Jeffrey and Christine on KVRS Radio – Lafayette
Jeffrey and Christine were recently in Lafayette, Louisiana to give a talk about the David B and cruising in Alaska, as well as to have a little downtime and to eat as much cajun food as humanly possible before the 2018 boating season begins. One of the highlights of their time in Lafayette was being interviewed on KRVS radio. Follow the link before to listen to Jeffrey and Christine talk about the restoring the David B as well as what they enjoy most about being in Alaska.
Seattle Boat Show – Christine’s talk for the Women’s Day Panel
Every year at the Seattle Boat Show there is a special Women’s Day which celebrates women on the water and encourages women to be involved in boating. This year Christine was asked to be part of a panel of women who have found their strength in boating. Below is the text of the speech she gave.
Here’s a nice article in 48 North Magazine about the talks given. https://48north.com/2018/02/08/beyond-fun/
Finding my strength in boating
By Christine Smith
It’s 5 am.
I’m at work. I’m the only one up. My job is a combination of chef, naturalist, deckhand, and jr. engineer aboard the David B. We’re at anchor in Tarr Inlet, Glacier Bay, Alaska. The sky is a blue-ish purple. The water a perfect reflection. We’re sharing our anchorage with two tidewater glaciers — Margerie and the Grand Pacific. Even though the sun has been up for more than an hour, the high peaks to the east still cast a shadow over the anchorage. Black-legged kittiwakes are drifting past the boat on floes of ice. The air is chill, and a light dew is forming on deck. I’m working in the galley with the door open so I can listen to the kittiwakes, and to the fire crackling in the woodstove. I slip off my shoes. I want to be quiet. I hate to be the one who disturbs the morning. Stepping out on to the deck I feel the coolness of the dew seeping through my socks. I take a deep breath through my nose and my lungs expand as I breath in the clean crisp, mineral-earthy smell of Tarr Inlet. Suddenly Margarie glacier rumbles, breaking the silence and sending ice cascading into the mirror perfect water. The nearby colony of kittiwakes raise their collective voices and become the foreground of my soundscape.
This is now my everyday life, but it wasn’t always that way. It took years and a lot of chance, opportunity, determination, but mostly the willingness to learn.
I often think my journey to working on a boat started in 1996 when I met my husband, Jeffrey. But, really it started when I was a child with my love of learning. It started with my grandparents taking me on nature walks. They taught me about frogs, beavers, and woodpeckers. They showed me trees and wildflowers. I was 11 or 12 when I encountered my first black bear and because of my grandfather, I already knew to respect the bear, but not fear it.
My path also started with my aunt who own her own dump truck. I saw her strength as a woman working in a male-dominated industry, and her ability to work big machinery. I saw her determination to be a professional. By watching her actions, I broadened my horizons. If she could do anything, I could too.
Through my parents, I learned how to see. It was from their love of photography, that I learned to look for the beauty of nature. I learned to look for rare moments. I learned capture images for myself, and for others. I learned to tell a story through an instant in time. My early teachers helped to shape my interests, and by chance, these interests eventually lead to boats.
In my 20s, I daydreamed about owning a bed and breakfast in the San Juans. At that time I only had a daydream and a low paying receptionist job and no commitment to a plan for my future.
When I met Jeffrey something changed – It wasn’t my low paying job. What changed was my commitment to a plan – starting charter boat business. By making that commitment, I had my big chance to create my dream job – a job that encompassed all my favorite things. The only catch was, I didn’t know anything about boats or boating. But I wasn’t going to let a little thing like something I could learn get in the way of that job.
Jeffrey and I decided that the best way for two people without much money to get into the business would be to find an inexpensive old boat to fix up. Because Jeffrey had years of experience working on and around boats, I was willing to trust him with decisions about what would work best for us. He was also willing to be my mentor.
In 1998, we bought the David B, a rustic old wooden boat built in 1929. Through my eyes it looked like all it really needed was a little sanding and some paint. Before we purchased the boat, we discussed what the steps would need to be taken to rejuvenate the David B. Jeffrey also talked with me about the boat’s engine, and what a cool find it was. It is an antique, made by Washington Iron Works and was the David B’s original. We agreed that it would probably take two years before we were up and running.
In that first year, I discovered a whole new world. Boat lingo, boat woodworking, new kinds of tools. I also got to revisit my old insecurities about math, algebra, and geometry.
I took a woodwork class. I read books on wooden boats, boat construction, boat fasteners, boat history, boat everything. Some of the knowledge stuck, a lot of it, didn’t seem to stick at the time, but later on something would come up and I’d remember reading about how to caulk a wooden boat with cotton and oakum or what fasteners were used on some boat built on Lake Union.
At times this desire to run a boat frustrated and discouraged me. Two years passed, and we had hardly made any forward progress.
Our estimation of two years turned in the 3, then 4, then 5, 6, 7, then 8. The boat and the dream seem seemed to be slipping away. In spite of dedicating all my spare time and money to working on the boat, there just didn’t seem to be enough time or money to complete the project.
In 2001 while we struggled with rebuilding David B, I got my first job working on a boat. I was a deckhand on a passenger boat. Even though I was planning to operate my own boat, I actually hadn’t spent any time on the water. I didn’t know how to tie up a boat, or what knots to use. I had learned a lot of boating terminology but didn’t have any actual experience. The night before I started my deckhand job, I confessed to Jeffrey that I was nervous about not knowing basic boating skills. He puzzled for a moment, then got up found a tiny cleat and a running shoe. We practiced tying up using the shoe as the boat and the shoelaces as lines.
Working on the passenger boat re-inspired my desire to finish the David B. I loved getting to see how a passenger boat was operated, and visualizing what it would be like to run the David B.
The big day came in 2006 when we officially started running the David B as a charter boat. I was excited, it was something I had trained for and imagined for 8-years. On our way to Juneau I got my first chance for a wheel watch. We were in Johnstone Strait at Current Pass. If you haven’t been there, it has a lot of current and a lot of traffic. I was nervous about driving on my own. I knew that I had l come along way since we bought the David B. I had learned how to read charts, I knew how the chart-plotter worked. I was familiar with the radio in case there was traffic. Before I took the wheel, I asked questions about Current Pass, and how I should best navigate. My nerves calmed as I watched out the window, checked the chart plotter, and kept the David B on course.
For three years we operated the David B. Everything was going perfectly until the winter of 2008.
I mentioned earlier, the David B has a very special antique engine. We did all of our usual engine prep for winter. Our only mistake was we forgot to double check that all the water in the engine’s cooling system had been drained. When the water stopped coming out, we walked away. For a couple weeks it was cold. Really cold. One day we walked down to the boat. It had snowed and we wanted to make sure everything was ok.
Things weren’t ok. The engine that we had thought we had carefully winterized was broken. Each cylinder barrel had monstrous cracks. Protruding out of the cracks were long, thin, delicate ribbons of ice. I was too shocked to express any emotion. For three years I was the person I wanted to be. I had learned so much, I got to experience Alaska, I was able to teach people about shoreline ecology and old growth forests. I watched people’s expressions as I showed them ice calving from a glacier. I got to share my knowledge with my guests. I got to meet people from all over the world, and cook delicious meals for them. In the cold engine room, I stared at the Washington’s wounds and saw all that I loved doing go away.
I took the freezing of the engine was an opportunity to learn. After the initial shock, we researched ways to fix the cracks. I told myself that this would be a great time to learn how the engine worked. It would give me hope that we could overcome the setback and continue to run the business, as well as give me an even greater confidence in operating the boat. It took the whole winter, but we did it. Me and Jeffrey together. I helped remove the heads, pistons, and liners. I touched each piece that came off the boat, I cleaned all the parts, I drilled the holes for the stitching pins we used to fix the cracks. I took the opportunity that the broken engine presented and I used it to learn. Now when I do my engine check every other hour, I know what’s going on inside of the engine, because I have seen the parts and I have touched them. I can help troubleshoot and diagnose developing problems with the engine because I’ve learned about it.
Four years ago I decided to take another step forward and sit for my for 100-ton captain’s license. I knew I had the time and I had a lot of experience, but it was also something I wanted to do to be a professional mariner. I was comfortable with everything about the class and the test with the exception of the math. I’ve always struggled with math partly because I’m dyslexic and it’s easy for me to transpose numbers. I was always the slowest to complete the time, speed, distance problems. I was very self-conscious about being the only female in class. I was disappointed in myself for being so stereotypically terrible at math. I wanted to prove that I could do it. I wanted to be seen as a professional.
Test day came. I didn’t have any trouble answering the rules questions. Then I got started on the navigation problems. I read, and reread. I plotted and erased. I questioned myself. One, by one, the other students finished and left. I was the last one in the room. I re-read, I erased, I checked, and double checked. The instructor came over to my desk as I stared at my answers unable to decide if I had done everything right. He looked down at my answers and said, “If I told you passed would you stop?” I had done it. Captain.
I love learning. Through my willingness to learn, I’ve been able to create my perfect job, and do what I want. Learning has opened up so many doors and helped me conquer obstacles of all magnitudes. Through an openness to learning, I have become, a naturalist, a chef, a photographer, a published author, a ship’s engineer, and a captain.
Years ago Jeffrey asked me if my dream of owning a bed and breakfast needed to have a foundation, or if it could float. These 22 years since have been filled with accomplishments that my then 26-year-old self could not have dreamed of. My drive to persistently learn has been rewarded with a life on the water. A life that includes scenes like that one out my galley door, with sounds of kittiwakes and calving glaciers.
It’s Five-ten now, Margerie glacier and the kittiwakes are silent again. Time to get to work.
Everett Herald Write-Up
This week we will be speaking at the Marysville Opera House as part of the Marysville Parks and Rec Outdoor Speakers Series. Today, the Everett Herald published a nice little write up about our talk on the boat’s restoration and the David B’s cruises in the San Juan Islands, and Alaska. we hope you enjoy the article!
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.
Winter Happenings on the David B – Tuning Up the Engine
Winter is always a busy time on the boat. It’s when we do maintenance, make upgrades, and take on projects. Unlike last year when we built the new pilothouse, this year is a little more mellow. Our biggest project this winter is to do an engine overhaul, which means we’re removing the heads, cylinder liners, and pistons. We’ll check the piston rings, change the gaskets, and fix a water leak in the cooling system. In addition to the big stuff, all the small parts will be cleaned and checked before we reassemble the engine, and Jeffrey will be adding new sensors, so we can monitor the engine more effectively.
We put together a quick time-lapse video showing us lifting the #3-cylinder head off the engine.
Time-lapse video of the David B in Endicott Arm
A time-lapse of the David B cruising past icebergs and small islands in Endicott Arm and into Fords Terror on one of our 8-day Alaska cruises.
Time-Lapse Endicott Arm to Fords Terror
Time-Lapse Endicott Arm to Fords TerrorCruising on board the David B from Endicott Arm to Fords Terror.
Article by our passenger Stacy Shearman on the Inside Passage
We would like to say THANK YOU to Stacy Shearman who wrote a wonderful review of her cruise with us this past summer. Her trip was our Southbound Inside Passage Cruise that began in Ketchikan, Alaska and ended in Bellingham, Washington.
I hope you enjoy!
Early Bird Pricing for 2018 Cruises
Early Bird Pricing Ends November 1st
Don’t miss out!
Calling all early birds! Now’s your chance to get an Early Bird discount on almost all of our 2018 cruises. If you book before Nov 1, 2017 you’ll get our 2017 prices plus $500 off on our 2018 Alaska Cruises* or $200 off on our 2018 San Juan Islands cruises. If you book now, get the dates you want and save a little cash too!
*Please note that early bird pricing does not apply to our Photography or Guest Naturalist Cruises.
Lesson learned from Little Bear
More than anything else, I love to be in places where I can observe animals. For me, every encounter with wildlife is special. Most of the time these encounters are nothing more than a brief glimpse or a snapshot into a creature’s daily routine. But each time I observe I learn something new about animal behavior and also about myself.
I find bears especially captivating. I love watching how they move, how they make decisions, how they find food, and where they choose to be. I love watching old bears, and young bears, baby bears, and mama bears. I love watching brown (grizzly) bears and black bears equally.
Some encounters stand out. In July this past summer, it was a was a young brown bear. We’d been watching it through binoculars from the David B the night before. The bear had come down to the beach at low-tide to try its hand (or paw, I should say) at fishing. It was alone and seemed to be new at the solo-life of a bear. We speculated that it had recently been run off by its mother and was trying to remember the techniques it had been taught as a baby bear. The bear was trying to pounce on the fish by running and jumping into the creek with its big paws spread wide. Each time it came up empty pawed. We watched it for over an hour.
The next morning, the bear, which we affectionately started calling Little Bear, was back on the beach at low-tide. We found it at a different braid of the stream while we were exploring the bay in the skiff. Little Bear was again working on the nuances of fishing, and it appeared it was still coming up empty pawed. Jeffrey kept the skiff offshore in deep water, but close enough that we could watch. Little Bear, strutted around in the water looking for fish. When it found some, it would pounce, and splash, and pounce again.
When it noticed us watching, it ran a short distance along the shoreline with an attitude that suggested we were not welcome to share the fishing hole. Jeffrey backed the skiff. Little Bear was satisfied that we were not a threat, and went back to fishing.
As I’ve thought about Little Bear this fall, I’ve come recognized how hard it is for animals to make it. A young bear has a lot of obstacles to overcome. Young bears don’t often get the best places to forage for food, or the best territory. Young bears like Little Bear are a lesson in persistence. They have to keep trying to catch those fish, no matter how many times they come up empty pawed. That’s what I love about watching wildlife. Life lessons. Lessons that make me smarter, wiser, and more in tune with nature.
As winter sets in, I hope that Little Bear is fat and happy with a big belly full of salmon.
Photographing the Kittiwakes in Glacier Bay
One day in May we anchored the David B in Tarr Inlet. We were in the middle of our Glacier Bay Photography Cruise. It was a beautiful, clear, sunny day with both the Grand Pacific Glacier and Marjorie Glacier in view. Marjorie had been active. The floating ice that had calved off was scattered all around the inlet. Most of it was of small bits of brash with the largest icebergs about the size of a city bus. On both large and small chunks of ice were little gulls called black-legged kittiwakes — my favorite bird of the moment. Not far from our anchorage there was a cliff with hundreds more, some on nests, some circling in the air, making the cliff face a distant bee-hive of activity.
Several flew past the David B making their distinctive “ki-ti-waak” call. The call is how they got their name. They frequent places like Glacier Bay to nest during the summer months then spend their winters off-shore.
Not long after the anchor was down we all got into the skiff with our cameras and favorite lenses to skiff over to Marjorie Glacier. On the way we made a special side trip to the cliff with the kittiwakes. With our lenses pointed up and with stiff necks, we shot photos. From my sea-level vantage some of their nests seem to cling precariously to the cliff. We listened to the chatty colony. In the skiff, we were lost in our own photos, watching, listening and concentrating on our own individual birds. We checked exposures, and asked the instructors questions while we took in the dramas that were unfolding in front of us. There was the thrill of wondering what was going to happen next.
Occasionally two kittiwakes would engage in an aerial dogfight. The combatants would lock beaks and come tumbling and cartwheeling out of the sky, sometimes hitting the ground or water, or even tumbling down the cliff and landing in the fjord. At one point a bald eagle flew towards the colony. Would the eagle steal a chick, or would it just perch? How would the colony respond? We trained our lenses, and talked about what was happening. The eagle circled a few times, to the great displeasure of the kittiwakes. Their cries were almost deafening, then finally it perched on a ledge away from the colony. It kept to itself and sadly was too distant for a good picture even with my zoom.
With all the excitement, I kind of lost track of time, so I’m not sure how long we spent at the cliff before moving on to Margarie Glacier, but it long enough that we got to enjoy watching, photographing, and chronicling a tiny snapshot of life in a black-legged kittiwake colony. I came away with a deeper love for these birds and the lives they live, and I’m sure the others in the skiff with me came away with their own interpretations and appreciations.
As I go through my photos from this year’s Glacier Bay Photography Cruise I can’t help but feel the growing excitement that we’ll be back again next spring for two more Photography Cruises in Alaska with instructors John D’onofrio and Alan Sanders. One in Glacier Bay and the other in Tracy Arm / Fords Terror Wilderness and the Admiralty Island / Kootznoowoo wilderness. I’m excited because it’s a chance to get out in the wilderness, use my camera, see nature, and learn more about taking better pictures. If you’d like to know more, visit our Glacier Bay Photography and Alaska Photography pages and our schedule page for dates and availability, or contact us.