☰ MENU

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

Verney Falls in August

A black bear waits at Verny Falls for salmonWhen we enter Nettle Basin on our Southbound Inside Passage cruise between Ketchikan and Bellingham, we always hope we’ll find bears at Verney Falls. In mid-August the salmon come home to spawn here and the bears come for the feast.

Nettle Basin, at the base of the falls will be alive with hundreds of splashing salmon. Sometimes we’ll kayak right up to the waterfall to watch eagles, ravens, and bears feeding on the salmon. It’s exciting to watch bears fishing but I’ve often found myself more mesmerized by the great schools of salmon that gather in the pool at the base of the waterfall. When they jump, it sends a splash of water on to me and my kayak and as they swim their fins cut the surface like sharks.

There’s a lot of energy packed into in this small space. It’s nature’s raw energy of life and survival. I find myself rooting for both the fish and the bears, and I root for the eagles and the ravens too. It’s easy to get caught up in the drama at the waterfall, it’s why we like to come here.

-Christine

Watching whales in the Inside Passage

Whale watching on a 12-day inside passage small ship cruise
Humpback whales at Dundas Island on a 12-Day Inside Passage Cruise

On the second day of one of our southbound Learn to Cruise trips, we came across these two humpback whales foraging near the shore of Dundas Island. As they foraged we stayed a respectful distance to make sure we didn’t disturb them, but we were close enough that with binoculars and a good camera lens we got to see the individual markings on their flukes (tails) when they dove.  When they surfaced, we could see the baleen in their mouths that they use to strain the fish or krill that they were eating.

humpback whale watching on a small ship cruise in the Inside Passage and Great Bear Rainforest
Humpback whales with mouth’s wide open

It was fascinating to watch. The whales would often surface close to shore and my guess is that they were probably using the rocks underwater to help school their prey. We stayed with the whales for 20-30 minuets before heading on to Prince Rupert. Besides these two humpback whales we saw two others, several harbor seals, lots of different sea birds, and many bald eagles.

-Christine

Project Management Mastery – The Inside Passage Project

New Project Management Course Offered on the David B

Captain Jeffrey Smith | M/V David B | Learn to Cruise | Inside PassageCheetah Learning Services has partnered with Northwest Navigation Co, to offer a unique new project management certification course. This course, Project Management Mastery – The Inside Passage Project recognizes that a long voyage requires a large amount of planning and strategy and yet it encapsulates all the concepts of Project Management with a strong emphasis on Risk Management and Team Building. The course is a 12-day voyage through the Inside Passage to Alaska and takes place aboard the Motor Vessel David B.

The instructor, Captain Jeffrey Smith will guide participants in learning to make real time decisions, and to play a part both as a member of the technical team producing the deliverables but also as a manager assessing the execution of the project/voyage as well. Cheetah Learning Service’s founder Michelle LaBrosse, CCPM, PMP, PMI-ACP, RYT, and Northwest Navigation’s Captain Jeffrey, developed the Project David B at the float in ButedaleManagement Mastery – The Inside Passage Project after Ms. LaBrosse attended his Learn to Cruise – Passage to Alaska course.

The concept behind Project Management Mastery– The Inside Passage Project is to utilize the skills that Captain Jeffrey Smith has acquired over 20 years as professional mariner in the context of project management so that the participant learns to engage his/her skills in planning, sourcing, risk management and team building.

Program Details

Project Management Mastery – The Inside Passage Project – 12-Days – Northbound
Dates:
May 7-18, 2016 – Bellingham, Washington to Ketchikan, Alaska
May 6-17, 2017 – Bellingham, Washington to Ketchikan, Alaska

Project Management Mastery – The Inside Passage Project – 12-Days – Southbound
Dates:
August 11-22, 2016 – Ketchikan, Alaska to Bellingham, Washington
August 10-21, 2017 – Ketchikan, Alaska to Bellingham, WashingtonLearn to Cruise the Inside Passage Project Management Course for PUDs

Credit: – 60 PDU or 6 CEU

Tuition: – $6200 USD

About Cheetah Learning Services:

Cheetah Learning – Headquartered in Carson City, Nevada, Cheetah Learning has training centers around the world and is a proven global leader in Project Management Performance Improvement and Project Manager Professional Development. Cheetah was founded in 1999 with the commitment to enable people to achieve significant bottom line improvements, fast.

Waiting for humpback whales

Humpback whales bubble net feeing in AlaskaI always feel like there’s sort of a Jack-in-the-box element to watching humpback whales forage. When they are at the surface we can see them breathing, flapping their flippers, or slapping their flukes (tails), but when they dive, it’s anybody’s guess as to where they’ll surface next.

I like to think about the wait between surfacing as a time to refocus my attention on my surroundings. I know that they will be beneath the surface for 3-7 minutes. They’ll be rounding up forage fish and doing the things that whales do — the stuff we can’t see. In that time, I like to think about where they’ll come back up, or how funny it is that there are these enormous animals so close, (only a few hundred of feet away) and yet I can’t see them. I like to look into the water for passing jelly fish, or a tangle of kelp that slips along in the current. I watch the gulls for cues about where the whales are. On occasion when they swim right beneath us, the bubbles of their breath will bounce up along the David B’s planks –a reminder that somewhere, just a out-of-sight, but oh, so close, there are whales. I refocus my attention to the whales. I wonder how long ago they were under the boat. I wonder what direction they are going. I calculate the time. I lift my camera and wait.  I wait for the thrill of hearing the explosive breath again and seeing these usually invisible giants. It’s like a Jack-in-the-box.

-Christine

 

 

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