We have been up Tracy
Arm (south of Juneau) to see the Sawyer Glaciers
numerous times and we love both the scenic
cruise up the arm and the beauty of the Sawyer
Glaciers – especially
south Sawyer. However, this time we wanted to
see Sawyer’s near neighbor to the east,
Dawes Glacier at the end of Endicott Arm.
Our arrival time at Endicott Arm made it possible
to go all the way up to the end of the arm, see
the Dawes Glacier, then backtrack to anchor in
Fords Terror. It’s a long trip up Endicott
Arm (27 miles) with plenty to look at. As you
enter Endicott Arm you can see the Sumdum Glacier
(right side of photo).
Here’s a closer
look at the Sumdum Glacier. This is called
a hanging glacier - because it does not reach
the water line. (By contrast, the Sawyer Glaciers
and Dawes Glacier are tide-water glaciers because
they come right to the water’s
Fords Terror is
a special place. Two years ago we anchored
in the outer bay and enjoyed a skiff ride through
the narrows into the inner bay. The place is
just glorious - with its massive high walls
and ubiquitous waterfalls. We were eerily silent
that year as we glided through the narrows
at slack water and found ourselves surrounded
by such majesty. We had finally visited this
spot because we had gained some local knowledge
that made us comfortable enough to tackle the
challenges Fords Terror presents: avoiding
the shoals in the deep, poorly charted outer
bay and getting through the narrows at the
right time to be able to explore the inner
bay. Oh, yes, and being able to anchor.
There are two keys to successfully transiting
the narrows at Fords Terror: timing the slack
water and avoiding the shoals. The Douglass "Exploring
Southeast Alaska" cruising guide (www.fineedge.com)
says to be sure you are going through at high
water slack. OK. But the question I had back
then was: just when is HW slack, really? The
local knowledge we heard that year indicated
that high water slack at the narrows occurs 40
minutes after high water at the (nearby) Woodspit
Station. We tried it and it worked! The second
key also came from someone with local knowledge.
Go to the base of the waterfall in the outer
bay to start your transit. From that position,
steer a course of 290 degrees magnetic towards
the narrows’ opening. The picture below
is taken from our anchorage – showing the
outer bay waterfall and the shoal that needs
to be avoided.
tip is important because of those very poorly
charted shoals that lie on either side of it.
You must work with the available small-scale
[1:80,000] chart (with little detail) and the
shoals only show as a few scattered asterisks.
(See Linda's website at www.privateboatinginstruction.com
for a chart screen-shot with these local-knowledge
Here’s what those scattered asterisks really
look like. The asterisks loosely represent a
big, long, broad shoal that uncovers at low water;
as well as a second narrower, but very long shoal
parallel to the big one. We were coming in at
high water this year. Knowing the shoals were
out there, we approached the anchorage carefully
- working our way up along the shoreline and
then hooking back towards the narrows a bit as
we scoped out the bottom. Someone had already
found our favorite “shallow hump” so
we had to find a new spot.
It’s not an
easy anchorage. You go from 100-200 foot depths
to 10 feet (and less) in a very, very big hurry.
(And the tide range is about 15-20 feet.) We
were here on a Spring Tide (with its wider
tidal range) so we were even more cautious
about where we planted ourselves. This is what
it looked like after awhile as the water level
And continued to
drop. This is a big, long shoal that uncovered
so much we couldn’t even
see the passage through the narrows over the
top of it after a while.
It was fun to be
able to watch the infamous “Terror” narrows
running (ebbing in this photo).
Eventually the falling
tide caused the shoal to block our view of
the narrows. But until then we watched as the
Spring Tide ebb displayed 1-2 foot overfalls
and a current that looked like it was running
about 10-13 knots!
The carnival ride
of the day was the (multiple) charter boats
taking their guests up through those narrows – against
that ebb – doing
a quick tour of the inner bay, then rocketing
back out. Even with their 90 hp engines, their
skiff entrances (with 6 people on board) were
might iffy looking for the first ten minutes.
We were glad we weren’t anchored up inside
the inner bay as we figured we would end up
being their roundabout. Part of the glory of
that place is the isolation – magnificent
isolation. That seems to be a thing of the
But I have gotten ahead of myself with these
Fords Terror stories. What about the trip up
Endicott Arm and the Dawes Glacier?
We weren’t sure we could make it all the
way to the glacier. We had heard that their was
too much ice just two weeks before our visit,
but we were determined to give it a try. Our
trip up Endicott Arm certainly gave me the chance
to take lots of pictures of Bergie Bits (chunks
of glacier ice floating in the water). We were
fortunate and found that there were not so many
that we had to stop and turn around. We got all
the way up to the glacier (August 6).
Here are some of the glorious things we saw on
the way to the glacier.
And how about this
glowing example? This one is my favorite this
year. The deep deep blue indicates very old
ice that has been compressed by all the years
There are often
several bergies near each other that present
as a bit of a pack.
not all beautiful. Here is an example of a
dark, grey one.
No matter what their color, the rumor you have
heard that icebergs show up on radar is absolutely
I love to “see
things” in the bergie
bits. What is this?
And how about this
one? Dave says it’s
a duck. I think it looks like a teacher and two
A streamlined rabbit?
It’s a celebration!! “Y – M – C – A” [dah
dah dah dah dah dah]. “Y – M – C – A” OK – I
definitely gave away my age with this one.
There were also
plenty of 1000 foot-high rock faces to stare
at along the way.
We were continually
amazed at how different the rock faces looked
in this channel.
More bergies - with a sawtooth.
One more? Just one
OK, I’ll stop.
I guess I forgot to show you the actual glacier.
Not really; I just ran out of room. The next
installment will show you Dawes Glacier.