Lodging at sea: Yachting offers visitors a different perspective on the Great Land

When many people think of Alaska, they think of roughing it in the great outdoors. But Alaska has something to offer those who prefer a bit more luxury in their wild adventures, too. There are dozens of yachts plying the waters of Alaska waiting to introduce you to the joys of lodging at sea.

Most of the luxury yachting opportunities can be found in Southeast Alaska, although there are cruising options in Prince William Sound, Kodiak and other coastal areas of Southcentral Alaska as well.

Juneau-based Alaskan Bear Yacht Charters offers two boats — the 32-foot M/V Alaska Lady and the 40-foot M/V Prospect Bayliner motor yachts. These mini-lodges on water are a perfect way to experience the pleasures of cruising but in an intimate, more flexible way.

Jay Epstein, owner of Alaskan Bear, said the majority of travelers on his boats will book a “bare boat” charter, which means they get full use of the boat and can travel wherever they want in Southeast Alaska. Obviously, those renting a bare boat must be licensed and show that they can responsibly handle the vessel. The advantage of a bare boat rental is that e cost of staff and crew is eliminated, thus making the luxury experience a bit more affordable. Yachters may add on other rentals, like kayaks, to augment their experience.

Other options in Southeast include Alaska Yacht Charters, which offers a high-end, nineday tour for four people. The price tag includes everything – even luxury hotel accommodations in both Juneau and Sitka during the trip. The rest of the time is spent on board the 96-foot Alaskan Song, a luxurious yacht with four spacious staterooms. As the yacht travels between Juneau and Sitka, there are numerous stops for whale watching, kayaking and disembarking for any number of jaunts into the wilderness.

Ursa Major Alaska Yacht Charters is another option, especially for those who enjoy fine dining. The wooden-hulled yacht, built in 1972, has its roots in Ireland where it was launched from the Malahide shipyards near Dublin. Its chef, Patrick Brown, was recently designated “an expert on boats, food, and Alaska,” in the February 2003 issue of Power and Motor Yacht Magazine, and Brown touts the allure of the 65-foot boat on his own web site, www.chefpatrick.com.

Prince William Sound, with its countless glaciers and quaint waterfront communities, is another excellent place to go yachting, especially because it gets fewer seagoing vessels than Southeast. Corsair Charters is one of the only options — and luckily quite an excellent choice — for those traveling in this part of the state. Yacht owner Dan Ureda makes it his goal to customize multi-day trips for those seeking an intimate attachment with Alaska’s coastal areas.

“You can go fishing, beach combing, kayaking, whatever you want,” Ureda said. “If I’m driving, I can point out places of interest and we can go explore the beaches and build a campfire and have dinner back on the boat.”

Ureda’s boat, the 42-foot Denali, has three comfortable staterooms, a large main salon, full galley and two heads with a shower. Basically, it is like having your own private home on the water.

“It’s so nice to wake up in the morning in your own little cove and look out,” Ureda said. “The wilderness is right there. You’re in that part of Alaska people see in the postcards. It’s that image people have of Alaska. When you can wake up and smell the bacon cooking and take a nice hot shower and the muffins are in the oven, it’s the most Alaskan vacation you can get.”

Further west, experience some of the state’s best fishing in Kodiak with the help of Pristine Charters. Pristine is one of the only operators in the area that can set travellers up for multi-day trips. Unlike many luxury yachts, the M/V Three Bears is a more basic vessel, but with all the amenities — including a washer and dryer — to make the trip comfortable. Sleeping quarters, which can comfortably accommodate up to six people, are all in one location with a privacy curtain at one end for shy sleepers. Daily excursions include fishing, wildlife viewing, whale watching, kayaking and more.

“These are not state rooms, but it is a beautiful 53-foot charter boat,” said Margie Pearman, whose husband, Chaco, is one of the most experienced boaters in Kodiak. “It’s great for fishing parties, for families, or for groups of people who don’t mind sleeping together.”

When you think about it, yachting in Alaska can be a truly unique experience. It has all the makings of high adventure at sea when the client is the one making the decisions. For the boat operators, that’s half the fun of it. “They are tailoring the trip, every turn and every direction,” Ureda said. “They don’t have to share the boat with other people that may not have the same interests, and if the waves are kind of big, I can move them. If the sun goes out and we can see it somewhere else, I can head in that direction. Basically, it’s like renting a limousine. When you tell me to turn left I turn left. That makes it interesting every time.”

Alaskan Bear Yacht Charters P.O. Box 32520, Juneau, AK 99803 (907) 780-6420 www.alaskanbear.com
Central Charters Booking Agency 4241 Homer Spit Rd, Homer AK 99603 (800) 478-7847 or (907) 235-7847 www.centralcharter.com
Corsair Charters P.O. Box 3051, Valdez, AK 99686 (907) 835-5711 www.corsair-charters.com
Pristine Charters P.O. Box 8782, Kodiak, AK 99615 (907) 486-3474 or (877) 518-3474 www.kodiakpristinecharters.com
Alaska Yacht Charters P.O. Box 11301, Bainbridge Island, WA 98110 (206) 780-0822 www.alaskansong.com
Ursa Major Alaska Yacht Charters 2333 1/2 Perkins Lane W, Seattle, WA 98110 (206) 310-2309 www.myursamajor.com
Alaska Sea Adventures P.O. Box 542, Petersburg, AK 99833 (888) 772-8588 or (907) 772-4700 www.yachtalaska.com

For more information on travel to Alaska, please visit www.travelalaska.com

Photo © Alaska Sea Adventures.
Charter yacht Alaska Adventurer provides all-inclusive custom charters of Alaska’s Inside Passage. Family or small group adventures can be arranged by calling 1-888-772-8588 or visiting www.yachtalaska.com