Departing Seward for Prince William Sound delivered two new milestones for the crew aboard Pendana. Prince William Sound was a place we had all read so much about, a place we had longed to visit, a place that being on a boat was a huge advantage but not without its challenges, a place where photographs seemed unreal, a place where nature was on show in its finest threads and a place often referred to as the jewel in earth’s crown.
Secondly we will be cruising in high latitude artic waters for the very first time. The Artic is the vast polar region surrounding the North Pole. It’s basically everything above 60 degrees N latitude, with the Arctic Circle itself being everything above 66.5 degrees N latitude.
Our run from Seward was uneventful and the seas were as flat as a pancake. As we departed Seward we were treated to a glimpse of Bear Glacier. The photo below hardly does this glacier justice. Some of the ice bergs you see in below photo, which are land locked due to the moraine, are the size of five story buildings. A moraine is the term used to describe any glacial rock and debris that is left behind once a glacier starts to retreat. In the photo below you can see that the ice bergs are in fact trapped behind a line of land i.e. the moraine. If one imagines the glacial ice pushing the rock and debris towards the water, when the glacier starts to retreat what is left is the moraine. Bear Glacier started its retreat in the 1600’s, well before the industrial revolution I might add!
As we continued our passage offshore, yet another glacier appeared, this time it was Excelsior Glacier again with its moraine in view.
We had planned for our first few days to drop the hook in Fox Farm Bay on Elrington Island and I am glad we did. What a spot but alas, still no bears!
As we entered the bay we noticed at least four whales in very shallow water (about 25ft) and wondered why they were here. Perhaps it was birthing season or perhaps they had just given birth but if that was the case, then where were the killer whales?
Among other things inside this tiny bay were otters, eagles, seagulls the size of mac trucks, fish and off course a float plane. What picturesque bay is not complete without a float plane!
We haven’t been in PWS terribly long but I can say this. If one were starting with a blank canvas one couldn’t create better scenery even with a thousand attempts. PWS truly is, beyond description. The English language fails dreadfully with respect to describing the majesty of this area or perhaps it’s my writing skills but either way I am struggling to put into words what lies in front of us. PWS’s scale is also very hard to photograph as photos fail to embrace the sheer size and scale, depth of colour and enormity of the place. PWS is the land of giants and as our small boat motors on through, we are but a dot that is easily missed in the vastness of the sound.
I decided that it was high time to let the drone I had bought a few years ago finally fly! The DJI Inspire 1 is a very capable little machine but would it survive in my hands. After having only a few test flights nearly two years ago I was somewhat apprehensive but as I used to fly rather large radio controlled jets many years ago, I thought, come on Ellingford how hard could it be?
The flight went to plan but landing the drone on the rear swim step of Pendana was no easy feat and something I won’t repeat again by choice – what was I thinking! Anyway happy to report that Drone made it back safely and I will upload the 4K video Bianca and I shot to YouTube in time. As the video is nearly 2GB this will have to wait until we have a stable 4G LTE connection. Here are a few still shots from the flight.
After two glorious days in Fox Farm Bay we decided to move to Mummy Bay on Knight Island while slowly but surely making our way north east towards the glaciers. The three hour trip was stunning and without incident and the scenery continues to impress beyond words even as the heavens opened, visibility reduced to under half a mile, winds picked up and the passage took on a mystical and somewhat magical, if not a little creepy feel about it, it was still picture perfect! Just goes to show how quickly the weather can change in the sound!
As we made our way through some of the island passages I was reminded how lucky we were, no time table, no rules, no traffic, no issues and nothing to do but to explore and enjoy the beauty of PWS.
After our usual two day visit, it was sadly time to move from Mummy Bay and while the weather was less than ideal during our time with rain and low cloud setting in, it was still a magical spot. Mummy Bay, a little used anchorage is an incredibly beautiful place with snow-capped mountains, waterfalls and wildlife galore all within an arm’s reach.
We left Mummy Bay and headed to Icy Bay where Tiger, Chenega and Tigertail Glaciers all live. Yes, that’s right, three glaciers in just a few miles! The day before the trip I overheard a conversation on the radio saying that Icy Bay was full of ice bergs and not passable. Emmmm….. I guess we should see for ourselves after-all not everything you read or hear is correct. For example, the Jim & Nancy Lethcoe cruising guide to PWS (referred to as the cruising bible for the area) states that we should have been anchored in 20mtrs of water with a mud bottom while in Mummy Bay, when in fact; we were in 27mtrs of water and on rock and stone bottom. Being on a rock bottom is less than ideal as the noise the anchor chain makes as the boat moves around is somewhat alarming. During our stay we had two anchor alarm systems in place and both nights I went up to the pilothouse a few times to make sure we were where we thought we were as it is always to be better safe, than sorry!
In the screenshot above you can see Pendana’s movement while at anchor in Mummy Bay. The red line is our track line as we moved about. The red line to the north of the circle is when we initially anchored and pulled back on the anchor to ensure it was set. You can see we had a few goes to make sure it was set properly. The man-over-board (MOB) graphic in the centre of the circle is where I estimate the anchor actually is during the anchoring process. When anchoring in 100ft of water, by the time your anchor leaves the boat to the time it hits the bottom can see most vessels move considerable distance, hence the use of the MOB option. Note: we do not free fall our anchor but prefer to lower it under hydraulic power.
Out little soiree to Icy Bay and the glaciers was, well, somewhat of a washout due to restricted visibility down to only a few hundred feet. This made spotting the bergs more difficult and as such our little jaunt much more dangerous. We did however see lots of floating ice and even some substantial little bergs but we couldn’t get close enough to the glacier to even see the wall of ice due to the inherent danger of proceeding in such weather conditions. Never mind, lots more opportunities to come.
I must say that what we did see was more than enough as we know that later this week we will be heading up some glacial passages where the really big boys, in terms of glaciers live. So fingers crossed the weather plays ball and we can get nice and close, but of course not too close as we do not want ten thousand tonnes of ice smashing on top of Pendana!
I thought, below may be of interest. The two images (below) represent the ECS view of where we are headed with the lower one representing what the actual human eye sees. You can see now what we were looking at as we exited Mummy Bay and headed towards the glaciers both in terms of our ESC and what our actual eyes had seen.
We are now anchored in a lovely little bay on Chenega Island. I still can’t tell you what the name of the bay is as I am yet to locate it (still googling it…and…..still nothing!).
We will move again tomorrow, some 40nms further north and into the area that is apparently truly beautiful. Folks say that the area we are headed for next makes the area we have just been in look entirely ordinary. Not sure we can take too much more beauty! My only hope is that the sun comes out as without the light taking decent photographs is not so easy!
Pendana in the news again! This time Pendana was in the Global Cruising Update from Nordhavn. The full article can be found HERE.
This now brings a close to part one of our PWS blogs. I could wax lyrical about what we have seen but instead I will simply say this. There is no doubt that this place is shaping up to be the jewel in earth’s crown but until we have explored more, I will hold off bestowing that honour just in case the sound, drops the ball and becomes mundane!
PS: Still no BEARS!!!!!