Monday, July 28, 2014

Day 52: Tracy Arm Cove to Ford’s Terror

Mention Ford’s Terror to fellow Alaska cruisers and it’s sure to generate a response. Those who’ve been rave about magnificent scenery, sheer cliffs rising thousands of feet from secluded waters. Those who haven’t warn about the lack of charts and the narrow, shallow entrance through reversing tidal rapids with no published time of slack.
Humpback feeding in Endicott Arm.
Two summers ago I’d anchored outside the rapids. That was a stunning spot, but I wanted to go inside this summer. I culled the internet, found some anecdotes, and assembled a plan.

As we approached I maneuvered the boat to the base of the big multiple waterfall. Then I set a course for 290 magnetic, which took me between two shoals to the entrance of the rapids. I entered approximately 25 minutes after high water at Wood Spit (on an 11.7 foot high tide) and experienced virtually no current. Least depth was roughly 19 feet. Easy.

Calm water approaching the rapids.
In the rapids.
The scenery inside is awe-inspiring. Waterfalls, ranging from dainty ribbons to raging torrents, plunge from unseen glaciers and mountain lakes thousands of feet above. Beyond the massive rock walls snowcapped peaks loom. It’s as scenic as any place I’ve been, anywhere on the planet.

We were lucky to arrive on an unpredicted sunny day. With low clouds, the immensity of this place couldn’t be fully grasped.

Not having enough of a challenge for the day, I decided to anchor in the east arm, which requires crossing a shallow, uncharted, and unmarked bar. Not a problem ordinarily, since someone could stand bow watch. But here glacial silt is suspended in seawater, limiting underwater visibility to about six inches.

The depth sounder indicated as little as 10 feet of water, but we made it in. A lone sailboat was anchored near the entrance so we continued to the head of the bay and found somewhat tenuous anchorage off the mudflats.

Orca anchored near the entrance to the east arm.
After anchoring we hopped in the dinghy and explored all around. Absolutely magnificent. On our way back we visited with John and Kara, the sailors aboard Orca, who surprisingly were also in their 20s. Four and a half years ago, at 24, they quit their jobs and sailed to Mexico. Then across the Pacific, ending up in New Zealand, where they decided they might as well just sail all the way around the world. They ended up in Sitka last fall and are now working their way south to Seattle to replenish their cruising kitty.

Anchored at the head of the east arm.
Outstanding views in every direction.
River at the west arm.
Note how small Erik looks 
Black bear and three cubs
We returned to the boat a large sandbar alarmingly close to the boat. The boat, not 60 feet away from the sandbar, was still in 40 feet of water. But given the poor visibility, I couldn’t be sure where the drop off occurred. And since the low tide tomorrow morning is several feet lower than this low tide, I though it best to move. So we pulled the anchor and joined John and Kara in their anchorage. We visited more and enjoyed a fire and drinks ashore.
Enjoying a fire ashore
After a few drinks John and Erik decided a nearby rock, perhaps 15 feet off the water, looked particularly good for jumping. I joked that anyone who went swimming in this 40 something degree water deserved a hot shower. John, lacking a shower aboard, literally jumped on the opportunity. So did Erik. I picked them up in the dinghy and ran them out to the boat for their well-earned hot water rinse.

27.21 nm today
1593.09 nm total

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