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Maritimo 2022Mar - S75 LEADERBOARD

Alaskan odyssey aboard a Riviera 545 SUV

by Riviera Australia 14 Jul 09:38 PDT

Navigating through Canada's inside passage to Alaska is not for the faint-hearted.

Huge tides cause wild currents; the logging industry loses loads of logs to the waterway and, when it comes time to explore the far reaches of Alaska, there are icebergs to avoid. Yet the rewards of fishing and exploring Alaska's untouched wilderness are worth the adventure for Travis and Leah Holt on their new Riviera SUV 545, The Luff Boat.

The Holts departed The Luff Boat's Seattle home port on June 5, 2021. "We left late in the season and in a hurry, so we covered 900 nautical miles in four days," says Travis, speaking from the couple's home in Hawaii.

Despite the quick trip north, Travis was mindful. "It's a popular cruising destination but unique from a navigational perspective. It's not unusual to have 22-foot tides and currents running 16 knots; there are areas that become fast rapids with three to four-foot drops that you can't cross unless you're at slack water. So, you have to time the passages, being constantly aware of the wind, opposing tides and heavy fog."

The Canadian passage is an area heavily logged; huge piles lie scattered along shorelines waiting for barges, which are not always well secured. "It can be a minefield and you need a minimum of two people spotting constantly," says Travis.

Leah recalls waking one morning to find The Luff Boat completely surrounded by logs. "We had to push them out of the way to get out of the anchorage," she says.

In south-east Alaska, the Holts were met with pristine waters. At the edge of the Gulf of Alaska, they fished in a region out of a small town called Pelican, between the cities of Juneau and Sitka. "We were fishing for five different species of salmon, halibut, ling cod, crabs, shrimp and prawns... there's a tremendous bounty up there," says Travis.

While he'd originally considered acquiring a fishing boat, he felt the luxury accommodation and single-level living of a Riviera SUV would better suit their multi-month excursions.

"I'd looked at a flybridge, but I like to be back and forth from the cockpit and the helm in a hurry and I didn't want to deal with stairs. The other thing with Alaska is that it's very remote - you're 110 miles from any major town - and finding suitable accommodation for long periods is very difficult. The SUV is so well designed, so open with 360-degree views, it's one of the best features for Alaska where there is beauty everywhere; even through the sunroofs you can see the tall fjords and waterfalls. From a fishing or a pleasure perspective it wows everyone."

Leah happily agrees. "When Travis is fishing, I drive. It's the biggest boat we've had but I'm comfortable at the helm," says Leah. "There's been some learning, but with the IPS and GPS dynamic positioning systems, a six-year-old could dock the boat. Plus, it's a pretty boat, so beautiful to live on."

After weeks of fishing, the Holts began to explore further afield, including Glacier Bay National Park and Tracy Arm Fjord. "In July, we started doing some touring and sight-seeing," says Travis. "Glaciers, natural hot springs, fjords... wow, the wildlife. Everywhere has beautiful places, but in Alaska there's beauty in every corner."

Leah chimes in: "All of the wildlife is unbelievable; otters, humpbacks, orca, porpoise, bald eagles that are so big and fishing right out of the water right next to us!"

"It's untouched, pristine, protected," continues Travis. "It's a place where in some regions brown bears outnumber the humans. The most wild and beautiful place on earth, Alaska is special. It will leave you speechless and then turns you into a storyteller. Definitely having the luxury accommodation of a Riviera just set the whole experience over the top."

Cruising through glacial melt was another experience like no other. "The water is a milky greenish glacial melt and you have to pick a way through the ice field. At times there's somebody on the deck with a pole pushing bergy bits [chunks of ice] out of the way. There are icebergs the size of three-storey houses, a football field or a small car, so you're navigating through all of that," he says.

It's interesting to note how their Riviera luxury motor yacht has shifted the couple's approach to boating in Alaska. "Originally we were all about fishing," says Travis. "But after last summer on the Riviera, we're really into the idea of exploring. On this boat there is so much more that we can do comfortably, and Alaska has so much to offer. Something that had a huge impact on me this year was the trip back through the inside passage in Canada. We saw what they call a spirit bear."

Kermode bears, commonly referred to as spirit bears, are a subspecies of the North American black bear with a rare recessive gene that makes their fur white or cream. There are estimated to be fewer than 400 in the world.

"It's like seeing a unicorn" says Travis. "We'd stopped to see a waterfall and, as we were leaving, we saw this white... something. A fox, I thought? Sure enough, with the binoculars we could see the spirit bear. It was standing on a granite crop on the side of a hill. We motored in a little and he moved behind the trees, standing up, looking at us through the trunks. It was a majestic experience."

Seeing the winter out in Maui, Leah says she can't wait to get back to Alaska, surprising even herself. "I never realised how much I loved to be on the water and at sea; I didn't know that about myself."

When they return, and once they've caught their fill, they'll leave The Luff Boat with Auke Bay Adventures in Juneau to charter to likeminded adventurers who appreciate the life of luxury.

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