This week’s cruise aboard the MV Catalyst was from Juneau to Petersburg, stopping at Wood Spit, North Dawes, Fords Terror, Sheldon Cove, West Brother, and Scenery Cove along the way.
We got underway on Sunday and it was just a little bumpy, so we pulled in to Snettisham bay for dinner, then continued on our way toward Endicott Arm. Night running is so fun – the boat sounds and feels different. No one was awake and luckily the wind calmed way down.
Bill and I were enjoying the beautiful night and remarking on every calm night running memory from working boat years – then almost at the same time we both realized that we were in iceberg country. We started staring at the radar and flashing the spotlight around; it seemed like they were all around us. Our depth perception was really screwy because we would spot one with the light and it would seem to be right on us, yet it would take a long time to reach us. It was nerve-wracking, but we made it through just fine.
We also overheard an amusing exchange on channel 16: one of those damn cruise ships hailed “the fishing vessel in Stevens Passage with the bright fishing lights: please extinguish while we pass.” A few minutes later, this groggy old fisherman’s voice came back really slow “Okay, so you’re drivin’ a whole city past me and you want me to put out my two 500-watt bulbs? Go [expletive] yourself.” Ha ha.
The next day, we changed our plan a little and went to North Dawes, which was great because we got to spend more time at the glacier. Then we took a short paddle, mostly for instructional purposes. Debby would only paddle every once in a while, and I held firm my orders to follow the pace of the front paddler, even if they don’t paddle. We just meandered around for a while, and it was really nice.
Our last stop before Petersburg was Scenery Cove, a very scenic cove near Baird Glacier. Every week, we anchor here and skiff to the tide flats below the glacier to hike up to the ice (and sometimes onto the ice). The tide flats and glacier make an amazing sight: it’s like a moonscape. The few trees that sprout and the rock piles left by the glacier get wiped out regularly by giant floods when ice dams break – or so I’ve been told. Well, after this week I am a firm believer of the ice dam theory.
On the way into a huge bay called Thomas Bay, the captain noticed the sea water temperature drop from 44˚ to 29˚. He figured that the gauge was busted and didn’t think much about it. At the same time, I was in the engine room checking gauges and watched the product gauge on the watermaker spike past the upper limit of our element’s capacity, so I turned down the pressure. I’m always adjusting the pressure so I don’t really think about it, and I always want to make more water with less pressure so I’m thinking this is just fine. These were just hints that something had changed.
So, we dropped the anchor, used the skiff to run everyone out for the glacier hike. The captain noticed more current than normal – another hint, but it still didn’t register as anything really unusual.
We have a carefully plotted course on the skiff’s GPS for getting into Baird Glacier, a course with little margin for deviation. The tide flats have many sandbars and big rocks and the drop-off point is about a mile up the fast moving right-side river. The skiff operator needs to run fairly quick to overcome the current and follow the GPS course exactly to make the landing.
This trip, we followed the procedure like usual – until we came to an awful halt on a sandbar. The guests all grabbed onto each other and the boat, and I really worried that we removed the lower end of our outboard motor (we didn’t).
Only then did all the hints add up: the cold water, the current, even the high product flow from the watermaker.
The captain and I exchanged a look that we have never had to use before. It was the “oh my god, is the outboard okay, are we the right spot, holy crap, would the chef be able to save us, can you believe something let go up on beard glacier, I knew something was different” look.
This is all we talked about while we were in Petersburg, and we learned that three-and-a-half days before we got there, there was a huge flood, which created a ten-foot standing wave as the contents of a lake formed somewhere up on Baird Glacier spilled out into Thomas bay. It was enough water to make the entire tidal seawater bay completely fresh and cold.
I wish I could have seen it when it let go, but I’m really glad I wasn’t there when it did.
Here’s the numbers for trip #17:
hours underway: 39
hours on main: 40.8
hours on the generator: 34
hours on the water maker: 27
miles traveled: 208
gallons of fuel used: 211
gallons of water made: 810
gallons of gas used: 8
gallons of propane: 7
gallons of lube oil: 6
And here’s a fun recipe from the Catalyst‘s galley:
Mini Pecan Pies
1 1/2 stick butter
2 cup flour
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 tsp salt
Mix together and press into a 9″ x 13″ baking pan
2 cups pecans
1 sticks butter
1 cup brown sugar
1/3 cup honey
2 tbsp cream
Mix together and spread over the base. Bake until bubbling, about 20 minutes; cool and cut into squares.