Bartlett Cove to Swanson Harbor

We enjoyed a good night at anchor in Bartlett Cove. We rose to a pretty morning, bid farewell to Glacier Bay, and started the forty mile journey over to Swanson Harbor.

Saying goodbye to Barlett Cove. Left to right: The Lodge, the docks and the fuel dock.

We follow one of our fellow cruisers out of Glacier Bay

It is Friday, and as Swanson is a favorite spot for the local Juneau-ites, we wanted to get there early so we could find a place on one of the public floats. We ticked off the miles without much activity. We looked for whales, but except for a few spouts, there was not much exuberant activity to see. There was the occasional halibut fisherman, jigging on a pillar that rose to about 150 feet in the channel that averages over 600 feet.

Halibut fisherman punctuate Icy Strait

To our surprise, we did pass a raft of otters. As with most of their brethren, they gave us a look, but continued on with their lives without a care.

Pretty darn cute. But they just need to stop eating all the crabs.

When we arrived at Swanson, there were only two boats on one of the floats and the other float was empty. I set course for the uninhabited float and tucked Arctic Star at the end, with the bow set for an easy departure tomorrow. The floats at Swanson Harbor are humble but functional.

The tide was low and the water on the shore-side of the float looked very thin indeed. We have been assured by others who have done so, that there is plenty of water for a Grand Banks our size (draft 4.5 feet) to dock on the shore-side, but I happily chose the deeper side. The disadvantage of this side is that as the wind comes up from the west, you’re sitting abeam the fetch and you do get rocked a bit. Swanson Harbor is divided from the other rocky bay on Couverden Island by a ledge that is hugely visible at low tide and home to an eagle that simply sat and watched us, barely moving for the longest time.

The "other" float in Swanson Harbor at high tide

As time passed, the “locals” began to make their way to Swanson Harbor. Eventually five almost identical 27 foot boats tied up on our float. Out came the portable chairs, barbecues, coolers, and kayaks. The dogs, the beer, the kids — all added to the commotion that descended upon the previously serene docks. Having said that, the people were friendly and we shared a common love of the water and Alaska. Plus, I made their day by giving them soy sauce and fresh garlic to marinate their salmon.

Somewhere between the arrival of the first three small boats and the last two, a 72 foot Delta yacht decided to make our float his destination. He was definitely out of place. The other large boats in the harbor set their anchor on in the west side of the harbor, in the lee of the land. The captains of the small boats grumbled out loud a lot, insinuating that the large Delta did not belong on this float. Eventually, as the last small boat arrived, the small boat owners moved the large Delta to the bitter end of the float by walking it forward, and all were accommodated.

Full float at Swanson Harbor

Our time was split between relaxing and packing. We’ve found that if we spread out the packing over a day or two, it’s a lot less stressful. Nothing signals that your vacation is coming to an end as much as packing and cleaning up the boat. What I never understand how it seems that there is less room when you’re packing to return home even though you’ve not bought anything during the trip.

We broke up the afternoon by enjoying Alaskan Amber Ale up on the flybridge and taking in our last night on the boat in Alaska.

Captain Chef Bob at the helm galley

Dundas Bay to Snug Cove via Bartlett Cove, Glacier Bay

(Karen writes) As hoped, we awoke to some sunny breaks in the morning with a promise of a brightening day. Sometime during the late evening or early morn, a sailboat came into the same bay as ours, but anchored more toward the entrance in deeper water. As we prepared to depart, we were amazed how low the tide was – we had planned for it, but it always gets your attention when the depth sounder reads 10 feet. Dundas looked much more interesting in the sun, and there were tons of little islands worth returning to explore. I spotted a brown bear on the way out, but Bob wasn’t interested in picture taking because the bear was in the shade and wasn’t terribly distinctive from the background.

We knew we’d face favorable currents in Icy Strait as we headed for Glacier Bay, and we certainly did. We had hoped to see a bunch of whales at Point Carolus before entering the park boundary, but there were just a few, cruising around peacefully. We hailed the park rangers  to announce our intention to enter, and then rode favorable currents all the way to Bartlett Cove and the ranger station. We had to slow to idle and still were doing over 9 knots. We didn’t want to get to the docks too early, because you can only stay on the docks for 3 hours in 24, and our briefing wasn’t until 2pm!

The docks were quite luxurious and uncrowded when we arrived at noon. We tied up and filled the water tanks, which were depleted after doing some laundry and we figured it would be quicker than trying to regain the gallons with the watermaker. We then headed up to Glacier Bay Lodge, where Bob uploaded the blog and pictures for several days while I snooped around and downloaded a few updates for my Nook as well as purchasing a few more e-books given the wifi connection.

Bob updates this blog while enjoying the comforts of the lodge at Barlett Cove

Karen investigates the water supply on the docks

One of those "I was there" photos

"I was there too"

The docks at Bartlett Cove. Only the U.S. Government could build docks like this.

Bog, wide and you can drive a car on the docks. The pilings look as if there are designed for cruise ships.

We headed over to our briefing at 2pm with just one other boater. We saw a nice video (Taken on a sunny day or two – rare!) and reviewed the rules before deciding to depart for destinations north. To go north of Bartlett Cove, you need to pass through Sitakady Narrows, which can run at 7kts. That’s great if it’s in your favor and not so great if it’s against you. By leaving at 3, we were able to ride the last of the favorable current and not have to buck much adverse current. We saw lots of humpbacks along the way, and took a detour by South Marble Island (obeying the distance requirements, of course!) to see the sea lion haul out, which was quite something (and quite noisy). This haul out is full of immature males who apparently spend their time practicing how to be an alpha male, posturing and snorting and shoving each other around. It’s quite amusing to watch. We also saw a few puffins, but Bob wasn’t able to get a photo of them, so we will have to return on our way out of the bay. We also saw a large cruise ship departing the Bay, the Diamond Princess. It looked kind of like the Starship Enterprise, at least on the top deck. I can’t imagine that the passengers on the Princess get the same kind of wilderness experience that we do!

When the sun comes out, everying is beautiful!

Looking back to the docks and lodge at Bartlett Cove

Glacier Bay opens up before the bow of Arctic Star

Our original anchorage destination was North Fingers Cove, but given the sunshine and the decent timing, we changed it to Snug Cove in Geike Inlet. It was really beautiful and very alpine looking. The entrance was small and there was a long narrow channel to the head, which was a great bear beach with a fresh water stream and several waterfalls.  While definitely peaceful and well protected, the anchorage was deep, and we ended up in about 70 feet of water with a well-set anchor.

The sunset approaches in Snug Cove

By the time all was said and done, we had enough energy for me to make my famous Tuna Melts and enjoy a left over piece or two of cornbread…we enjoyed the sun as we wound down for the evening.