Article by our passenger Stacy Shearman on the Inside Passage

We would like to say THANK YOU to Stacy Shearman who wrote a wonderful review of her cruise with us this past summer. Her trip was our Southbound Inside Passage Cruise that began in Ketchikan, Alaska and ended in Bellingham, Washington.

I hope you enjoy!

-Christine

Customer Review of a cruise aboard the David B

Early Bird Pricing for 2018 Cruises

Early Bird Pricing Ends November 1st

Don’t miss out!


Early bird pricing on a small ship cruise in AlaskaCalling all early birds! Now’s your chance to get an Early Bird discount on almost all of our 2018 cruises. If you book before Nov 1, 2017 you’ll get our 2017 prices plus $500 off on our 2018 Alaska Cruises* or $200 off on our 2018 San Juan Islands cruises. If you book now, get the dates you want and save a little cash too!

Find your trip dates on our 2018 & 2019 Schedule here!

Contact Sarah for more information or to make your reservation.

*Please note that early bird pricing does not apply to our Photography or Guest Naturalist Cruises.

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 #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.

The Skiff at Kumealon Inlet

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!

If you would like to book a trip on our Southbound 12-day trip, we still have spots available. Just email Sarah@northwestnavigation.com for more information.


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!

2017 Season Begins!

David B 2017 Season Begins
Christine waves as the David B leaves Squalicum Harbor.

From Jeffrey & Christine,

We are super excited to begin our 2017 Northwest Navigation season April 27th! We will be taking a family of seven to the San Juan Islands.

Plus next week we’re going to start sending out trip recaps so you can enjoy all our adventures as they happen!

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

Dalls porpoises riding on the David B’s Bow

Small Ship Cruise Alaska Wildlife WatchingSomething 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.

1/1

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

Close Encounter

Whale watching alaska small ship cruiseSome 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’swhale watching Alaska Small Ship Cruise 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.

Four days in the San Juan Islands

San Juan Islands Wildflowers Cruise
Sea blush and a fossil at Sucia Island.

Early spring is one of my favorite times in the Pacific Northwest. It a time where the wildflowers brighten up the landscape in the already beautiful San Juan Islands, and of course the David B is back out on the water. Our first cruise in 2016 was a 4-day trip that started on April 28th. Within a couple of hours of being underway we came a cross a small pod of killer whales near Point Lawrence on Orcas Island. We stopped and watched the whales for a short while. There were no other boats around and we knew it was a rare treat to get to watch these endangered animals without their usual compliment of boats. Since the whales were going the opposite direction from us we didn’t watch them for long, but it felt nice to stop, admire them, and then leave them to continue on their way.

We anchored at Sucia Island and spent the rest of the afternoon on a walk to Fossil Bay. It’s one of my favorite spots in the San Juan Islands. I love the trail and looking for fossils. In early spring the icing on the cake is getting to see the wildflowers. My favorites are the Sea Blush which paint the rocky slopes and bluffs of the San Juan Islands a beautiful pink. Later, when we returned to the boat, I made a salmon dinner with pearl couscous, green beans and some sautéed mushrooms for our first night’s dinner.

Gourmet meals on a small cruise ship
Salmon dinner for our first night.

The next morning while I made coffee, I listened to the  lovely dawn chorus of songbirds. After breakfast, we kayaked across Echo Bay to Ewing Cove. A couple of seals cautiously followed us. I like to think that seals have sense of timing when it comes to having their pictures taken. Just when you get your camera ready, they lift their noses to the sky, close their nostrils and slip silently under water.

Later, we raised the anchor and made way for Garrison Bay. In Spieden Channel we got to watch a big Stellers sea lion fishing. When we anchored, I stayed on the boat to make fresh pasta and a creamy spinach pesto for dinner, while everyone else when ashore to tour English Camp.

On the third day of the cruise, we hauled up the anchor and went the short distance to Roche Harbor. We spent a couple hours there, and then got back underway and cruised to Hunter Bay at Lopez Island. We had some pretty amazing weather. It was easily in the mid-70s with lots of sunshine. We anchored in the early evening and had happy hour on deck. I made Butter-Lime Halibut for dinner.

I always try to make the last day of every trip special and part of that is to make my favorite pastries — croissants and pain au chocolat. In the early morning I watched the sunrise from my galley window while I rolled out the croissant dough, and felth the warmth of the wood cookstove take the chill out of the morning air. I shaped

Sunrise in the San Juan Islands
Sunrise at Lopez Island

each croissant, and thought about them baking in the oven as I brushed them with milk and cream. I thought about pulling them out of the oven when they are just the right dark golden color. Then I thought about how much each croissant or pain au chocolat would be enjoyed by our guests as they come up from their cabins, one-by-one for a cup of French press coffee and a warm buttery croissant.

To work off the croissants we ate for breakfast, we went for a nice walk on Lopez Island. There wasn’t really a destination– just strolling conversation, but we did end up at a small general store. We poked around and read the bulletin board of fliers showing the services, concerts, and goings-on on Lopez before we headed back to the boat.

Just before lunch we got underway and headed back to Bellingham. It was four beautiful days in the islands and a truly wonderful way to begin a new season.

-Christine