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Our Journey on Scolamanzi II
Our Journey on Scolamanzi II

Beautiful Glacier Bay

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The Master Builder chose for a tool, not the thunder and lightning to rend and split asunder, not the stormy torrent nor the eroding rain, but the tender snowflake, noiselessly falling through unnumbered generations – John Muir

 

Haa aani a ya “… This is our Homeland:   The Huna Tlingit Native Americans who still inhabit this area since before the last Little Ice Age, which started 4000 years ago, considered Glacier Bay a spiritual place. After our four day visit to the National Park, we all agreed.

The words awesome, majestic, magnificent and other were all created to describe this place. We departed Juneau again early morning to complete the 11 hour cruise thru Stephens Passage, down Lyne Canal and then east into Icy Strait to enter Glacier Bay National Park late afternoon.

The weather was superb being windless with clear visibility. The increasingly spectacular scenery prepared us for something very special. We were treated with lots of whale sightings, sea otters lying about and Stellar sea lions doing their thing.

Park rules are very strict in where and how you may transit the park in order to minimise the impact on whales and other sea life. Only 2 cruise ships are allowed in per day and the number of smaller tour operators and private yachts are limited and controlled to maintain the wilderness experience for all. The next morning 0800 we reported to the Rangers office to receive our introduction and briefing on the park and their rules. All done by friendly and professional staff.

 

After this we set off to explore what the park has to offer.  At first I found it daunting and overwhelming due to the shear size of what is on offer. The GBNP covers 3.3 million acres. The first images I had was of this massive bay, dotted with islands and surrounded by high majestic snow capped jagged mountain peaks. These mountains are pierced by long glacier carved narrow inlets leading to the tide water glaciers.

All glaciers have been in steady retreat for the past 250 years since the last Ice Age reached its peak in the mid 1700. When Captain George Vancouver passed by in 1794 the bay was only 5 miles deep and covered by ” a compact sheet of ice as for as the eye could distinguish . A century later when John Muir visited to study the area the glaciers had already retracted 40 miles. This all is independent of today’s issue of man made global warming.

Shag Cove - specially for Jeremy and Karlien.

Shag Cove – specially for Jeremy and Karlien.

First we visited Muir inlet. On the way we passed Marble Island with its large colony of noisy Stellar sea lions lazing about the rocks. Each group of females guarded by a large jealous bull. After a long day we dropped anchor in peaceful Shag Cove (off Geikie Inlet) for the night. The next day in wind and cloudless weather,we set out to see what turned out to be the highlight of all our trips to date.

We passed Lamplugh Glacier, which is now not tidal, to get as near to John Hopkins Glacier as allowed. The view was simply stunning. To see this massive river of ice cascading down from those massive mountains was truly awe inspiring. After that we cruised up to Grand Pacific Glacier which is not so grand any more as it has also ceased to be a tidewater glacier. We did however spend some hours at Margerie Glacier next to it. The face is a mile wide and we were mesmerised by the constant calving and loud “shots” as the ice moves.

After a hole day of sensory overload we topped it all off by entering the shallow and narrow Reid inlet to anchor in front of Reid Glacier for the night – magic! We took the tender out to the glacier to have a close-up-feel and look of these massive Ice blocks. The tide came in so quick that we had to run back and cut short the photo session with Dianne getting two boots full of glacier icy water! It was a fabulous experience never the less!

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Reid Glacier - getting back in a hurry

Reid Glacier – getting back in a hurry

Reid Glacier

Reid Glacier

The last day we slowly cruised south, all the way enjoying the lovely weather and beautiful vistas surrounding us. The last night we anchored in the north arm of Fingers Bay. As our trusty John Deere main engine had done 250 hours since we departed Seattle 5 weeks ago, she was due for a service. The design and setup of the engine room makes this task a breeze.

The next morning early we upped anchor for Bartlett Cove to drop off our guests, Ben and Diane. They were flying back to Juneau to make their way bay to Prince Rupert in BC to continue their RV journey by road onwards to Alaska. We enjoyed their company on board and was sad to see them left on the dock.

I have been studying the weather the past week to pick a suitable weather window for the open ocean stretch north to Prince William Sound. This leg is a 350 Nm leg from Cape Spencer to Hinchenbrook Entrance into PWS. To reduce the risk of being caught in the Gulf of Alaska by bad weather, the plan was to do the trip in 2 or 3 legs. When I checked the weather that morning it looked good to get at least halfway before the next front moves in. So the decision was made to depart immediately for Yakutat.

We exited Icy Strait with a strong ebb tide being spat out into the Gulf of Alaska at 9.5 – 11 knots ( normally we cruise at 1700rpm and 8.5 knots ) with a 5 – 10 knot NW wind blowing in our faces. The seas were quite flat and the ride comfortable. These pleasant conditions continued till the next morning as we approached Yakutat. I again checked the weather forecasts and it looked good so we decided to continue on to PWS. The wind was now blowing east 15 – 20 knots from our stern. Scolamanzi was in her element and took the conditions in her stride with all systems working flawlessly.

Henriette and I took about a day to again get used to an extended passage of more than one day doing 4 hour watches each. Our last trip we did, lasting more than 48 hours, was in the Med 3 years ago. Thanks to our great boat and a favourable weather window we entered Prince William Sound 46 hours after we departed from Glacier Bay. Later that morning we docked in Cordova harbour relieved to have passed our first real test to be out in the Gulf of Alaska north of 60 degrees North.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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