Alaska’s Tongass National Forest:
The Perfect Setting for a Small Boat Cruise
The Tongass National Forest is this Earth’s last, substantially intact, temperate rainforest. It contains 17 million acres (approximately 26,500 square miles) and covers almost 95 percent of the area known as Southeast Alaska, (the Inside Passage).
On the mainland to the east, the Tongass is bordered by Canada’s Rocky Mountains and on the west by an archipelago of hundreds of islands (a fact that almost doubles its size – half land, half water).
It is home to an incredible array of wildlife (whales, salmon, eagles, sea lions, bear, sea otters, deer, orcas, and puffins, to name a few).
With its high mountain peaks, glaciers, deep fjords, islands and thick forests, roads are few (just in the towns) and the only practical way to see and experience what the Tongass has to offer is to travel on a small boat that can take you into sheltered inlets the big ships miss.
From Ships of War to Comfortable Cruise Vessels
In 1980 The McIntosh Foundation created The Boat Company with the acquisition and refit of the M/V OBSERVER – a wooden hulled ex-U.S. Navy minesweeper. The popularity of our eco-tours grew and in 1991, The Boat Company purchased a second wooden minesweeper – the M/V LISERON – which had been on loan from the US to the French Navy. LISERON was transported across the Atlantic to Florida and lovingly refitted to accommodate 20 guests in comfort. With similar vessels few and far between, planning for a third boat commenced and by early 2000, the 24 passenger M/V MIST COVE, an aluminum hulled replica of the LISERON, was launched. In 2002 after 22 years of service, The Boat Company retired the OBSERVER, leaving the fleet set at two vessels, the LISERON and MIST COVE.
Smaller Capacity Makes for a More Intimate Alaskan Adventure
Experience has shown that to run the sort of personal trips discerning travelers enjoy, our vessels should carry 12 – 24 guests. Small groups sharing the experience become more homogeneous..
The Boat Company excels at providing memorable Alaskan vacations. The abundance of both trout and salmon make fly-fishing and spin casting in the coves and streams comparable to any in the world. Our Forest Service permits enable guests to observe wildlife up close, and to explore old-growth forests and tidal wetlands – on foot and by kayak – that other outfitters can only sail past.
Our vessels are staffed by professionals. The ratio of crew to guests runs approximately 1:2. Many of them have natural science degrees enabling them to field all the inevitable questions.
Our departure and arrival dates are the only part of the itinerary that is fixed. The interests of guests shape the rest of their Alaskan cruise. There are, however, a few caveats to the foregoing, i.e. we always stop to watch the whales, orcas, sea otters et al. And no matter how early in the morning we start the engines, we always try to arrive at our next anchorage by lunchtime so that everyone may have an opportunity to engage in whichever activity interests them (hike, fish, walk, kayak, etc.). Our ‘soft adventures’ are designed to offer something of interest to everyone.
Small Boat Cruises Foster Understanding of Alaska’s Challenges
There is a serious theme underlying the whole operation. During the past 60 years a significant portion of the forest, including many of its biggest and oldest trees (500 years plus), have been cut by timber/pulp companies and Native American groups.
A majority of the timber has been sold in whole log form (unprocessed) to overseas buyers (primarily Japan). Because much of the land was set aside as Wilderness Areas and National Monuments which are not open to logging, there is some left. However, as heavy cutting has continued, there has been pressure to open up for logging those areas that have previously been set aside.
By way of our small boat Alaska cruise, we seek to expose our guests in a very personal way to the special place that is Southeast Alaska. And we hope our eco-tours inspire more and more people to join us in conserving and preserving one of the Earth’s last great wild and beautiful places for future generations.
Michael A. McIntosh Sr.
Founder, The Boat Company