I heart the David B

David B at Wood Spit on an Alaska Small Ship Cruise
Sand drawings at Wood Spit on an Alaska cruise

Our guests love the David B! Since we only take six guests on the boat per cruise, we work hard to make sure your time onboard the David B is unique, authentic, and special. I think that’s what makes our cruises in Alaska, the Inside Passage, and the San Juan Islands, so different from small ships that carry 50 or 60 passengers is that we get the time to know you as a person. On the David B, you are not just another passenger on another trip. We really do care about you and we really do hope you’ll join us!

-Christine

“No Outside News” Alaska Cruise

Sunset on an Alaska Small Ship CruiseDrop your cell phone and back away from your device…

I spend a lot of time quietly pondering things, because, well, my job is basically to stare out the window. The bridge windows on the boat, to be sure, but as I stare at those miles and miles of ocean going by it’s very calming for me. It’s especially good when we’re in a place that doesn’t have any cell coverage and there aren’t a lot of boats that might call me on the radio. I really like that old-school feeling of no one being able to contact me (well, we do have a satellite phone, but it very seldom rings). There was a time when all vacations were like this. It’s actually one of the main reasons people used to get away — so that others couldn’t contact them.

Now, in our regular lives we’re so completely connected to our phones, our iPads, our readers, our laptops (even our wrist-watches). We’re connected to everyone, yet no longer connected to who or what is around us. And, at the same time, the media, who seems to have our full attention, is whipping us into a frenzy. Everyone, regardless of political position seems to feel this angst about what the future holds.

I’ve got a way to solve all this, and you don’t even have to vote for me

Imagine if you could be gone, just completely out of touch, right during the conventions this summer. You Mary B Birding Cannery Covewouldn’t even have to think about what was happening in the American political system, and you could just enjoy the wild outdoors, the amazing hiking, the serene kayaking and Christine’s wonderful food. Perfect relaxation.
We’re making Trip #279 July 21-28 a special No Outside News Trip. It happens right in the same week as the Democratic National Convention. (The Republican convention week sold out early this year.) It’s round trip out of Juneau and as soon as we get out of town there will be almost no coverage for the whole 8 days. And, we’re even offering a 20% discount on it as well, making the new price $4480 per person. Click for itinerary information of send us an email.

-Captain Jeffrey

New Video – One Boat Two Hearts

Last summer at the Victoria Classic Boat Show we met with Steve Stone from OffCenterHarbor.com who asked if he could do a video shoot of the David B. Someone from the boat show had suggested that the David B’s story would be a good one, and so we were introduced.

The next morning Steve came to the boat and videotaped us as we talked about the David B and what it was like to restore the boat as well as what it is like now to cruise in Alaska and the Inside Passage. The video is heartwarming and they did a great job of capturing who we are and what the David B means to us and to our guests. I hope you’ll take the time to watch the preview and then sign up with OffCenterHarbor.com to see the entire clip. It might just make you cry — but in a good way.

http://www.offcenterharbor.com/videos/david-b-one-boat-two-hearts/?awt_l=sR7nMY&awt_m=3VggOkPJh644w9k

Going Ashore in the Wilds of Alaska

Going ashore in AlaskaFrom the bow of the skiff, I watch for bears and submerged rocks as we close in on the beach. In the final moments before I hop out, Jeffrey cuts the motor and lifts its prop out of the water. The sandy beach greets the fiberglass with a scratchy hello. Jeffrey instructs our guests to sit back while I step ashore and pull the boat up a little higher. Our guests climb out of “Skiffy” and after a radio check, a quick chat about the pick-up time, and meal prep, I push Jeffrey and Skiffy back out into the water. He’ll be back in a few hours.

 

It’s quiet. We’re on the beach. No cars, no cell phones, no Wifi, no pressures. Just me, six people, and the wilderness.

 

We go ashore because the wilderness is a real place. It’s more than a backdrop of beauty to pass by balcony windows and outside decks of larger cruise ships. Yes, the David B, is a warm, cozy vessel for cruising in Alaska, but Jeffrey and I have a greater goal for the David B’s

cruises– to experience the wilderness, where it’s fresh, it’s clean, it’s wild. It’s a pAshore at Little Dawes Meadow in Alaskalace too few people know anymore, and at a time when nature and wilderness are what we need to find calm in our ragged, over-scheduled lives. No matter how addicted I am to my distracted wireless life during the off-season, (and trust me, I can’t leave my device alone when a connection is available,) I yearn deeply for my summer
months on the David B, with our guests, in the wilderness of southeast Alaska. It’s a place where we can squat down next to a tide pool and lose track of time watching the rhythmic motion of the tiny feathery appendages that barnacles sweep the water with, while hermit crabs fight, sea-stars hunt, and small fish dart with lightning speed for a safe haven between sponge encrusted rocks.

 

Reflection at a tide pool in AlaskaIf there were more people than just our small group it wouldn’t be the same, and our group size allows us to have permits to take people to really special places. Places that other boats with more than twelve passengers cannot take their guests. Places few people ever touch foot. Going ashore is where you feel the power of Alaska, its nature and the draw of wilderness. When I push back on the branches of a Sitka spruce and the thorny leaves of a Devil’s club, to open up a passage into an ancient forest where the trails are made only by bears and deer, I know we are truly stepping into the real Alaska. We are getting more than just pretty backdrop scenery on the way to the next town and t-shirt shop, and we’re experiencing a transformation in ourselves as the timelessness of the wilderness whispers of our ancient and lost connection to nature.

I hope to get to walk ashore with you this summer.

-Christine

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

David B restoration project - pilothouse rebuild
Original pilothouse, current pilothouse, sketch of proposed pilothouse

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

The Timeline

  • 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.
Prposed layout for David B Pilothouse Rebuild
Proposed layout for David B’s pilothouse Rebuild


The Money

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,

 

Captain Jeffrey

A hike at Fords Terror with My 78 year-old dad

My dad gets around pretty well, so long as the path is flat and he has his hiking poles, but he isn’t able to do much that’s really rocky or too steep. So this past summer when we were anchored at Fords Terror he politely declined to go with the rest of the family on the hike.

 

kayaking at fords terror in Alaska on a small ship crusieThis was kind of a problem for me because I really wanted him to see it. I really think it is the most stunning place we go ashore in SE Alaska. First, the anchorage is surrounded by these amazing waterfalls, some coming down the sheer walls of the fjord for three to four thousand feet, and of course there’s the “Terror” itself, with the current rushing through the narrow spot, making standing waves four feet high. But when you go ashore it gets even more amazing.

 

What suffices for a trail goes up to a place where you can look down on the rapids and even start to get a peek up the fjord behind the rapids. Then you walk over a little moss-covered granite rise and you come to the most amazing thing — the kettle ponds. Carved out of solid granite by the action of the glacier passing over the top of the rock, these little ponds, ranging from three to twenty feet across, are just full of lilly pads. It’s an amazing sight. This summer, on an early trip to the spot, I stepped off the trail to let one of my guests pass so she could see and I actually heard her gasp when she saw them. It actually took her breath away.

 

“I know you told us about this beforehand, but I can’t believe how beautiful it is,” she told us later.

Kettle Pond at Fords Terror in Alaska on a small ship cruise

So when my dad was on the boat this past summer, I really wanted him to see it. But the first part of the hike is slippery and seaweed covered, then there’s the section that’s steep, muddy and in a sort of slot through the granite only to get up to the section where the narrow trail pushes through the underbrush and up a muddy ravine. It finally comes out on the slippery moss-covered granite, and that’s where you get this astonishing view.

 

And he had just declined to go. This is the man that has been hiking and backpacking since before he was in college.This is a guy that has hiked the Rockies, the Cascades, the Sierras, the Brooks Range, summited Mount Rainier, Grand Teton and treked in Nepal around Everest. He is the father that took me and my sister backpacking so we could experience the beauty of nature. He started us when we were just four and six, and we went every year until we were “too old” (teanagers) to go on family vacations.  Now here we were on a family vacation and he had said “no.”

 

Hiking at Fords Terror in Alaska on a small ship cruiseSo I convinced him. For once, I could show him an amazing wilderness spot. The rest of the group went ahead while we hiked and scrambled. At one point, I held him steady by his belt loops. Later he even had to crawl on his hands and knees. It was a lot of work for both of us, but we made it.  And he got to see this place that his adult son now takes people to experience the amazing  beauty of nature.

 

Just like he used to take me.

 

He thanked me for my persistence too, when we got back to the boat, and I really think he enjoyed the hike, even though it was tough for him.

 

We hike at Fords Terror on almost all of our trips in Alaska, unless there are unusual circumstances. It’s really majestic. I really want people to see it, but I won’t force you to go.

 

I’ll steady you by your belt loops if you need it though.

 

Captain Jeffrey

Listening to Crows

Crow in Alaska
Crow keeping a watchful eye on me

When people ask what I do for a living, I respond that Jeffrey and I run a tour boat in Alaska, and if that leads to a longer conversation, I usually continue on about how we spend lots of time watching humpback and orca whales, and how we have a couple of spotting scopes on the boat so we can watch bears forage on the beach. Rarely do I run on about how much I love watching crows and other common animals. This is partly because, like weeds, the virtues of crows remain undiscovered for most people.

I find crows fascinating. They help me fulfill my need for nature during the off-season at my urban home where there are no deep-wilderness animals to geek-out on.  Sometimes the crows tell me what’s going on in the neighborhood. Like the time when a raccoon was out wandering during the day. I heard what I like to call a “crowmotion” a few block to the east. The crows were noisily and excitedly moving through yards and alleys. I stepped out the backdoor to see what all the fuss was about. As soon as I opened the door a raccoon came into my yard seeking refuge in a tall cedar tree. Unfortunately for the raccoon, there were already two other raccoons sleeping there and the poor thing was forced to move along. I watched it leave the tree and cross the street. I lost track of the raccoon as it ambled into the neighbor’s yard, but the crows continued their parade “cawing” and flying from tree to tree for several blocks.

I’ve learned a lot from observing crows and that with their help, they often lead me to exciting discoveries. One time I was kayaking close to shore in a cove in Alaska. It was a calm overcast day. I was looking for sea stars, crabs, and small schools of fish. I kept my attention focused on the water below my boat. After a while my ears picked up the sound of several crows in the bushes to my left. The crows were going on and on about something. I half listened thinking there was probably an eagle in a tree. I decided to look up. No eagle. I went back to skimming along the surface and searching the shallow water. They crows kept talking. I looked up again and decided to see if I could find the focus of their attention. I held my boat still by gently padding the water with my paddle. I watched. The crows were clustered low on the branches of spruce, hemlock, and alders. I looked at where they were looking. A branch moved. The tide was high and I was maybe 30 feet from the edge of the forest. I held still and smiled to myself as my eyes made out a dark fuzzy round shape with two more fuzzy round shapes on top. The animal was partially blocked by shrubs and very difficult to see. The crows had discovered a brown bear and wanted everyone to know. I had listened.

Brown bear on Admiralty Island on a small ship cruise
Crows gave away this brown bear’s hidden resting place in the woods.

There have been many other times that the cues of common animals have increased my awareness. I’ve watched gulls flying in a straight line, then suddenly circle. Most of the time it’s a fish coming to the surface, but sometimes it’s a whale. One day I realized that I often say things like, “Oh, that’s just a crow”, or, “It’s just a gull,” when really, they are so much more than “just a.” They are communicators and lively participants in the ecosystems and habitats of which we are part. If we pause to listen to them, we might discover they know things that will truly enrich our lives.

That time we anchored in Tracy Arm…

David B anchored at Tracy Arm Mud Flats
David B anchored at Tracy Arm Mud Flats

It was maybe the coolest thing we did all summer, and it wasn’t planned at all. I didn’t really mean to be there at that time of day anyway.

What started it all was a “boring” glacier in another fjord. We normally visit a glacier on our Juneau and Petersburg trips, and stay around for an hour or so to watch it calve, but this time — no luck.  We drifted around, and drifted around and nothing. The glacier was just sitting there, doing absolutely nothing. Maybe a couple little snowballs, but not like our normal shows. And it was really windy, so we kept having to maneuver to get back into position. There were lots of big icebergs that we pushed up against, and lots of brash ice and the whole thing was really annoying since nothing was going on with the glacier.

So I made a pronouncement “this glacier is boring! I’ll take you to see better one tomorrow.” Seemed like a good idea at the time.

The next morning we got underway at a nice civilized hour. The logbook says: “0935 — Underway“ Then everything seemed to slow us down. The tide was against us, we stopped for whales, we didn’t even make it out of Endicott Arm until well after lunch.

Black bear looking at kayakers un Tracy Arm
Black bear in Tracy Arm

And so, late in the afternoon we were headed up Tracy Arm and we weren’t going to make it. Turning around meant covering this same stretch of water two more times and if we kept on to the glacier, it was going to be dark on our way out. Not good when you’re trying to avoid icebergs.

So I did what anyone would do in that situation. I anchored right in the fjord. We’d been told about a spot where a river flows out into the fjord and pushes the icebergs away, but it didn’t seem that good, so we went back a few miles and dropped the hook on a shallow ledge where another stream flows out. We’d scooped out this spot a few weeks earlier, tested the depths and looked at how the stream flow pushed the ice away.

Seal eating a fish in Tracy Arm
Seal with fish

It was amazingly beautiful. Everyone got in kayaks and paddled around the little bergy bits that were nearby and watched a black bear at the water’s edge. Then we observed a seal eating salmon, and there was even a place to nose the kayaks into a little waterfall flowing into the fjord. Over dinner we spotted the bear again on the rocks high above us.

As darkness fell, Christine, Cass and I set an all night anchor watch, which was mostly an all night berg watch. We plotted the big ones with the radar, we scanned for small ones by searchlight. It was really eerie watching the huge bergs go by all night at a quarter knot or so, but it was too shallow for them to get close to us.  

When you go through a night like this, it seems almost bittersweet when it starts to get light. It was so serene and peaceful as the bergs marched slowly past us in the dark, first one way, then the other as the tide turned. There was a kind of magic to it. We were the only ones there quietly watching what the natural world had been doing for thousands of years

Sawyer glacier calving
Sawyer glacier calving

The spell continued as it got light, and we got underway to be the first ones to the glacier. The sun shone brilliantly, and this time, the glacier performed.

 

-Captain Jeffrey

Announcing a new partnership with the Alaska Wilderness League

We Want You to join the
Alaska Wilderness League — for FREE

Alaska Wilderness LeagueJeffrey and I have started a partnership with the Alaska Wilderness League this season and are offering all of our guests who will be traveling with us in Alaska, the option of a free year’s membership and while supplies last, a thank you gift of a beanie cap from Bergens of Norway.  It’s a nice way that our guest can get to know more about the Tongass before you come aboard the David B.

Over the years I’ve grown to love the rugged natural beauty of the Tongass and I’ve only just begun to appreciate how important the forest is to the ecology and the economy of Alaska. As I’ve learned more about the Tongass, I’ve wanted to do more to preserve the forest, and not just to protect the ancient trees, bears, and wolves that live on land, but also to protect streams and rivers that contribute to the ecology of the surrounding waters that brings the fish, humpback whales, and seabirds to Alaska each summer.Brown bear viewing in Cannery Cove on an 8-day Alaska cruise on the David B

A couple of years ago we got involved with the Alaska Wilderness League and through them I’ve been able to work to provide more funding for the US Forest Service for recreation in the Tongass and they’ve kept me informed about issues concerning the management of the National Forest. As a result of getting to know the staff and the organization and seeing first-hand their passion for the Tongass,  we started this partnership, to get our guests more involved as well. Here’s a link for you to get to know more about the Alaska Wilderness League.

-Christine

Alaska Wilderness League Spotlights Jeffrey and Christine

Small Cruise Ship in Alaska
The David B at anchor in Fords Terror in the Tongass National Forest.

One of our favorite non-profits is the Alaska Wilderness League. They’ve worked tirelessly for years to promote the use of public lands for the benefit of the public in Alaska’s arctic and in the Tongass National Forest, which is near and dear to us as we spend most of our season cruising in and around the Tongass. For us, it is important to protect the Tongass. It’s where some of the last stands of old growth virgin forest thrives. Rivers in the Tongass National Forest run clear and clean and salmon come home to spawn. It’s a beautiful place of solitude and wilderness and it should be cherished for generations to come.

This week the Alaska Wilderness League spotlighted us in their newsletter, which is a big honor. Thank you AWL!

http://www.alaskawild.org/lovethetongass/

Alaska Wilderness League