Safe Harbour | Tracy Arm

After a week in the lower 48, I flew back to Juneau with my girlfriend Anna and her dad Rudy. We had 4 nights and 5 days to work with, and after a quick run to the grocery store we headed off for Tracy Arm Cove the same day we flew into Juneau. Just a few miles from the dock, with Juneau still in sight, we spotted three orcas swimming through Gastineau Channel. A great start!

We arrived in Tracy Arm Cove around 5:00 p.m., just in time for happy hour on Lapérouse (friends from Seattle) then dinner on Akeeva with the crews from Airship (plus Kevin’s mom Shirley) and Ceci Kay. After the hustle-and-bustle of a week in the city, it was nice to be back at Alaska pace!

Despite the rain, we took the dinghies out for a post-dinner iceberg cruise. Amazingly, as we approached this iceberg, the huge spire calved off and plunged into the water. It was a dramatic and beautiful welcome to the ice for Rudy and Anna.

The next day we headed for Ford’s Terror, halfway up Endicott Arm. We’d heard discouraging reports from other boats: Endicott Arm was apparently chock-full of ice from when half of Dawes Glacier calved off in one massive event. The reports were right: just a few hours into the trip, still six miles from Ford’s Terror, we found the ice. Lots of ice. Unable to find a reasonable path through, we turned around and headed back to Tracy Arm Cove.

All was not lost, though. While halibut fishing (or in my case, changing the genset impeller) on the way out of Endicott Arm, a nearby humpback decided to give us a show, breaching five times in quick succession. And the weather was improving, with the forecasters even calling for sun the following day. Boats reported getting up to North and South Sawyer Glaciers in Tracy Arm, so we figured we’d give that a try.

Safe Harbour and Airship rafted in Tracy Arm Cove
Busy evening in Tracy Arm Cove!

Our Tracy Arm day dawned foggy but sunny. After breakfast, Airship and Safe Harbour started up Tracy Arm. The fog quickly burned off and the cliffs, mountains, waterfalls, and glaciers were in full view. Magnificent!

Anna and Rudy enjoying some sun before we headed into the fog
Icebergs and low clouds on the way into Tracy Arm
Fog is burning off…

One of the joys of having guests along is sharing places like this. Pictures can’t do it justice; the scale is incomprehensible. Peaks rise to six and seven thousand feet, waterfalls that look like trickles are really torrents, icebergs can be the size of a school. And it’s not just the sights that are impressive. The sound of rushing rivers and cracking glaciers is always present. When the wind blows out of a valley, it smells like the mountains.

The ice wasn’t too thick, and we were able to sneak past Sawyer Island and get a glimpse of South Sawyer Glacier.

Airship at South Sawyer Glacier
Another shot of Airship
Safe Harbour and Airship
Our boats (lower right) are tiny!

Next we headed for North Sawyer Glacier, which had very little ice blocking the way. We watched (and heard) some calving, hung out for about 30 minutes, and then started the trek back out Tracy Arm. On the way out we passed the Disney Wonder cruise ship, a 1000-foot-long behemoth that, in this environment, looks pretty small.

Looking south from North Sawyer Glacier
Drone selfie in front of North Sawyer Glacier

Disney Wonder, looking kind of small

Leaving Tracy Arms, the views were just as good…

The following day we had a relatively short run to Taku Harbor. The weather was dry and partly sunny in the morning, so we took a long dinghy ride before leaving. This waterfall was particularly scenic. From a few hundred yards out, it looked tiny, but as we approached its size became more apparent. We beached the dinghies and wandered around on shore for a bit.

That afternoon we had a calm, quick trip up to Taku Harbor. I flew the drone briefly (giving others on the dock a demo) and took a few photos in the process.

Looking down at the ruins in Taku Harbor
Taku Harbor dock looking out towards Stephens Passage (note the cruise ship at right)

All too quickly, our trip was over, but not before one final humpback encounter. Soon after leaving Taku Harbor for Juneau, a humpback surfaced just a few boat lengths away. I quickly pulled the throttle back and shut off the engine. The whale then turned towards us, diving just a boat length away, then surfacing on the other side.

Next: back to Ford’s Terror to try again, then Pack Creek Bear Observatory, then…who knows!