Cruising SE Alaska – part 3

Leaving Glacier Bay

Mt. Fairweather
Mt. Fairweather 100 miles away in the “ghost mountains.”
When we awoke at Reid Glacier, before visiting Margerie Glacier, we looked out the pilot house window at an iceberg the size of a small house close to the boat – what an eye opener! It was grounded with the falling tide in the night. It happened again the next morning in a different anchorage as we watched a Volkswagen sized berg float close by on the ebbing tide.

In our first three days in Glacier Bay, we rushed to see the most important sights. We had heard from boats ahead of us that some were unable to see much due to fog and rain. Up here they call this the month of ”Fogust” The day we arrived was the first and only day that dawned with bright sunshine which remained until sunset. It was the only day we were able to wear tee shirts and dine in the cockpit since leaving Hawaii, and the only night we did not run our diesel cabin heater since ten days before arriving in Sitka. Fine weather persisted for the entire week we spent in the Bay. Finally, it was time to move on, time to squeeze in a few more sights before this short season draws to a close. The morning we chose to return to the National Park headquarters at Bartlett Cove coincided with the new moon, but we did not pay much attention to that. It was just a short 17 mile run.

Glacier Bay
A Fine Day in Glacier Bay
There had been no wind for sailing at all since arriving in Sitka, so we knew we would be running the engine. It should take less than three and a half hours. Shortly after getting under way, we noticed that our speed over the ground was becoming less and less- 5 knots, then 4, then 3 and finally we were making good less than one half knot! The current was running at more than six knots against us, and we were encountering tidal bores and swirls that swung the boat sharply one way and then the other. We had failed to pay close attention to the current and were now paying the price. We had broken the golden rule of cruising South East Alaska, “Watch the tides carefully.” It took almost seven hours to reach Bartlett Cove.
Admiral Stephanie watching for icebergs
Icebergs and bergy bits everywhere
That night we poured over the Tide Tables, The Tidal Current Book and the chart to carefully plan the next day’s run, 45 miles through a narrow pass to the village of Pelican in the Lisianski Inlet. We left at first light to take advantage of the ebb, and it paid off. On that passage, we reached speeds of more than 13 knots over the ground through the narrows.

Next the boardwalk village of Pelican, and on to the the capitol city of Juneau before heading south for winter storage in Wrangell.

Aloha from Admiral Steph and Captain Howard

Author: Howard

Captain Howard is a lifelong sailing nut. His third and present boat, Holy Grail, has been in the family 26 years after he and the Admiral Stephanie built her in British Columbia. They have sailed her about 45,000 miles from B.C. Canada on a circuitous route through Mexico, Easter Island, Pitcairn, The Australs and through many islands to Australia, Solomons and Papua New Guinea. In 2017, they ended a five year visit to Alaska and the Pacific Northwest.