There are knots in my stomach as we pull anchor at Tracy Arm Cove. Last year we took a left and cruised up the Tracy Arm to North and South Saywer Glaciers. Today we are taking a right and heading to Fords Terror 22 miles up the Endicott Arm of Holcomb Bay. This fiord is named after a naval crew member of the USS Patterson named Ford. Apparently, he transited the narrows in 1889 in his row boat to explore the bay. The current soon picked up and he was trapped inside for six terrorizing hours waiting on the strong tidal rapids to reverse. We time our departure to arrive at the narrow entrance point of Fords Terror at high slack tide. This is the only time we can safely enter. Currents can reach velocities of up to 15 knots with 3-4 ft. standing waves. We have transited rapids before but this one has additional challenges. There are no accurate charts of the boulder strewn inlet but we do have detailed entry instructions from several other cruisers. The narrow section contains several uncharted rocky shoals that we must avoid. Adding to the difficulty, the pinch point makes a dog leg and you can not see around the bend. Reports say ice bergs can sometimes be floating in the current. The timing of slack is also a challenge. Variables such as amount of rainfall and the phase of the moon tremendously influence the timing. Slack can vary up to two hours based on Juneau tides. We will arrive early and try to make a judgement call of when slack occurs. The two Krogens Frances Stroughton and Pacific Sapphire are joining us as we continue our mini Krogen Rendezvous from Pack Creek. It is reassuring to have two other boats along as we will be in very remote areas with no VHF or cell service. Dick and Bridget were in Fords Terror last year so we let them lead the way.

Our trip starts out a little daunting as ice bergs from the Dawes Glacier at the head of Endicott Arm are swirling in our path as we cross the shallow Endicott Bar. Several small bergs are swept past us with the current and come within several feet of our bow. We have a great view of the Sumdum Glacier on this bright sunny day. It is a beautiful cruise up the Endicott Fjord but we must be on constant lookout for ice bergs lurking under the milky colored glacier water.

Arriving at the narrows, we scan with our binoculars to see whitewater still flooding into the inlet. Good, better to be early than late. After about an hours wait, the the water turns calm. It’s time to enter. Our charts are of little use here.

We call a “ securite ” before entering in case there are any boats exiting around the blind bend. Per other cruisers instructions, we line up our stern with the big double waterfall and travel a strait line path. This track should miss the shoals on both sides. Our charts show a rock in the center of our path but reports say it is not there. Let’s hope they are correct. The milky glacial water offers no views of what lies below. We do see kelp on our starboard side marking the shallow water. The narrows are flat calm as we round the narrow bend. Below is photo of the narrows when the current is running strong. This is why we travel only at slack tide.

We are soon rewarded with some of the most stunning scenery of any place we have cruised. The steep granite walls rise straight up from the water on both sides of the fjord. Dozens of waterfalls cascade down the glacier scraped walls into the milky green water.

Our anchorage for the next several days lies four miles north at the fjords head. The anchorage here is deep. We anchor in 107 feet and are only a few hundred feet from the tidal mud flat. The view from the stern of our boat is a 500 ft. waterfall that originates from snowfields above. The mudflat transitions into a grass meadow where we hope to spot bear, dear, or moose. Our anchorage is a bowl surrounded by 3000 ft. snow capped mountain peaks on all sides. Possibly the most beautiful spot we have ever anchored.

Three days are spent enjoying this beautiful anchorage that we have all to ourselves. After setting out the shrimp traps, we all head out in the dinghies for some exploration. A four mile trip back to the rapids is our first stop. The currents are still running too strong for the dinghies to get through safely. We find a spot on a small beach to leave the dinghies and climb up and over one of the cliffs to get a glimpse of the entrance. Lots of blueberries are on the bushes and bear signs are evident. Here is a view of the entrance looking out. You can see the waterfall that we lined up with on the far side. We are only 30 minutes before slack and there are still some whirlpools and currents.

We next head back down the bay checking out some of the many waterfalls.

The east arm of our anchorage contains a second set of rapids. It is too shallow to transit in Idyll Time but at high slack the dinghies have no problem. We must watch our time though as we wouldn’t want to be trapped here when the currents pick up again.

Inside we find another beautiful bay with granite peaks on all sides. At the head of the bay is a large mountain stream which we find deep enough to explore. High on the cliffs we spot some moving white dots. They are mountain goats grazing on the cliffs. How they maintain their footing on the steep sided slopes is truly amazing.

Over our three days at anchor, we spot both brown and black bears grazing along the shores each evening. While kayaking one evening, I came upon this porcupine at the waters edge. He allowed me to get within a few feet and didn’t seem to know I was there.

We collected over 100 shrimp during our three days which we enjoyed during happy hour with our Krogen friends. Fords Terror turned out to be no terror at all but a complete delight.

The three Krogens were having so much fun together that we decided to extend our mini rendezvous for a few days of halibut fishing. After a pinky swear, we led them to one of our secret halibut holes. All three boats caught several halibut over the two days.

A celebration was in order with a halibut dinner aboard Idyll Time capped off with fresh made brownies and ice cream. We will all make our way to Petersburg tomorrow as another low is heading towards the Gulf of Alaska. Thanks for following along.

1 thought on “Fords Terror

  1. Wow, what a beautiful spot. And Summer 2020 certainly was not busy. You were so fortunate to have stored the boat in AK! We are hoping for a RV Alaska tour in July/August if the border opens in BC. Thanks for sharing all the wonderful photos and recaps of all the areas you visit.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.