Trip #294 Recap – May 6 – 17, 2017 – Canadian Inside Passage
Trip #294 – Northbound Bellingham to Ketchikan Trip Recap
Twice a year the M/V David B relocates from Bellingham to Alaska – Northbound in May and Southbound in August. It takes us 12 days in total and there is a lot to see and do along the way. Here are Captain Jeffrey’s highlights from this year’s Northbound trip through the Canadian Inside Passage.
Day 1) 06 May – Bellingham to Garrison Bay
After a little delay to handle some customs paperwork, we were off. Beautiful weather, and a quiet anchorage with an evening class about Tides and Currents.
Day 2) 07 May – Garrison Bay to Nanaimo, BC
On to Canada, with lots of help steering and operating the boat. We ran Dodd Narrows a little early, just for fun.
Day 3) 08 May – Nanaimo to Tenados Bay Desolation Sound
An early start and long day of crossing the Straits of Georgia, but with perfect weather and Orca whales just before we got to Desolation Sound. Lots of discussion of cruising boat types and what people liked and a little about bouys thrown in. No other boats could be seen from our anchorage.
Day 4) 09 May – Tenados Bay to Cordero Channel Cove
We didn’t need to leave to early to make our Yulculta Rapids time so there was time for a beautiful hike to a lake, then on through the rapids, also a little early, and very swirly.
Day 5) 10 May – Cordero Channel to Blind Bay Lodge to Pearse Islands
No time schedule again, but lots of miles to make. We stopped in at Blind bay lodge to go for another walk, then headed up Johnstone Strait. More discussion of route planning and currents. Had Pearse Islands anchorage to ourselves.
Friendly Squirrel at Blind Channel
Day 6) 11 May – Pearse Islands to Alert Bay to Blunden Harbor
Made a morning stop at Alert Bay to visit the native cultural center, then on across Queen Charlotte Strait to a quiet anchorage by ourselves again.Several guests went kayaking in the beautiful early evening light. Sunsets are already noticeably later.
Day 7) 12 May – Blunden Harbor to “Amy’s Fancy Cove”
Early morning start for a very smooth crossing of Queen Charlotte Sound, with beautiful sun and a light breeze from astern. Amy chose the evening’s anchorage, a tight little cove with the tree branches right to the water’s edge, which were alone in, again. Sea Otters, shearwaters and Jaegers along the way.
Day 8) 13 May – Fancy Cove to Bottleneck Inlet
A late morning start, and lots of navigating through narrow tree lined passages. Everyone who wanted to has had some time at the helm, with J. taking us through Reid Passage and H. going through Jackson Narrows later in the day.
Day 9) 14 May – Bottleneck Inlet to Butedale to Coghlin Anchorage
Always the required brief stop at Butedale, which is slowly crumbling into the forest, lots and lots of waterfalls, then Whales! Humpback whales lunge feeding right off Kingcome point. Of course, we were alone in the anchorage.
Day 10) 15 May – Coghlin Anchorage to Kumealon Inlet
D.drove the boat for the entire day, through Grenville channel. There was kayaking and skiff rides before dinner. We happened to be at the reversing rapids at the Lagoon just before slack water, so we came back in the skiff with better raingear and cameras and got to explore the lagoon for the first time. Again, by ourselves, and a great toast to Christine on her Birthday.
Day 11) 16 May – Kumealon Inlet to Brundige Inlet
Left early, and drove through Prince Rupert, just as 2 ships were maneuvering to and from the dock, lots of discussion of passing situations etc. Very seldom have we been in Brundige by ourselves, but once again, for our last night, we were alone.
Day 12) 17 May – Brundige inlet to Ketchikan, AK
One last early morning start, and a good chance to see how the new Tin Hat was in bigger seas, probably three to five feet, and as expected, much more comfortable than before. Just as we were approaching Ketchikan, the welcoming committee of bald eagles and whales showed up. J spotted the whale first, and we were able to turn and watch for a couple minutes before we headed into town, the trip a complete success!
Last Minute Discounts for Alaska
We still have a 8 spots available for Alaska Trip #302 – July 30 to August 6 from Juneau to Petersburg. Here is a sample itinerary. Since we are just over two months away, I am able to offer a 20% discount on this trip. Normally this trip price is $5,900 per person, but with the discount you save over $1,000 for a discounted price of $4,720. Contact Sarah@northwestnavigation.com for details and to make your reservation.
Not ready for Alaska? Consider the San Juan Islands. We still have plenty of spots available once the David B returns from Alaska in August. Just look at our Schedule and then email Sarah@northwestnavigation.com to reserve your spot today!
New Glacier Bay Photography Cruise
This is really exciting! We are teaming up with AdventuresNW Magazine editor John D’Onofrio, and Quicksliver Photo Lab’s Digital Imaging Specialist and instructor, Alan Sanders for an 8-Day Photography Cruise in Glacier Bay.We’ve been working with John and Alan over the last several months to develop a special cruise for photographers that combines all the excitement of our Alaska trips with hands-on intensive instruction, new techniques for photography, and nightly constructive critique sessions.
If you’ve been on the David B before, you know I’m a complete and total Shutter Bug and having a chance to have two great instructors aboard the David B makes me absolutely giddy! I’m looking forward to this trip as a way to share the beauty and magnificence of Glacier Bay with you, as well as, having the opportunity to learn a whole lot more about how to take great photographs!
Glacier Bay Photography Cruise
Trip Number: 295
Dates: May 22-29, 2017
Boards/Returns: Auke Bay (Juneau)
Rates Per Person: $5600 (Special Introductory Pricing – $300 off 2017 rates!)
In the meantime, please enjoy the little video below I made from a trip we did last summer to Glacier Bay with Captain Jeffrey’s family and a couple of our good friends.
Dalls porpoises riding on the David B’s Bow
Something I look forward to every year when we are running trips on the David B are the occasional visits by Dalls porpoises. These mid-sized sea mammals that looks deceptively like baby killer whales love to surf bow wakes. We often see them in the Inside Passage and Alaska. Usually they are foraging for fish, but sometimes, they turn their attention to the David B. It begins with seeing their characteristic rooter-tail splashing a ways off, and with surprising speed, they soon rush up alongside of the boat, and then they begin jockeying for the prime spot just in front of the boat’s stem. It’s a thrill to watch their speed and their agility.
Here’s a little complication of a few of the amazing experiences we’ve had with surfing Dalls porpoises.
Bowriders on the David B
The ice mountain is well disposed toward you
There’s often a cold breeze blowing off the glacier when we arrive to admire it’s icy blue front. Wind that can make July feel like January. It plays games with my seasonal clock. I remember one time while watching Dawes glacier, a guest told me he was going to go river rafting in a week when he got home. I gave him a quizzical look. It took me a moment to remember that it was July, and the rest of the North America was enjoying water slides and shaved ice, not icebergs sliding into sea water.
Visiting a tidewater glacier in Alaska is pilgrimage. You go observe something bigger than yourself in nature. It’s something you need do. For us, getting to the glacier is part of the journey. It’s more than just checking it off as a bucket-list item. On the David B, we are tuned into the rhythm of the glacier and the ebb and flow of the tide as it carries discarded icebergs up and down the fjord. We watch the glacier’s ever-changing snout and it’s mood. We’re aware that the glacier sometimes makes us work hard for our visit by packing the fjord densely with ice shed from its towering face. Sometimes its bergs are enormous – big like a building. Sometimes they are small – like a basketball. Some are white, some are blue, some have dirt and rocks riding along. Some have seals nursing their young. Some are clear and difficult to see. (We call those sneakers.)
Iceberg sizes have official names too. Most of the ice we see in Endicott Arm or Tracy Arm are growlers, less than 1 meter above the water and and less than 5 meters long. We also see lots bergie bits that are up to 4 meters above the water and and 14 meters long. The small and medium
icebergs, which range in size from 15 meters high to 45 meters high are often floating at the entrance to the fjords. The large and very large icebergs, which top out at over 75 meters high are rare.
Picking our way though the ice is always a challenge, and depending on the mood of the glacier, it can make for a long day. When we travel to a tidewater glacier, we always have two hopes. The first one is that the ice in the fjord will be light and the work of getting there will be easy. The second hope is that when we arrive, the glacier will awaken, and as Captain Tyeen said to John Muir in 1880, when they first saw Dawes Glacier, “The ice mountain is well disposed toward you. He is firing his big guns to welcome you.”
This past year we had several good visits to Dawes glacier, the ice was light and the glacier did fire its “big guns,” but one day stood out. It was a cool day with a strong wind coming off the glacier. Travel was relatively easy. Jeffrey piloted the David B to about 400 meters from Dawes’s formidable blue-white front. The feeling is always the same for me. I feel really small when I’m face to face with Dawes, which towers like a wide-angle skyscraper. At 400 meters, the wind, as if laughing at our smallness, pushed us back away from icy Dawes. We were the only boat there. Jeffrey re-positioned the David B several times, and each time we faced the glacier again. Our reward came with patience, hot coffee, mittens, and hats. The glacier became well disposed toward us and began to “fire it’s big guns”.
It started with a cracking and a rushing sound. Ice sloughed off the center-right side dumping a cascade of bergie bits and growlers. It continued and dumped some more, then something big broke, and more bergie bits and maybe even a small or medium iceberg was cast away from Dawes. The sounds and the sight made my heart beat quickly with excitement. Soon the waves arrived with a long low gentle role. We moved in sync with the nearby growlers and bergie bits.
When the show began to slow up, Jeffrey moved us into the wind one more time. It was time to go. The ice mountain was good to us, other boats were approaching, and a hot bowl of chili and sweet cast-iron-baked cornbread with melting butter was waiting in the galley.
Some days are simply perfect. The weather’s warm. The skies are blue. The water flat calm, and the line between sea and sky is almost indistinguishable. We had a day like that in August. It was the kind of day that happens every-so-often in the temperate rain-forest climate of southeast Alaska. It was the kind of day where all the conditions were just right for watching humpback whales. Not only could we stop to watch, but we were able to turn off the engine and drift silently. Without background noise from the boat, we were able to experience something different. All around us, and spread out over several miles were humpback whales in groups of two or three, and alone. All foraging. When they would surface, their breath would make an explosive “swooshing” sound. Atomized water particles hung still in the air marking the spot where they had come up. It was hard to know where to look. The sounds of whales surrounded the boat. They would sometimes surface near to the David B. Other times they’d be distant. We just drifted upon the open water; watching, listening, observing.
Our only real plan for that day was to anchor in the evening somewhere at Admiralty Island or Baranof Island. We didn’t have any concrete plans for the day. Having an itinerary means you have to get somewhere, and when nature presents something beautiful and awe inspiring to enjoy, an itinerary means you just have to put on your blinders and keep going. So there we were, sitting around listening to whales. We’d also dropped a hydrophone (an underwater microphone) over the side. The small amplifier on deck that the hydrophone was plugged to revealed all kinds of whale sounds from funny-bawdy to ethereal. From my spot on deck, I could see couple of whales surfacing about a quarter mile away. It soon became evident that they were heading our direction. Everyone on deck turned their attention to these whales. They moved in a straight line. We watched. Each time they broke the surface, they were closer. Soon, one whales was close enough to see it under water –it’s long pectoral fins faintly glowing against the deep dark water. Over the amplifier, a couple barking sounds and some bubbles could be heard. Then a few seconds later, a whale surfaced just off our starboard side. It lifted it’s fluke high and dove under the boat. Farther aft, the second whale surfaced and dove as well. There was a moment of joy, then wonder. I wondered why they chose that path? Where were they going? What did the sounds mean? How long would they remain under water? Where would they surface next?
A few minutes later they surfaced again along the same line. I assumed they were traveling to a spot with more food, but I don’t really know what they were doing or planning. We hung around a little while longer. Jeffrey started the engine up, and we picked our way around other foraging whales. In the evening, we anchored in a little cove at Baranof Warm Springs Bay. As I made dinner, I reflected on the day, our luck, and I thought to myself, “it couldn’t possibly get any better than this.“
Please note – For full screen click on video, then click on” [ ]” in lower right corner.
Waiting for humpback whales
I always feel like there’s sort of a Jack-in-the-box element to watching humpback whales forage. When they are at the surface we can see them breathing, flapping their flippers, or slapping their flukes (tails), but when they dive, it’s anybody’s guess as to where they’ll surface next.
I like to think about the wait between surfacing as a time to refocus my attention on my surroundings. I know that they will be beneath the surface for 3-7 minutes. They’ll be rounding up forage fish and doing the things that whales do — the stuff we can’t see. In that time, I like to think about where they’ll come back up, or how funny it is that there are these enormous animals so close, (only a few hundred of feet away) and yet I can’t see them. I like to look into the water for passing jelly fish, or a tangle of kelp that slips along in the current. I watch the gulls for cues about where the whales are. On occasion when they swim right beneath us, the bubbles of their breath will bounce up along the David B’s planks –a reminder that somewhere, just a out-of-sight, but oh, so close, there are whales. I refocus my attention to the whales. I wonder how long ago they were under the boat. I wonder what direction they are going. I calculate the time. I lift my camera and wait. I wait for the thrill of hearing the explosive breath again and seeing these usually invisible giants. It’s like a Jack-in-the-box.
I heart the David B
Our guests love the David B! Since we only take six guests on the boat per cruise, we work hard to make sure your time onboard the David B is unique, authentic, and special. I think that’s what makes our cruises in Alaska, the Inside Passage, and the San Juan Islands, so different from small ships that carry 50 or 60 passengers is that we get the time to know you as a person. On the David B, you are not just another passenger on another trip. We really do care about you and we really do hope you’ll join us!
“No Outside News” Alaska Cruise
Drop your cell phone and back away from your device…
I spend a lot of time quietly pondering things, because, well, my job is basically to stare out the window. The bridge windows on the boat, to be sure, but as I stare at those miles and miles of ocean going by it’s very calming for me. It’s especially good when we’re in a place that doesn’t have any cell coverage and there aren’t a lot of boats that might call me on the radio. I really like that old-school feeling of no one being able to contact me (well, we do have a satellite phone, but it very seldom rings). There was a time when all vacations were like this. It’s actually one of the main reasons people used to get away — so that others couldn’t contact them.
Now, in our regular lives we’re so completely connected to our phones, our iPads, our readers, our laptops (even our wrist-watches). We’re connected to everyone, yet no longer connected to who or what is around us. And, at the same time, the media, who seems to have our full attention, is whipping us into a frenzy. Everyone, regardless of political position seems to feel this angst about what the future holds.
I’ve got a way to solve all this, and you don’t even have to vote for me
Imagine if you could be gone, just completely out of touch, right during the conventions this summer. You wouldn’t even have to think about what was happening in the American political system, and you could just enjoy the wild outdoors, the amazing hiking, the serene kayaking and Christine’s wonderful food. Perfect relaxation.
We’re making Trip #279 July 21-28 a special No Outside News Trip. It happens right in the same week as the Democratic National Convention. (The Republican convention week sold out early this year.) It’s round trip out of Juneau and as soon as we get out of town there will be almost no coverage for the whole 8 days. And, we’re even offering a 20% discount on it as well, making the new price $4480 per person. Click for itinerary information of send us an email.
New Video – One Boat Two Hearts
Last summer at the Victoria Classic Boat Show we met with Steve Stone from OffCenterHarbor.com who asked if he could do a video shoot of the David B. Someone from the boat show had suggested that the David B’s story would be a good one, and so we were introduced.
The next morning Steve came to the boat and videotaped us as we talked about the David B and what it was like to restore the boat as well as what it is like now to cruise in Alaska and the Inside Passage. The video is heartwarming and they did a great job of capturing who we are and what the David B means to us and to our guests. I hope you’ll take the time to watch the preview and then sign up with OffCenterHarbor.com to see the entire clip. It might just make you cry — but in a good way.
Going Ashore in the Wilds of Alaska
From the bow of the skiff, I watch for bears and submerged rocks as we close in on the beach. In the final moments before I hop out, Jeffrey cuts the motor and lifts its prop out of the water. The sandy beach greets the fiberglass with a scratchy hello. Jeffrey instructs our guests to sit back while I step ashore and pull the boat up a little higher. Our guests climb out of “Skiffy” and after a radio check, a quick chat about the pick-up time, and meal prep, I push Jeffrey and Skiffy back out into the water. He’ll be back in a few hours.
It’s quiet. We’re on the beach. No cars, no cell phones, no Wifi, no pressures. Just me, six people, and the wilderness.
We go ashore because the wilderness is a real place. It’s more than a backdrop of beauty to pass by balcony windows and outside decks of larger cruise ships. Yes, the David B, is a warm, cozy vessel for cruising in Alaska, but Jeffrey and I have a greater goal for the David B’s
cruises– to experience the wilderness, where it’s fresh, it’s clean, it’s wild. It’s a place too few people know anymore, and at a time when nature and wilderness are what we need to find calm in our ragged, over-scheduled lives. No matter how addicted I am to my distracted wireless life during the off-season, (and trust me, I can’t leave my device alone when a connection is available,) I yearn deeply for my summer
months on the David B, with our guests, in the wilderness of southeast Alaska. It’s a place where we can squat down next to a tide pool and lose track of time watching the rhythmic motion of the tiny feathery appendages that barnacles sweep the water with, while hermit crabs fight, sea-stars hunt, and small fish dart with lightning speed for a safe haven between sponge encrusted rocks.
If there were more people than just our small group it wouldn’t be the same, and our group size allows us to have permits to take people to really special places. Places that other boats with more than twelve passengers cannot take their guests. Places few people ever touch foot. Going ashore is where you feel the power of Alaska, its nature and the draw of wilderness. When I push back on the branches of a Sitka spruce and the thorny leaves of a Devil’s club, to open up a passage into an ancient forest where the trails are made only by bears and deer, I know we are truly stepping into the real Alaska. We are getting more than just pretty backdrop scenery on the way to the next town and t-shirt shop, and we’re experiencing a transformation in ourselves as the timelessness of the wilderness whispers of our ancient and lost connection to nature.
I hope to get to walk ashore with you this summer.