Wednesday, July 1, 2009

June 29-July 1, Ford's Terror to Juneau...On Ice!

Wednesday, July 1, 2009, Juneau -
Yesterday, we woke up in beautiful Ford's Terror. Our anchor held fast and we enjoyed a good night's rest. We needed to be through the narrow entrance at high slack tide so, the routine started a bit earlier than normal. Connor dinghied the dogs to shore while I stowed the anchor. Shortly after Connor stowed the dinghy, I noticed a large grizzly bear pretty close to where he had attempted to land! We all watched him meander the beach looking for food, or dogs, not sure which. Fortunately, Connor ran into shallow water and had to land in a different spot. I was glad to see our first grizzly and thankful that Connor and the dogs were not in Mr. Bear's way.
This place is so beautiful but I'm really nervous about getting out on slack current. Just as we started cruising for the entrance, I noticed a Grand Banks coming in so I hailed him on the radio. He suggested waiting a few more minutes...he thought the current was still flooding about 4 knots. He warned there were two large ice bergs in the entrance. We enjoyed our slow cruise through the canyons arriving at nearly a perfect slack. We motored through just fine and dodged the big ice bergs and rocks. I love this place but this entrance freaks me out! I'm a nervous wreck! As we cruised, Val mad some toasted bagels with cream cheese and smoked salmon...that settled me.
We dodged ice for about 30 minutes before we could go fast again. We headed out of Endicott Arm, which we shared with two large Royal Caribbean ships and headed for Tracy Arm, home of the Sawyer Glacier. It's about a 20 mile run each way. The water is mostly ice free with only occasional large ice bergs to avoid. At about 15 miles in, the ice flow got pretty intense. We really had to slow it down. The ice is so clear and so dense. I don't worry about the hull but I DO NOT want to ding a prop out here...this is no-man's land!
About 2 miles away from Sawyer Glacier, the ice flow got really, really intense. I started the kicker engine, shut down the big engine and motored a bit further. It made me really nervous having the boat lunge up and down off the ice. Fortunately, the prop was well protected.
Tanner went crazy. He wanted to play with the seals and thought the ice bouncing in the water was some kind of toy. In the water he went! I half expected him to freeze up and sink but no, he wanted to play. We were in the dinghy and he wanted to chase us. Cody called him and called him. He did not want to come in. This dog is crazy! He must be able to tolerate the ice cold water, since we castrated him!?!? (Haha) We were the only boat around so when I heard another engine running, it startled me. Lo and behold, here came a small tour boat from Juneau pushing in pretty fast along the far shore line. I glassed him and found he was running in a pretty ice free path in the lee of the ice flow. We worked our way through the ice pack with the kicker engine until we found his path. I started the main engine and we motored right up to the face of the glacier!
Oh, my goodness! This is incredible! I wish there was a way to measure how high it was. We all guessed about 10-12 stories tall, but who knows? I shut the engine off for a few minutes, which I usually never do...I always keep the main engine or the kicker engine running at all times. We wanted to hear the ice popping and cracking. There were hundreds seals and seal pups lounging around on the ice bergs. So cool. As we all were experiencing sensory overload, we heard this massive thunder. We turned to the face to see a huge, massive calving occur. It went on and on. Ice bergs, the size of our house, several of them, broke off the face of the glacier, almost in slow motion, so it seemed. We couldn't believe the miracle we were experiencing. The thunder continued echoing through the valley. I caught most of it on video tape!
I had heard that some calving can cause 25' waves. I jumped in the cabin, started the main engine and pointed the bow forward, not knowing what to expect. Well, the worst it got was a couple of big swells, no big deal. I did notice the ice pack was advancing quite rapidly. We spent a few more minutes there getting pictures and taking it all in. When the tour boat started to leave, I hailed him on the radio and asked if I could "draft in" behind him. He told me to tuck in real close as the ice tends to close in quick in his wake. As we started to leave the ice was advancing very, very quickly. I wanted to stay to take in more, but it really made me nervous. It was really nice having the tour boat to follow. He plowed the ice and we got out of there in about 1/5 the time it took to pick our way in.
Everyone rated this the best experience of the trip so far. I was so grateful that we didn't ding a prop and that we could all experience this. We praised God in prayer and then put some Chris Tomlin worship music on the stereo as we cruised through this amazing canyon. Thank you, Lord, for your wonderful creation here.
We left Tracy Arm mid-afternoon and had a smooth 50 mile ride all the way into Juneau arriving about 5PM. We picked up a slip and went out for dinner. I'm glad to have e-mails again but I really would rather be in the wilderness than in town.
Today, I'm doing some business, the boys are cleaning the boat, Val is doing the laundry. We had our mail forwarded to Juneau so I suppose this afternoon, we'll be paying bills and doing that kind of stuff.
We're right on track for our Glacier Bay permit reservation on Saturday, assuming good weather. We wear our rain jackets and sweatshirts all the time. We miss the warmth and the sun but wouldn't have traded our experience yesterday for a summer full of it.
Blessings to you all. Send notes...I appreciate hearing from you.