“You don’t know if this is all you’re going to see,” Swanson said of the whale stops. “This could be it. So we make it count when we see them. We may make only 20 miles in a day, but if the guests see what they came to see, that’s all right with me.” When you realize that Swanson can decide whether he wants to press on through the night and eat at the wheel to make up for lost time, you understand he controls the experience.
We stopped in secluded anchorages nearly every evening. If we had daylight left, Swanson would launch one of the Whalers to scout around. We would motor up a river or explore a bight off the inlet, looking for bears, seals or other wildlife. I’d never seen so many bald eagles in one place. Swanson comes off as an insistent adventurer, but it’s because he knows the area and knows what you could see, if you waited a bit longer or just kept going beyond the next bend. And even if you don’t see something on a jaunt in the skiff, he keeps it interesting. His hearty ho ho ho punctuates the thousands of stories he has in reserve, if you can draw them out of him.
But as I said, we’re on a schedule and Swanson is the keeper of the charts, the route and the throttle. That first day had 80 miles on the plan and we had knocked off only about 20, so we figured we’d be playing catch-up the whole way down the coast.
We didn’t. Swanson and his crew were dedicated to our enjoyment, stopping in towns like Prince Rupert, Shearwater and Ganges Harbor, but the anchorages in between were unforgettable. As we entered an inlet, we saw a strip of white descending the rock face, between the trees, down out of the fog. As we got closer we could see farther up the slope: a waterfall growing in width and height, its starting point still higher up the hill. And sure enough, we pulled the bow in close and dropped the hook for the night, right before this perfect view. Zimmermann would helpfully point out local fauna, such as a seal peering at us from the surface, smooth head and huge black eyes, nostrils pinching closed as it submerged.
As we got closer to Seattle and re-entered U.S. territorial waters and, more importantly, nonroaming cell-phone range, it became apparent that our voyage was drawing to a close and the pressing schedules of our lives’ day-to-day routines were beginning to creep in at the edges. And as we motored down Puget Sound, I was happy to be headed home, but sad to be leaving the quiet and unspoiled wilderness in my wake.
A Voyage of Discovery
Choose the charter that’s right for you.
Discovery is a classic motoryacht that gets her guests close to nature. Swanson suggested at dinner one evening that it’s a certain type of guest who will appreciate the full experience he offers. He generally speaks to everyone who’s coming, to answer any questions, but certainly anyone with an appreciation for classic yachts and stunning scenery is bound to get a kick out of this experience. The trips from Ketchikan and Juneau must be remarkable.
When Discovery came through the locks into lake union, an appreciative crowd gawked and took pictures of our classic ride — which let us experience what the wildlife must have felt when we were snapping away. Swanson charters Discovery to groups of up to 10 passengers, but a group of six passengers can book the whole boat for a seven-night trip for $24,500. A 10-passenger charter for seven nights is $32,500. Call 800-767-1024 or visit www.alaskacharters.com.