Search: Advanced | Preference

Traveling Boy means the travel adventures of the Traveiling Boitanos
Travel adventures of Eric Anderson Boitano
Travel adventures of John Clayton
Travel adventures of Deb Roskamp
Travel adventures of Fyllis Hockman
Travel adventures of Brom Wikstrom
Travel adventures of Jim Friend
Travel adventures of Timothy Mattox
Travel adventures of Corinna Lothar
Travel adventures of Roger Fallihee
Travel adventures of Tamara Lelie
Travel adventures of Beverly Cohn
Travel adventures of Raoul Pascual
Travel adventures of Ringo Boitano
Travel adventures of Herb Chase
Travel adventures of Terry Cassel
Travel adventures of Dette Pascual
Travel adventures of Gary Singh
Travel adventures of John Blanchette
Travel adventures of Tom Weber
Travel adventures of James Thomas
Travel adventures of Richard Carroll
Travel adventures of Richard Frisbie
Travel adventures of Masada Siegel
Travel adventures of Greg Aragon
Travel adventures of Skip Kaltenheuser
Travel adventures of Ruth J. Katz
Travel adventures of Traveling Boy's guest contributors

Ketchikan Bed and Breakfast Service

Panguitch Utah, your destination for outdoor discovery

Alaska Sea Adventures - Alaska Yacht Charter and Cruises

Colorado ad

Sorrel ad

Polar Cruises ad

About Jim   write me    Feeds provide updated website content        

The Aleutian Ballad
Bering Sea Crab Fisherman's Tour

the Aleutian Ballad heading out of Dutch Harbor
The iconic ship from the Discovery Channel's "Deadliest Catch" has undergone a retrofit so you can get a first-hand feel for the fascination of a
Bering Sea fishing experience. Awesomeness.
Photo credit: 56degreesnorth

inters in Seattle can be a hellacious ordeal. You come home from work on a cold, dark, rainy day, and then stare out your window to an even colder, darker, rainier night. Great. As your mind submerges into the cold waters of the reality that you are stuck in this room again, for like the 90th evening in a row, your windpipe tightens. You feel your throat take a large involuntary gulp, and your eyes widen on their own as you realize you are going nowhere tonight, yet again, as usual. Glancing over at your TV, you wonder where exactly it is you will escape to this particular evening. Believe me, there is nowhere else to go.

For the last two winters, I have found a TV show in which I can take a great deal of comfort in watching others suffer even more miserably than myself on a nightly basis. This treat to my weary eyes was found on the amazing Discovery Channel series "Deadliest Catch," a show that chronicles the lives of crab fisherman in the Bering Sea. Day and night, these fish slayers toil in the frigid, wet, super nasty conditions in one of the most dangerous stretches of water in the world, a place where things are so overwhelmingly difficult and surreal, one deckhand described it this way: "Time doesn't exist out here. Time is a grey line."

Perfect. That's my kind of show entirely on a bleak winter's night here in Seattle. Many, many nights the last couple of Dark Seasons were spent obsessively staring into the TV this way, like that freaky kid on the Twilight Zone movie, waiting for just such another line to be uttered by some desolate soul that had stumbled onto a Bering Sea crab boat by way of the Unknown Workings of Fate.

It made me feel much better somehow to know that some group of wayfarers on this wicked earth were suffering even more than those of us living in voluntary submission to the oppression that is a coastal Northwest winter.

the Aleutian Ballad's stadium seating and catch tank
Stadium seating and catch tank.. Photo credit: 56degreesnorth

Imagine my excitement then, when last month I got an invitation to tour the Aleutian Ballad, a boat featured prominently on the show, and a legend in its own right. First of all, just to tour a crab boat from this show for me is an incomprehensible treat. But, even among crab boats, this is not just any boat. This is the first boat in documented history to capture a rogue wave on video, and this amazing moment came on none other than the first season of Deadliest Catch. When I think back to any visual image I have of things I've seen on TV related to the high seas, that rogue wave captured on video is seared in my memory at the very top of the list. My mind can replay it almost perfectly.
The Aleutian Ballad, built in the mid-eighties, is no stranger to this kind of species of spectacular incident. In 1991, a day that has become known as Black Sunday throughout the Alaskan fishing industry brought a devastating storm to the Bering Sea, pushing up waves of over 60 feet. At the time, the ship was known as the Shannon Marie, and its captain, Vance Jones, became so concerned with the danger of the worsening conditions that he ordered all of his crew into survival suits, and called for them to abandon ship. All of the crew were eventually rescued unharmed by another boat. Two days later when seas became calm again, the Shannon Marie was found intact, floating sedately in placid waters. An engineer was flown to her by helicopter, and piloted the boat back to Dutch Harbor, the vessel not much worse for the experience.
So then, walking down the gangway of Shilshole Marina in the Ballard area of Seattle, I was nearly coming unglued with excitement. Here I was, about to be boarding on this very boat, and eventually, unbeknownst to me, I would be standing on the very spot on the bridge where the rogue wave video had been shot. Unbelievable.

displaying octopus to tourists
An octopus awaits its introduction to a waiting delegation of greeters.
Photo credit: 56degreesnorth

My excellent tour of the ship was given by its current captain, Dave Lethin, who with 35 years of fishing experience, has fished the Bering Sea since 1992. An Oregon State University graduate, he explained that had his heart set on fishing since he was a small boy, and never wanted to do anything else. His enthusiasm was heartfelt and contagious. The $2.5 million conversion of the Aleutian Ballad from full time fishing vessel to tour boat started with his desire to share his excitement for fishing and the ocean with the world. The popularity of the Deadliest Catch series gave him exactly that opportunity.
"I want people to experience exactly what we experience, and to become totally engaged in something they'll never see again," he says.
Concerning the retrofit, Dave smiles, "This is the happiest boat in the world. She's pretty, and she knows she's never going back out to get beat up again."

Aleutian Ballad crew hauling up a crab catch
Hauling up a crab pot.
Photo credit: 56degreesnorth

The tour takes place in Ketchikan, Alaska, and lasts about 3 ½ hours, covering several miles of inland waterway. The Aleutian Ballad has been fitted with enough stadium-style seating to accommodate 104 passengers, which offer close-up views of the work happening on-deck and great views of the scenery passing along outside the boat.
The evening before the tour, the crew sets a long line, crab pots, and a shrimp pot, and then hauls them up onto the deck right before your very eyes, as you sit watching from above. These 700 pound cumbersome contraptions reveal all manner of creatures from the deep: King crab, dogfish, octopus, box crab, rock fish, spot prawns, skate, snow crab, rat fish, or grey cod, just to name a few.
As Dave explains, "On this boat, passengers get a feel for the fascination we get to experience every time we pull up a crab pot."
The procured sea life is then placed into a massive glass tank in front of you, and believe it or not, your participation with the beasties is actually encouraged: If you want a picture of you with the octopus or rat fish that ended up in that tank, just ask, one of the crew will almost certainly be happy to hand it over to you, provided the creature is relatively safe to handle. Wild. The catch is then turned back into the ocean to relay their fantastic above-water experiences to their waiting pals below.
You can also expect to see all kinds of amazing regional sights on the other side of the rail: Native Indian fishermen hauling up thousands of salmon in their seine nets, bald eagles along the shorelines, and porpoises swimming nearby the boat. Humpback and grey whales are often sighted, and killer whale pods have been seen as thick as 40 strong.

Aleutian Ballad seating and deck
The iconic Aleutian Ballad seating and deck. Photo credit: 56degreesnorth

The deckhands are all Bering Sea veterans, and in addition to their duties of hauling up fish and crab on the deck for you, they also make it a point to share their personal experiences and fishing stories from their many years spent on the high seas. If you like, you can also have a look around much of the rest of the ship, and there is even some bridge time available after the tour is over. You too can stand in the very spot the cameraman was shooting when the rogue wave swept over the vessel in 2005. I did, it was raaaaaad.

I can tell you from personal experience that when you talk to Dave and his crew about fishing it is clear that they are somewhere else. They are standing right in front of you talking, sure, but it's not so much that they're explaining the technicalities of boats and netting and such… they sort of look off into the distance and relay to you a tale that is being whispered into their ear at that very moment, spoken by their own memories and experiences. As you absorb the impact of their words, you suddenly find yourself a part of that narrative, and the feeling is unforgettable.

You become lost in that ocean somewhere, hauling up the mysteries of the deep.

For more information:

Name: Required
E-mail: Required
City: Required

Ed Boitano's travel blog/review
Three Musical Pilgrimages: Mozart, Grieg and Hendrix

Troldhaugen Villa in Bergen, Norway
Johann Chrysostom Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756 - 1791) could read and compose music, plus play the violin and piano, when he was five years old. Born into a musical family in Salzburg, Austria (then the Holy Roman Empire), he had a unique ability for imitating music, which first became evident when he recited a musical piece by simply observing his father conducting a lesson to his older sister. This led to a childhood on the road, where the young prodigy performed before many of the royal courts of Europe.

Go There

Tom Weber's travel blog/review
Treasures of Ireland: The Irish Goodbye (Dispatch #20)

Irish sunset

The Palladian Traveler brings to a close his 20-part series on the Emerald Isle from an upscale restaurant in downtown Dublin where he files his final dispatch and then quietly slips away.

Go There

John Clayton's travel blog/review
Two "MUST SEE" Truly Spectacular Places in Europe. Here's Why.

Culzean Castle, Scotland
The Han Grotto and Culzean Castle. As the name of my Traveling Boy feature is "Travel With a Difference," it's important to me to always bring you offbeat and unusual tourist places around the world you may not know about. These two fit that category to a T, and they're absolutely worth a visit. One's in Scotland and one's in Belgium. Culzean (pronounced CULLANE) Castle is located near Maybole, Carrick, on the Ayrshire coast of Scotland.

go there

Ringo Boitano's travel blog/review
Highway 49 Revisited: Exploring California's Gold Country

aurora borealis lights up the night sky near Fairbanks
In the 1840s, the population of California was only 14,000, but by 1850 more than 100,000 settlers and adventurers had arrived from all over the world – and they came for one reason: gold. James Marshall had discovered the first gold nugget at Sutter’s Mill in El Dorado County, creating the largest gold rush in history.

go there

© All Rights Reserved. 2015.
This site is designed and maintained by WYNK Marketing. Send all technical issues to:

Travel tips:

Tours run out of Ketchikan, Alaska, from April 29th - September 29th. For a complete calendar and more information go to or call them directly at 1-888-239-3816.

There are tours available every day of the week, sometimes two a day, and there is always a tour when a cruise ship is in town. Tour tickets can be secured on most major cruise ships by contacting the Shore Excursion office on-board your particular cruise.

You will feel the thud of the crab pots hitting the deck. Ka-boom! Cool. has ranked the Bering Sea Crab Fisherman's Tour as the #1 tour in Ketchikan.

You also gonna' get a snack box on this trip. Yum.

Also, the bathrooms are exactly what you hope for. There is no manual reading required to figure out how to flush their toilets like on some boats, they're exactly the same thing you have at home. I checked. Ok, maybe better to say I was taken there by internal forces of urgent origin perhaps. Whatever.

Friendly Planet Travel

Lovin Life After 50

Big Sur ad

Tara Tours ad

Alaska Cruises & Vacations ad

Cruise One ad