Master Jonathan Dunn is the person at the helm of V2V’s fleet. The captain was born and raised in Vancouver so naturally, he grew up with a love of the water. We chatted with him about what a typical day in the life as a captain looks like, why he returned home to British Columbia coast after experiencing the world’s oceans, and his favourite part of V2V’s crossing between Victoria and Vancouver.
You’re the Master for V2V. How did you get your start as a captain?
I was born to parents who loved the ocean. I grew up on a large piece of waterfront property, and unlike most children, had a boat before I ever had a bicycle. I became a scuba diver early in my early teens and later worked as an instructor in my early twenties. By the age 25, I was certified by Transport Canada as what was then known as a “40 Tonne Master.” After certification, I immediately opened my first diving charter operating out of Granville Island. But, in order to upgrade my commercial certification to greater tonnages, I need to accumulate more sea time. So I worked on larger vessels, in a number of different industry sectors, both in Canada and abroad, before finally completing the necessary certifications.
Have you always had a love of boating?
Absolutely. I was born in Vancouver and raised between the city and our family home in the Southern Gulf Islands. We lived on five acres of waterfront property, so I was surrounded by the sea throughout my youth and was lucky to share my parents’ passion for exploration and discovery. From a young age, they immersed me in the unique character of our large tide, fast currents and the immense biodiversity found in BC waters. It was this early fascination with the ocean that led me to seek a career working in and on it.
We don’t imagine becoming a captain is easy. What does that process look like?
It’s different by country but here in Canada, commercial marine certifications are issued by Transport Canada. For each desired certification level there’s an academic component, as well as a practical experience accrual period known as “sea time.” After achieving the correct amount of sea time to attempt your first certification, you submit testimonials for approval by a marine safety examiner. Once approved, you tackle the academic component.
Some exams may be challenged by self-study, while others are mandated to be taught through an accredited marine institute or college. In my case, this was through the British Columbia Institute of Technology (BCIT).
The British Columbia coast is spectacular. For those who have never experienced sailing it, can you describe—in your own words—what it’s like?
In a nutshell, diverse, magical, unique.
I’ve had the good fortune to sail on and dive in three oceans and five of the seven seas in my lifetime, each of them have their own unique attributes. I’ve been blessed to witness tremendous scenery, glorious colours, magnificent wildlife, spectacular sunrises and a wide variety of weather patterns, topography and geography. In the end, I made the conscious decision to return to B.C. because it encompasses all of the best parts of the other places combined—except you get huge tides, fast currents and more wildlife than anywhere else. OK, maybe the water is a bit chilly, but you get used to it.
Does sailing the B.C. coast ever get old?
Never! I’ll always remember when a young boy, who was sailing with his family on a charter boat in the central coast of BC, said to me: “I love the ocean Cap’t Jon, it’s always doin’ cool stuff.” Out of the mouths of babies as they say…
What’s your favourite landmark or part of the crossing?
That’s a tough question—there’s so much to see, it can change daily and it’s all beautiful.
Personally, I’d have to say the waterfront property I grew up on. We pass it every day and it holds great memories. The killer whales would swim by every four to five days for three months a year; it was—and still is— magical. Otherwise, it’s our mountain ranges that really stand out. Southbound, you see the Olympic Range towering above all the islands and the Strait of Juan de Fuca. Northbound, you see the north shore mountains as an ever-changing backdrop to the cities on the mainland. Some days between the clouds, trees, plants and sky, and the varying palette of colours that paint the Sea to Sky, it can defy description—it’s simply awesome.
Besides the scenery, what should travellers be excited about on a trip with V2V? What will they experience?
Great service, friendly staff, a quiet, stable ride, and an unexpected level of comfort. When I was considering my application for work with the company, I took the journey and was quite surprised—the whole experience is well thought out, something that was a selling feature for me in taking the role. I can’t say enough about the quality of the company, the staff and the dedication to making a memorable experience for guests.
Besides the service, I would say people should get excited about the wildlife viewing opportunities. If you look closely and pay attention, you might see harbour seals, sea birds, bald eagles, whales, porpoises, otters, salmon jumping, massive kelp beds…it’s always changing!
What’s something surprising about the V2V experience that most travelers don’t know about?
The wine and beer list is excellent! But more seriously, the ride is quieter than one might expect. The sight lines from the seating areas on both decks are brilliant—there are no “bad seats.” It really has a first-class feel to it.
Give us a piece of advice for first-time travelers taking the V2V experience.
For outdoor enthusiasts and photographers: bring layers so you can take advantage of the 360-degree-views from the observation platform on the uppermost deck. The unobstructed views and photographic opportunities are great! Keep in mind, we’re travelling at nearly 30 MPH, so it’s windy. For anyone less inclined to bare the elements, bring a good book or some knitting—it’s that comfortable.
And seriously consider the upgrade to Royal Class—you won’t regret it.
Finally, what’s your favourite thing on the menu?
Hmm, it’s between the breakfast scone and the chicken ciabatta sandwich.