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The Results Are In!

Success Aboard the David B in 2020

Small Ship Cruise in Glacier Bay
David B in Glacier Bay

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.
  • Black bear in Alaska
    Black bear at Fords Terror

    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.

Glacier in Alaska Small ship cruise
Walking among icebergs at Lamplough Glacier

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.

Touching a glacier in Alaska
Captain Jeffrey touches a glacier

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,

Christine
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

A Very Zen Line of Work

This week’s episode of the Northwest Navigation podcast is all things bears. We have a lot of respect for bears. They are big scary creatures that have the potential to be dangerous, yet bears also inspire us through their natural abilities, and their beauty. As students of the wild, when we observe bears we not only learn about them, we learn about ourselves.

Dan Kirkwood from Pack Creek Bear Tours, sat down with us to share his insights into bear behavior, and what to expect when visiting places like Pack Creek.

Northwest Navigation Podcast - Pack Creek BearsListen to A Very Zen Line of Work on iTunes
Listen to A Very Zen Line of Work on Spotify
Listen to A Very Zen Line of Work on Google

 

Click below to listen to A Very Zen Line of Work now:

Pack Creek Bear Guide in AlaskaBe sure to check out the trips we offer with Dan and Pack Creek Bear Tours.

Trip Number 334: Alaska’s Fjords with Pack Creek Bear Viewing
Dates: May 11-18, 2019
Boards: Petersburg
Disembarks: Juneau (Auke Bay)
Itinerary… 

Bear sitting at Pack Creek in AlaskaTrip Number 336: Adventures NW Photography Workshop –  Alaska’s Fjords and Pack Creek Bear Viewing
Dates: May 31 – June 7, 2019
Boards: Auke Bay (Juneau)
Disembarks: Petersburg
Itinerary…

 

Just Remember to Look Up

I was walking along a mud flat at low tide with a group of guests when I spotted several greater yellowlegs standing on a small rise that was surrounded by a tidepool. I stopped to point them out and talk a bit about their pretty call and how they feed on small fish and insects. As we watched the yellowlegs wade and forage in the shallow water, a bald eagle flew overhead attracting the attention of this bird. Just a small reminder from our friend the Greater Yellowlegs to remember to occasionally look up.

-Christine

Bird watching in Alaska while on a small ship cruise.
Greater yellow-legs keeps an eye on the sky as it feeds in a shallow tide pool on Admiralty Island in Alaska.

Mother Natures’s Art

I’ve been looking at these scales, or chatter marks as they are called, near Dawes Glacier for years. I love showing them to our guests. They always feel impactful to me. Maybe it’s because they weren’t yet exposed when John Muir visited Dawes in 1880, or perhaps it’s just Mother Nature’s raw talent as an artist. Whatever it is, this part of Endicott Arm is one that I always enjoy gazing at.

-Christine

Geology in Endicott Arm, Alaska. Aboard the small cruise ship David B
Chatter marks in the walls of Endicott Arm.

Wait for it…

One of the most thrilling things we get to do on our cruises is to wait and watch for glaciers to calve. Just when you think it’s time to go and you’ll be disappointed that you didn’t see anything big, the glacier answers with a thunderous crack and an enormous splash.

Dawes Glacier calving in Alaska aboard a small cruise ship
A slab of ice several stories tall begins to fall from the face of Dawes Glacier.

 

Dawes glacier calving in Endicott Arm. Watched from a small cruise ship in Alaska
Once the slab starts to break free of the glacier, it seems to fall in slow-motion.
A big splash from a calving glacier in Alaska's Tracy Arm Fords Terror wilderness.
Once the ice crashes into Endicott Arm, it’s impossible to hold back a cheer to Mother Nature and the power of the glacier.

 

 

 

A special old bear

We watched this old bear at Pack Creek on Alaska’s Admiralty Island in the spring. She’s thirtysomething and walks with a deep limp from a broken leg now healed. Her nose was once broken and sits askew. Even as she digs clams with mud clinging to her aged fur, I can’t help but think she’s the most beautiful animal I’ve ever seen.

Bear watching in Alaska at Pack Creek on Admiralty Island

Get to know John and Al our photography workshop instructors

On Saturday we sat down around the settee on the David B for a chat about what it’s like to go on one of our photography workshops. It was a fun, light-hearted chat about the highlight’s from last year’s Glacier Bay workshop, John and Al’s background in photography, and what we’re excited about for this coming season’s workshops.

You don’t have to be an expert photographer to come on these trips. All you need is a love of nature, the desire to take great pictures and to have fun. You can watch the video in its entirety below.

Visit our Alaska Photography Workshops page for more information, dates, rates, and availability.

We’re talking about bears on Facebook Live

We tried something new — Facebook Live!

Jeffrey and I thought it would be fun to see what it was like to do a Facebook Live Chat so we could talk about what we do on the David B, where we go, and to answer questions about what our trips are like. It turned out to be a blast. We were joined by lots of familiar people as well as new people. Not only did we get to talk about one of my favorite bear experiences from as summer, but we also got to answer questions about our trips and drinks with glacier ice.

Below is a link to our YouTube account that has the conversation. I hope you enjoy it and stay tuned for more Facebook Live Chats. And if you haven’t had a chance to follow the David B on Facebook, here’s a link.

-Christine

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:

Journalwoke 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

Small Cruise Ship David B at Reid Glacier, Glacier Bay Alaska
David B at anchor in front of Reid Glacier.

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

Johns Hopkins Inlet and Glacier, Glacier Bay Alaska
Johns Hopkins Glacier and Mountains of the Fairweather Range

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

Margerie Glacier in Glacier Bay Alaska
Margerie Glacier

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

Small cruise ship in Glacier Bay's Tarr Inlet
David B anchored in Tarr Inlet with Margerie Glacier and the Grand Pacific Glacier.

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.                                                                                      

-Christine

Newsletter – Wild Brother Wolf and Skiffyasaurus

Wild Brother Wolf visits on Trip #296 May 31 – June 7, 2017

– by Christine Smith

Sometimes the quickest animal sighting stays with me the longest, especially when it comes to elusive wildlife. This past week while I was making coffee, I happened to catch some movement on the beach out of the corner of my eye. I paused the coffee grinder and looked with intent as a wolf ran along the shore.

“Where’s my camera, where’s my camera,” I whisper-shouted to Jeffrey. “What’s wrong?” Jeffrey answered back, not fully understanding my question so early in the morning. “Wolf. Beach. There.” I pointed out as I found and aimed my camera – clicking rapidly before the “wild brother” disappeared back into the forest.

The wolf trotted along. Stopped to sniff the ground several times before leaving. The whole encounter lasted not more than two minutes, but even now as I write a week later, I still get goose bumps knowing I got a glimpse of a wild wolf. For me, wolves are special. We rarely see them. In twelve years of running the David B, this is only the fourth time we’ve seen wolves. It was a treat, and one that I’m happy to share with you.

-Christine

Wild Brother Wolf one early morning in Sanford Cove
This Trip also had other Animals Such as…

Birds:
Surf Scoter, White-Winged Scoter, Common Loon, Arctic Terns, Boneparts Gulls, Marable Murrelets, Bald Eagles, Pacific Loons, Varied Thrush, Hermit Thrush, Swainsons Thrush, Pacific Wren, Junco, Stellars Jay, Red-Throated Loons, Harlequin Ducks, Pigeon Guillemots, Trumpeter Swan, Rufus Hummingbird, Raven, crow, Canada goose, Horned Grebe, robin

Mammals:
Wolf, Mountain Goat Humpback whales, Brown Bears (grizzly), seals, sea lions, harbor porpoises, deer

Seal on Ice
Also, Christine’s Meal highlight – Smoked Black Cod Risotto with caramelized onions, and mushrooms. Yum.

Introducing the Skiffyasaurus!

When the Tin Hat Project was being built, Jeffrey also decided to build a new skiff with some very unique features.

Skiffyasaurus at North Arm

Some of the new features include:

  • Seating up to 8 passengers plus crew – no more multiple trips ashore
  • More speed, range and stability for longer excursions
  • Flat bottom with easier access steps to get in and out of the skiff and onto the beach
  • Charting and Depth Finder so Jeffrey can scout new anchorages for the David B

The Skiffyasaurus’ Spacious Interior!