Days 2-3 | Alaska Flotilla Leg 3 | Dawes Glacier and Ford’s Terror

We left our anchorage at Tracy Arm Cove at about 9:00 in the morning and headed up Endicott Arm for Dawes Glacier. Our destination for later today is Ford’s Terror, which we’ll pass on the way to Dawes Glacier, but slack/entry at Ford’s Terror won’t be until about 5:00 p.m., which gives us plenty of time to visit another tidewater glacier!

Sumdum Glacier as we head into Endicott Arm
Endicott Arm

Kevin’s brother Craig (visiting from Miami), is joining Airship for Leg 3. He’s a musician and so far thinks the upper deck of Airship, surrounded by icebergs and humpbacks and bald eagles is a great place to practice. 

Kevin’s brother Craig, practicing on the upper deck

As the miles tick by the scenery becomes more dramatic. Vegetation becomes scarce, the rock walls rise higher, more glaciers are visibly in the valleys above.

Endicott Arm landscape with icebergs
Endicott Arm landscape
Polymela, Airship, and Nereus making their way up Endicott Arm
Dawes Glacier in sight

Even in drought, waterfalls abound in Endicott Arm. This one is glacier-fed and particularly powerful:

We got within a quarter mile from the face of the glacier — the furthest we’ve ever been to the face (and a half mile further than our last best track, which was also a quarter mile from the face of the glacier in 2017!). As we approached, williwaws (wind coming down off the glacier) kicked up to a sporty 30kts, so we opted not to dinghy or fly the drone this visit. 

Polymela navigates the icebergs
Seals and pups lounging on the icebergs
Seals and pups lounging on the icebergs
Seal pup on an iceberg
Nereus among the icebergs

We saw some ice calving as we were photographing each others’ boats in front of the glacier.

Safe Harbour with glacier calving behind

When a giant chunk of ice fell from the face of the glacier we were thankfully a little further away than when we started, but it was still a bit of a concern as we watched a large upwelling of water, displaced by the ice, surge skyward.

Huge chunks of ice calving at the face of Dawes Glacier
The surge of water displaced by the ice
The surge of water displaced by the ice!
One of the fallen chunks of ice floats back to the surface
The newly liberated iceberg floats to the surface
Polymela in front of Dawes Glacier
Airship in front of Dawes Glacier
Jester in front of Dawes Glacier

Having had our fill of icebergs, harbor seals, and calving glacier, we headed back toward Ford’s Terror.

The flotilla leaving Dawes Glacier and headed to Ford’s Terror

Today happens to have one of the bigger tidal exchanges of the year, so we wanted to be extra sure that we transited the entrance to Ford’s Terror at slack. We arrived at the time of published high water in Juneau and waited about 45 minutes until the rapids slowed. During the wait, some of us dinghied through to get a sense of what we were dealing with.

In the “waiting room” for Ford’s Terror…not a bad place to drift for 45 minutes!

The timing ended up working perfectly. The first few boats through rode the last of the flood, and by the time the last couple boats went, the current had turned and was ebbing out, but at just a couple of knots. Safely inside, we made our way to the west arm and anchored for a couple of nights.

In the morning, everyone gathered for brunch on the raft. Sam made waffles with maple syrup and a side of melon, Roberta from Nereus made blueberry pancakes, Susan and Roberta from Polymela brought over bacon…all was delicious!  After brunch we launched the dinghies for an epic Ford’s Terror exploration excursion. We visited all of the waterfalls, the head and shorelines of both east and west arms, and then went out to the entrance at low tide for more aerial photos and so folks could see the shoals that are not visible at high tide when we enter. 

The group from Nereus in front of one of the many waterfalls inside Ford’s Terror
A waterfall inside Ford’s Terror
Sam and Ralph get a close up waterfall view

Later, Sam dinghied back out to the east entrance and took the drone up, capturing the same waterfall (shown in the photo above), from above!

Waterfall in Ford’s Terror, from the drone
Nereus and Polymela tenders check out the waterfall in the crevasse
Entrance to Ford’s Terror from above
Entrance to Ford’s Terror from above
Current flooding into the east arm of Ford’s Terror

During our few days inside Ford’s Terror we caught several dozen fresh coon striped prawns and watched both brown and black bears forage on shore. The only downside was forest fire smoke, which blotted out the sun and partially obscured the view.

Black bear foraging on shore near our anchorage in Ford’s Terror
Black bear foraging on shore near our anchorage in Ford’s Terror
Black bear foraging on shore near our anchorage in Ford’s Terror
Black bear foraging on shore near our anchorage in Ford’s Terror

Dinner on the raft was an early BYOBBQ. We’ll be exiting Ford’s Terror at 6:00 a.m., so anchors will be coming up at around 5:00 a.m., so no partying into the wee hours of the morning!