Sealions – The Grizzly of the Sea
Southeast Alaska is home to the Steller’s sea lion and these amazing animals are one of the most common marine mammals that we get to see aboard the David B. There are several haulouts in our cruising area and it’s a real experience to get to watch, hear, and smell a crowded haulout. One interesting tidbit about these sea lions is that their skulls are virtually indistinguishable from the skulls of grizzly, or coastal brown bears, as they are known in southeast Alaska. We once had a deckhand who liked to describe Steller’s sea lions as a grizzly stuffed into a tube.
Lamplough blue is my favorite color. It’s the color of the Lamplough Glacier, in Glacier Bay National Park, Alaska. When the time and tide is right, we take the skiff ashore at Lamplough and walk near the snout of the glacier. The ground is hard-packed from the weight of the recently receded glacier. The walk gives you a grand perspective of the glacier. It’s a remarkable place for photography, sketching, writing, and personal reflection. We hope you’ll join us one day.
Illustrator Rebecca Rothman just made the most adorable drawing of two brown bears from a photo I took during one of our cruises to the Pack Creek Bear Viewing Area a couple of years ago. It was a beautiful warm sunny spring day in Alaska. (Yes, May is often a beautiful month in southeast Alaska, but I digress.) Our guide Dan, from Pack Creek Bear Tours lead us across the tide flats to an open meadow where two bears were lazing in the sun — one was male, the other female. It was spring and love was in the air. The bears were about a hundred yards away from us.
We spent several hours in the meadow with the bears. We watched the male dote upon the female. He went where she went, if she got up to eat, he got up to eat. If she laid down, he laid down. It was fascinating to watch their gentle behavior. At one point when they were laying in the grass, she sat up and scratched her belly. The way he lifted his head and looked up at her melted my romantic heart. “Every Little Thing She Does is Magic,” came into my head. She laid back down again and he did too.
When Rebecca sent me her drawing, I fell in love with it and immediately wanted it as a T-shirt. Jeffrey suggested that we add the “I love you” to the bottom. I agreed because who wouldn’t want to spread a message of love.
In the next couple of weeks, we’ll be offering the I Love You Bears t-shirt in children’s and adult sizes. Pre-ordering will be on our website shortly.
Rebecca and I also have other T-shirt designs from my photos turned into her drawings in the works, but you’ll have to stay tuned…
Onward to 2021
We just finished our 2020 season with a nice weekend cruise in the San Juan Islands. It felt good. In spite of wildfire smoke, we had a wonderful time with a family who has been cruising with us for more seasons than I can remember. Over the years we’ve watched their kids grow into smart enthusiastic young adults. Having them on board was a truly lovely way to end what has otherwise been such a chaotic year.
Now that this season is behind us, it’s time to move onward into the future. Since many of our trips this season were postponed to 2021 we already have a fairly full schedule. This means we have limited availability for whole boat charters and many of our other trips in 2021, so be sure to get on the books sooner rather than later. If you are looking for specific dates that are further out, our 2022 schedule is also up.
We are optimistic that as each day passes there will be new and better tools to fight the coronavirus, and travel (which is essential to curious and adventurous people) will return. It may take a while to be as carefree as we were prior to the virus, but we feel that operating the David B successfully this year and knowing more about how the virus works will lead to an even more successful season in 2021. We hope you will join us.
Stay safe, stay well,
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
Plotting a Course
Over the last few days it feels like there are some encouraging signs. The cases of coronavirus in Washington state have plateaued. There are some cautious steps being taken to ease some of our restrictions. It’s also been encouraging to see that some airlines are requiring people to wear masks, which is something we hope will become widespread in the coming weeks and months. As each day passes, the smart people in labs are learning more and more about how this virus works. It’s good to hear that new treatments are being tried and possible vaccines being developed.
So, what if…
Until there’s a vaccine, we are all going to have to adapt to life with a new and dangerous disease. It means we’ll do things differently and more cautiously. How will that happen? Here are some of the things that we’re monitoring:
- The lifting of travel restrictions in Alaska, Washington, and Alaska.
- The lifting of the mandatory 14-day quarantine period for all people arriving in Alaska.
- The possible seasonality of the virus.
- The ability to perform more testing.
- The need for pre-travel health screenings and waivers.
- The requirement to wear masks on flights and in public spaces.
- The continued social distancing rules.
So, what if…?
Stay safe. Stay well,
We’re Not Leaving Today…Because It’s Friday
Sailors are a superstitious bunch. It seems that there is a superstition for everything on boats: no bananas, no flowers, no whistling, no women nor redheads (Sorry Sarah) to name a few.
Every year, with the exception of one, we have started our season on a Thursday, because it’s bad luck to start a voyage on a Friday. The one year we accidentally did begin our season on a Friday, we had problem after problem. We joked that the problems were with either gremlins or because we started our voyage on a Friday. After three days, we consulted a friend who was well versed in maritime lore. He suggested we “start the trip over” and do some “fresh provisioning.” So we sent our guests out kayaking, while Jeffrey and I took the skiff to the beach to gather some wild greens. When the guests arrived back at the boat we welcomed them to their new trip. They played along with the rouse and we didn’t have any more trouble.
So yesterday, (Thursday, April 23rd) we were scheduled to start our first trip of the year, but as we all know, Alaska is closed until May 19th. For me it was a bit of a melancholy day thinking about how much I had been looking forward to the trip north and the new season.
In the later part of the afternoon, while I was on deck washing the boat, I looked up to see a familiar face. It was a woman who lives locally and has been on a couple of Alaska cruises with us. She was stopping by to pick up some rocks she had collected on a previous trip, and she was also checking in on us to ask how we were doing. Seeing and talking with her really raised my spirits.
This morning Jeffrey and I had a long talk about what it feels like to be “on hold.” We agreed that one of the silver linings of this whole mess is reconnecting with so many people in the David B community. We’ve enjoyed all the Facebook and Instagram comments, conversations, phone calls, texts and notes back from our emails.
For example, there was a nice comment on Instagram that said, “Hang in there! We’re rooting for you.” It helped me to remember that this whole pandemic is temporary, and we’ll be back doing what we love with our amazing community.
In the meantime, we will continue to enjoy seeing you in all these socially distant ways, and we hope y’all are hanging in there too!
PS – Our 2021 and 2022 schedules are on our website.
PPS – Plus to avoid any bad luck we will continue to start our seasons on a Thursday.
PPPS – Feel free to email Sarah with any questions about our upcoming seasons.
Since we didn’t get to start our season because of the coronavirus, here’s a little clip from the first day of last year.
Spa Week for the David B
Every year in the spring the David B gets to go to the boat spa, otherwise known as the boatyard. We feel that it’s an important maintenance task that keeps the boat in good shape. This year our tasks were pretty standard – bottom paint, clean the prop, and change the sacrificial anodes. We also had a once every four years survey.
We had originally scheduled our haulout for March 23, but Washington state was going into lockdown that same day. The yard we haul at wasn’t sure what their rules would be and if they would be able to put us back in the water once we were done. We rescheduled for April 13 and we were able to get everything done yesterday. It was the fastest haulout we’ve ever done mostly because we scaled back how much we wanted to paint while we were out of the water. While Jeffrey and the surveyor checked systems, planks, and fasteners, Christine painted the topsides, and the yard employees did the hard work below the waterline.
It was a quick turn around and there’s still a little left to paint, but the David B is back in the water and ready to go. We’re just waiting until it’s safe.
On our voyages we often run big tidal rapids. Yeah, in the big boat, not just in the skiff. And you’re saying “is that safe?” Of course it is.
If you’re wondering what tidal rapids are, here’s the explanation: As the tide rises and falls along the coast, the water is forced into all the bays and inlets and generally, the wider the inlet, the calmer the flow. Narrow entrances, on the other hand, make for much more dynamic (that means “scary”) flow, especially if there is a large area beyond the narrows that tidal water has to fill and drain. Add to that, higher tides mean more water is shoved through the constriction. On the West Coast where we operate, we have the perfect combination of big tides and lots of narrow passages. Most of them have huge whirlpools and boils and some of them run 12-14 knots or more (that’s 16 mph!)
So back to the “is that safe?” question. The reason it’s safe is because we go through at “slack water”. “Slack” is the moment that the current stops flowing one direction, and turns and flows the other, usually about every 6 hours, and it’s super predictable. We look up the time in a published current table, do our planning to show up just a little early, and motor right through. All in calm water.
I know, I kind of let you down, because you were probably expecting great stories of surfing the David B through a huge 14kt tidal bore. But that’s actually it. If we show up at the right time nothing happens. In the beginning of running the David B, we used to tell the guests all about how strong the current could be, and show them pictures of boats getting sucked sideways as they tried to transit during the peak of the flood, and then we’d get there at slack water and… nothing. It was a let down for more than one guest on more than one occasion. We’re now careful to tell everyone what the peak flood is like, but that we’ll be going through at slack.
Right now, I feel like we’re headed for the tidal rapids. If we all do the right thing and do our planning right, nothing will happen.
All in calm water.
Stay Safe and Stay Well,
The Comfort of Cheesy Grits
I’ve been thinking about comfort foods a lot lately. I have also had several requests for recipes. One request I got was for one of my favorite recipes – Grits Gruyere. I usually make this dish on the last day of each trip to accompany the croissants and pain au chocolat that I happily spoil my guests with.
I’m a born and raised Pacific Northwest girl. I don’t think anyone in my family had ever eaten grits. That all changed one day when Jeffrey and I went to Lake Charles, Louisiana to visit one of our favorite passengers, Stacy.
It was there that I discovered Cheesy Grits. With my first bite, my taste buds lit up with joy and thoughts came rushing in. “How on earth have I not ever had this? Why are cheesy grits not in every restaurant? How come I’m them not making every trip?”
When we returned home, I began looking for recipes. Stacy sent me several. From there, I began experimenting with different ingredients. I discovered that I could add shrimp, or sausage, bacon or caramelized onions. Grits were the medium and they could be modified to fit my creativity. I experimented with different cheeses – cheddars of different varieties, gouda, feta, and finally gruyere. While gruyere is not a traditional cheese for cheesy grits, it is my favorite and I don’t mind bending the rules a little.
Since that visit to Lake Charles, I have made Cheesy Grits on the boat every week. They are simple and in that simplicity there is comfort.
4 Cups of Milk
1 Tablespoon of Butter
1 Tablespoon Chicken Base
3 Garlic Cloves – pureed
Salt, Pepper, and Tobasco to Taste
1 Cup Grits either white or yellow
1 Cup Gruyere Cheese – Grated
¼ Cup Parmesan – Shredded
Heat oven to 400 degrees and have a 9×12 pan sprayed with non-stick ready.
- In a saucepan heat up milk, butter, chicken base, garlic, salt, pepper, and tabasco until butter is melted.
- Add grits and stir until they become thick. About 10 minutes.
- Take off heat and add egg, gruyere, and mix. You can add lots of optional things here too like caramelized onions, cooked bacon, ham, shrimp.
- Pour mixture into 9×12 pan and sprinkle with parmesan. Put into the hot oven for 20 minutes or until golden brown. If you want you can also brown the top with the broiler if it’s taking too long.