Personalized Cruising Aboard the David B

Lots of people want to go on a cruise in Alaska, but many people don’t want to go on a big cruise ship. Often times these people decide against to Alaska because they don’t realize that there are many smaller boats owned and operated by people like Captain Jeffrey and me.

We started Northwest Navigation in 1998 and spent 8 years restoring our classic  Pacific Northwest work boat, the David B, especially for people who would prefer a cruise vacation that takes you away from busy port cities crammed with tourists and cruise shipcompany owned t-shirt shops. On the David B we’ll transport you to places of unhurried solitude with lots of space to breathe, such as Frederick Sound for whale watching.

When we watch humpback whales in Frederick Sound we are often the only boat around. Since our schedule is flexible we have time to stop, turn off the engine and truly experience the lives of the whales around us. Not only do we get to watch them as they feed, but we hear their breath as they surface and see the air bubbles that they exhale around groups of small fish to form a “bubble net”. We watch them as they lunge to the surface of the water engulfing the trapped fish and then as the whales slide back down under the surface. Every so often we’ll have the good fortune to hear the Siren like sounds of the whales as they vocalize underwater. It’s a haunting sound that seems to rise up out of the water and spill out on to the surface, its origin muted by the depth.

The video below is of a couple whales in Frederick Sound about 300-500 feet off the boat. At the beginning one whale had just surfaced about 50 feet from the boat and then slid back under water. What I like most about this video is that it really captures the sounds of the whales as they surface and dive.

With no more than six passengers on our cruises we welcome each person aboard the David B as though they are long lost friends. We share experiences (like watching the whales) together. Many people say that somewhere along they way they come to view the boat as their own and us as friends. To Capt. Jeffrey and me, that’s a huge compliment and that feeling of home and friendship is something we strive for with each and every trip on the David B. As we head into the New Year we are looking forward to continuing the David B’s legacy as an alternative cruise vacation. We also look forward to meeting new friends and seeing old ones. I’m especially looking forward to returning to Alaska, getting away crowds and spending time watching and listening to the humpbacks of Frederick Sound. I hope to see you there!

Happy New Year!


Pilothouse Rebuild Starts to Take Shape

This afternoon our friend Tom Riley, a naval architect, came to the boat to do some more measurements of the pilothouse and the deck, and discuss some of the drawings he’s been doing for us for the Great Pilothouse Rebuild that will be coming up in 2011 or 2012.

Sketches of the David B's Pilothouse
Sketches of the David B's Pilothouse

Tom started the preliminary drawings back in October and both him and Jeffrey have been coming up with lots of new ideas for how to best use the new space we will have when the pilothouse is extended from its current position back into its original position on the foredeck. With the new pilothouse we will be gaining lots of interior space including a spacious salon where our trunk cabin currently sits and a whole new bridge deck. Another benefit of the pilothouse remodel will be easier access to the cabins below deck from stairs in the new bridge. I’m looking forward to more galley storage. The next step is for Tom to take his measurements back to his computer and begin modeling the new pilothouse. I look forward to sharing the plans in a month or two when he’s finished with them.

Here’s an old picture of the boat from its launching day back in 1929 with the pilothouse in its original position:

The David B with its pilothouse in its original setup
The David B with its pilothouse in its original setup

From the Galley – Savory Tarts

When I’m cooking for you on the David B, I really enjoy making things that you might not make for yourself at home. One of my favorite things to make is a savory tart that is filled with spinach and goat cheese, or Hempler’s Canadian bacon and cheddar. If we’ve been lucky and our crab pots have been full, then crab, Brie and scallions is another favorite combination.

Here are the items you will before you get your ingredients ready.

  • Tart pan with removable bottom
  • Food processor – if available
  • Cheese grater
  • Aluminum foil
  • Pie dish – to place on top of tart while par-baking
  • 1 medium bowl (2 if you don’t have a food processor)
  • Spray cooking oil
  • Small frying pan



  • Flour – 1  1/3 cup all purpose
  • Sugar – 1 Tablespoon
  • Sea Salt – to taste, around a teaspoon or so
  • Unsalted Butter – 1 stick that is chilled and preferably frozen
  • Ice Water – 1/4 cup
  • Fresh Herbs – your choice, but I like rosemary, thyme and oregano for most tarts although dill is always good with crab or salmon.

Preheat your oven to 325 degrees, if you’re like me and have a wood cook stove, don’t forget to keep adding wood once your oven is up to temperature.

Combine flour, sugar, sea salt and herbs into the food processor and pulse until mixed. If you don’t have a food processor, then whisk these ingredients together in a bowl.

Use a cheese grater to grate your stick of butter. Add the butter to the food processor and pulse for 10 seconds or so. If doing this by hand rub your thumb and forefinger together to blend the grated butter into the flour mixture. Your flour-butter mixture should have the consistency of pebbly sand.

Next you will add some of the ice water. You probably won’t use it all, so use a spoon to drop a tablespoon or so in at a time. Pulse your food processor for a second or two after adding the water and keep repeating this until you have a dough that looks a bit like sugar cookie dough.

Grab your tart pan and give it a quick spray or wipe down with some oil to make sure your tart won’t stick. Then start grabbing pieces of your tart dough and begin pressing the dough into the pan. It’s going to look rough and kind of ugly, but don’t worry, it will blend together while it’s baking. Before baking, I like to take a brush of melted butter or olive oil to the crust to make a seal between the crust and the filling. This is optional.

When your tart dough is shaped evenly through out the pan, take a piece of aluminum foil and spray it with cooking spray oil then set it down on the tart dough. Lightly press then take the pan and put it into the freezer for 10-15 minutes to chill. I’m usually in a hurry, but if you have time, you and put it into the fridge to let it cool down and rest before baking. Don’t forget, if you’re cooking with wood to peek into the firebox to see if you need to add firewood.

While you are waiting for you dough to cool down, it’s a good time to clean up, wash a couple of dishes and dream about what will go into the tart’s filling. The basic ingredients for the filling will be eggs, and sour cream, a little salt and a little pepper.


  • Shallots – 2, chopped or sliced. It’s really up your creative devices to decide how you want your shallots cut so have fun!
  • Garlic – I like to use a micro-plane and make a paste, but you can chop or mince also.
  • Eggs – 4 large or 5 medium
  • Salt -to taste
  • Pepper to taste
  • Tabasco – to taste
  • Ideas to dress up the filling: Spinach and Goat Cheese – Ham and Cheddar – Salmon, Scallions and Parmesan – Crab and Brie or anything that sounds good to you.

Gather up all of your ingredients and when they are all ready to go, take your dough out of the freezer. Leave the foil on and place a pie dish on top of the aluminum foil. Put into the oven for about 15 minutes. Don’t forget to check for how much wood is in the firebox at this time if you are cooking with wood.

While the crust is in the oven, place a small frying pan on the stove set to medium, add few drops of oil and cook your shallots for 5 minutes or so, then add your garlic and continue cooking for a couple more minutes. Set aside.

Next grab your medium mixing bowl and crack your eggs into the bowl, lightly beat them and then mix in all of the other ingredients.

Check your crust in the oven and if the edges are turning a golden brown, then take it out of the oven. Remove the pie dish and the foil. Check firebox again if you are cooking with wood.

While the tart crust cools for a moment or two, mix the shallots and garlic into the egg mixture and then spoon the whole mixture into the crust.

Place your tart back into the oven and let it bake for roughly 30 minutes or until it’s lightly browned and the middle has the firmness of a block of firm tofu.

Once you’re happy with your tart’s doneness, take it out of the oven and let it cool slightly if you are going to serve warm. You can also refrigerate if you plan on serving it cold.

Don’t forget to check the firebox if you need to keep the wood stove going.

Happy Holidays!


10% Off Our Northbound Inside Passage Cruise

Canada’s Inside Passage is simply beautiful and should be on everyone’s list of places to visit in their lifetime. From now until January 1, 2010 we are offering 10% off of our 12-day Northbound Inside Passage Cruise. This trip departs Bellingham, Washington on June 20 and arrives in Ketchikan, Alaska on July 1, 2010. Come and explore with us on the David B as we cruise though spectacular fjords and set anchor in remote coves and bays. For more information on this itinerary visit:

Northbound Inside Passage Itinerary>Northbound Inside Passage Itinerary

Out of the Way Places on the David B – Bottleneck Inlet

About eight days north of our homeport in Bellingham, on the British Columbia coastline is a secret cove called Bottleneck Inlet. The first time we entered Bottleneck, it was late in the day. We had to time our arrival for high tide so that we could safely pass over the 1 fathom shallow spot that’s located part way through the inlet.

The entrance to Bottleneck Inlet is tricky to find. As soon as we came into Finlayson Channel after cruising past the village of Klemtu, Jeffrey began watching the chart plotter to make sure we wouldn’t miss the entrance.

You can’t see it now, but the opening for Bottleneck is just up ahead, Jeffrey told everyone in the pilothouse as he steered the David B across the channel and towards what looked like a steep forested hillside.

We all strained to find the opening, but it was still invisible to our eyes. Jeffrey checked the chart again to make sure we were on course. As we neared the far side of the channel we began to see a small gap in the forest widen to become the entrance. It did not seem possible that it would open up enough for there to be a large anchorage just beyond what we could currently see. Jeffrey lined up the bow of the boat and made way for the entrance.

Everyone went up on deck to watch as the gap widened into a cut. Off the port and starboard sides of the boat the trees clung to the hillside that rose steeply from the water to a height of nearly 2000 feet. Where the trees came down to the water, their branches hung so low and even that it looked as if some gardener had come through with a hedge trimmer. It was a good sign that waves rarely came into the inlet and that our anchorage would be secure.

We continued into the inlet and easily passed over the one fathom mark with lots of water to spare under the keel. The cut opened into a spacious bowl with lots of room to anchor. As we motored through the inlet, curious seals started popping up around the boat. They watched us while Jeffrey circled around a spot he thought he liked. He took the boat out of gear, let it coast for a moment, then shifted in to reverse to bring the boat to a stop. When he was happy, he looked around and then over to Aaron who was waiting at the anchor.

One shot,he said to Aaron and suddenly the inlet echoed with the sound of anchor chain running quickly to the bottom. The sound stopped as suddenly as it started. Aaron, now finished with the anchor walked from the bow of the boat and then down into the engine room. In a moment there was silence.

With the anchor down we all gathered on deck to have a look around, the sweet upward spiral song of Swainsons Thrushes began to fill the air. It seemed like there must have been hundreds of them and every individual call echoed throughout the anchorage.

Later that night after dinner had been served and the galley was clean, I’d decided it was too nice to go to bed at my usual time and that I wanted to stay up late and listen to the birds on deck. Sean was also still up and we sat on deck together listening. It was 11:30 and the sun had just gone down. The air was cool, but it still felt good to be outside.

Do you hear that I asked.

Yeah, it’s an owl, Sean whispered. I think it’s over there, he said pointing to the hillside.

Yeah I think you’re right, I quietly said back to him. I can’t believe how lucky we are to be here.