NW Yachting June 2018

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i r a f a S Words and Photos: Elsie Hulsizer

Raising my drink, I admired the sunlight striking the strange dimples and knobs of the ice. This was no ordinary ice cube; it was glacier ice. We arrived that afternoon at No Name Cove (aka Tracy Arm Cove) in Holkham Bay, Southeast Alaska, ready to see our first tidewater glacier the next morning. To our delight, chunks of ice dotted the bay and we quickly snagged one for our icebox. Now, as I admired the sparkles, I realized with awe that I was looking at ice formed some 300 years ago, prior to both the American Revolutionary War and the Industrial Revolution. Since that first cruise to SE Alaska, my husband Steve and I have made five more trips in our Annapolis 44 sloop, Osprey. Glaciers have been highlights of each trip. Their blue and white ramparts towering over our boat awe us and the roar of calving ice gets our adrenaline pumping. Southeast Alaska’s tidewater glaciers run in an arc starting at Le Conte Glacier near the mouth of the Stikine River, continue north up the continental side of the archipelago, and then west to Glacier Bay. This distribution makes it easy to visit one


or more glaciers on a cruise to SE Alaska’s main tourist destinations. It also makes possible a glacier safari – a voyage that will let you see almost all SE Alaska’s tidewater glaciers plus the region’s icefields, mountain glaciers, and evidence of past glaciation. A glacier safari, like any cruise to SE Alaska, requires that you and your boat be prepared. Approaching an active glacier requires navigational skill and an understanding of how glaciers and the icebergs spawn move and change. Well-maintained machinery, enough anchor rode for depths of 100’ or more, and a spare propeller are all critical. Paper charts that show the contour lines of land and glaciers are also useful.

PLANNING YOUR GLACIER SAFARI Your glacier safari will fall naturally into two segments with opportunities to restock in Juneau in between: the Frederick Sound-Stephens Passage area from Petersburg to Juneau and the voyage from Juneau out from Icy Strait to Glacier Bay.

Either segment is ideal for having guests onboard. While in Juneau, you can take a land trip to the Mendenhall Glacier with its interpretive center.

FREDERICK SOUND & MORE As you leave Petersburg heading north and enter Frederick Sound, the vista grows wider and the mountains steeper and closer to the water. You are in glacier territory. From here you can go either southeast to the Le Conte Glacier or northwest to Baird Glacier in Thomas Bay. Most boaters will choose to make Baird Glacier their first glacier. The narrow, current-swept entrance to Le Conte Glacier is clogged with ice and boulders and is dangerous. Baird Glacier, Thomas Bay: Baird Glacier enters Thomas Bay between two bold granite headlands. Its main attraction is an outwash plain formed by river sediment flowing under the glacier. It’s a botanist’s playground with dwarf magenta fireweed, yellow lichens, and fields of blue

Left to right: Drifting in the ice in South Sawyer Glacier; Taking pictures at South Sawyer; Osprey in Endicott Arm.