Fords Terror. June 20-22, 2011
27 June 2011 | posted at Juneau
Photo: entrance to Fords Terror
As I watched a small cruise ship steam by us in Fords Terror after it passed across the bar and through the narrows, I realized that Alaskan boaters don’t fear Fords Terror; it’s only us out-of-staters that make a big deal of it. I speculated that for Alaskan boaters, perhaps Fords Terror is just like Seymour Narrows: no big deal if you time it right
The best estimate of high-water slack at Fords Terror, as reported by Don Douglass, is about an hour after high water slack at Juneau.
In 2008 we got a good perspective on what happens when you go through at sometime other than near high-water slack. We arrived two hours after high-water slack at Juneau and just barely made it through. With the boat at full throttle (6.5 knots through the water) we were inching through the narrows. A few minutes later and we might not have made it at all. In the narrow entrance turning is impossible, we were lucky we didn’t end up on the rocks.
This time we were determined to be on time. We left Dawes with plenty of time to get to Fords Terror at high-water slack -- so much time we got there an hour early - exactly at high-water slack at Juneau instead of an hour after. We circled the outer basin wondering what to do. We could see the entrance, the current was running but it looked smooth.
“Let’s just go,” said Steve. “At least the current will be with us.”
We found the double waterfall (actually a quadruple waterfall on that day), lined up our stern with it, pointed the bow 290 Magnetic and headed in. We knew rocks were on either side of us but we couldn’t see them. Currents swirled around us but the ride was smooth. In a few minutes we were inside. It had been easy if a bit nerve-wracking.
We left the anchorage a day and a half later at the morning high-water slack. This time we went through almost exactly an hour after high-water slack at Juneau. But instead of slack water, the current had already turned and was ebbing. We had 2 knots of currents with us crossing the bar after the entrance.
We noted later that the cruise ship and a large fantail yacht that came in the second evening there appeared to be trying for about twenty minutes after high water at Juneau
So we didn’t ever hit the “right time,” but entrance and exit was still easy. Maybe that’s the secret -- knowing that you can’t possibly time it right but if you make your best guess -- between high-water slack at Juneau and an hour later-- whatever current you have will be something you can handle.