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Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Robert Glenn Ketchum: The Boat Company - My Fav Places

Photograph © 2011 Robert Glenn Ketchum. For Display Use Only, No Permission to Reproduce in Any Form.
The Tongass rainforest is one of the most beautiful places I have ever adventured. It is also one of the rarest rainforests in the world because it is not on the equator, but rather, almost within the Arctic Circle. Home to massive old growth trees, huge Grizzly bear, the largest eagle population on the planet, and a daily show of marine life that includes Orca, whale, seals, etc., the fiords and mountains of southeast Alaska / The Inside Passage are a must if you expect to "see" Alaska.

The lazy tourist tries to do all of this from a cruiseship and consequently misses most of the show. These boats can never "get into" the really great places where you can view this world at a personal level. But, if not a large cruise liner, then what? It IS a cool, and sometimes cold, rainforest which means rain on most days and a lot of rain on some days, and then there are the bears. The PERFECT solution is to cruise on smaller boats, and the best of those plying the waters of Southeast and the Tongass belong to The Boat Company.

Photograph © 2011 Robert Glenn Ketchum. For Display Use Only, No Permission to Reproduce in Any Form.

Their flagships are small (20-26 persons), brilliant staffed, equipped to do everything, AND it would be hard to find this kind of comfort, even at onshore lodging. The Boat Company has converted older workboats to luxury vessels adorned with beautiful wood decks and details. With well-designed space, staterooms provide ample comfort (but most of the time you WANT to be outside so as not to miss anything) and that leaves room for generous common areas, kayaks, fishing gear, wet gear storage, and 19¹ aluminum skiffs for ship-shore transport, fishing and exploration.

Photograph © 2011 Robert Glenn Ketchum. For Display Use Only, No Permission to Reproduce in Any Form.
The fantail is an enclosed dining area where some of the best meals ever get served, often consisting of the days fresh catch of salmon or Dungeness crab, and the meals are prepared by gourmet chefs recruited from fine cooking schools. Evening camaraderie usually covers the days various adventures that may have taken different groups in differing directions, so everyone has something to say about their journey. We are all bonded by the astounding experiences. It also helps that if the hike was wet or the fishing day windy, we have all had a great hot shower before dinner and are now wearing dry clothes.

Photograph © 2011 Robert Glenn Ketchum. For Display Use Only, No Permission to Reproduce in Any Form.

Daily trips might include kayaking a tidal area to investigate pools and shoreline, a hike in the woods to an elevated viewpoint for a breathtaking glimpse of the forested islands, or a round of fishing for whatever can be caught, salmon, halibut, char, Dolly Varden,Yum! Trips are designed for all levels of fitness and willingness. All trips include knowledgeable guides and naturalists who are constantly downloading information about the surroundings. The Boat Company has been one of the leadership groups in defending the Tongass from clearcut destruction and their staff specifically addresses the rich biodiversity of your trek or paddle. Walks in the old-growth forests are very revealing and quite out-of-this-world. You will not only feel transported to another time of giant vegetation, but you will actually learn about the old-growth forest and how important its continued survival is for all of us.

Photograph © 2011 Robert Glenn Ketchum. For Display Use Only, No Permission to Reproduce in Any Form.

I have been aboard The Boat Company's various boats numerous times with, and without my children (who love the trips and rate them as their BEST), and I am grateful to the owners of The Boat Company, the family members of The Mcintosh Foundation, for there unending commitment to protecting the Tongass. They supported my 1986 book, The Tongass: Alaska's Vanishing Rain Forest, helping me to distribute it in Congress, distributing another 30,000 copies on their own through their network, and also helping to put up the national traveling exhibit about the Tongass that was premiered at the National Museum of Natural History (DC) on Earth Day in 1994 (without the Alaskan delegation succeeding in taking it down, although they tried). And now, The Boat Company is supporting International League of Conservation Photographer's Fellow, Amy Gulick, and her new book about the Tongass:, 'Salmon In The Trees'.

Photograph © 2011 Robert Glenn Ketchum. For Display Use Only, No Permission to Reproduce in Any Form.

The Boat Company not only talks-the-talk, telling and showing you this remarkable place, they also walk-the-walk, placing their time and money into sustainable tourism alternatives in Southeast and direct action in Washington, DC. They walk-the-walk when they take you out into the Tongass as well, ...whether it is just watching glaciers calve into awesome vertical fiords from the safety of their Almar aluminum skiffs, or actually following "secret" bear trails in the woods to epic giant trees in the rain, you will always be grateful you did this and I doubt you will ever be uncomfortable because of the conditions. Having spent much time in this rainy world camping with kayaks, I can assure you that are less determined than I, but no less appreciative of such a magnificent world, that a Boat Company trip is an ultimate journey to very special and unique part of Alaska. Don't miss it and Welcome Aboard!