The Results Are In!
Success Aboard the David B in 2020
This year has been quite the roller coaster ride for everyone and running a small business in the middle of a global pandemic hasn’t been especially easy either. To pull off this season we ducked and dodged, pivoted, changed, rescheduled, and repositioned. We stayed up late running scenarios and talking about “what-ifs.” We made plans, submitted documents, made decisions, and phoned, emailed and texted with guests. We rescheduled, pushed dates back, and did more rescheduling. At times it felt like a never-ending juggling act. It has been exhausting with all the concerns and the fears of the unknown. However, exhaustion and fear haven’t stopped us. With a lot of thought, planning, and care (especially from our guests) we were able to conduct an abbreviated season in Alaska. It felt like a HUGE win.
Here’s why our season worked:
- Testing – Alaska’s Health Mandates required people traveling to Alaska to present a negative test result within 72 hours prior to arrival. While this is not required in the state of Washington, we are requiring this same testing for our San Juan Islands cruises.
- Masks – Wearing masks during travel to the boat was key to us being able to run trips. This kept guests safe after their tests while they made their way to the boat.
Pre-trip preparations – Besides being tested and wearing masks during travel, all of our guests practiced pre-trip isolation and kept a log of their temperature for 14-days prior to travel.
Jeffrey and I also kept to ourselves and limited our contacts and stayed out of restaurants, bars. We also tested before each trip. We needed to make sure that we were also being conscientious and safe.
The reward for all the planning and preparations this year was having Alaska essentially to ourselves. There were few other boats and no cruise ships. This year gave our guests (and us) the chance to escape from the stress of a frightening global pandemic and some time to recharge. It was a truly amazing experience. I felt like we saw more of the wild part of the wilderness. It was more visible as a habitat and ecosystem and not just a playground for human beings. The solitude could be eerie, but then a sense of peace would overcome that eerie feeling with the notion that the silver lining of the pandemic is a chance to be still and reevaluate our priorities.
For me, I see travel as a priority that is essential to human hearts and souls. As curious animals, most of us desire to see new places and to meet new people. It’s because when we explore or take on an adventure that we learn and the world becomes more alive. During this time of restriction and isolation, I have realized just how much travel means to me, and not as a tour operator, but as someone who desires to grow and be shaped by the experiences gained from my travels. Maintaining travel as a priority has become even more important to me.
Each one of us has our own level of acceptable risk. And each one of us will return to travel when the time is right. As we celebrate that we safely conducted our Alaska season, we recognize that we can’t let up. We are committed to the same level of care and concern in 2021 and beyond. You can be assured that we will continue to offer the opportunity to reschedule trips due to issues related to coronavirus and we will continue our best practices to provide you with the safest possible way to visit Alaska, the Inside Passage, or the San Juan Islands.
I also need to say, I am extremely grateful to all of our guests who came to Alaska with us this year. You helped us gain the experience to successfully operate in ways that other types of cruises cannot. Your willingness to undergo a stringent preparation to travel set a good example for our small niche market to succeed. You helped not just us and the David B, but our whole niche to recover through your careful actions. At this time, it looks like all of our owner/operator boat friends who went north this year were also successful with their abbreviated seasons. This reinforces my feelings that our style of small independent travel attracts the most conscientious and respectful people. For that, thank you!
We are also grateful to all of our guests who worked with us to reschedule for 2021 and 2022. While we missed you, we look forward to seeing you and we are deeply grateful for your flexibility in a difficult time.
We have one San Juan Islands trip and a couple of opportunities for whole boat charters in the San Juans before we exit the turbulent waters of 2020 and focus on 2021 and beyond. If you are interested in any of our remaining trips, this year, next year, or in 2022, please feel free to contact us.
Stay well, be safe,
PS – If you have any questions about testing or PPE in regards to travel to the David B, Sarah is more than happy to talk with you. She can be reached at her email or at 360-474-7218
Epic Glacier Day
I keep a little journal and I thought you might like to see what I wrote about. I titled it Epic Glacier Day
May 26 – 0544 Epic Glacier Day:
woke up in front of Reid Glacier.
Actually, Epic Glacier Day (EGD) really started the day before when we dropped anchor and spent several hours ashore at Reid glacier’s snout taking pictures as part of our photography workshop cruise. EGD started by waking up anchored face to face with a massive glacier. As I prepared coffee and breakfast, I occasionally walked outside to stare at the glacier and to listen to the sounds of the glacier’s rushing meltwater streams and waterfalls. The water sounds would occasionally be interrupted by the calls of some of my favorite birds – black oystercatchers. Although small bits of ice floated in the inlet, this glacier no longer calves big icebergs into the water. It has retreated to rest on a mudflat, and high tides now only kiss Reid’s wide icy snout.
went to Johns Hopkins then Margerie
We made a stop at Lamplough Glacier, which sits like a watchdog to the entrance of Johns Hopkins Inlet. The sky had cleared to a bright blue. We paid our respects to Lamplough and entered Johns Hopkins Inlet for a view of Johns Hopkins Glacier as it spilled into the inlet from the impossibly high and jagged Fairweather Mountains. After witnessing an enormous avalanche spill onto the glacier, we turned to continue EGD with our fourth and fifth glaciers – Margerie and the Grand Pacific.
spent a couple hours at Margerie in the skiff
We anchored in Tarr Inlet about a mile away from Margerie. It had recently been active. Small bergs and brash ice floated past our anchorage. Hundreds of black-legged kittiwakes were nesting about a half-mile away. Margerie glacier is beautifully showy with the whitest ice and actively calving. The Grand Pacific seems shy and more sedentary. It’s covered in a blanket of dirt and rock, and seldom calves. It seems content to let Margerie have all the attention.
We lowered the skiff for the best part of EGD — a ride to the face of an active tidewater glacier.
a humpback surfaced next to the David B at anchor
Not long after we got the skiff in the water a humpback whale entered Tarr Inlet. I surfaced twice nearby the David B, and one of the surfacings was really close to the skiff.
-6-10 sea otters on icebergs
We kept our cameras and our focus on Margerie. We waited to capture the moment that a tower of ice would fall into the water. We made bets on where ice would fall from, and we held hopes that a big one would let loose.
While watching the glacier, a group of sea otters swam along the floating ice, and an eagle landed on the great face of the glacier. No visible part of Margerie was left unphotographed. Every peak, every icy spire, every kittiwake, and every iceberg was part of this magical landscape. I felt the need to absorb it all. To capture every sight, every sound, every emotion. To hold on to this moment for as long as possible. I wanted
to wrap it all up, take it home, and share it with anyone who needed a good dose of Mother Nature.
I didn’t write anymore but we remained anchored in Tarr Inlet that night. I remember that from time-to-time we could hear the boom of ice calving off Margerie, the sounds of the kittiwake colony, and the silence of nature. Magnificent mountains surrounded us. The sun dipped behind the peaks, and again another boom and more ice would be spilled.
It was the perfect Epic Glacier Day.
Skiffy-a-saurus Wins Again!
Skiffy-a-saurus Wins Again!
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!
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.
Trip #295 Recap – Glacier Bay Photography Class – May 22-29, 2017
Trip #295 Glacier Bay Photography Class – Trip Recap
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.
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
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
- 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
- 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.
- 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
New Glacier Bay Photography Cruise
This 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!
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.
Tin Hat Update – Putting on the Hat
We 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.
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!
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!
The ice mountain is well disposed toward you
There’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
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”.
It 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.
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
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
- 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.
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,