Skiffy-a-saurus Wins Again!

Skiffy-a-saurus Wins Again!

By Jeffrey Smith

We built a new skiff for this season and we’ve been really loving how much it’s changed things.

It was kind of a last minute decision, and the builders really rushed to get it done for us. We only loaded it on board the day before our season started, It’s huge by comparison to our old skiff (which by an interesting requirement at the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, had been known as Skiffy.)  The new one is so big (to us) that we named it Skiffy-a-saurus.

We use it for all the things we used to do. It’s really good and stable (people can stand up and move around while we’re moving) and it easy to climb in and out of at the beach. We’re using it for getting into kayaks too, but but now we’ve added a couple other activities to our skiff repertoire. The best one– skiff exploring.

We didn’t use Skiffy much for exploring, because it’s capacity was so limited, usually only half the group, but now, everyone can go at once. Now when we get to a new cove or harbor and drop the anchor, we all pile in Skiffy-a-saurus and head out to explore the shoreline. We putt along at 3 or 4 knots, sometimes shutting down the motor to drift and listen, and really get to see what’s there. On this last trip alone, we watched eagles and gulls, saw deer feeding at the water’s edge, spied on crab crawling across the bottom, even drifted while harbor porpoises and icebergs circled the boat. But the best one yet… We watched a brown bear right up close!

Barnacles for Breakfast – Paw licking good!

It was morning, just before breakfast. The sun was lighting up one side of the little fjord we were anchored in. The other side was still in the shade. A brown bear swam across from the sunny side into the shadows on the other side. It was probably a half a mile down the shore. We watched it for 15 or 20 minutes, then Christine suggested we go take a look with Skiffy-a-saurus. Everyone got their cameras, and we all quietly climbed in.
.
I headed us over to the shore, then hugged the shore as I idled us close to where he was. At about a hundred feet from the bear, I shut down and let the tide carry us along the shore. We were just feet from the rocky edge. Slowly we got closer and closer, The grizzly didn’t seem to notice (or care) that we were there. No one made a sound. When we were even with him on the beach we were probably only 30 feet away! About 15 of that was deep water, so we calmly took pictures and watched as he poked among the rocks, eating barnacles and mussels.  Then we followed him back down the beach for almost another 10 minutes. It was fantastic. Chalk another one up for Skiffy-a-saurus because this moment was only possible because of it.

Skiffy-a-saurus wins again.

“Say that’s a nice skiff you have there!” – Grizzy admiring our Skiffy-a-saurus

Trip #295 Recap – Glacier Bay Photography Class – May 22-29, 2017

Trip #295 Glacier Bay Photography Class – Trip Recap

Glacier Bay is really, really amazing.

When we left for “the Bay” a week ago, I had this feeling that I always have as we depart — what will we find on this adventure? It’s not about the things that we see on almost every trip, like the whales or the glaciers. It’s the new things: the places we haven’t seen before, the wildlife we find that isn’t on our other trips, and the guests, many of whom we’ve never met before.

The best part is, we found lots of new things. We got a great tip from the rangers at Bartlett Cove who suggested we anchor near the McBride Glacier and walk the beach at low tide amongst the grounded icebergs. It was beautiful. It was a sculpture garden of ice, pieces as small as a baseball to pieces as large as a truck. The photography possibilities were absolutely endless, and it was a photography trip, of course.

The McBride glacier calves bergs into a narrow river that flows out to Muir inlet, but just at the confluence, the river narrows and shallows and the bergs get stuck. More and more come down the river and crash into the already grounded ones. Then, as the tide goes out, you can walk around them on the beach as they lay at all sorts of crazy angles, waiting for the next tide to float them free again. One of the photography experts and trip leaders, John D’Onofrio, thought it was the most beautiful place he’d ever been.

Instructor, John D’Onofrio dwarfed by Reid Glacier
Along the way there were classes on photography and post-processing of images, light and color and lots more. Alan Sanders, our other trip leader, taught along with John, and no one lacked for good subject matter. It was everywhere. The evenings were full of photo critiques and wonderful meals.

A few days later, having spent the night in front of a receding glacier, we went to the entrance to Johns Hopkins Inlet and stepped up the amazement level again. The glacier is tucked back into the Fairweather range and has almost vertical snow covered sides extending 5 miles back to the glacier front, and the valley goes miles beyond, as the glacier swoops out of sight into the mountains. We even witnessed a thousand foot avalanche beside the glacier.

This was almost too much, and even John had to call for a mid-day break. Everyone need some time to absorb the amazement and the wonder of the place. It was indescribable. Of course, never wanting to back off the pace for a moment, when people awoke I loaded them in the skiff and we went for a 2 hour ride (in the sun) to watch another glacier, the Margerie glacier calve.

It was just amazing, And it really was “almost too much…”

Trip #293 Recap – April 27-30, 2017 – San Juan Islands

Trip #294 – San Juan Islands Trip Recap

Ever wonder what happens on one of our 4-day San Juan Islands escapes? Now you know what scenic anchorages we took, what amazing food Christine made and what incredible sights we saw along the way with a day-by-day breakdown.

Day 1) 26 April – Bellingham to Sucia Island – Echo Bay anchorage

  • Nature hike to Fossil Bay with Christine
  • Saw Bald Eagles, Camus in bloom, Banana Slugs, Pigeon Guillemots, Harlequin Ducks, Saskatoon Berries in Bloom
  • Baked Sockeye salmon with a honey balsamic finishing sauce for dinner with homemade ice cream for dessert
pigeon guillemots
Day 2) 27 April – Kayaking after a leisurely breakfast, then Echo Bay to Garrison Bay
  • Lots of Eagles, pigeon guillemots and geese
  • Creamy Scallop Risotto with Carnaroli Rice, over a bed of spinach, with oyster and shiitake mushrooms and brownies with ice cream for dessert
Day 3) 28 April – Left Garrison after lunch with anchorage in Blind Bay on Shaw Island.
  • A leisurely morning, spent reading and chatting on the boat and in the new Saloon
  • Then Hiking at Bell Point and English Camp
  • Pork tenderloin with black truffle and mushroom pan sauce.
 green point sea lions
Day 4) 29 April – Blind Bay to Rosario Resort, then a return to Bellingham
  • Christine’s amazing Croissants and Pain au Chocolat
  • Exploring Rosario Historical Museum in the main mansion.
  • Whisky crab soup for lunch
  • Disembarking and fond farewells

Experience the San Juan Islands in person! 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

Small Cruise Ship in Glacier BayThis 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!

If you’d like to join us on this special cruise, visit our website for more information or give Sarah a call at 877-670-7863 or send her an email.

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.

Fair Winds,
Christine

Tin Hat Update – Putting on the Hat

New pilothouse for Alaska small cruise boatWe reached a major milestone in the Tin Hat Project this week, we put on the hat.

Early Tuesday morning just in time for sunrise we got underway. It was cold, sunny and beautiful on Bellingham Bay as we moved the David B from our slip in Squalicum Harbor to the Landings at Colony Wharf where a crane was ready to lift the Tin Hat from the shore and place it on the David B. Check out our latest video update to see us driving the David B as a convertible, the Tin Hat being lifted and set in place, and then heading back to our slip.

Thank you to Fluid Fabrication for a great job on the Tin Hat, and thank you to The Landings at Colony Wharf for a such an impressive move!

Now that The Hat is on, we have a lot of work to do to get it outfitted and ready to go for spring! We hope you’ll keep following our progress and maybe even come along on a trip with us in Alaska, the Inside Passage or in the San Juan Islands this summer to experience for yourself the new and improved David B!

-Christine

Tin Hat Project Update – Assembling the New Pilothouse

Well, it’s been scheduled, the day is almost here, and so long as there aren’t any unanticipated problems or bad weather, the Tin Hat will be lifted onto the David B next Tuesday, December 6th! We don’t have an exact time yet, but first thing in the morning, we’ll be driving the David B to Colony Wharf in Bellingham where the new pilothouse will waiting on a trailer and a crane will be ready to lift the house on to the boat.

If you’re interested in watching,we’d love for you to come on down. If you do, park on Roeder Ave in the block between F street and C street or on C street by Hana Teriyaki and walk in since there is a lot of construction going on around Colony Wharf.  It’s pretty obvious where to go because there’s really only one big crane in the area. Feel free to email me if you need directions.

As the off-season moves along, I’m getting really excited for our upcoming cruises this summer. I can’t wait to see people on the boat relaxing in the saloon or watching whales outside under covered decks. It’s going to be amazing! Be sure to send Sarah an email or give her a call at 877-670-7863 if you are interested in any of our Alaska, Inside Passage, or San Juan Islands trips this summer or beyond.  2017 is going to be the best year ever!

-Christine

The ice mountain is well disposed toward you

Small Ship Alaska Cruise and Dawes GlacierThere’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
Holkham Bay iceberg from a Alaska Small ship cruise 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”.

Ice calving from a glacier on an alaska small ship cruiseIt 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.

-Christine

The Tin Hat Project

It’s for Real – We’re Doing It!

We’ve talked to quite a number of you about expanding the pilot house on the David B and we’re really going to do it. We’ve got a real plan, a tentative timeline, and we’re ready to move forward.

A Brief History

David B restoration project - pilothouse rebuild
Original pilothouse, current pilothouse, sketch of proposed pilothouse

The David B was built with the pilothouse on the foredeck about where the mast now is, and behind that there was a small bunk space and the galley. The owner prior to us moved it to it’s present location. For years we’ve talked about rebuilding the pilothouse so that it is back in it’s original location.

The Reasons for the Move

We’ve always felt that we could make the boat much more comfortable for us and our guests, and better suited for its present service because we’d have:

  • More, cozy interior space with great viewing windows
  • More, usable upper deck space for wildlife viewing from a higher level
  • Better visibility from the bridge windows, especially for navigating in the ice
  • Covered outer decks for outdoor viewing, out of the rain, and also wind protected
  • More hanging space for guests’ personal gear like rain gear
  • Indoor access to the staterooms all the way from the galley

All around it will make the boat a better experience for everyone onboard.

Aluminum — Our (not so little) Secret

We’re going to have the shell of it built of aluminum, lifted into place with a crane, and we’ll trim out the inside and outside using wood. Before you start picturing it a sad grey metal, we’re going to paint it white with black trim and varnished doors and no one will be the wiser. (It’s common on older wood boats to make use of metal structures. A boat right next to us in the marina just got an aluminum house this fall.) It will also be lighter, and stronger, plus the logistics of having it built ashore allows us to have it made while we’re in Alaska and put it on when we return, so we’ll have the full winter to finish.

 

One day I realized that it was kind of like putting an aluminum hat on the boat, and the project name was born: The Tin Hat Project

The Timeline

  • December 2015 — Planning and Design work
  • January 2016 — Investment proposal complete
  • March 2016 — Regular outfitting for the boat starts
  • June 2016 — Aluminum house constructed
  • October 2016 — Lifting the shell aboard
  • Winter 2016-2017– Completion of the interior and systems
  • March 2017 —  Regular outfitting for the rest of the boat
  • May 2017 –Sailing with the new tin hat.
Prposed layout for David B Pilothouse Rebuild
Proposed layout for David B’s pilothouse Rebuild


The Money

Our proposal for the project and the investment opportunity will be complete before Christmas, but the basic details are that we’d like to borrow from those of you who already understand why the David B is such a great experience. We have done a similar thing in the past, offering interest or interest with trip credits, and this will be structured in the same way with very favorable rates for you. We’ll keep you posted and the full proposal will be available soon.

 

If we haven’t already talked about it with you, send me an email to let us know if you’re interested.

 

It going to be a really exciting project,

 

Captain Jeffrey

A New Season Begins

 



Sticking to it-

When we bought the David B in 1998, we knew that we’d be battling a lot of uncertainty. First we needed to rebuild the boat, a project which we initially thought would take two years, but instead took eight. Then we needed to learn how to run our business, get people’s attention, and fill up trips. At times figuring out how to get people to find us and come cruising with us has seemed like an impossible task. We struggled through the economic downturn by doing whatever we needed to do to keep advertising, paying the bills, and taking care of the boat.

Finally going into our ninth season, the David B is mostly full, and it looks like we’ll have our best season yet! We attribute this to our wonderful passengers who keep coming back and keep sharing their “secret getaway” with their friends and family, and that everyday that we’ve had the David B, we’ve stuck to our plan of offering the best nature cruises in the San Juan Islands, Inside Passage and Alaska. We still have a few spaces left for this summer, so hop on over to our website and have a look at our 2014 schedule.

A New Season-

David B Small Ship Alaska Cruises from Bellingham WAIt’s springtime and the David B is looking fantastic and we are getting more and more excited about our upcoming season. Over the winter we have been busy making the David B better than ever with several big improvements. The first is that we moved the exhaust from the back of the boat to the port side. This lead to the second big improvement — no exhaust pipe through the dining table!

To fill the space where the exhaust pipe used to go we commissioned a local artist/boat varnisher, Annie Patrick to create a new inlay piece for the dining table. She’s done an amazing job!

Below is a sneak peak at our first test-fitting of the inlay artwork. We can’t wait for you to see it in person!

David B Small Ship Alaska Cruises from Bellingham WA

Cruise Ideas in the Works-

Over the next few weeks we’re going to be meeting with a Bellingham winemaker and a local dive master for a couple of new and exciting trips in the San Juan Islands! We’re just starting to put our heads together on these cruises and we’ll have more information by mid-May. If you are interested in either a wine appreciation cruise or a scuba mothership cruise. Let us know! 

Something New-

Josh McInnes Alaska CruiseWe’re very excited to announce a special Alaska cruise for next summer 2015. We’ll be hosting Killer Whale researcher Josh McInnes as a guest naturalist aboard the David B. While we’ll be shifting the focus of this cruise to spend more time with whales, we’ll still be hiking, kayaking, tidewater glacier viewing, and looking for bears.

This trip will sell out.

For more information email us today!

Josh is currently working towards a graduate degree on transient killer whale. He is very interested in foraging and diet studies and the ecological relationship exhibited by prey. Besides conducting research, Josh has been a whale watch guide throughout British Columbia and was recently interviewed for the upcoming documentary Fragile Waters. He is also conducting independent research on killer whales with a small group of volunteers. We’re looking forward to having Josh on board and to the new insights on killer whales he brings through his research. We hope you’ll join in on this new trip.

As always,feel free to call us toll-free call at 877-670-7863or send an email.We’d love to hear from you!

Christine & Jeffrey Smith

Don’t miss the boat! Call 360-201-8184 or email us to book your space.View our 2014 schedule.

Read the award winning story about how Captain Jeffrey and Christine rebuilt the M/V David B
Cruising on theDavid B

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Looking Ahead

 



Looking Ahead

This is the time, the holidays are nearly over, and in a couple more days it will be back to the January winter grind. The relatives have come and gone, the holiday parties are almost over. It’s not too early to start planning something fun for the summer and give yourself something to look forward to during the rest of the cold winter months.

 We Suggest: The Inside Passage

August trips on the MV David B are warm and sunny. Desolation Sound is hot enough that it makes for great swimming (really — often 70°F water and 85°F air temps). We stop there on all of our Inside Passage trips. Or maybe you want to see something new and amazing that you’ve never seen before, like glaciers calving into saltwater fjords, or whales feeding, or salmon spawning or bears meandering along a remote beach in Alaska. Now, there’s an adventure to look forward to!

2014 Trips are Filling Faster Than Ever

The problem is, we’re filling up. We are almost sold out for Alaska trips for 2014. We just posted our 2015 schedule because we’ve had a number of inquiries into dates that far into the future. We’re super excited about finally getting the word out about just how amazing trips on the David B are, but it does mean that you might need to plan a little farther into the future. We still have spaces on 2014 Inside Passage trips.

Give us a toll-free call at 877-670-7863or send an email.

We’d love to hear from you!

Inside Passage Trips with Northwest Navigation

Happy New Year to All ~ See You in 2014!

We’d like to take this opportunity to thank all of you for your patronage and continued support, and look forward to sharing more exciting travel adventures with you in 2014 aboard the MV David. B.

Happy New Year to you and your families, from Jeff and Christine

Don’t miss the boat! Call 360-201-8184 or email us to book your space.
Read the award winning story about how Captain Jeffrey and Christine rebuilt the M/V David B

Cruising on the

David B

makes people happy!

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