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.