by Randy Hartnell
We never tire of the astonishing natural wonders of southeast Alaska's Inside Passage... and it's an even greater pleasure to share them with friends!
Vital Choice COO Dave Hamburg and I came to know this wild, rugged region of mountains, islands, and salmon-rich waters as commercial fishermen.
Earlier this month, some Vital Choice folks spent an exhilarating, inspiring week aboard Captain Dennis Rogers' 60-foot boat Alaska Adventurer, wending our way among the big islands and broad, whale-filled channels of the Inside Passage with four invited guests.
As our special guests, we were honored to host bestselling pediatrician William Sears, M.D., (pictured above with me) and his wife and co-author Martha Sears, R.N.
To see many more photos from our trip, visit our Face Book page.
Some 80 percent of Southeast Alaska, including the islands of the Inside Passage, is part of the Tongass National Forest: the largest intact temperate-zone rainforest on Earth.
At 17 million acres, the Tongass is also the nation's largest national forest, and an important habitat for grizzly bear, bald eagles, migrating birds, humpback whales, and salmon.
A voyage through the Inside Passage on a small boat like the Alaska Adventurer gives you a close-up panoramic perspective on SE Alaska's amazing beauty and natural bounty.
And all agreed that this tour was one of the best experiences they'd ever had.
It's hard to match the flexibility and intimacy available on a small but sturdy boat like the 60-foot M/V Alaskan Adventurer. We were able to stop wherever we wanted, fish every day, hike up to hot springs and lakes, and watch great humpback whales bubble-feed and breach… just a few feet from the boat.
The gang assembled in Dennis' home port of Petersburg, Alaska. Founded by Norwegian fishermen in the early 1900's, Petersburg is the vibrant center of the local salmon industry, and helps supply us with premium quality wild Alaskan salmon.
The plan was to give everyone a close look at salmon in their native habitat, and how they're harvested and processed.
Along the way, we fished for our dinners and witnessed the fabulous natural features of the Inside Passage, including whales, seals, sea lions, eagles, orcas, bears, snow-covered mountains, glaciers, hot springs, icy lakes, rushing rivers, and awe-inspiring waterfalls.
Our Alaska passenger manifest
We always enjoy trips aboard the Alaska Adventurer with friends and colleagues, and this year's journey was no exception, thanks to a great crew and congenial guests.
Dr. William Sears & Martha Sears, R.N.
Millions of TV viewers and parents know William Sears, M.D., as “America's Pediatrician”.
We now know him as “Polar Bear Bill”, thanks to his daring solo foray off the boat and into icy, berg-filled waters… a testament to his good health and adventurous attitude!
Dr. Bill, as he likes to be called, was accompanied by Martha Sears, R.N.… the warm, lively pediatric nurse with whom he's raised eight children, including pediatrician-brothers Bob and Jim Sears.
Bill and Martha Sears are the authors of countless magazine articles, 40-plus books—including many bestsellers—packed with practical parental advice, and have appeared on more than 100 television programs such as 20/20, Donahue, Good Morning America, Oprah, CBS This Morning, CNN, NBC's Today Show and Dateline.
Dr. Bill is an Associate Clinical Professor of Pediatrics at the University of California, Irvine, School of Medicine, and operates an attractive, informative Web site at AskDr.Sears.com.
We've often turned to him when customers have had questions we couldn't answer about fish oil, mothers, and children... and he's always given us great answers!
And we're honored that Dr. Sears often recommends Vital Choice products to patients, and did so in his most recent book—Nutrition Deficit Disorder—which we covered in a recent issue of Vital Choices.
Vital Choice Wild Sockeye Salmon Oil is now available in France and Belgium, through a special arrangement with the highly respected supplement maker Nutrilys (nutruh-lee).
Thierry Lerond is the delightful, nutrition-savvy osteopathic physician who founded the company, which specializes in marine-based supplements such as shark liver oil and oyster powder. Thierry served as the trip's sommelier and his excitement over our encounters with the unique environment that provides our wild sockeye salmon oil were infectious.
LA-based photographer Dave Lauridsen took some of the photos posted at Face Book, and chronicled our trip in superior style. In addition to his excellent company, we got a kick out of Dave's tattoos, which feature colorful excerpts from paintings by 20th century masters Wassily Kandinsky and Paul Klee!
The Vital Choice gang
The passengers also included my wife and Vital Choice co-founder Carla Hartnell—who, in addition to much more, oversees our catalog and graphic design production—plus Vital Choice COO Dave Hamburg and Craig Weatherby, who produces our Web content and e-newsletter.
Watching the salmon harvest
Midway through our cruise, we stopped to watch a father-daughter team haul salmon into their gill-net boat, and they sold us a big, freshly caught, bright-silver fish for dinner.
Later, Captain Dennis sailed over to where he knew the salmon seiners would be setting their nets to catch the huge schools of salmon streaming to spawn in various rivers.
We motored close to a purse seiner (say-ner) from Petersburg, and watched as the boat set its net around some salmon and winched the “purse” line to close the bottom of the net and trap the salmon inside.
|About our boat and captain|
Dave Hamburg and I have known Dennis Rogers since we all worked these waters as fishermen.
His beautiful, sturdily built 60-foot boast is the perfect platform for experiencing wild Alaska up close and personal.
Dennis is the ideal tour guide, with his unsurpassed knowledge of the waters and creatures of southeast Alaska, and great good humor.
I urge you to consider your own Alaskan adventure with him!
To learn more and book a trip for next summer before they're out of berths, go to yachtalaska.com, send an email to email@example.com or call 888-772-8588.
And tell ‘em Vital Choice sent you!
As the crew worked the purse seine back onto the boat, we witnessed the boiling, wriggling salmon pour out on deck in an explosion of silvery energy.
The crew steered them a few feet into a hold filled with 32 degree seawater… not quite cold enough to freeze salt water, but plenty cold enough to preserve their fresh-caught quality until they'd be offloaded a few hours later in Petersburg for immediate processing.
Once the fish were safely below deck, the purse seiner ran off again to attempt another haul before the dimming daylight… or the local salmon run… could end.
Alaska's strict salmon fishery management system allows millions of salmon make it past the gauntlet and up the spawning streams to continue their amazing cycle of life.
Processing salmon in Petersburg
Before boarding the Alaskan Adventurer, and upon our return, we toured processing plants… for fresh salmon, and one for canned salmon.
We started at a fresh-salmon processing plant operated by one of several suppliers to Vital Choice, with manager Dave Ohmer as our guide.
Dave's family founded their business in 1903 and owned it until its recent purchase by Seattle's Trident Seafood. Dave still runs the plant like a family business, with exacting attention to quality and worker safety.
Salmon are taken straight from the decks of fishing boats onto the wharf, and sorted by specie before going into the plant to be quality graded and processed.
While some salmon is cleaned, frozen, and shipped whole, most is expertly hand-filleted and de-boned before flash-freezing: processes we watched as Dave explained the fine points.
Perhaps the most interesting part of our tour involved the salmon roe (caviar) room. The entire operation is overseen by a Japanese manager expert in production of salmon roe, called “ikura” in Japan (Most Alaskan salmon roe is sold to Japan).
We were able to taste the fresh, uncured roe, which is both delicious and utterly non-fishy.
Dave Ohmer generously gave us some special ikura, flavored with soy sauce and fresh ginger, to take on board, which we later enjoyed on crackers as the exquisite appetizer shown here.