Learning to Cruise – Introduction

The beginning of a series born from a partnership with Christine Smith and Northwest Navigation and Cruising Northwest! 
Cruising the Inside Passage first caught my imagination in 1998 when Jeffrey and I decided we wanted to own and operate a tour boat in
cAndJRuthIslandCrop the San Juan Islands and Alaska. In 2006 we began offering tours on our newly restored David B. Before that, Jeffrey had worked as the captain on a passenger ferry that operated between Bellingham and Victoria, as well as on tugboats that took barges between Seattle and Alaska. When he’d call from the tug he’d tell me about humpback whales, northern lights and beautiful forest-lined fjords. We’d talk about how we both yearned for the day when we’d be exploring those coves, bays, and channels that the tugs passed by. In the meantime we read about the Inside Passage’s natural and human history, and poured through the Douglass’ Exploring Series Cruising Guides so many times that by the time we began our tours, every anchorage we came to seemed like an old friend.This spring Jeffrey and I will begin our eighth season operating the David B in the Inside Passage and we’re excited for the opportunity to be partnering with CruisingNW.com to bring you a weekly series of articles based on our Learn to Cruise training trips we offer between Bellingham and Ketchikan. To kick things off I’d like to share why I think everyone should want to cruise the Inside Passage. The Inside Passage is a breathtaking flat-water route from Olympia, Washington, up the coastline of British Columbia, ending at Skagway in Alaska’s panhandle. When I think about cruising the Inside Passage I know that my draw is the infinite maze of thousands of glacially craved islands that provide the opportunity for endless exploration, new challenges, and unlimited rewards.As a boater, I love experiencing to new places, whether it’s a small island town, a family run resort, hot springs, abandoned canneries and native villages, or a remote anchorages. The Inside Passage has all of these and each year when Jeffrey and I begin to plan our Learn to Cruise trips, we discuss favorite places that we’d like to share with our passengers, as well as new places we’ve always wanted visit.

IMG_3077With each new place we choose, we weigh the challenges. We look at the chart and note obstructions, currents, and depth. The challenges of a given area that we accept are based upon our skills and our comfort with the boat’s ability. The Inside Passage has challenges for all skill levels, whether you’re a weekend boater or a long-time cruiser, and with each new challenge there is a reward.

For me the rewards of cruising the Inside Passage are anchoring in remote coves where I allow myself to be absorbed by the sights, sounds, and smells of a particular anchorage, but their are other rewards too. Some are personal such as working with Jeffrey and strengthening our communication skills as a crew and a couple, or spending  time at the wheel of the David B and experiencing and understanding the currents and seas. Other rewards of cruising in the Inside Passage include sitting on deck at the end of a day talking with our guests about an amazing wildlife experience or lying in my bunk at night listening to the anchor chain rattle when the tide changes.

For the first few years we offered nature based tours in the Inside Passage, but a couple of SANY0223years ago a friend asked if he could crew for us on our northbound Bellingham to Ketchikan cruise to gain experience. His intention was to learn from us so that he could later take his own boat to Alaska with confidence. It was then that we realized that we could benefit other boaters who truly wanted to know and experience the Inside Passage by sharing our knowledge as a training cruise. The passengers who come with us gain hands-on experience on the David B and learn both formally in classroom style lessons and informally while helping to operate the boat.

We’re looking forward to sharing some of our knowledge of the Inside Passage with you on CruisingNW.com. We’ve picked several topics for each week that we hope you’ll find useful in planning for your own adventures in the Inside Passage. Next week I’ll be sharing tips on planning for your Inside Passage cruise.






PastedGraphic-2*To learn more about The David B, Northwest Navigation and Christine Smith, go to : www.northwestnavigation.com






If you are looking for the complete story, More Faster Backwards details all kinds of information about… all of the above!


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  1. Welcome aboard Christine and Jeffrey, Northwest Navigation and the David B! We are very excited about this new project!

    1. A great lead in article. One day(read: Summer) I hope to make this journey. I’m envious but grateful to be able to read along and travel vicariously with you. Safe travels

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