If you're ready to feel the wind in your hair and the salty spray on your face, this week's Grant's Getaway will provide an invigorating outdoor experience.
Grant travels to the Oregon coast to join an outdoor learning experience with Marine Discovery Tours.
It's an adventure where the cry "All Hands On Deck" takes on a new meaning for learning about the marine world.
The Oregon coast is a place where carefree moments are easy to come by and can make you feel young all over.
One place in particular - Yaquina Bay at Newport - offers a perspective to the marine world that's unique and educational.
Don and Fran Mathews own and operate Marine Discovery Tours, and the centerpiece of their eco-tourism business is "Discovery," a 65-foot boat that's as much a floating science laboratory as it is a retired fishing craft.
Marine Discovery Tours specializes in trips that teach visitors more about the ocean, the estuary and all of the marine life that can be found there.
"We have travelers who come from all over the world," noted Fran Mathews. "And they're here to find the real Oregon coast. Well, we can offer that - we have our beautiful four thousand acre Yaquina Bay and 12 miles of Yaquina River too - plus - the big blue Pacific Ocean is just off Newport's front step."
Fran's husband, Don Mathews, is a former commercial fisherman who ranged across the Pacific all the way to the Bering Sea before settling at Newport.
He noted, "After all of my travels, it makes me feel quite grateful that I'm able to work and live and play on the Oregon coast."
Who wouldn't feel grateful on a sun-kissed day where a rising tide found skipper Mathews steering Discovery across the bay for a typical two-hour exploration of the estuary.
Fran observed that her "class," thirty-three folks of all ages from all across the country - had one thing on their minds: "Oh, people just want to do stuff - and so we have them pulling crab pots, pulling plankton nets, visiting with our naturalist, chatting with Don in the wheelhouse and even driving the boat."
The Mathews have been guiding visitors across the bay for fifteen years. They were the first to try their hands at eco-tourism in Newport and it has really taken off for them.
Fran added that even longtime local residents learn something new aboard Discovery.
"We have Oregonians who live on the coast who've never been out on the ocean," said Fran. "And it's such an eye opener for them to see home from the opposite direction instead of always being on land and looking out."
Steven Mulvey, the MDT's official onboard Naturalist, added that it's also an experience that puts people to work - but in a fun way!
"All hands on deck for hands on science," cried Mulvey. He retrieved a thirty-foot length of rope floating off the starboard side of the Discovery. The rope was tied to a submerged crab pot. As he handed the rope to one of the guests he said, "Pull, pull, pull!"
Soon the trap appeared at the surface and Mulvey hoisted it aboard. Inside the crap trap, a half-dozen Dungeness crabs scurried across the wire mesh bottom.
"Ok folks - we hit the jackpot - lots of crab here - who wants to hold a Dungeness crab?" he yelled to the crowd.
Several tentative hands went up and each person had a chance to hold and examine a crab up close as Mulvey explained, "A female Dungeness will release about a million eggs per crab per season. Now, that's productivity!"
"The ocean affects everything, he noted. "It affects the climate. It affects our food; where our food comes from and so it is really important to protect it and understand it."
Fran watched the activity on the back deck and added, "Our best day everyday is to get people out on our boat and let them feel like they own a part of all of this. Because we really do! Look at this beautiful waterway. This belongs to all of us - don't you think we should learn all we can about it?"
Nearby, there's another destination that may help you to answer Fran's question.
I am a big believer that learning more about the places that I visit is critically important to appreciating all that Oregon has to offer. So, in Newport I regularly stop in at the Hatfield Marine Science Center.
Located on the south side of Yaquina Bay, just off Coastal Highway 101, the center is one of the best bargains of the entire area.
Hatfield MSC is a professional science base that is the home for scores of scientists linked with Oregon State University.
The exhibit areas of the center are open to the public and admission is free, although donations are accepted and appreciated.
The center is like a window to the ocean with exhibits that display the varied marine species that are found just off Oregon's coastal shore.
Bill Hanshumaker, HMSC's Education Director, explained, "I think the animals are the big attractor, and my challenge is to enhance the learning that takes place with hands on activities, talks, lectures...we're helping expand the knowledge of the people that walk through the door and I promise - you will not be bored!"