Alaska, Business, Featured, Outdoors

Local Captains Help REI Highlight Seward With Their Winter Catalog

by Kelley Lane for Seward City News-
Seward local and captain of the M/V Dora Mike Brittain holds a copy of REI’s Winter Catalog, with photo of the Dora on display. Rick Brown, of Adventure 60 North sits nearby. Photo by Kelley Lane.

Seward is gorgeous in March when hours of sunlight are on the rise, rainfall is rare and temperatures hover in the freezing zone. This past March was particularly beautiful due to the thick blanket of snow that fell on the area through the dark days of winter. Somehow, the outdoor gear retailer REI got word of what a beauty Seward is, and how well equipped our locals are to get out into the natural wonder. They were on the hunt for a location to shoot their winter catalog when they got in contact with local Bixler McClure, of Seward Ocean Excursions. According to McClure, REI had already done their internet research and were interested in finding someone on site to further scout and provide information. In McClure they found a boat captain eager to be out on the waters of Resurrection Bay. McClure motored his boat, the Missing Lynx, all around the bay, including Thumb Cove and out to Bear Glacier. “I sent them a database of photos and a spreadsheet with GPS coordinates of where they were taken.”

Bixler McClure, of Seward Ocean Excursions, holds an umbrella over the REI photo shoot crew in Seward’s Boat Harbor. Photo by Quinn Ianniciello, Courtesy of Bixler McClure.

Like many people planning a trip to Alaska, the REI photo shoot team had originally envisioned shooting on or near a glacier. They thought perhaps Exit Glacier would work for their purposes. But as many locals know, Exit Glacier is tough for a full film crew to access in March because the road is usually still closed for the season. Further, as McClure pointed out, glaciers don’t look like themselves in March because they’re still coated in white powdery snow, which covers the grey and blue colors of the actual glacial ice. Instead, the crew chose to use Thumb Cove, Miller’s Landing and Kenai Lake as their main locations. They threw in a number of shots of downtown Seward taken from the water. The crew started their trip out on Resurrection Bay from Seward’s Boat Harbor, which has a brief appearance in the catalog. The quaint downtown area served as a backdrop, with Marathon and Bear Mountains rising behind.

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When REI asked McClure about finding a “more rustic” boat to use as a shooting location, Mike Brittain and the Dora came to mind. M/V Dora is named after the steamship that worked a route between Seattle and Alaska in the early 1900s. Brittain’s Dora, built in 1990, is a workboat with an old soul and a full enclosed cabin and wheelhouse. When the REI crew saw photos of the boat, they knew it would be perfect for the shoot. In the catalog, the Dora is featured prominently.

The two local captains spent a day working together on their respective boats within Thumb Cove. REI had chosen three of their female employees to serve as the photo models. The women spent the week together, doing outdoor adventures in and around Seward. One of those days was spent at Thumb Cove aboard the Dora and kayaking around the cove while photos were snapped of them. Brittain, who’s previously worked for National Geographic and the BBC, among others, felt fortunate to be part of the photo shoot. “I love doing stuff like that,” said Brittain. “They were all really nice, professional people. I’ve been pretty lucky.”

Behind the scenes of the REI photo shoot at Miller’s Landing’s Seaside Camping Cabin. Photo by Bixler McClure.

In addition to the water-based photos and adventures, REI also featured land locations. Some of them made it into the catalog and others didn’t. For instance, the crew spent time at Resurrect Art Coffee House, walked around downtown and enjoyed a beer tasting dinner at The Cookery. One of the places that did make it into the catalog is a simple cabin located at Lowell Point. The tiny house movement and the romanticism of rustic cabins in the wilds of Alaska have captured many imaginations. They speak to the desire for simplicity and beauty. Perhaps these contributed to REI’s choice to feature a Miller’s Landing cabin on the cover of their catalog. The “Seaside Camping Cabin,” as Miller’s Landing has named it, is a curvy triangular single room building that sits at the edge of the water out at Lowell Point. The photo captures one of the women with local dog Gus (whose “parents” are Sol and Liz DeMoss) sitting on the porch, with backpacks stacked nearby, snow surrounding the cabin, and a winter wreath cheerily decorating the door.

“Seward is hot right now,” said Seward Chamber Director Cindy Clock in her quarterly report at City Council last month. Clock was referring to the plethora of attention that Seward has gotten over the last few years as a premier location for vacationing and adventuring. The REI photo shoot was another example of how much Seward has to offer those looking to get outside. As REI says in their publications: “A life outdoors is a life well lived.” Brittain and McClure, locals seen around town all year long, would certainly agree.

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