Zodiac for good reason, it works. 

The smaller of the two Zodiacs available.

There are two Zodiac models available from Marks, the Northstar and the Tourmaster. The first is a smaller boat with outward facing seats and a smaller engine. In our case, this boat was captained by one of Captain Mark’s staff. The boat we booked was a bit bigger and had forward facing seats with 2 larger motors. The seats were as comfortable of seats as you could expect from a small ocean-vessel and the ride quality was extremely fun. 

We departed the harbor on time and in style as Captain Mark pinned the throttle and the Zodiac sprang to life with the bow high in the air and the passengers all smiling ear to ear. Despite the 4-5 foot swells, the boat handled the rough water well and we never felt unsafe or like we would fall overboard. 

The Tour

Once we got to open water we quickly spotted a family of pilot whales surfacing a short distance away. Every few seconds several pairs of whales would surface and spout from their blowholes. The benefit of the Zodiac over the larger vessels was obvious quickly, Captain Mark’s boats could simply get close to the animals quickly and turn off their motors in time to not disturb the animals. We drifted alongside this pod of pilot whales for around 30-minutes. Some would taper off to open water while others seemed to revel in the social interaction with humans and the attention that accompanied it.

The competing whale watching companies in the water at the same time as us were in larger boats, potentially old fishing boats. The boats seemed to rock more in the swells than the lighter Zodiac raft did and they were much slower, arriving to the site of the whales after they had long since left. We were glad that we were booked with Captain Mark.

After the first pod disappeared, we continued North and started to edge in closer to the shore before we came across a second large pod of pilot whales. These whales, much like the first pod, mostly stayed near the boat performing underwater turns and rolls before breaching close enough to the boat that we could feel the spray. I’m convinced we could have stayed with that pod all evening and they would have continued to put on a show for us.

We left the pod and turned toward the shore where the real beauty of the tour began to shine. The amount of unique local knowledge that Captain Mark shares on his tour is impressive- from old settlements that no longer exist to Buddhist monastery that offer a 3 year retreat on the cliffside of Cape Breton Island.

We were all smiles after our time with Captain Mark!

Captain Mark took his time navigating the coast and pointing out points of interest as well as an abundance of seals, eagles, and even some “wild” horses on an isolated beach. Mark seemed to be as involved in the local community as he was in his tour business and had stories to prove it. The boat ride itself was a fantastic adventure even if we hadn’t seen whales. The Zodiac is a blast to ride in and it made spotting and seeing the whales up close extremely easy. We had so much fun and we can’t wait to come back to Cape Breton just to enjoy Captain Mark’s tours.

To learn more about Captain Mark’s tours and to book your excursion check out their website:

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