Wednesday, July 20, 2016

North Sawyer Glacier, Tracy Arm

This day was gorgeous, fun, a unique-for -us experience, and adrenaline-producing.  We raised the anchor at 8am, and Soulmates followed close behind. The bay outside the anchorage was littered with icebergs that calve off the glaciers and drift 24 miles down Tracy Arm. 

Continuing east, icebergs became more numerous, so we throttled back and steered more aggressively, remembering that 10% of an iceberg floats above water, and the rest is unseen below. We don't want a Titanic experience.

And then we came to understand the term "bergie bits", which our Captains training in 2012 in Florida didn't prepare us for.

These are much smaller remains of icebergs that have mostly melted, are clear instead of blue because there's no air in them, and depending on the lighting, they're almost impossible to see until very close. And sometimes a wave makes them suddenly pop up out of the water. The one above is 2 feet across, not big enough to sink a boat, but so hard they damage a prop if you run over them, or scrape up your gel coat. And they're so numerous in places that we traveled at idle speed (4mph) or even in neutral, bumping one engine at a time in and out of gear to be able to slowly steer a course between bergie bits. We even used reverse gear once, and occasionally thrusters, willing to damage them if necessary, but not our main props. Fortunately we went all day without hitting anything. Soulmates was 2-3 boat lengths behind, benefitting from the narrow but clear path Phoenix left.

Bob's long arms and strength were occasionally called upon to stand bow watch and "sweep" bergie bits away from the hull when there was no clear path.

Finally, North Sawyer Glacier (South Sawyer Glacier was completely packed in with ice, so no boats could go there).

Bob saw 3 large chunks of glacier calve off during the time we floated nearby. 

And then we headed west, back to the same anchorage, Soulmates leading the way and clearing a path for us this time. 24 miles each way took 9 hours round trip. Back at the anchorage, we rafted up with Soulmates, as they invited us for dinner. John is the chef.

He and his wife Sherrie own a 38-foot boat too, but are still working, so flew up to be guests on Ed and Sharon's boat for two weeks. 

What a trip!

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