This Week at the Shipyard

We’ve been pretty busy on the David B this week. While we still have four months until we start our 2010 cruising season, we’ve got a lot of winter maintenance to do to be ready for our first trip in May. We like to haulout the David B once a year. We usually do this in March, but the shipyard had a half price special on their haul outs, so on Monday we took the boat over to Seaview North Shipyard. It’s been really nice weather-wise with some unseasonably warm weather thanks to this year’s El Nino.

I’ve already spent about 20 hours with my trusty Porter-Cable Right Angle Random Orbit Sander  and I think I probably have about 6 more hours to go before I can start painting. I always seem to

The David B in the Slings
The David B in the Slings for our Annual Winter Haul Out

forget just how big the David B is until we haul her out of the water and I start sanding.

Our to-do list for 2010 consists of removing the propeller and having it reshaped so that we can hopefully get a little more speed out of the boat. There’s of course lots of sanding and painting for the hull  and varnish for the rubrail and billboards, plus Jeffrey’s got a project with the rudder post that includes 30 pounds of some modern tallow-like substance that he’ll be melting down and pouring into the rudder box. We also rented a laser level and on Wednesday night Jeffrey marked where the new boot stripe is going to be painted. Our friend and kayak-guide Tim, came by for a couple afternoons to help me sand the outside of the boat. That’s been a huge help.

Christine after a day of sanding the David b
Christine after a day of sanding the David B

Next week I’m hoping to finish sanding and that the weather will stay mild so I can paint. Jeffrey should be able to do his rudder box project and the propeller should be back by Thursday. With some luck we’ll be back in the water by the following Monday and testing out our newly re-pitched propeller. We hare hoping to increase our speed for 6.5 knots to 7.5 or maybe even 8 knots.

Baking Bread on a Sunday Afternoon

It’s Sunday and one of my favorite ways to spend the day is baking bread. Last month I bought a 50 pound bag of pizza flour and I’ve been blazing through it to see what kinds of bread I can come up with for this summer’s cruising season on the David B.

So far I’m totally in love with the thick chewy crusts I’ve been getting from this flour. It also makes darn good pizzas and bagels. I can’t wait until spring when we are done with winter outfitting and I can go back to baking on the David B’s wood cook stove instead of baking at home with my ho-hum electric oven. I’m not usually super excited about bread from my home oven, but so far I’m really happy with these breads and I know the bread I bake on the David B’s wood stove are going to be even better.

Bread made with Pizza Flour
Bread made with pizza flour

So why pizza flour? It turns out that pizza flour has a high protein content of 13-15%. The bread flour I’ve been using has a protein content of 12%. All purpose flour by contrast has about 11% protein and cake flour has very little protein in it, coming in around 8% which is why cakes are so delicate compared to an artisan bread. When liquid is added to flour, gluten is formed from two proteins called glutenin and gliadin. These proteins form strands and trap gases while the dough rises. When the bread bakes the gluten strands stiffen into place and become the structure of the bread.

I’m not very meticulous when it comes to measuring ingredients for the breads I make so this is an approximation of what I through together:

I started with Two cups or so of sourdough starter and mixed it with about two and a half cups of luke warm water. I then stirred the water and the starter together. Next I added a about a tablespoon of yeast and 2 1/2 tablespoons of sugar. I then mixed these together and added in a quarter of a cup of olive oil and one cup of whole wheat flour. Next I added three cups of pizza flour and 1 3/4 tablespoons of sea salt. I mixed all this together and then added about another cup of pizza flour before turning the dough out on  the counter for kneading.

While kneading the dough I continued to add pizza flour until I had a nice elastic dough that was smooth. When I felt it had the right consistency I gave it a gentle love pat and divided up the dough into three smaller dough balls. The first one I put into a greased bowl  and covered with a damp cloth to rise. The other two I put into Ziploc bags sprayed with some cooking oil. These two dough balls went into the fridge where I’ll look forward to baking them later this week. We’ll be taking the David B over to Seaview North Shipyard for our annual haul out tomorrow morning and it’s going to be a busy week. Fresh bread and soups will go a long ways this week.

The loaf that I planned to bake today sat out on the counter for about 2 hours. I then turned it out, shaped it into a boule and placed the boule on a piece of parchment paper and recovered the dough with a damp cloth. I next took a 1 1/2 hour long nap. It is Sunday after all.

When I woke up, I preheated my oven to 500 degrees F and put my pizza stone in the oven to heat up as well. In about thirty minutes I took out the pizza stone and lifted the bread dough and its parchment paper on to the pizza stone. I slashed the top of the dough and sprinkled it with a little flour, then turned the oven temperature down to 450 degrees and baked the bread for about 35 or 40 minutes until  it’s internal temperature reached 180 degrees.

The bread turned out great and the crust was dark, thick and chewy with loads of flavor. The inside was soft and moist. It was perfect with butter.

Last weekend we had some of our neighbors over for a big Cioppino dinner and I made a bread similar to this one. Instead of using water for the liquid I had some milk that was getting close to its expiration date. The milk was 4% non-homogenized from a local farm, Twin Brook Creamery. Since the dough already had fat from the milk I left out the olive oil. While I did end up baking it a bit too long, the bread’s crust was dark, and very flavorful. It was extra delicious dipped in the Cioppino.

Annual Meeting with the Big Cruise Lines on Wilderness Best Management Practices

Yesterday I attended third annual meeting on Wilderness Best Management Practices for Alaska’s Tracy Arm – Fords Terror Wilderness with a collection of small tour operators such as ourselves, the Forest Service and representatives from the large cruise lines, Princess and Holland America. New this year to the meeting were representatives from Friends of the Earth and the Southeast Alaska Conservation Council. While the meeting was generally positive, I was again left feeling small.

The meeting was held in the Port Offices in Seattle with the purpose of  continuing the dialogue about the Best Management Practices in Tracy Arm and Endicott Arm for big and small operators. We  focused primarily on:

  • Preserving the Quiet
  • Maintaining Clean Air
  • Protecting Wildlife
  • Preserving Solitude
  • Communications – Outside

We also got to listen to a talk from a NOAA marine biologist studying the decline of the seal population in Yakatat. The seal research is another subject that I won’t get into today.

For us complying with the voluntary Wilderness Best Management Practices are fairly simple. We have a small operation. Our impact is small. We practice leaving only footsteps and taking only pictures. We have not had to change any of our procedures as a result of the agreed upon WBMP.  The David B travels at a maximum 6.5 knots and the boat’s wake is almost a ripple. At 65-feet we don’t need a public address system so we talk with our passengers using our indoor voices. During the day when the David B is underway our batteries are chargin, so that at night when the engine is off…it’s silent. Our slow turning Washington-Estep engine burns clean and we use about 2.5 – 3 gallons of fuel an hour or about 25 – 30  gallons a day, compared to a single cruise ship that burns  somewhere around 150 tons (yes tons) of fuel a day. We also do what ever we can to make sure that our impact on wildlife as minimal as possible. We observe bears, whales and seals at a proper distance and we zig and zag carefully to avoid flushing mother and pup seals hauled out on ice.

From my perspective it is pretty obvious that a cruise ship does not fit within the scope of the wilderness experience that we are trying to provide to you, our passenger. You come to us  to experience solitude, quiet and clean air. When we cross paths with a cruise ship in Endicott Arm or Tracy Arm we are apologetic to you, who was hoping to get away from these behemoths. I wish we could offer you a cruise ship-free experience but we just have to shrug our shoulders and explain to you, “that there are a lot of people who can’t travel on boats like ours to visit the wilderness.  Those people on the cruise ships would also like to see tidewater glaciers and many of them wish they were on a boat like the David B. It’s their right to visit the wilderness and they will be gone soon.” Then I will warn you that we might get a pleasant and gentle wake from the passing ship in a few minutes. That’s what sharing, or maybe more accurately what the Tragedy of the Commons is all about.

In all honesty, I don’t want to share this small amount the the vast Alaskan wilderness with the industrialized cruise lines. They have already filled up Glacier Bay and Tracy Arm and now they want Endicott Arm too. Like many other small tour operators and independent travelers,  I really just want a space where we can go without having to run into a large cruise ship and all the humanity and noise that goes along with those big boats.

The reason that many of us use Endicott Arm is that it has more places to anchor overnight and more places to take people ashore to learn first hand about wildflowers or the effects of glaciers on the land. Some of us use Tracy Arm and many of us use both. We had hoped that when we first met three years ago we could set a limit to the number of cruise ships entering Endicott Arm. If we could do that it would to help preserve the solitude, and our livelihoods. What we agreed to was:

All operators recognize the importance of an authentic Alaskan experience of wilderness and agree to help preserve solitude through the following measures:

  • SCHEDULES: Operators of vessels with more than 250 passengers agree to avoid scheduling visits to Tracy Arm-Fords Terror Wilderness in a way that, due to vessel traffic, necessitates use of Endicott Arm. Each season, a small number of cruise ships may schedule visits to Endicott Arm due to unavoidable scheduling conflicts in Tracy Arm. Dates will be provided in the spring.

  • ENDICOTT ARM: While vessels with more than 250 passengers agree to avoid scheduling operations in Endicott Arm, it is recognized that some visits to Endicott Arm may occur when ice, tidal conditions, vessel traffic, fog, or other vessel and passenger safety concerns limit operations elsewhere. In the event that vessels with more than 250 passengers transit Endicott Arm, operators will do their utmost to minimize the impact of wakes on paddlers, smaller boats, and wildlife, including bears, nesting birds, and hauled-out seals.

So, how did that work out last season? Well in 2009 there were 4 scheduled cruise ship visits in Endicott Arm and 193 trips scheduled for Tracy Arm. Of those 193 scheduled for Tracy Arm, 48 changed course and went into Endicott. Why? The captains and pilots need to make their decisions on entering either Tracy Arm or Endicott Arm based on the conditions at the Tracy Arm Bar – this is not the kind of bar that serves alcohol, but the submerged kind of bar that is dangerous to ships. Their main concerns in their decision making is for the safety of their ships, passengers and crew. What guides their decision to change their itinerary from Tracy Arm or Endicott Arm is the weather, the ice on the bar, and their rigorous schedules. They can’t wait around for Mother Nature to clear a safe ice-free path over Tracy Arm Bar, so they enter into Endicott Arm and visit Dawes Glacier instead.

With all of these factors, plus the over-crowding of cruise ships in Tracy Arm we will be seeing more and more cruise ships in Endicott Arm. I wish it were different, but that’s just the way it is. They have a lot more money than I do, so their votes count a lot.

While I hate to see a cruise ship in the wilderness, I do give kudos to them for meeting with us and for trying mitigate the loss of solitude in the wilderness. They have very politely come up with ways to be quieter, such as self-guided narrations that their passengers can follow along with on television screens.  There are now zones set up where they can make their narration announcements with the least impact on independent travelers and small tour operators. They have also agreed not to make announcements in the early morning hours to help protect the solidtude of the wilderness and prevent disturbing wildlife.

Another area of concern in the Tracy Arm – Fords Terror Wilderness with the increased cruise ship traffic has been the amount of smoke from the ships’ stacks and how long it linger in the fjords. Often there is not much air movement and the sight of cruise ship emissions can stay in the fjord for an hour or longer. Again, to help mitigate this problem the folks from Princess and Holland America who attended the meeting said that they had stopped using their incinerators in Tracy and Endicott Arms and that are using the cleanest fuels possible. It doesn’t eliminate the problem, but a least it’s a step.

We all recognize that maneuvering in the ice is tricky and sometimes there is nothing you can do about your emissions when you are throltling up and down to avoid ice and to keep your ship safe. Those are not the emissions that I’m worried about. for me it’s simply about the industrial scale of the cruise ship emissions. On a daily basis the fleet of boats in the Southeast Alaska Wilderness Tours Association does not come close to the amount of emissions that a single cruise ship leaves behind. Remember they operate in tons of fuel. When us small operators get together and talk about fuel consumption it’s in gallons.

So while I’m feeling like it’s a losing (most likely a lost) battle to keep the large cruise ships from visiting Endicott Arm, I’m happy to be small part of the process to make their inevitable visits as tolerable as possible. Thanks to Shannon, Bill and John who really spoke their true feelings.

For more information on this topic here are a few links.

Note that the wilderness watcher newsletter comes up in the HTML version and that the pdf if easier to read.

Photos of the David B and Ekuk, Alaska from 1979

Over the Christmas holiday we received a great present from Captain Richard Sturgill over at Drayton Harbor Maritime, in Blaine. He sent us three of pictures, two of the cannery where the David B worked and one of he David B on the beach. In his email he said, “I first saw the David B when the former Monkey boat was on the beach at the Columbia Wards Fisheries cannery at Ekuk on Nushagak bay Bristol Bay Alaska in 1979.”

David B in Bristol Bay, Alaska
David B in Alaska - Photo by Capt. Richard Sturgill

The term monkey boat was used for boats like ours that towed 32′ long sailboats out to the fishing grounds. Back in the 1930s and 40s there had been a rule in Bristol Bay that you could only fish under sail. The canneries noticed that it didn’t say anything about how the sailboats got to the fishing grounds and used this loophole to allow them to build powerboats to tow the sailboats out to the fishing grounds. The rule was changed in the early 1950s so that everyone could fish under power and after that the David B, and boat likes it were no longer needed.

Here’s a video from the Alaska Digital Archives I found from the 1950s of a fishing in Bristol Bay. There is a short segment for a monkey boat towing a string of fishing boats. The video is only about 60 seconds long.

Video from Alaska\’s Digital Archives on Fishing in Bristol Bay

David B at the Cannery in Ekuk, Alaska
David B at Columbia Wards Fisheries Cannery - Photo by Capt. Richard Sturgill

If you are ever in Blaine, Washington and you are interested in the connection between Washington State and Alaska fishing stop by the Semiahmoo Park Maritime Museum.  The museum has some wonderful pictures of fishing in Alaska and Washington state and a restored 32′ sailboat from the Bristol Bay fishery.  In the summer months you can find Capt. Richard Sturgill aboard the M/V Plover, a passenger ferry that runs from Blaine Harbor and Semiahmoo Resort.

Photo of Ekuk Cannery in Alaska
Ekuk Cannery photo taken by Capt. Richard Sturgill

New Southern Inside Passage Cruise Itinerary Available

We just finished putting together the itinerary for our new Southern Inside Passage cruise for this summer’s season. This is an 11-day cruise that will explore the region between our homeport in Bellingham, Washington and northern Vancouver Island. Unlike our other Inside Passage cruises between Bellingham and Ketchikan, Alaska, this trip will focus on out-of-the-way places and back channels that we have always wanted to take the time to explore, but are too far off of our regular northbound and southbound Inside Passage trips. The highlights of this cruise will be anchorages in Desolation Sound and the Broughton Archipelago. To learn more about this itinerary…

Southern Inside Passage Cruise
August 8-18, 2010
Departs and returns from Bellingham, Washington
$5500.00 per person

Cruising Desolation Sound
Desolation Sound Aboard the David B

David B’s Engine on KUOW and Washington-Estep Discovered in B-ham

Jeffrey was reading Adrian Lipp’s blog this morning and ran across a clip from KOUW’s the Soundscape of Your Life program. The recording is of Jeffrey or Aaron starting the David B’s engine during the Classic Workboat Show a couple of years ago. The audio of the our engine begins at 20:39 minutes into the show and runs for about a minute and there’s a nice discussion about the recording afterwords.

Another audio clip from the the Classic Workboat show on our website features the David B and six Washington Iron Works preforming a “symphony”.

Another fun bit of news from Adrian Lipp and Old Tacoma Marine this week was a phone call Jeffrey got from him on New Years Eve. A Washington Iron Works engine had been found in a web locker in Bellingham not very far from the David B. When we got to the weblocker (a storage shed for fishermen’s nets and equipment) it was like walking into a time capsule. On the floor to our left as we entered was Adrian standing in the middle of a pile of green Washington parts. I think he was actually standing on the flywheel with his iPhone in one hand and a flashlight in the other. He looked like a kid in a candy store. For Jeffrey and me it was fun to see a “newer” and slightly smaller version of our Washington and by crawling the engine around we were able to see some details that are obscured in on our engine. Here’s a couple pictures from the Washington in the weblocker.

Washington Iron Works Engine
Washington Iron Works Engine
Newly Discovered Antique Engie
Jeffrey and Adrian Look Over an Old Washington