Frommers – Flying Under the Radar – Pt. 5

Matt Hannafin at Frommers has been doing a series of articles about alternative cruises to the big lines. His first article was on cruising in Alaska and had a nice mention of us. Here’s a link to my blog post about his first installment Frommers – Flying Under the Radar – Pt. 1

In his newest article on small ship cruising, he talks about cruises that we, and other companies, offer in British Columbia and the Pacific Northwest.

If you are thinking about taking a cruise and would like to experience a more local and authentic vacation that is run by the people who own their own boats, please read Matt’s articles and then have a look at his list of recommended companies. You are sure to find the right sized boat with the right crew and itinerary.

Frommers Article – Flying Under the Radar Pt. 5

Last Day for Early Bird Discount – November 30th

Our Early Bird Discount of 20% off is ending soon! To make sure you get in on this discount for any of our 2010 cruises be sure to contact us with your deposit by November 30th!

Website is Back in Action

After a frustrating morning of having our website offline as our server company, a-plus.net, migrated our website to some new servers, we are back up and running. It looks like all of our pages and links that had disappeared are now back in place.

So far the biggest casualty of this move is our Live Chat. It might take us a week or longer to get that fixed, but for now we are just happy that the website is working.

Our Website is Down For a Few Hours

The people that we host our website have been migrating our site to some new servers this week. The result has been that we currently only have our home page and our blog available.

Jeffrey’s working on fixing some of the problems that have resulted in this migration. Please call or email us if you have any questions about our schedule and rates. We hope to have everything fixed and back up and running later today.

I can be reached at 877-670-7863.

Triple Ginger Cookies

I got a request today for the recipe for the Triple Ginger Cookies that I make on the David B. These cookies are some of my favorites! The original recipe came from my pastry school instructor Chef Heidi Satterlee and I get compliments on them every time I make them. It’s also the recipe I get the most requests for.

When I’m making these cookies I often play around with the amount of candied ginger and grated ginger depending on just how gingery I feel like making them. If you’re baking them in a wood cook stove you’ll want to start the stove up about 40 minutes to an hour before sticking them in the oven. Also if you’re using a wood oven don’t forget to turn the cookie sheet around halfway so that the cookies closest to the firebox don’t get over done. If you’ve got a regular-old gas or electric oven, then pre-heating the oven about 15 minutes ahead of time works well.

Triple Ginger Cookies

Butter – Soft 2 sticks (8oz)
Brown Sugar 2 1/2 Cups
Molasses 1/2 Cup
Eggs 2 large
Candied Ginger Chopped 1 Cup
Powdered Ginger 1 Tablespoon
Baking Soda 1 Tablespoon
Ginger Root Grated 1 Tablespoon
Salt 1 Teaspoon
Flour All Purpose 4 1/2 Cups

Directions:

Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees. Bake cookies for 8 -10 minutes

Cream together:
Butter and Brown Sugar
Mix in:
Remaining ingredients.

Having the David B All to Yourself

What could be better than being on the David B? Answer: having the David B all to yourself! People are often surprised that they can reserve the David B for themselves. For $21,000 you can take your group of six or fewer on a 7-day cruise departing from either Ketchikan or Juneau. This is a great option for families and anyone who would like to cruise with us, but might be a little shy when it comes to taking a cruise with people they don’t know.

If you’re thinking about reserving the David B for yourself, do so early. In November and December we can easily arrange custom dates for our whole boat reservations.

Two New Ways of Keeping Up with the David B

Today has been a busy day in the office at Northwest Navigation. I spent most of the morning setting up an accounts on Posterous and Twitter.

You can subscribe to our posts on posterous.com by going to:
http://northwestnavigationcruises.posterous.com/

You can follow us on Twitter at:
http://twitter.com/ChristineNWNav

We hope you will enjoy keeping up with us whether we are doing winter work to the David B or when we are out cruising around the San Juan Islands and Alaska.

Baking Bread

I love to bake bread and baking bread on the David B’s wood cook stove is a very different process for me from baking bread at home. During the boat season I wake up at 5am and start the fire in the stove. While the fire heats up the oven I grind some coffee beans and mix together my ingredients for muffins. I pull out the bread dough I made the day before from the refrigerator and set it on the counter. I like to let my dough rise in the fridge overnight to give the loaf more flavor.

As I go about my morning’s routine, I wake Capt. Jeffrey up at 6am with a cup of French press coffee. Usually about that same time an early-rising passenger will come up to pilothouse to share with me the ritual of First Cup. I love the quiet of the morning on the David B with one or two passengers to chat with and the smell of muffins baking and bacon cooking on the stove. While morning slips away the bread that I’ll make for lunch rises slowly. Sometime after breakfast when the dishes are done and we are underway, it’s time to shape the dough.

I make my decision on what to do with the dough depending on how hot the pilothouse is and what the day’s activities will be. If we decide that lunch will be early, then I make rolls, if we’re going to have a late lunch, then I’ll make a full sized loaf. After the bread for lunch has been shaped, I take out the dough that will become dinner’s bread. I also take out my sourdough starter, Whiskey Golf and make dough for the next day.

While the shaped dough for lunch rises, I’ll occasionally check on it. I lift the cloth that covers it and I lightly lay my hand on the dough to feel for warmth and elasticity. If I bake the bread too early, the dough will ‘blow out’ during oven-spring. If I let it rise too long then the gluten strands will be weak and dough will collapse causing a flat, ugly loaf. I’m feeling the dough for the right moment when I can put it in the oven and have a loaf of bread that emerges some time later with the perfect shape.

Loaf

The key ingredient of baking bread on the David B is our Heartland stove. Since the stove been going since 5am, its oven box has stayed hot all morning. I don’t bake bread in the Heartland by oven temperature. I mostly judge when I can bake bread by how much and what kind of wood I’m feeding the stove and what the stovetop thermometer is reading. The bread bakes in its own time and it’s done when the internal temperature reaches 180-200 degrees Fahrenheit. The magic of the Heartland appears to be in the dry heat of a wood fire. I can make a thick, dark, chewy crust that is bursting with flavor and with an interior that remains moist and soft. In my opinion there is nothing quite as good as warm sourdough bread made on the David B with a dollop of herbed butter I whipped up. Yes, I do make my own butter, but that’s a topic for another day.

While I sit here writing today’s blog waiting for today’s bread to rise I know this bread won’t be the same. It will be good, but my GE electric oven can’t produce the same crust as the Heartland. The crust is never as chewy and won’t brown in the same way. At home I’ve resorted to making all my breads in the Dutch oven for moderately chewy and lighter crusts. They are good, but really, never as good as when I make them on the boat and I can’t justify the decadence of making butter for just Jeffrey and me. I’m already looking forward to April when I can stoke up the Heartland and make bread to share with passengers. I know the bread on the David B will be more than just good.

The Great Pilot House Rebuild

We’re getting started on the Great Pilot House Rebuild. If you’ve been on the boat in the last couple of years you’ve probably heard me talk about the Great Pilot House Rebuild. We’ve wanted to do this project for some time now and as all of you have pointed out, it’s going to be a big one, so right now we’re getting all the planning and preparation done, so the project runs smoothly. We’re hoping to have it completed for the 2012 summer season.

Over the life of any boat, it’s very common to go through changes in outward appearance as well as internal changes to systems, the structure and the interiors Many boats owners add fly-bridges, that later turn into covered fly-bridges, and then become totally enclosed upper pilothouses. Most of the older boats in the fishing fleet on the West coast have gone through some aspect of this. The David B is no different. It was built with a forward pilothouse, which had the galley behind it, then a small quarters space with some bunks, then a low trunk cabin over the engine. In the nineteen-eighties, the owners decided that the boat would be more useful to them if the pilothouse was aft, and the center hold was open, so it could be used to carry fish. They also moved the pilothouse for aesthetic reasons, claiming that they liked the look of it better that way.

We’re now getting ready to move the house back to it’s original location, and restore the boat to (closer to) it’s original lines. It’s not going to work as a cannery tender ever again, but we’d really like it to look more like one, and more like it did in 1929 when she slid down the ways.

While it’s great that we’re going to make her look more original, the real beauty is really that we’re going to make her much better for our guests. The ‘new – original’ configuration will have lots more inside space for lounging, reading, and watching the scenery slide by. You’ll be able to come and go from the staterooms more comfortably, (and in your pj’s if you want) and there will be covered outside space for watching humpback whales, glaciers and all the other amazing wildlife we see. It’s also going to be better for us as well. We’ll have better visibility from the bridge, more space for the galley stores and the boat will even trim better, so it should slide through the water more efficiently. There will be no more standing out in the cold wind and rain navigating through the ice in the fjords for me.

Our plan is to complete the project in 3 stages over the course of the next 3 winters. This winter we’re creating the complete design, doing all the stability calculations and also doing the logistics for all the construction. During the winter of 2010-11 we’ll build the new structure ashore, on a mock-up of the existing deck. Finally in the winter of 2011-12 we’ll dismantle and reassemble the new structure on the David B. We’ll keep everyone posted as we progress. This week we’ve started working with a naval architect who will be doing all the design calculations. We’ll post the drawings as soon as we have them, and we’d love to hear from you about you think of the project.

The World’s Largest Cruise Ship

Last week Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines welcomed their newest ship the, Oasis of the Seas to it’s homeport in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. While I usually don’t get wrapped up in the fanfare of the major cruise lines, I found this ship’s story to be a bit different. What got my attention is that it’s the world’s largest cruise ship and the complete polar opposite of what I enjoy about being on the water.

As I read about all the amenities on the Oasis of the Seas, I was struck by how much of the boat is a diversion to the natural world. To get their passengers in touch with nature the folks at RCCL have designed a garden with 12,000 plants and 56 trees called ‘Central Park’, I assume that there isn’t any natural beauty in the Caribbean otherwise they wouldn’t need have an over-sized garden. I hope they at least are growing herbs for their kitchens. Other on board distractions includes, a zip-line, mini golf, climbing walls, and a theme park.

‘Wow,’ I thought to myself as I read the Wikipedia description of the Oasis of the Seas. ‘There’s a lot you can do on that boat. How are we ever going to convince people to come with us? Is RCCL making our trips sound boring?’

Well, I know why people come with us. It’s because we don’t offer all those whiz-bang distractions. We go out into nature and we cruise around at about 6.5 knots. We take our time and we take in the real natural beauty of every place we visit.

The Oasis can cruise at about 22 knots whisking their record-setting 6,296 passengers and 2,165 crewmembers from port to port. When we cruise it’s not with a small city, it’s with 6 passengers and 2-3 crew. Since we carry so few people, passengers and crew become family and forge lifetime friendships. We don’t need mini-golf or theme parks to make a memorable cruise. We have good conversation, great food and real adventure in a natural setting.

I do have to admit that our main distraction is an exercise bike on the pilothouse roof. On our 7-day and 12-day cruises the bike is quite popular for anyone who’s over-indulged in homemade pastries and deserts. While I confess the Oasis’ on-board tattoo parlor is kind-of nifty, if the option of getting a tattoo while on your cruise vacation is the only thing holding you back from making a reservation with us, well then, let us know. We’ll be sure to help you find and consult with the right tattoo artist in one of our destination towns long before you set foot on the David B.