Sunday, October 2, 2005

A number of small trawlers cruise Alaska's Inside Passage in summer months, offering custom tours for watching whales, birds and glaciers, as well as trips for hiking, lolling in hot springs, kayaking and fishing. Most of the boats, which are generally under 70 feet in length and carry up to 10 passengers, will also custom-design a trip if your group fills the berths -- which can be done with as few as four people. Prices vary from $1,650 per person for a one-week cruise to more than $4,000 during prime times. In some cases, you must charter the whole boat. A network of touring yachts can be found at .

Here is a sampling of small cruise boats that tour the Inside Passage:

· Ursa Major, 206-310-2309, . Length: 65 feet. Three cabins; holds six to eight passengers. Fun fact: Once used to run drugs.

· Catalyst, 800-378-1708, . Length: 75 feet. Five cabins; holds 11 or 12 passengers. Fun fact: Built in 1932 as the first oceanographic research vessel for the University of Washington.

· Alaska Adventurer, 888-772-8588, . Length: 60 feet. Four cabins; holds 6 to 10 passengers. Fun fact: This cruise company was founded by dentist Robert Horchover, who used his yacht as a floating office serving remote Alaskan towns, camps and villages. After taking some guests along on his seagoing rounds, he sold his dental practice to run a charter business.

· Faithfully, 888-947-7327, . Length: 40 feet. Two cabins; holds four to six passengers. Fun fact: A Nordhavn 40, and sister ship to the smallest powerboat to circumnavigate the globe.

· Home Shore, 800-287-7063, . Length: 62 feet. Three cabins; holds six passengers. Fun fact: Wood-hulled boat was built as a commercial fishing boat in La Conner, Wash., in 1944.

· Kelly Bay, 206-890-2401, . Length: 64 feet. Three cabins; holds four to six passengers. Fun fact: Captain and owner Michael Mills is also a bush pilot, with 7,500 flight hours.

· Sikumi, 907-783-1900, . Length: 67 feet. Four cabins; holds 12 passengers. Fun fact: Most unusually named crew includes Capt. Mercury Avatar and Mate Cat Love. Web site features video clips from past trips.

· Explorer, 360-714-8970, . Length: 60 feet. Three cabins; holds six passengers. Fun fact: Built in northern Norway to icebreaker specifications.

-- Roy Furchgott

© 2005 The Washington Post Company