On Small Ship, Ocean Life (and Other Passengers) Are Up Close
Most of the boat is asleep when we pass through Ballard Locks in Seattle shortly before midnight. Blotchy, heavy clouds are stacked like anvils above a purple horizon. Stars wink here and there, a promise of a clearer night. Salmon still run freely between the fresh water of Lake Washington and the salt water of Puget Sound, through a fish ladder integrated within the locks.
我们在午夜到来之前穿过西雅图的巴拉德水闸(Ballard Locks)，此时大部分船只还在沉睡。浓云成块堆积着，如同悬挂在紫色地平线上的一块块铁砧。星星四处闪烁，后半夜会晴朗一些。通过水闸之间为鱼修建的通路，鲑鱼仍可以在华盛顿湖(Lake Washington)的淡水与皮吉特湾(Puget Sound)的盐水之间畅游。
Two workers from the Army Corps of Engineers man the locks this evening; they wave and throw lead lines to our crew working the deck. Capt. Tate Grant sticks his head out on the bridge wing to monitor our 120-foot-long, 234-ton vessel as it is pulled closer to the dock, fenders given the lightest of kisses. We drop 20 feet over 20 minutes to match the water level outside the locks. Then they open, and we are released.
今晚两个陆军工程部队的工作人员负责操作这些水闸，他们挥手，把测深线扔给我们甲板上的工作人员。泰特·格兰特船长(Capt. Tate Grant)从驾驶舱的翼桥探出身子，监控我们这艘120英尺长、234吨重的船只驶近码头，挡板之间有极轻微的碰撞。
So began my first cruise — a weeklong stint on the 22-passenger Safari Quest as it made its way around the moody, mercurial Pacific Northwest islands off the coast of British Columbia last fall. Seattle fell away as we entered the inky dark of Puget Sound, our wake slicing away at 45-degree angles from the hull as we picked up speed.
那是我第一次坐邮轮——在载有22名乘客的“巡游探索号”(Safari Quest)上度过一周时光，那是在去年秋天，它穿行在不列颠哥伦比亚(British Columbia)海岸气候反复无常的西北部太平洋岛屿间。我们驶入墨黑的皮吉特湾，西雅图也渐渐被我们抛在身后，随着航船加速，船后的尾流与船体呈45°在我们身后奔涌。
On the top deck, I found myself alone, the murky clouds above parting further to reveal a patchwork spray of stars. That first night, a hurricane from Hawaii sent high winds and four- to six-foot waves our way, delaying our departure and making the seas roll on our passage through the Strait of Juan de Fuca to Victoria. The crew would be up all night to bring us to Vancouver Island by morning.
我独自一人呆在上层甲板，昏暗的云层慢慢散去，露出点点星光。这是第一夜，一场来自夏威夷的风暴送来了狂风，浪头足有四到六英尺高，我们出发的时间也耽搁了，从胡安德富卡海峡(Strait of Juan de Fuca)赶往维多利亚(Victoria)途中，船一直在颠簸。船员们得整夜不睡，才能在清晨把我们载到温哥华岛(Vancouver Island)。
If a typical cruise ship is a floating city, this was a floating small town, owned and run by Seattle-based Un-Cruise Adventures, which specializes in small-boat exploration to places larger cruises can’t go. The company’s biggest vessel carries just 88 passengers.
The Safari Quest seemed like the right kind of boat for me, because I wanted the main attraction to be outside, not on board. For my mom and her three sisters — two of them retirees and the other two not far behind — big, traditional cruises are a great way to get around. They love the nonstop entertainment, the traveling without the hassle of travel, the towers of food. Me? I fear splashy spectacles. I worry about claustrophobic, sedentary boat life with thousands of others. I think of death by all-you-can-eat buffet.
There is truth in these expectations, even on a cruise so diminutive. Almost every traveling resident in my floating small town was upward of 60 and retired. The food was spectacular and abundant. There was an open bar. The real surprise was that boat life could be as active as I wanted it to be, despite the range of ages and abilities on board.
The size of this vessel — just 29 feet wide, with four levels from top to below decks — means you can’t help but be immersed in the people and workings of the boat that’s taking you places. And I found that I quite liked small-town life in this place, where everyone knows your name.
There were travel agents and garrulous longtime girlfriends Caroline and Kristen, meeting up on the boat from Jackson, Wyo., and Bend, Ore. There were Vicki and Robert from New Jersey. Duane the Texan was a big fan of the Safari Quest; he went to Alaska on the same boat with three of the same crew, and they welcomed him back as a friend. Duane was accompanied by his sister, Jean, and her husband, Michael, who were also from Texas — the coast, near Galveston. Jean and Michael have been on every cruise under the sun. She always refuses to dress up. “Who wants to do black tie every night?” she asked, in a Texas drawl.
Anita from Michigan was also a frequenter of cruise vessels, and she liked the small ones best. “With the 2,000-passenger boats you’re on for a week and you get off before you’ve ever been in the fitness center because you never could find it,” she confided one evening as we waited for cocktails by the bar in the boat’s wood-paneled main salon. “It’s a more anonymous experience.”
Then there was Joan, who actually hailed from the same tiny Massachusetts town that my husband grew up in. She enjoyed our little yacht — just 19 passengers on this departure — because it suited her and her husband’s different travel styles. “Doug likes the outdoors and the hiking, but I like the Four Seasons,” she said on the second-floor stern deck, her feet up, as we gazed out over the glassy waters that surrounded us. “I like to sit on the boat and be taken care of. They let me do that here.”
It sure didn’t hurt that the views from the boat were varied and excellent. From Vancouver Island, we headed up into the tiny inlets along the Sunshine Coast of British Columbia; when the tide rushes out through particularly slim channels on this part of the coast, white-water rapids and whirlpools form. A huge volume of water heads back to sea at Skookumchuck Narrows — some 200 billion gallons on a 10-foot tide. Here, we jumped in a couple of skiffs to get a closer look at the region’s rich intertidal life. While speeding up to track a bald eagle, one of our boats nicked the edge of a whirlpool and nearly lost a passenger overboard. A sea lion frolicked in the current, its big brown head like a bear’s, laughing at us.
船外的景色不断变化，非常美妙，这当然也是优点之一。我们从温哥华岛驶向不列颠哥伦比亚的阳光海岸(Sunshine Coast)沿线那些小河口；潮水透过纤细的河道冲刷而过，形成白色的激流和漩涡。在斯库坎查克海峡(Skookumchuck Narrows)，滔滔河水流入大海——大约相当于2000亿加仑的水，浪头有十英尺高。在这里，我们跳上几艘小艇，近距离观察这里丰富的潮间(intertidal)生物。我们加速追上一只秃鹰时，一艘小船擦过漩涡边缘，一个旅客差点掉下去。一头海狮在水流中嬉戏，冲我们大笑，大大的棕色脑袋好像一头熊。
Up on a little island there was a haul-out point for seals. There they lay, dozens of little brown lumps shiny as slugs. Seals are shy. We cut the engines hundreds of yards out, but still their heads came up and a handful of them fell clumsily into the water. A few of the pups were fuzzy and spotted. On land they wiggled comically on their tiny forefins. But in the water the seals were smoothly confident, fluent in the medium. They swam circles around us and disappeared.
Though it was late in the season, there were still tangles of bull kelp in the water. We gathered up a long, whip-shaped frond to sample this varietal of seaweed (tasting notes: crunchy and herbaceous, and not as salty as I’d imagined it to be). Pam Navis, our expedition leader, sliced the bulb at one end of the frond to release the carbon monoxide within, then played the sawed-off tube like a mini-trumpet. What came out sounded something like the call of a dying moose.
At the edge of another rocky island not far from the haul-out, fat purple sea stars — a constellation of them — sprawled along the intertidal zone, gorging themselves on tiny mussels. We held the hand-size stars in our palms and watched their guts work to spit out the shells. Down in the clear, dark water, I spotted a little moon jellyfish, its milky white outlines pulsing like an accordion over the violet stars and crescent shells below. A moon and stars, suspended in a tidy little universe below the water.
Some facts about our little boat and its character-filled crew: Mr. Grant, the captain, has been with the company for 13 years. He still gets seasick. He lives in Seattle and his favorite itinerary is summertime in Alaska. The expedition leader, Ms. Navis, spent 20 years in Maui and knows everything about humpbacks; she plays the harmonica and once sang in a two-woman band that opened for Hootie and the Blowfish and the Doobie Brothers. Mike Morrissey, the night pilot, drove a tugboat around San Francisco Bay and helped build the new section of the Bay Bridge. Monica Barber, the boat’s flame-haired hotel manager, always brings her fiddle and plays Irish jigs and reels; she also makes a mean, extra-spicy Bloody Mary. Lucas Campbell, the engineer, had a habit of talking thermodynamics with Rob Buccigrossi, the mate, while the two were on deck. The Safari Quest is Mr. Campbell’s favorite boat to work because it’s so small. “It’s a baby boat,” he said with affection. “Everything that needs fixing I can hold in my hand.”
下面要说说我们这艘小船，以及那些充满个性的员工。船长格兰特在这家公司已经13年了，还是有点晕船。他住在西雅图，最喜欢的航线是夏天去阿拉斯加。探险队长纳维斯女士在夏威夷的毛伊岛呆过20年，知道所有座头鲸的事情；她吹口琴，还曾经在一个两人女子乐队里当主唱，给“Hootie and the Blowfish”和杜比兄弟(Doobie Broithers)暖过场。麦克·莫里塞(Mike Morrissey)是夜间领航员，他曾在旧金山湾开拖船，帮忙修建海湾大桥新的部分。火红头发的莫妮卡·巴贝尔(Monica Barber)是船上的酒店经理，她总是带着小提琴，随时拉一段爱尔兰舞曲；她还会做一种特别辛辣、特别棒的血腥玛丽。工程师卢卡斯·坎贝尔(Lucas Campbell)喜欢和同伴罗布·巴赛格罗西(Rob Buccigrossi)在甲板上大谈热力学。“巡游探索号”是坎贝尔工作以来最喜欢的一条船，就是因为它小。“所有需要修的东西我都可以一只手拿着。”
Huddled in the narrow galley with the tattooed pastry chef, Justin Rightwood, I learned that he was a sponsored semipro skateboarder and BMX biker when he was 12. Joe Pienody, the talented head chef, turned out a string of gorgeous dishes from that tiny kitchen: delicate pork belly, perfectly seared wild Chinook salmon, tender spears of grilled asparagus and carrots. He is a die-hard sports fan and weeps a little inside every time he misses a football game while at sea. But, like the rest of the crew, he does love to be at sea.
和身上有纹身的甜点厨师贾斯汀·莱特伍德(Justin Rightwood)一起挤在狭小的船上厨房里，我得知他12岁时曾是一位受赞助的半职业滑板运动员和BMX自行车手。才华横溢的主厨乔伊·皮诺迪(Joe Pienody)总能从小小的厨房里端上大量佳肴：精美的猪胸肉、火候恰到好处的野生奇努克鲑鱼、鲜嫩的烤芦笋与胡萝卜。他是个铁杆体育迷，每次出海错过橄榄球比赛都很伤心。但是，和其他船员一样，他还是喜欢出海。
And why wouldn’t he? At lunchtime in Jervis Inlet, a humpback whale surfaced lazily, spouting and waving a fin. Later that day, after we rode the slack tide through the Malibu Rapids — a narrow, shallow channel safely accessible only to even a small boat like ours every six to eight hours — we dropped anchor at Princess Louisa Inlet, a glacier-cut gorge with provincial marine park status and a series of waterfalls spilling over 5,000-foot granite canyon walls. It’s one of the most glorious spots in this part of British Columbia, and a place where we could stand-up paddleboard, kayak and hike. The water there was so calm and clear that we could spot the blood-orange frills of a lion’s mane jellyfish pulsing under the surface, and a seal’s wake from several hundred yards out.
为什么不呢？在杰维斯湾吃午饭时，一只座头鲸懒洋洋地游上来，喷着水珠，摇晃尾鳍。当天退潮时分，我们来到马里布激流(Malibu Rapids)——这是一处狭窄的浅水水道，每隔六到八小时才能供船只安全通过，甚至连我们这么小的船业不例外——最后在路易莎公主湾(Princess Louisa Inlet)抛锚，这里有冰河时期切割出的峡谷和海洋公园，一连串瀑布从5000英尺高的花岗岩峭壁之上倾泻直下。这里是不列颠哥伦比亚最壮观的景点之一，我们可以下来玩立式单桨冲浪板、划皮划艇、远足。水流平静清澈，可以看到水中一只狮鬃水母身上橙红色的流苏在水下轻轻跃动，几百码外海豹游泳的痕迹亦是清晰可见。
At sunset in Princess Louisa, the crew built a bonfire in a wood pavilion onshore, at the foot of Chatterbox Falls. Stands of old-growth hemlock and cedar were draped with dewy lichen. The hemlocks’ treetop canopies reminded me of velvety moose antlers. Pam and Lucas began to strum their guitars and sing; Monica mixed margaritas for the rest of us, then took out her fiddle to join them. Accompanied by music, the wood smoke wafted dreamily through the slanted late-afternoon light.
I spent the next two days stand-up paddleboarding the waters there and in the Harmony Islands, 26 miles south of Princess Louisa as the crow flies. There’s a quiet magic to paddling around an endless expanse of mirrored water for hours, with just a seal or two tailing you and the occasional barking sea lion for company. But the most electrifying experience of all was made possible one evening only once the sun had set.
In complete darkness, I joined a couple of crew members at the back of the boat. We jumped, whooping, into the 45-degree water. I did it for one reason: I had always wanted to make phosphorescent snow angels. Clouds of glowing bioluminescence bloomed around us as we treaded water — a kind of aquatic light show for observers on deck. When I finally climbed out of the water and vigorously rubbed my arms, sparks flew. Glancing up, I saw the starry froth of the Milky Way, that night a mirror for the glitter of the undersea world.
Later, as we cruised back down the Strait of Georgia toward the San Juan Islands and Seattle, we came across two humpback whales, a mother and her calf, swimming and spouting along. We paused to watch them as they rolled and played, diving down to show us their distinctive tail patterns, as unique to them as our fingerprints are to us. Then the mother leapt into the air, breaching just to the right of our bow. This was my type of spectacle, and my type of crowd.
后来，我们回到佐治亚海峡(Strait of Georgia)，驶向圣胡安群岛(San Juan Islands)与西雅图，途中遇到两头座头鲸，它们是母子，一直跟着我们喷水。我们停下来观赏它们翻滚嬉戏，潜入水底，给我们看它们尾巴上特别的花样，每头鲸鱼尾巴的花样都不一样，就像人类的指纹。后来，就在我们船舷的右侧，母鲸跃入空中。这是我最喜欢的奇观，周围的人也和我一样。
What comes of being confined to a boat with 20-odd people for seven days? By the end of the week, we were all busybodies in one another’s lives. We had nicknames and huddled in cliques. On a phone call with my husband near the end of the cruise, he marveled at the fact that we had all had enough time to form posses and gossip about one another. The intensity of time spent with the others on this boat was familiar to me. Perhaps it was like the first week of college, but for retirees. At the end of the trip, we exchanged email addresses and photos, promising to stay in touch, to do this all again sometime. It turned out that a couple of guests didn’t have to say goodbye, or unpack. They were already headed straight to their next cruise.
Un-Cruise Adventures destinations include Alaska, Central America, the Galápagos and Hawaii; the seven-day Pacific Northwest yachting itinerary starts at $3,695 a person.