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Old 04-29-2016, 11:18 AM   #1
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Glacier Bay

Hello everyone- we will be traveling to Alaska in a Nordhavn 55 for the first time this summer. Would like to check out Glacier Bay. How many nights does everyone recommend for Glacier Bay? Also, anyone have any experience with how best to get a permit? Do they like short stays of 2-3 nights? Are there particular dates for which we will never get a permit? Thanks again.

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Old 04-29-2016, 02:49 PM   #2
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go to the website for a permit. You have to apply for permit no sooner than 60 days prior to your entry. I think you can apply for up to 5 days but the specs are on the website. You have to download the form and fax or electronically submit it with your preferred entry dates. I have been in there once and three days and nights were enough for us then. I'm planning another trip with guests this season also and don't plan on longer than three days in the park at most.

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Old 04-29-2016, 07:50 PM   #3
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The website says you can stay for 7 days and I would recommend you apply for the maximum stay just in case you are enjoying this beautiful place. I've been there twice and it has always been the highlight of our Alaskan cruise. There is no problem if you want to leave early which would allow someone without a reservation to use those days.

The five stages of life: Sailboats, Motorboats, Motor Homes, Nursing Home, Funeral Home.
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Old 04-29-2016, 08:00 PM   #4
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Originally Posted by windmist View Post

The website says you can stay for 7 days and I would recommend you apply for the maximum stay just in case you are enjoying this beautiful place. I've been there twice and it has always been the highlight of our Alaskan cruise. There is no problem if you want to leave early which would allow someone without a reservation to use those days.

We had a 7 day pass and stayed for 3 or 4 days which I think is a good minimum if you can swing it. Marjorie is effectively a 2 day run from Bartlet Cove with an overnight and other destinations along the way. So figure two days up and two days back. Less than that and you have to start cutting things out.

Windmist, weren't we anchored together in Reid Inlet last summer?
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Old 04-29-2016, 08:34 PM   #5
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We'll be in Icey Strait on May 14th (but won't enter Glacier Bay) on our way from Sitka to Ketchikan via Norwegian Sun.
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Old 04-29-2016, 08:38 PM   #6
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We've visited Glacier Bay many times. Here's an excerpt from my book on small power boat cruising of the Inside Passage:

For many cruisers a visit to Glacier Bay is a lifetime goal. Sitting right in front of a tidewater glacier in your own little boat, watching 100-200 foot chunks of ice calving into the sea, is an experience never to be forgotten. And critter-watching is super.

Chart: Chart 17318

Cruising Glacier Bay is no trivial undertaking. It is a very big place, and with its huge snow-covered mountains has some of the most challenging weather in Southeast. Distances are great, anchorages are few, and there are several restrictions.

Only 25 boats are allowed in Glacier Bay at a time, and you need an entry permit. Many cruisers make reservations ahead of time, and then find that weather or other difficulties make their schedule unworkable.

From our experience, the best way to get a permit may be waiting to call Park HQ at Bartlett Cove until you’re close by (say at Hoonah or in Icy Strait), and the forecast for the next few days looks reasonable. For best odds, call right at 6 AM (they’re open 6 AM - 10:30 PM) on either (907) 697-2627 or VHF 12. Chances are fairly good that a cancellation has freed up a permit, and you can take advantage of it if you’re nearby and ready. If no permit is available, ask again later – they don’t mind.

You’ll need a minimum of two days in Glacier Bay to make it to and from the Margerie Glacier. The Margerie, at the top of Glacier Bay some 60 miles from the entrance, is a spectacular and active calving glacier. You can get fairly close to its face, some 200-300 feet high. On the way north, the Lamplugh and Johns Hopkins glaciers are spectacular as well. With a third or fourth day, you could see quite a bit more, at a less frantic pace, and have better odds of dealing with uncooperative weather.

To start your Glacier Bay excursion, stop in at Park HQ and attend an orientation on do’s and don’ts. As of 2008 the lecture was given only at pre-scheduled times, so you’ll want to plan your first day accordingly. You might try entering the park very early, calling Bartlett Cove to check in when you cross the boundary. Tie up at the float, and catch the 8AM orientation (bring your National Geographic map of the Bay so you can see details). With good weather, you should be able to make it a good part of the way north, to an anchorage at North Sandy Cove, Blue Mouse Cove, or in front of the glacier in Reid Inlet.

Parts of the bay are considered whale waters, where boat speed is limited to 13 knots. Even with a fast boat, you’ll find that first day pretty full, getting through the entry process and on to an anchorage, unless you anchor right there in Bartlett Cove (the float’s limited to a three-hour stay, except for dinghies). If you do anchor in Bartlett Cove, be aware that it’s open to the west, and can get pretty lumpy in a west wind. You could also anchor at Fingers Bay without traveling too far – but remember to enter very carefully.

From North Sandy, Blue Mouse, or Reid, you could head north the next morning, spend 2-4 hours at the Margerie Glacier, and come back south to anchor again. As you slowly approach the glacier through fields of bergy bits, keep a sharp lookout for small ones called “growlers”, only a foot or a few feet long, and often nearly clear. These weigh more than you might guess, and can give your boat or your prop quite a thump. The smaller ones make great ice for the cooler.

If you get back to Bartlett Cove for your last evening, and are out of permit days, the following morning you can call and obtain a “transit permit” to leave the park that day.

If the weather sounds intimidating, or you’re able to get only one or two permit days, a nice way to see Glacier Bay is the Fairweather Express tour boat, operated by the park lodge.

For about $180 per person (2008), you can have a wonderful day tour, seeing some of the finest glaciers and lots of wildlife, with a friendly crew and on-board naturalist. For us, one ticket cost about the same as touring the bay in our own boat.

Even with only a single day’s permit, you could still enter Glacier Bay, get your orientation, and then anchor in Bartlett Cove. The next day, leaving your boat at anchor, row your dinghy in to the float (motor vessels may not be operated without a permit for that day) and catch the tour boat. On the third day, call for a transit permit when you’re ready to go, and exit the park.

If Glacier Bay doesn’t work out for your cruise, an excellent alternative is the Tracy Arm of Holkham Bay, south of Juneau on the east side of Stephens Passage. In fact, you might want to give it a tour even if you’ve already been to Glacier Bay. It’s a particularly beautiful steep-sided fjord, with two tidewater glaciers, lots of icebergs, far less challenging conditions, and few of the complications of Glacier Bay.

And another thought or two on getting close to glaciers:

When you're approaching the glacier, and get into a bunch of floating ice, go slow and keep your eyes peeled. Smaller chunks, a few few across, can be almost transparent, and weigh enough to give you quite a thump, and/or damage your prop. We try to avoid getting very close at all to the bigger ones, 5-10 feet across or bigger. 90% of the bergy is below the water, and they sometimes have parts sticking out to the side underwater that you don't see. Don't get very close at all to the really big ones - the part below the water is always melting, and they can suddenly lose their balance and roll over.

Sometimes it takes us an hour or more to go the last mile or two closest to the glacier, traveling at 3 knots or less. If you get to a place where there's no clear way through a line a small bergy bits, you could put her in neutral and coast slowly through the ice. A few minor bumps won't hurt you, and if the prop is not turning it likely won't be damaged. Also, if the tide starts coming in while you're well inside fields of floating ice, it could start to pack the bergies in around you - so stay aware, and don't get trapped.

Richard Cook
Dream Catcher (Nordic Tug 37)
New Moon (Bounty 257, Volvo KAD44P)
"Cruising in a Big Way"
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Old 04-29-2016, 10:19 PM   #7
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Went to Glacier Bay in 72. No rules or permits at all. We spent the night on Marble Is. right about in the middle of GB. Built a nice big fire on the beach. Myself and two or three women. Three I think. My girlfriend, her sister and a 10 year old. I remember it well. There was a nice moon and beautiful reflection in the mirror calm water late that night. I rowed the SportYack (dinghy) out to the boat and the girls just slept in sleeping bags on the beach. The high tide got a bag or two a bit wet.

Absolutely no comparison to watching TV in an anchored yacht. Sure wish I could show the picture I took of the moonlight reflection on the water. Used a 2 1/4 camera on a tripod.

North Western Washington State USA
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Old 04-29-2016, 10:26 PM   #8
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I have been in the bay numerous times and recommend the bay tour boat for your first visit. This will provide an orientation to the bay and assist in planning the next few days in the bay. The Rangers may caution you about bears, please pay attention. We have had several beach picnics moved back aboard thanks to the Bears. If you have a day or two wait to enter the bay consider a visit to Hoonah and take a ride on the world's longest zip line. It does not disappoint. Point Adolphaus near Hoonah often has great humpback whale watching.

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