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!

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


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.

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.


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.

Out-of-the-Way-Places on the David B – Gambier Bay

One evening this past summer Capt. Jeffrey and I were sitting around a campfire talking about out-of the-way places with some friends. They brought up how great it is that what we do on the David B is specialize in taking to people to out-of-the-way places. This is especially true of our trips in Canada’s Inside Passage and in Southeast Alaska. With so many islands, fjords, coves and bays to explore, why would anyone want to spend time on a massive ship with thousands of other people going from port-city to port-city exploring the same old tired trinket shops and over trampled tourist attractions? We wouldn’t. While our cruises depart from the busy towns of Juneau or Ketchikan, it is the out-of-the-way islands, coves and bays we visit that makes cruising on the David B so different.

One of our favorite out-of-the places is Gambier Bay on Admiralty Island. We often make a stop in Gambier on our 8-day cruises out of Juneau or Petersburg. The entrance to this remote bay is though a maze of small islands.

A couple years ago as we were cruising through this maze, one of our passengers Yvonne, was watching the shoreline through her binoculars. Suddenly she and pointed and turned to Jeffrey, ‘Hey, I think I see three bears on the beach!’ She had found a mother with a couple of cubs. Jeffrey slowed down the David B and we were able to watch them for a few moments before they ambled back into the forest.

Admiralty Island is a National Monument with over a million acres of old-growth forest. One thing that makes this island unique is that it is home to an estimated 1600 brown bears, the largest concentration of such bears in the world. The Tlingit people have always recognized Admiralty as a special place for bears and called the Island Kootznoowoo, which translates to ‘Fortress of the Bear’.

Another time when we were heading into Gambier Bay it was raining hard. Jeffrey tuned to me and asked, ‘Could you grab the binoculars and tell me what you see up there?’

‘Looks like breeching humpback whales!’ I confirmed for him with some excitement.

Turning back to the folks sitting around the galley table, I said, ‘Guess what! We’ve got whales up ahead.’

Everyone dropped what he or she was doing, tossed on some rain gear and ran out of the galley door.

As we neared the whales, Jeffrey slowed down and stopped the boat. No one else was around. The only sounds were of us whispering to one another, the whales feeding, and the tinkling of millions of raindrops splashing on the water’s surface. Together we stood on deck in our rain gear with our binoculars glued to our eyes. There were two whales, a mother and her calf. When they would dive, their backs would arch up to the sky and slowly they would lift their flukes (tails) into the air and then gracefully descend beneath the surface. Sometimes we would hear the water falling from their raised flukes as they dove.

When they fully disappeared, our eyes would linger at the ‘footprint’ left behind. Each one of us wondering, ‘Where will we see them next?’

It was hard to put the boat in gear and leave the whales.

Once we are inside Gambier Bay and the anchor is down, I always grab the spotting scope and start scanning for bears. You never know when a big brown bear will come down to the beach. As I’m cooking dinner, I’m always waiting to hear someone shout, ‘Look, over there!’

Being in Gambier and other out-of-the-way places like it are what Capt. Jeffrey and I love the most about operating the David B.

Out-of-the-Way-Places on the David B – Yuculta and Dent Rapids

One of our favorite out-of-the-way routes in Canada’s Inside Passage goes through Yuculta and Dent Rapids. The approach to these twin rapids must be timed just right.

In the evening before going to bed, Capt. Jeffrey will open up his book of current tables then ask me, ‘Can you hand me a note pad, I need to double check what time we’ll get underway tomorrow.’

‘Sure,’ I say handing him the paper. It only takes a couple of minutes to do the calculations, but he likes to double check the tides and the currents just to be on the safe side.

‘If we get there at the right time, the Rapids will be really disappointing,’ Jeffrey tells folks as we pass Harbott Point on one of our Northbound Inside Passage cruises.

We’ve been away from Bellingham for two and a half days now and Jeffrey’s been busy working up the suspense of ‘making it through’ these fast moving tidal streams.

‘The water in Yuculta and Dent can run up to 7 knots when the current is flowing at max flood or ebb,’ he explains, as we leave our previous nights anchorage in Desolation Sound’s Prideaux Haven, ‘All that water’s trying as hard as it can to get through the narrow passages we’re about to go through. As the water moves faster it makes whirlpools, over falls and standing waves. You really don’t want to be there at the wrong time.’

With so much cold, fast running water, the area is also rich in nutrients and the islands surrounding the rapids are teaming with wildlife. Last May I counted 89 bald eagles in the approximately 4-mile stretch from Harbott Point on Stuart Island through the rapids to Hall Point on Sonora Island. Besides the eagles there were also 11 Stellar sea lions and tons of Bonaparte Gulls.

Two years ago on a southbound trip we arrived at Hall Point; I looked out the door of the pilothouse and saw two or three splashes. Jeffrey and the Mate, Sean were in the pilothouse as well as one of our passengers, Trish.

‘Hey Guys! There are a bunch of Pacific White-Sided dolphins out here!’ I shouted.

‘Look over there! ‘Sean or Trish called out with fingers pointing to Sonora Island. ‘Are those orca whales over there?’


Sure enough, near the steep walls of Hall Point were a pod of orcas fishing for salmon. Like us, the dolphins and orcas were waiting for slack current. It was magical. The morning sky was bright blue and all around us the whales and dolphins were feeding.

When the time came and current went slack, Jeffrey turned the David B towards Dent Rapids and safely guided us through Dent, the Devil’s Hole, and Yuculta rapids.

Besides the beauty of this route and the amazing feeling to be surrounded by orca whales and dolphins, a truly special thing about cruising through lesser known routes and out-of-the-way places like Dent and Yuculta Rapids is that they are inaccessible to the mega cruise ships.