Cruise the Alaskan Panhandle

Charter a yacht to navigate some of the world’s most bewitching waters.

By Rachel Ritchie February 23, 2016 Published in the March 2016 issue of Portland Monthly

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We hear of Alaskan cruises often in the Northwest—the phrase summons visions of hulking seaborne vessels, colossal dining rooms, and Vegas-style, feather-adorned nightly entertainment. This is decidedly not that.

The Viaggio is a 72-foot yacht with a cruising speed of 8–10 knots. She sleeps six guests, with a spacious master suite (including a bathtub!) and two twin berths. The salon is filled with handsome leather furniture; the dining room commands expansive, 180-degree views. The wheelhouse, decked in glowing wood, has plenty of room for a pilot and a spirited novice looking to learn the secrets of navigating the iceberg-stippled waters of Southeast Alaska. “Our vision has always been to offer a trip as if you own the boat and we are the crew you’ve known for years,” says owner and Captain Trig Papenfuse, who averages about 9,000 nautical miles each year in Alaska alone.

Captain Trig’s three-person crew includes himself, Alisa Jestel, an award-winning chef who creates a menu customized to your preferences, and a rotating deckhand who keeps the Viaggio spick-and-span—including turndown service in your bedroom each night. And though the outfit’s various itineraries span the islands and fjords of the Alaskan Panhandle, an eight-day cruise from Petersburg to Juneau serves up the best of the landscape: moose and bear sightings on the Stikine River, enormous tidewater glaciers, tree-covered islands rising steeply from the ocean, and plenty of humpback and orca whales. Each day, the boat cruises through a mesmerizing landscape until it reaches a nice anchorage, where voyagers can set crab pots and settle in to fish for salmon, paddle out in a sea kayak, or take the Boston whaler to shore for some beachcombing. Night brings a fresh-cooked (and often fresh-caught) meal, and then it’s time to cozy up in the cabin.

“I do a trip every week, all summer long, and every time I’m blown away,” says Captain Trig. “You’re kind of just in awe of what is there—huge bodies of water that feel very intimate, because there are very few other boaters. It’s like you’re living on your own planet. You just kind of get lost in it.” Getting lost never sounded so good.

Viaggio Charters

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