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  • Capt. Eric

Glacier Bay National Park

With my still immune compromised system, it'd be a bad idea for us to mingle with so many passengers. Bay National Park. Since pets are not allowed ashore in the park, except for the ranger station at the entrance in Bartlett Bay we only asked for 3 nights in the park.

We figured it'd be enough to see the last remaining tidewater glaciers and would increase our chances of getting a permit.

The park only allows 25 boats and ships per day, 12 long term permit holders who asked more than 2 months before entry, and 13 short term permits who can only ask within 48 hours of arrival. The shorter the trip, the better your chances of getting a valued short notice permit.

We got lucky and got ours, so after a short overnight stop at Pleasant Island made our way into the park.

Margerie Glacier

We stopped at Bartlett Bay's dock to let Princess have her last long walk for the next couple of days.

More of the Alaskan "liquid sunshine"

Princess was in her element in the dreary cold rain, and we've noticed how locals just love huskies: She always gets a lot of attention from everyone, pets and often treats.

I got her to run as much as I could, walking the waterfront trail.

Enfin at Bartlett Cove public dock

Native American Hall

With climate change there are only 2 tidewater glaciers left in the park, with more than 50 still hanging from high mountains all around. We set our route to see them: Margerie and John Hopkins glaciers. We were fairly certain we'd manage to get to the first, and doubted we'd get to the second but we'd sure give it a go.

Deep waters, incredible colors

We had some luck weather wise as the cloud base slowly lifted during the day and we got a peek of the tall mountains all around.

Tall mountains all around

We anchored about mid way to Margerie glacier in Blue Mouse Cove: As we arrived I set to work on tightening the main engine's belt. It had been squeaking on start the last couple of days so it was time to recheck and re-tighten it. It's an easy and fast job, but takes the engine offline for the duration, so needless to say I want it done fast. I want to be able to move the boat at a moment's notice if conditions change.

Just then, Di warned me 2 kayakers were approaching us, and soon they were asking us for directions: They had no marine chart, no compass and were looking for a small unmarked cove! I shared what I could of my charts and understanding of the area and they got on their way, not before we shared a cup of hot cocoa with them.

Approaching Margerie

We set off next morning, to the sight of a black bear roaming the beach, and a whale lazily fishing in the cove. I had to maneuver to stay far away enough from the whale before being able to head towards Margerie.

Arriving closer to the glacier, we starting encountering more and more ice bits and I had to maneuver the boat more frequently.

Tight ice navigation. Engine is idling

Eventually we got to a fairly dense section which would have taken us a long time to get through at slow speed, when a large cruise ship came around the bend, heading for the glacier.

I contacted their bridge by VHF and followed them, using the large ship as a sort of ice breaker.

The park allows 2 large cruise ships per day, and we were glad to be getting this free and powerful ice clearing assistance.

Our shortcut through the ice

Keeping to the side and behind the cruise ship we were able to approach the glacier's face to within the max recommended safety distance of a quarter of a mile.

Photos just don't show the scale of it all: The face is about 60 meters height and I believe about a mile long.

There were 4 boats and ships in the bay so we didn't feel crowded, we stayed there, basking in the incredible sight for well over an hour, swapping places with a sailboat to later exchange photos. They will probably get the short end of that deal since they had a nice camera with a big zoom when we only used our phones.

Hopefully we'll get nice photos of Enfin in front of the glacier once the sailboat makes it back to the world of internet.

The reward: The face of the glacier fills up the view

Di and I also swapped place taking photos of each other at the bow. These are memories of a life time, and this glacier was absolutely breath taking.

I kept the bow of Enfin pointed towards the face of the glacier in case a large chunk would calve in: We' hear large cannon like booms regularly and see good sized sections fall in the water, but luckily didn't get a giant one falling in. The larger ones can create sudden waves of well over 20 feet, hence our caution.

The whole crew posed in front of the glacier

When the cruise ship left, we followed in the same way, saving us a lot of time again as we could follow at a good speed rather than having to negotiate tight quarter navigation in packed ice.

Lamplugh glacier

That meant we'd have time to try and explore John Hopkins Inlet. We could see the bay was blocked by a lot of drifting ice, but if we could navigate around the next cape I figured we'd have a good chance to see the glacier at the head of the bay, at a distance.

The approach was again beautiful, with this incredible green water found around glaciers in deep waters, and we could see more hanging glaciers around us.

A hanging glacier

Our slow approach through a first layer of ice allowed us to peek just around the corner and we got to see the glacier's face in the distance.

Slowly picking a way through

Our phones' photos don't render justice to the sight. Although far away we got to see our 4th tidewater glacier of the trip. My itch for ice navigation on Enfin has now bee thoroughly scratched, with a sense of "done it!" as a check on my dream list.

John Hopkins glacier

We started heading back towards Bartlett Bay, but being a bit too far for today, we decided to stop at Reid Inlet.

Reid Glacier doesn't flow in the water anymore but is plainly visible ashore from the bay. This allows boats to anchor safely just in front of a glacier, quite a unique experience and place to spend the night.

Reid glacier

We treated ourselves to a bottle of Prosecco that we chilled in the cold glacier waters, and spend the evening in the pilothouse watching the glacier and the sun set.

Medical evacuation at Bartlett Bay

Our last full day in the park we made our way back to Bartlett cove's dock to replenish our water tanks, and more importantly let Princess walk and run. It'd been 2 days she hadn't been ashore.

We moved to anchor for the night, and back to the dock in the morning for a last walk before heading out of the park.

A large cruise ship had stopped by the entrance of the bay for a medical evacuation. From the looks of the crew in their full protection suit it looked like a severe Covid case: Di and I are glad we don't have to share our living spaces with thousands of people to get to enjoy incredible Glacier Bay National Park.

With my immune system still compromised, it'd be a bad idea for us to mingle with so many passengers.

Sea otters are just so cute

There were whales everywhere around us, but we strictly respected the park's navigation corridors so stayed always far away. Our favorite animals were the sea otters: They proved almost impossible to photograph properly, being all curious of us and floating high to watch us, or just eating their sea shells on their tummies. Always diving just as we got them in photo frame!

Good by Glacier Bay National Park. We'll probably start heading South again from here. Alaska is huge and there is much to do, but this last month feels like we got an incredible sampler of what it has to offer.

Time to go back to warmer climes, and start thinking about my next blood screening so I get another 3 months' bill of health. (Fingers crossed)

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