Sunday, June 9, 2013

Tracy Arm cove to Ford’s Terror 26 miles

I read about Ford’s terror a few years ago and it was top of the list of places to visit on this trip. Ford’s Terror is a short arm off Endicott arm. Its waters are uncharted and it has a narrow entrance with rocks and a reputation for fearful rapids at this entrance. I think the name also fosters a certain curious foreboding. Once inside it is said to be wondrous. A narrow channel carves its way through mountains reportedly 9000 feet high that rise vertically from the deep water. Here is what one guide book’s description of the place:

1,000 steps waterfall

Although Ford’s Terror shows up on charts as an unsurveyed indentation on the north side of Endicott arm, skippers with a penchant for exploring can hardly resist its call. Ford’s terror was reportedly named in 1889 for a crew member of the Patterson who entered the narrows, got caught inside and spent a terrifying 6 hours until the tide reversed. Not much data exists on Ford’s Terror, and since it is extremely remote and has negligible radio reception cruising boats seldom visit it. (Exploring Southeast Alaska by Don Douglass.)

To enter Ford’s terror one has to transit the narrows at high water slack. Slack water times are not published and reports vary between 40 minutes and 2 hours. We decided to play it safe and get to the entrance at high water and wait and see when slack water was by watching the flow. We navigated close to the north east wall by a waterfall and dropped the anchor in 40ft over lose rock. We dragged a bit and then as the current slowed we caught. We waited watching icebergs getting taken through the narrows at a rate of knots. By 30 minutes past high tide the bergs were stationary in the narrows and we decided to go for it. Navigating past some reported rocks we weaved our way through the narrows with about 20ft of water below us. Once clear we were rewarded with a breathtaking scene as we motored up the channel. I can only describe the place as being like something created by a divine being with carte blanche to shape spectacular formations: Hundreds of waterfalls flow down black granite walls rising thousands of feet. Hanging glaciers, lush forest, surreal water colours. More waterfalls that carve deep into the granite and run down a thousand even steps. It is simply the most spectacular place I have ever been lucky enough to visit.      
We anchored precariously in the west arm in 80 foot of water but swinging to 30ft of water near the mud flats. I should have taken an anchor to shore to stop us swinging into deeper water but we seemed pretty settled and there were no other boats to worry about swinging into.
We spent the next couple of days exploring the inlet, kayaking to the base of the waterfalls, watching eagles hunting and devouring their prey, and bears feeding on the shore and just sitting there taking in the amazing view. It was also Jude’s birthday which we celebrated in very modest fashion, decorating the boat and toasting to her good health with a glass, or two, of tequila. Wilderness birthday.

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