The Journey

Humpback whales were just one of the many surprises that Christine Smith and her guests aboard the David B enjoyed during a 12-day cruise on the Inside Passage.

May 25, 2012

We just arrived in Ketchikan after 12 days cruising the Inside Passage from Bellingham. Like all journeys, this one had a predictable beginning and end, but what made the intervening days interesting were the unexpected experiences that can never be written into an itinerary.

Underway on Desolation Sound

When we left Bellingham on May 10th, the David B was full of strangers. Of the five guests, only one had traveled with us before. Over the course of our journey, we had shared almost 700 miles of the coastal waterway known as the Inside Passage. Every day there were meals, stories, and new sights, but there were also surprises.


The first surprise was an invitation to visit one of our guest’s cabin and shellfish farm in Desolation Sound. The next day, we took a detour where we enjoyed a short hike to a lake where several guests bravely tested the water temperature with a quick dip. A couple of days later, we celebrated my forty-third birthday with a crossing of Queen Charlotte Sound. There was a bright blue sky, northwesterly winds at 30 mph and seas 6- to 10-feet. It was the sort of day that makes you feel alive. A couple folks got to steer the boat and seemed to soak up their time at the wheel feeling the David B as she rose over the swells and waves.

Later that night, we anchored at Pruth Bay where I shared a special bottle of wine, and some amazing and delicious cheeses that had been given to me by a good friend before we left Bellingham. I had been under strict instructions not to open the wine and cheeses until my birthday. One guest surprised me with a beautiful cookbook and another contributed to the birthday treats with two chocolate bars.

The next big surprise was a pod of whales in Princess Royal Channel.


“Humpbacks!” I involuntarily shouted out just after I announced that lunch was ready.

“There goes a fluke. Looks like there might be two more over there,” Jeffrey said steering a little closer to where a whale dove.

“Over there!” I pointed the moment I heard the familiar exhalation of a surfacing humpback. Two more exhalations followed, and three whales were at the surface. They were close together. We watched them catch their breath and dive a couple more times. Each cycle of rest and dive was awe-inspiring. Then we caught their attention. They were at the surface about 500 feet away when two of them turned and faced the David B before diving. The third whale swam towards the back of the boat then did an odd corkscrewing dive. On deck Jeffrey commented that it was the closest humpbacks have ever come to us.


Humpback whale breaching in Princess Royal Channel

A few moments later one of the whales surfaced just off our stern. We talked about how amazing the experience was when all of a sudden the third whale breached just off the side of the boat. It shot up like a torpedo. The water glistened off its body and a loud clap accompanied its enormous splash. It was totally unexpected and a complete thrill. We watched the whales for a few more minutes before moving on and retuning to our lunch cooling on the galley table.

Several days later, as we entered Tongass Narrows and I could see Ketchikan’s waterfront lined with four cruise ships, I thought about the incredible experiences I’d had with this group of people who had chosen to see the Inside Passage on the David B. Our 12 days together were unique and special because, as a group, we focused on the journey and not on the destination, and to me that’s what being on a boat is all about — the journey.


Visit Northwest Navigation Co.’s website.

Check out Christine’s book about rebuilding the David B- More Faster Backwards.


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