Running a Small-Ship Alaska Charter Business (Part 2)

| February 6, 2009

We get a first-person account of what it is like to live in Alaska and operate a small charter boat for tourists to explore the wildlife.

Depending on the boat you choose, you get a blend of intimate companionship and enough privacy for you to establish a relationship with the environment. Most of the smaller vessels have a combination of shore boats and kayaks for shore explorations. Look for a first class, quality yacht company whose crew includes a Coast Guard licensed Captain, a chef and a mate for your comfort and safety. Many even have Naturalists.

Most of the smaller vessels tie up or anchor each evening in secluded harbors in the small bays that line the channels. They often visit the small, quaint, out-of-the-way places like Tenekee Springs, Warm Springs Bay and Kake to provide local color.

The smaller vessels usually have flexible itineraries that allow for the unexpected events that are often the highlight of traveling. Their days are spent whale watching, hiking, bear viewing, exploring, fishing and cruising this incredible area. Their trips offer a wide variety of opportunities and are easily tailored to passengers' individual desires. There is usually ample time for you to kayak, read, write, sketch, and relax.

Ask yourself why you want to go to Alaska? I really think these smaller vessels offer what most people think of when they ponder that question because they really do show you "Alaska up close and personal." Rather than passing by the beautiful forests of Alaska you can actually walk through the magical rain forests and watch Alaska's wildlife "up close and personal". Discover what adventures await you in Alaska. Big, wild, peaceful, spectacular, breathtaking -- this is Alaska!

All Aboard Yacht Charters John Swanson's small, family-run business has been providing wildlife, natural history and fishing expedition-style cruises in Alaska since 1981. Scheduled 8-day cruises for 6-10 passengers with a special focus on whale watching, bear viewing, glacier tours, fishing and sea kayaking. For more information, check out Alaska Charter Boats.

For another small ship cruise option in Alaska, check out our article on American Safari Cruises, as well as our article on visiting Juneau.

About the Author John Swanson grew up in the Pacific Northwest where water is always part of life. Probably about the most fitting description would be an old hippie or flower child of the 60s.

In 1974 he bought a Westport charter boat. Day fishing trips off the Washington Coast were his first real steps into owning big boats. In a few years he purchased a salmon troller with permits to troll for salmon in Southeast Alaska during the mid to late 70s.

When trolling he spent a great deal of time exploring the area. Alaska was so beautiful it seemed like God's country to John. But it was a tough life on his wife and one boy named Ben, so he traded the troller for an old 83 foot Baltic Schooner in 1980 and decided to try chartering in Southeast Alaska.

At that time Swanson really had Southeast Alaska to himself. Other than a few cargo or fishing boats and the occasional yacht, there wasn't much activity. John moved on to other boats since the schooner -- all the same vintage old classic yachts built in the 20s and 30s.

In February of 1996 his son was critically injured in a fire and spent 30-plus days in a drug-induced coma. When he came out of the coma, the first thing he said was "Dad, I really want to do this," so John bought a new boat and has continued his charters ever since.

Now it is really a family business. With his son Ben and he splitting the season pretty much in half as captains, and his brother-in-law Ted as their mate as well as partner.

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