Back to Esther Passage

Where Next?
Bob Williams
Wed 29 Oct 2014 05:47
Position: 60 55.72 N 148 01.82 W
At anchor Esther Inlet
Wind: East F1 light air
Sea: calm Swell: nil
Weather: clear, cold
Day's run: 38 nm (all under motor)

As reported earlier, I have achieved the goal I set myself for our visit to Prince William Sound, namely to get as far north as possible and to see the Harvard Glacier.

The forecast for today was once again for light winds, which, while it meant a lot of motoring for the day, was ideal for negotiating ice and getting up close to the face of the glacier. We got under way from Coghill Bay at 09.15 and then settled in for a long stint of motoring. As we got closer to the glacier the amount of ice increased, mostly brash ice and small bergy bits, certainly nothing big enough to be classified as an iceberg, or a growler for that matter, but lumpy enough to cause me to slow down and weave through the paths of open water.

At 12.30 we had made it through to a clear area close to Harvard Glacier's face. Here I shut the engine down and had lunch in the way of a break from standing behind the wheel for three hours. Despite wearing two pairs of socks as well, as a pair of neoprene socks over them, and my rubber boots, and stomping and jogging on the spot, my toes got painfully cold. As I sat, ate, and watched the glacier I could hear deep rumbles, like distant thunder, coming from within the glacier, and the occasional cracking sound, as the stresses built up in the glacier as it slid down the mountainside were released. I confess, despite being about half a mile away from the glacier, it made me feel a little nervous.

With lunch complete and our position posted to the blog, I started the engine and settled in for the long motor back. A second glacier, the Yale, also emptied into College Fjord, and it seemed in the short time that we had loitered the amount of ice between the Harvard Arm and clear water out in College Fjord had built up significantly. I found I had to take a different way out then the way we had come in, which had been pretty much up the middle. Instead I biased our track over to the eastern side of the fjord, as it seemed the light wind and tide had pushed much of the ice clear from this side. While I was confident that we would not have any problems making our way through the ice, I was nonetheless relieved when we passed abeam of Coghill Point and left the ice behind us.

With a couple of hours of daylight left I decided to make the most of the calm conditions and continue motoring to make for Esther Passage, where we arrived just as the sun was setting behind the mountains. At 18.00 I dropped the anchor in ten meters of water just inside the western entrance to the passage.

A highlight of my day, apart from getting up close to the glacier, was some of the wildlife we saw along the way. There are a lot of sea otters in these waters. Often they are in pairs, and when they are they are very intimate, in near constant contact with one another, continuously rolling over each another, and sharing their meals as they float on their backs side by side. But today for some reason most of the sea otters I saw were single, so this must be the bachelor part of the sound. At one point, early in the day, I saw a brown object that initially I thought might have been a bear swimming across the Fjiord, as it was too high out of the water to be a sea otter, but of course I was highly sceptical of this possibility and on closer inspection through the binoculars I discovered that it was in fact a sea otter, lying on its back on a piece of ice, with just its tail in the water propelling itself along, for all the world like a tourist floating on a li-lo basking in the tropical sunshine. The otter looked curiously at Sylph as I looked curiously at it,, and it was indeed a most comical sight.

Other wildlife included what I once again assume were small grebes. They are almost impossible to make a positive identification on as they are very small birds that as we got anywhere near them would simply disappear under water. These I spotted mostly on the way back and they made beautiful slashes of silver in the water, as they swan in line abreast trying to get away from monstrous Sylph bearing down upon them, from the reflections of the low sun behind them. Then they would submerge and the slash of silver would dissolve into the flat still water. We were also treated to a group of seals swimming by, presumably Stellars, as my guide book tells me that the other type of seal in the sound, the harbor seal, swim singly. These are the first Stellar seals that I have seen in the sound. Also a pod of Dall porpoises came out to ride Sylph's bow wave as we passed Point Pakenham.

My plan for tomorrow is not entirely clear at this point. I want to make my way over to the eastern side of the sound to Cordova, a distance of about 70 miles. Tomorrow and Thursday's forecast is for north and north easterly winds, not ideal, but on Friday the wind is strong out of the east for a few days, so really we want to get there by Thursday evening. I will try to make an early start and see how we go.

Once at Cordova we will wait for a weather window that will allow us to head east to the inside passage. This might mean that we will be waiting for quite a long time, as the prevailing winds at this time of year are mostly from the east, and often strong, and the longer we wait the less likely such a weather window will become, and of course it is getting colder all the time. Not to worry, I figure the worst that could happen is that we might end up wintering over in Cordova. Brrr!

All is well.