Safe Harbour | Port Snettisham, Ford’s Terror, Mole Harbor

Time in port is usually super busy, and the few days I spent in Juneau after Anna and Rudy left was no exception. Grocery shopping, boat fixes (nothing major!), fueling, cleaning, laundry, paying bills…real life doesn’t pause while out cruising.

Eventually I caught up on chores and headed out. That first night I had no destination in mind. Taku Harbor, with its dock and excellent protection, was an obvious choice. But I really wanted to see someplace new, and Taku looked packed with fish boats. Limestone Inlet, just south of Taku Harbor, was another candidate. I’d never anchored in Limestone, and though it didn’t appear as well protected as Taku, it looked like it would be fine in settled weather. Unfortunately getting into Limestone looked difficult—not because of any natural obstacle, but because a dozen gillnetters were fishing in front of the entrance, nets crisscrossed, tempers raging. I thought better of trying to weave through their nets into the anchorage.

A gillnet boat fishing in Stephens Passage

Looking further, Port Snettisham seemed interesting. It’s a big inlet, with two arms, each stretching many miles into the mainland coast. The guidebooks and ActiveCaptain (side note: “Kayley” on ActiveCaptain almost always says exactly the same thing as the Douglass Alaska guide) weren’t particularly keen on the area, so I figured I’d have it all to myself.

After poking around a bit, I dropped the anchor at the mouth of Whiting River, an anchorage completely absent from the guidebooks. It was a pleasant spot, about 80 feet deep with good holding, plenty of swinging room, and a nice view up the Whiting River and across Port Snettisham.

Anchored in Port Snettisham

Since we weren’t able to get into Ford’s Terror last week, I decided to try again. Timing was good for heading in: high water in Juneau was around 5:40 p.m., giving me plenty of time to cover the 40 miles from Port Snettisham without having to depart at the crack of dawn.

Sure enough, the ice in Endicott Arm had cleared up. I’d left several extra hours to pick through the ice, and not needing the time, throttled back to just above idle for a slow trip up Endicott Arm. Even so, I arrived way too early and drifted for several hours until the white water stopped.

Looking into outer Ford’s Terror

One sailboat followed me through the narrows. We entered about 30 minutes after high water in Juneau, and had about 3 knots of current pushing us along. No big deal.

S/V Capaz coming through the narrows
In Ford’s Terror!

I ended up spending three nights in Ford’s Terror. It was just as beautiful as I’d remembered, with towering granite walls, waterfalls galore, bears, harbor porpoises, and more. The weather varied from foggy to rainy to overcast to sunny:

One of the highlights was a mama bear with a couple cubs who liked hanging out on the mudflats during lower tides. Something was making her itchy—she was scratching and rolling around frequently, which made for some fun bear watching and picture taking.

After three nights, I departed Ford’s Terror. After hearing stories about people coming through the narrows to find super-thick ice, I was relieved to find only scattered icebergs.

Back in Juneau, Laura, Kevin, and I had gotten permits to visit Pack Creek, a bear viewing site in Seymour Canal. Our date was quickly approaching and I didn’t want to chance missing it, so I headed for Mole Harbor, halfway up Seymour Canal. Not recommended…the 15-knot southerly breeze wrapped westward right into the anchorage, which is only protected on lower tides. Plus, it’s not notably scenic. Windfall Harbor is nicer.

Next: Twenty brown bears at Pack Creek!

126 nautical miles this leg: