Life on the boat
Important things to know about your time on the Gyrfalcon.
The Gyrfalcon was built in 1941 specifically to survey the coast of Alaska. Her size allows us to get into small harbors and get close to glaciers and shorelines. We take a maximum of 6 passengers, and we will tailor your trip to your interests as much as feasible. We (Peter and Nancy, the owners) are passionate about the Gyrfalcon and its history, and are excited to share her and the beauty of Alaska and the Pacific Northwest with others.
The coastline from the Puget Sound to Alaska offers unlimited activities and sights around every bend and in every fjord. There are numerous opportunities for fishing, crabbing, shrimping, hiking, sightseeing, photography, kayaking, wildlife-viewing, and just looking at the scenery from the vantage point of the pilot house roof, the aft deck, or inside the saloon.
Laws of The Land And Sea
If we are going through or to Canada, you will need a passport.
We supply beer and wine with dinner, and occasional cocktails. If you want something else (additional spirits, etc), please make arrangements to pick it up before boarding the Gyrfalcon. There are limits to alcoholic beverages brought into Canada. We will often stop to reprovision alcoholic beverages after crossing the border. If you bring alcohol in excess of the limits, you will be charged duty. If you are cruising in only Alaska or Washington, the limits do not apply.
Get your Alaska, Canada and/or WA State fishing licenses before the trip, and catch your own dinner! Open season for crabbing and fishing vary from year to year, and from location to location, so please check the appropriate website and locations before buying your license. Feel free to contact us with any questions.
What is Provided?
We provide you with the typical amenities you would find in a B&B:
- Blankets, linens, towels, soap, shampoo, hair dryer (typical hotel room items)
- Meals and snacks
- Beverages, including soft drinks, coffee (regular and decaf), tea (caffeinated and herbal), plus wine and beer with dinner
- Binoculars (but bring your own if you prefer)
- Food: We provide breakfast, lunch and dinner while you are on the boat. Chef Peter creates wholesome meals centered around locally-sourced seafood. Captain Nancy often bakes for breakfast (bread, muffins, scones).
- Special Food Requirements: If you have specialized dietary needs (allergies, gluten-free, no spices, etc), please advise us before your trip, and we will do our best to accommodate you.
- Alcohol: We provide wine and beer with meals. If you desire additional wine, beer, or hard liquor, please purchase before boarding.
- Non-alcoholic Beverages: We provide sodas (both regular and diet), juices and water (plain and sparkling). Please note that the Official Soft Drink of the Gyrfalcon is Dr. Pepper (not diet).
- Coffee and Tea: We provide coffee (both caffeinated and non-caffeinated) and several varieties of tea (black, green and herbal). Coffee will be available when you get up in the morning.
Soft-sided duffel type luggage is essential, as it can be rolled up and stowed away. Rolling luggage will limit your floor space in your stateroom.
Casual clothing is all you will need, even ashore in restaurants. Bring layers to optimize comfort and flexibility.
- 2 long and short-sleeved shirts
- Synthetic layers, synthetic long underwear
- Sweaters (wool or synthetic, not cotton)
- Pants (jeans, khaki, Carhartt, etc) and shorts
- Sweatpants or other comfortable pants
- Bathing suit (for the hot springs)
- Rain jacket (waterproof, not water resistant) and rain pants
- Hat with brim
- Fleece jacket
- Lightweight shoes with soft non-marking soles (no Vibram soles!) We find that solid Crocs (no holes) are an excellent choice for deckware – sneakers tend to get wet quickly
- Knee-high waterproof boots (ExtraTuf, Grundens, etc) for hiking
- Camera, chargers, extra memory
- Waterproof bag for your camera
- Lens cleaner
- Binoculars (we have several on board, but most people prefer their own)
- Soft day pack
- Sunglasses, sun block & lip balm, and insect repellant
- Personal medications and toiletries
Logistics & Trip Planning
We leave and return mid-day from either Juneau or Petersburg. To fly to Alaska, you will need to connect through Seattle. Please plan to arrive a day prior to your trip and to stay a day after your trip, in case of travel delays. We can help with hotel reservations. We will not hold the boat past the planned departure if you are late, but you may be able to charter a local boat or seaplane to catch up with us if you miss embarkation.
We strongly suggest you purchase travel insurance just because of the potential of unexpected events. Please see terms and conditions for details.
Depending on the area, coverage will be spotty to non-existent. Think of this as an opportunity to shed the shackles of constant connectivity. We have a satellite phone for emergency use.
Similar to cell phone connectivity, there will be limited to no internet access.
Each stateroom has 110v AC and USB outlets to charge your devices. The electrical system can power a CPAP even when we are not running the generator (e.g., overnight).
The guest head (bathroom) has a hair dryer for use when the generator is on (mostly during the day, while underway). If you forget, and try to turn on the dryer during the night, nothing good (or bad) will happen.
We have plenty of water. We make our own using a reverse osmosis water maker. Hot water for showers will be available while the generator is on during the day, while underway.
How Strenuous is a Trip?
There are sturdy ladders that go down to the staterooms, up to bunks, up to the upper decks, and down into kayaks and dinghies. You must be able to comfortably climb up and down these ladders (six foot maximum). Passageways are narrow, but are comfortable for most people. Ceilings are low, but are comfortable for most people under 6’5” tall.
Kayaks are accessed two different ways.
Ladder: You get into the kayak by climbing down a sturdy aluminum ladder and lowering yourself into the boat. This requires some upper body strength, but is much easier than it sounds. Getting out of the kayak is the reverse—you paddle up to the ladder, grab the sides, get your feet under you, and pull yourself up.
Platform: If we have deployed our floating platform, you can climb down the ladder onto the platform, then slide laterally into the kayak. Getting out of the kayak, you do the reverse.
If you are unable to get in and out of the kayak from the ladder or the platform, we will look for beaches or docks where we might be able to get you in/out.
Typical Trip Experiences
We will anchor out in the evenings. Most days, we will go to shore either as a mid-day stop or at our final anchorage of the day. We have several ways to get to shore. From our anchorages, we can take one of the 2 powered small boats or you can paddle one of the 4 kayaks.
From our anchorages, we explore amazing scenery and wildlife on our small boats.
Zodiac (GFB): We have a 20 foot Zodiac with a 135 hp Honda outboard engine. This boat is used mainly to transport guests to and from the Gyrfalcon, and to explore areas around anchorages. This boat will accommodate all the guests at one time.
Aluminum Skiff (UFB): We have a 12 foot aluminum skiff with a 20 hp Suzuki outboard engine. This boat is used primarily for crabbing, prawning, fishing, and taking parties ashore. This boat will accommodate 4 guests and a crew member. The boat has a drop-down, landing craft type bow for easy access to land.
Kayaks: We have 4 recreational kayaks, along with paddles, vests, radios and other safety equipment. If you have never kayaked before, it is easy to learn and great fun. We will be happy to instruct you before you first paddle. One of our crew will be available as a kayaking/nature/photography guide. Before kayaking, you must watch videos on how to reenter a recreational kayak if you happen to capsize.
Safety on The High Seas
Good questions! We’ll divide this in parts.
Stay on board: The best thing is to not fall overboard. No one ever has, and we don’t want you to be the first. The second best thing is that you float if you’re in the water. So, on our boat, the first rule is that everyone must wear a PFD (personal flotation device) if in a dinghy or kayak, or if one is out on the deck when we are locking or docking or anchoring. No exceptions. Everyone must float. All staterooms have bright orange life preservers for the guests, and there are many more below the pilothouse floor. We have 3 throwable life rings and one LifeSling.
Our charting system allows us to mark the exact place that a person enters the water so that he/she is easy to find. Our radios allow us to send out an emergency message to surrounding boats to let them know of the accident. Early in your cruise, we will have a Person Overboard (MOB) drill.
First aid: We have a large first aid kit, an AED, and we both have advanced training in marine first aid. We are also both veterinarians and are thus trained as good Samaritan responders.
No fires: We did extensive upgrading of the electrical systems on the Gyrfalcon to minimize any risk of fires. There are smoke and carbon monoxide alarms in every area, and fire extinguishers in every room and every passageway. We have a throwable fire extinguishing system for the engine room, and fire blankets for the engine room and galley.
We are equipped with all USCG required safety gear, and have several redundancies to minimize impact of any failures (see equipment list).
The Gyrfalcon is not only our livelihood; it’s also our home. We are very cautious and thoughtful in our trip planning and always keep safety paramount.
Southeast Alaska is a temperate rain forest. You will have rainy, sunny, and foggy weather during your trip, often on the same day. Temperatures will range from about 55 to 75. You’ll need layers to be comfortable with the wide range of potential temperatures.
- The Thousand Mile War (Brian Garfield)
- More Faster Backwards: Rebuilding David B (Christine Smith)
- Alaska: A Novel (James Michener)
- The Sea Runners (Ivan Doig)
- Where the Sea Breaks Its Back (Corey Ford)
- Passage to Juneau: A Sea and Its Meanings (Jonathan Raban)
- The Curve of Time (M. Wylie Blanchet)
- Travels in Alaska (John Muir)