Our Crew for our Alaska Wildlife Cruises aboard Discovery
Captain John “Ben” Swanson – Licensed Master – Captain – STCW- ( Standards of Training, Certification & Watch keeping ) First Aid & CPR.
Calm, competent and adventurous Captain Ben Swanson has a joy for life that is contagious. He is a passionate naturalist and guide and will take you on a remarkable journey through Alaska in a way that only a long time owner/operator can do. His accumulated knowledge of wildlife habits and habitat comes from first hand experience and he has many colorful stories of classic yachts and the Alaska of old that make for lively conversation in the wheelhouse, where guests are always welcome, or at the dinner table.
A second generation Captain and lifetime lover of the water Ben grew up on boats in Washington and Alaska and has been cruising the coastal waterways of the Inside Passage for more than 30 years. A marine mechanic, electrician and jack of all trades Ben has been full-time Captain and partner in the Discovery since 1998 and took over complete ownership of the vessel in 2010.
“We have always owned and operated classic Yachts and take great pride in the preservation of such class and elegance”.
‘Discovery’ is still very much a family affair as Ben continues the legacy of eco-responsible small ship cruising and sharing an appreciation of the natural world and his love for a classic wooden boat.
Susi Zimmerman ( Ozzie, Ozzie, Ozzie ) Crew- Chef’s helper –
An outdoor enthusiast Susi has travelled the world working and sightseeing as many Australians tend to do. Fortunately for us she has found Alaska special enough to return year after year and has been with the Discovery since 2007.
Susi is versatile and genuinely cares for the comfort of our guests and crew. There are so many different aspects to running a small boat and you’ll see her take a wheelwatch, guide a shore excursion, help in the galley and keep the boat looking spotless.
Her deserts are to die for like Pavlova and Sticky Date Pudding which she’ll make from time to time.
Captain John Swanson – Manager – Relief Captain – Licensed Captain – STCW – First Aid & CPR
Shortly after receiving a degree from the University of Puget Sound in economics and accounting in 1975. I decided the world had much more to offer than ivory towers and three piece suits, so I began working in the maritime industry.
At first I owned and operated a charter fishing vessel off the Washington coast, then decided to try my hand at fishing. After enduring the hardships of fishing for a few years, I decided I needed to make a change. Though I loved working in Alaska, I did not love being away from my family for months at a time.
So in 1981, with my wife Ellen and son Ben at my side, we began conducting natural history and Alaska wildlife cruises in Southeast Alaska. I wanted to share my amazement at the grandeur of this vast wilderness region, my love for its great natural beauty, and my respect and affection for its abundant wildlife.
Ellen, Ben & John Swanson -1981- On our Sailing Vessel the Schooner NordenBen is now 41 and I’m losing my hair !!! When others were dreaming of Alaska We Were There Exploring.
Chef Helgi Spencer Olafson
Chef Helgi Olafson brings more than 17 years professional culinary experience to the Discovery galley. Helgi has been with us in the past and we are excited to have him aboard for another fun-filled season. Helgi prides himself on customer service and, after spending a few minutes talking to Helgi in the galley, you will see why we have chosen to invite him back. Helgi’s culinary creations have fed tens of thousands of hungry mouths as Sous Chef and Executive Chef in Florida, Arizona, Hawaii, and most recently, in Portland, Oregon. For the last 6 years, Helgi has also been one of the few casting food judges for America’s #1 ranked food show, MasterChef on Fox with Gordon Ramsay. He is also an accomplished endurance athlete who has ranked nationally in the top of his age group in long distance triathlons and spends most of his free time running trails or cycling to prepare for his next race. Helgi is happy to share his time with the guests and crew and looks forward to seeing those smiles this summer, especially those as a result of his food.