A New Season on the Inside Passage Approaches

Christine Smith gets ready for the first charter of the season aboard the David B.

Self-doubt is the underlying current that runs through my veins in the days leading up to our first trip of each season. Every year, we have the conversation about what this year will be like. I fret about forgetting how to cook on the boat’s wood cook stove, and I worry that I’ve forgotten the names of plants and birds that I hope to show our passengers. Jeffrey worries that he’s forgotten how to drive the boat. We both worry that our passengers won’t enjoy what we have to offer. Those nagging thoughts begin to percolate in March and come to a full boil in May.

Two familiar things in the San Juan Islands: Purple Sea Stars and Sea Lettuce. Both remind me that even if I think I’ve forgotten a lot of what I know, it will all come back to me.

As I was stowing groceries last week for our first trip of the year, Jeffrey was on deck talking to Loren, a longtime friend whose boat is across the dock from us. They were discussing the usual stuff: getting ready to go to Alaska, what this year’s weather might be like, and what last minute repairs they were doing. In Loren’s case, it was some decking that needed to be replaced, and in our case, it was a leak in our engine’s cooling system that Jeffrey had to repair. They talked for a while, and I missed the rest of the conversation. It was later at dinner when Jeffrey and I were discussing our day that Jeffrey told me something surprising:


“When I confessed to Loren that I always fear that I’ve forgotten how to drive the David B, he said, ‘I hear ya on that one. It happens to me every year.’ He also told me about how he had played basketball in high school, and he had the same feeling before every game.”

This was a big relief since Loren is one of the best boathandlers we know. He’s been driving boats in Alaska for a living for nearly 50 years. The fact that even someone like Loren, who could probably navigate the Inside Passage backwards with his eyes closed, still gets apprehensive at the beginning of a new season made me remember that life on the water is always filled with unknown challenges. Every spring, we stand on the dock imagining all the possibilities and what each potential might mean. We fill our heads with “what ifs” and then reflect on the reality of each unknown only to come back to the truth.


Christine watching some creatures in a tide pool with one of her passengers on the David B‘s first trip of the season.


Each day that’s looming on the horizon will be filled with new perspectives on familiar sights. In spite of the jitters we might feel now, we know that as soon as the lines are cast off and we back away from the dock, the self-doubt that collects on our consciousness, like the algae that grows on the hull of an unused boat, will be gone, replaced by the feeling of confidence from our years of experience. We haven’t forgotten how to run the David B.

Visit Northwest Navigation Co.’s website.

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


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