Wednesday, June 29, 2011

#7 - Petersburg to Juneau with Fords Terror and Glaciers Along the Way.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011 - Portage Bay

Willie has left future Wild Blue crews numerous poultry products: duck, turkey, chicken, excetera so just minor additions were needed to the ships provisions.  About mid-morning the Wild Blue with new crew departed Petersburg for Portage Bay on the top end of Kupreanof Island. It was overcast but pretty on the run up Frederick Sound.  Snow covered mountain peaks fill our starboard view. We made radio contact with the Selene 47 Maritime. Rob and crew were fishing at the entrance to Thomas Bay and we made a schedule to rendezvous tomorrow in Cannery Cove. 

The Alaska Marine Highway is really just a bunch of ferries. This one is cruising at over 40 miles per hour.

When you have lots of crab to consume, you find many ways to enjoy it.  This one is Barb's melted crab and cheese.

Skip Shaw and Barb Renshaw of Los Osos are this week's Wild Blue crew.

We arrived at Portage Bay and set the anchor near the entrance. After a dinghy ride and 3-mile hike of the shoreline, the crew was ready to relax. This week's crew consists of two long time friends from Los Osos, California: Skip Shaw and Barbara Renshaw. The 3 of us worked together at Jacquard Systems, a small company in Santa Monica, California in the 1970's. Later Skip and Barb founded Peerless Systems, a software and systems development company and took it public. Now retired, they continue as philanthropists to the great benefit of many San Luis Obispo nonprofits. Barb prepared a wonderful dinner of fried halibut and cod fillets then we retired for the day.

Scenic Portage Bay is quite a calm anchorage.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011 - Cannery Cove and Humpback Whales

The humpys were in force today and we stopped the boat to take in a whale view on our continued route up Frederick Sound to Pybus Bay and Cannery Cove. The guidebook tells us the Cove is full of crab but the previous crew has left us a 4 pound bag of fresh picked crab and it will be a challenge to figure out the various ways to consume it.

This is not crab.  Our lunch today consisted of Willie Bird's smoked chicken sandwiches.

After setting the hook (anchor) we set off on another shore excursion. The Cove opens up to a scenic valley and snow patched mountain view.  It's slow going along the rocky shore and the bugs seem to want to have us for lunch as the Alaskan sun shows itself. We take note of several large animal scats, but Barb assures us that these are elk or moose poop, and definitely not bear! After 1-hour of tromping around and wading across a few streams, were satisfied with the Cove's shore flora and fauna.

Barb and Skip tromping around at Cannery Cove

Well-protected Cannery Cove

The view from the Cove.

The flora....

.... and the fauna.

Late in the afternoon Rob and crew Paul on Maritime dropped their anchor near us. Four other boats are also anchored here. They join us for a dinner of fresh crab cocktail, crab salad, and pasta with spicy crab sauce. As Paul is a retired alaskan fisherman, we have a detailed conversation about long line fishing technique.

This is pasta with crab in red sauce. Chef Barb again pleased our palettes.

Thursday, June 23, 2011 - Ford's Terror

Last night Rob of Maritime talked us into visiting Ford's Terror in Endicott Arm. We had already planned to go up the Arm to visit Dawes Glacier, but of course we were warded off by the place's name. It turns out Ford was a sailor in the mid-1800's who entered Ford's Terror but because of the strong tidal current, couldn't get back out for six hours. This story does not make the place any more inviting, but Rob assured us it is worth a visit.

According to the guidebook, and common boat sense, timing your arrival at the entrance at slack current is critical. Slack current occurs approximately 1-1/2 hours after juneau slack tide. A waterfall of up to 3 feet high has been observed when you get it wrong. We departed Cannery Cove at 7:15AM to insure this from not happening, however we couldn't control our wicked imaginations. It took us 6 hours to reach the entrance to Ford's Terror. 

Fords Terror Chart

Ford's Terror Entrance is narrow and shallow.

We were a bit early for the slack current prediction but the narrow entrance looked calm. We slowly entered keeping multiple eyes on two depth sounders and the forward looking sonar. As the depth shallowed to 9 feet we slowed the boat to less than 2 knots. Finally we overcame the 200 foot narrows and entered a different world. We were immediately reminded of BC's beautiful Princess Louisa Inlet: tall granite walls, numerous waterfalls, glassy water and zero wind. After another 40 minutes we set our anchor at the end of the inlet, just in front of the largest waterfall. Rob was right: Fords Terror is a spectacular place well worth a visit.

Crab and beef tacos for dinner.

Friday, June 24, 2011 - Dawes Glacier then Tracy Arm Cove

We awoke to waterfall sounds in our spectacular quiet setting. The boat hardly moved at anchor in the still water of Fords Terror. To exit and continue our cruise, we needed to arrive at the inlet entrance by 845 am to make slack current.  When we did, two other boats had already entered the inlet but we floated out at high water slack current without incident.

New arrivals admire the beauty of Fords Terror

Glaciers near Stephens Passage

We then continued further up Endicott Arm to the Dawes Glacier. About 3 miles away the ice chunks became more dense. From previous experience we learned that when cruising close along the either side of the arm, an ice free path can usually be found. Such was the case today until we were within a mile of the glacier face. Then it was all stop and slow going with ice pole crew on the bow. Skip did an excellent job of pushing the bergy bits away from the hull until the next ice free path was discovered.

We made our way to within 1/2 mile of the glacier face, but the ice was thick and the nursing seals were embarrassed and bothered, so we kept our distance.  The seals rear their babies here on the ice bergs away from the waters and shores with hungry Orca whales.  Suddenly we saw a large section of ice calve off the face.  Then we heard the big BOOM!  The falling, house-sized chunk of glacier fell into the sea, creating a mini-tsunami,  These big waves churned up the surface causing floating ice to rattle against each other, much like shaking ice in a drink glass.  The waves then ricocheted off the walls of the arm.  It was like being in a washing machine, without the soap!

After a fun-filled day of battling ice bergs, viewing seals and watching a moving glacier, we exited Endicott Arm and anchored in Tracy Arm Cove. 

These seals raise their young on the ice.  They get a great view of the glacier, plus their babies don't get eaten by the Orca whales.

"Hey mom I'm hungry.  Lie still!"

Dawes Glacier up close has bergs with seal moms nursing their babies

Saturday, June 25, 2011 - Sawyer Glacier, Orca Whales then Taku Harbor

We spent a restful night with three other boats including the Selene 53 Morning Star in Tracy Arm Cove.  It's the best anchorage near the glaciers so most cruisers include it in their itinerary.  Today we want to see more glaciers, so we will cruise up Tracy Arm to the Sawyer Glaciers.  Hopefully the ice will allow us another closeup view.

It's a 3-hour tour to get to a Y-intersection near the glaciers.  One turns right for South Sawyer Glacier, or left for North Sawyer Glacier.  A local tour boat alerts us via VHF radio that the South fork has only a few dense ice spots. That and the fact that the North fork has always been stuffed with ice on our previous visits, means we go for South Sawyer.  With careful boat handling and Skip's new found adeptness at keeping the small bergs at bay, we are able to get within 1/2 mile again.  

After viewing the South Sawyer for 40 minutes we backtrack through the ice to make our run up to North Sawyer. On the way our new tour boat friend calls to say there is clear water just past the Y-intersection. Yippee!  It's time to land some glacier ice and celebrate.

We land our own piece of glacier ice berg.  It's a genuine "bergie bit".

What's a 10 over 10,000 cocktail?:  That's 10 year old Grey Goose vodka over 10,000 year old ice!  

The face of North Sawyer Glacier was nearly ice free.

After another great day at the glaciers, we head down Tracy Arm, past Tracy Arm Cove and up Stephens Passage for Taku Harbor, our last stop before Juneau. Along the way, the Orcas come out to play, completing a great Alaskan experience.

Portion of the old cannery at Taku Harbor. 
 Old cannery equipment is now picturesque. 

The piles that once supported a large Alaskan cannery.

A few cruise boats gather at Taku Harbor near low tide.

Sunday, June 26, 2011 - Juneau

We complete the week with a leisurely 2-hour cruise to Juneau and tie at the Intermediate Vessel Float in the center of downtown.  It's been a fun week reliving old times with Skip and Barb while enjoying the sights, tastes and aromas of Alaska.

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