Monday, July 2, 2012

Day 31-Reid Inlet to North Sandy Cove

I had originally intended to wake up early for the trip up to Margerie Glacier.  My alarm sounded at 5:45, but I was still tired and I shut it off.  I figured it was only about 10 nm to the Glacier, and there were plenty of anchorages available if I didn’t make it all the way to North Sandy Cove.

When I finally did crawl out of bed around 8:30, I noticed how much colder it was at the foot of Reid Glacier than anywhere else I’ve been this trip.  Barely 40 degrees, both inside and out.  I quickly turned on the heater, pulled the anchor, and got underway.  As I was pulling out of Reid Inlet, two 50-60 foot powerboats were leaving as well.  They hadn’t spent the night, but had come in to take a look at the glacier for a few minutes on their way to Margerie Glacier.

The weather, like usual, was rainy, with low clouds obscuring all the peaks around the bay.  Visibility was only a mile or so in places, and I spotted a Holland America cruise ship passing behind me.  I called it on the radio to see if they’d be heading up Tarr Inlet as well, since I wanted to ensure I didn’t get run down.  They were, and appreciated the heads up that I’d be in there.  The benefit of traveling close to the cruise ships in ice-infested waters is that they travel slowly and keep a sharp lookout.  That said, my boat is way smaller than many of the icebergs and I can imagine it’s somewhat hard to distinguish it from them.
The cruise ship with Lamplugh Glacier illustrates just how massive the glaciers are
I initially headed up Tarr Inlet on the SW side, but ran into thick, impenetrable ice after just 3.5 nm.  At that point the two other boats caught up to me (they had gone to Lamplugh glacier first) and we discussed other routes up to the glacier.  I let the larger of the boats lead, since he was operating his boat from a flying bridge 30 feet of the water and I figured he might be able to see a clearer path through the ice.  We got out to mid channel and made a bit more progress, but the ice closed in again and we were left wondering if we’d even be able to see the glacier today.

At that point I noticed a fast moving target on radar on the far NE shore.  As it got closer I could see it was the tour boat that leaves daily from Bartlett Cove, and it was making 20 knots.  I figured that the ice must be pretty clear for him to do that, so I made my way over to that side of the inlet and found it virtually ice free.

For the next 2.5 nm it was easy cruising, just dodging the occasional large berg.  About 2.5 nm from the face of the glacier, the ice again started getting thicker.  I let the other boats go ahead of me to break a path through, and followed them for another half mile or so before deciding the sickening grinding noise of ice on the hull wasn’t worth the closer look. 
My view of Margerie Glacier
The other two boats continued pushing through the ice for another mile, and I shut down the engine and drifted among the bergs for about 45 minutes.  I could see the glacier, hear it groan, and watch it discharge huge chunks into the water.

As I was getting ready to leave, the Holland America ship made its way past me, only a quarter mile off my bow.  Hundreds of people lined the railings on the bow, and I noticed a huge number of flashes from cameras pointing in my direction.  I looked through the binoculars, and sure enough, many were taking pictures of me!  I had noticed this phenomenon in Misty Fjords as well.
Passengers lining the bow, taking photos of me!
While Margerie Glacier is among the largest in the park, and probably the most visited, it was probably my least favorite of my trip so far.  The weather was lousy, the ice was thick, and most critically, there were a lot of other boats around.  Two other private boats, the massive cruise ship, a smaller mini-cruise ship (think Lindblad/National Geographic) and the day trip from Bartlett Cove.  At every other glacier, I’ve had significant time alone, which is pretty special.  It really feels like you’re on the edge of the world, the first person to ever witness the grandeur of the place.  The sheer immensity of the glaciers, icebergs, and fjords beautifully illustrates how insignificant we are in comparison.

The trip out was actually pretty easy.  About three nautical miles of weaving through the ice and only a few times where I had to shift into neutral and drift through thicker bits of ice.  I made it out easily, and headed up towards North Sandy Cove.  Notably, the NPS doesn’t allow camping in the vicinity of North Sandy Cove because of high numbers of bears.  Since I wanted to see bears, this was perfect.
Traveling through ice is challenging and rewarding

Lots of these little guys
Resting on kelp
I pulled into North Sandy Cove around 7:00, anchored close to shore where I figured the likelihood of seeing bears was highest, and paddled around in the Kayak for 45 minutes.  Miraculously, the sun was peeking out, and blue sky was visible overhead!  No bears though, so I went back to the boat, made dinner, and read for a while.  At one point I looked up from my Kindle and spotted a black bear ambling along the shoreline.  I grabbed my camera, hopped in the kayak, and paddled towards it.
Watching me...
Scraping for food
As I got closer I could tell he (maybe she?) was foraging for food.  He’d use his paws to flip rocks over and scrape food off rocks.  He looked up a few times at me, but seemed completely unconcerned with my presence.  I got pretty close (staying in water deep enough that he’d have to swim to get to me), took a ton of pictures, and marveled at him for about 30 minutes.  As I paddled back to the boat I saw a guy on the boat next to me standing outside fishing.  I went over and told him about the bear onshore, then paddled back to the boat and continued watching the bear until I went to bed an hour later.
North Sandy Cove is beautiful
Nice light as the sun sets
51.1 nm today and 1350.1 total

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