Voyages North

11 July 2021 | Posted in Seattle
10 April 2020 | Posted in Seattle
30 August 2019 | Posted at Port MCNeill
13 August 2019 | Posted at Prince Rupert
03 August 2019 | Posted at Ketchikan
02 August 2019 | posted in Metlakatla AK
22 July 2019 | Posted at Klawock/Craig
09 July 2019 | Posted at Juneau
09 July 2019 | Posted at Juneau

Swanson Harbor, intersection of Icy Strait and Lynn Canal. July 12, 2019

22 July 2019 | Posted at Klawock/Craig
Elsie Hulsizer
Photo: Swanson Harbor with two moorage floats.

We wove Osprey through a series of rocks, reefs and ledges topped with vicious serrated ridges. Just looking at them made me shudder but we had visited Swanson Harbor twice before on our way to Glacier Bay, and knew it provided good shelter. This visit would give us more time to explore the bay.

We rounded the final corner into the harbor. Two isolated floats set parallel to the shore provided moorage. It was early in the day so there was still space for us to tie up. We chose what looked like the newer of the floats, with metal pilings and a sturdy wooden platform. A large catamaran sailboat was already tied up there and one of its owners came over to take our line.

When we first started cruising in Alaska, the concept of floats without ramps to shore puzzled me. What was the point? But the floats give boaters places to tie up safely, a chance to socialize with other boaters and extra space to just move around. And not being attached to land makes the floats safe from bears --and saves on construction costs. Building ramps that connect to shore is very expensive with Alaska's large tide range.

Once we were tied up, I took time to look around. As with most Alaska harbors, Swanson Harbor is larger than it appears on the chart. A large rock occupied the center but left space for a whole fleet to anchor. Bright green sea grass backed with dark green spruce trees fringed much of the shore.

Eager to do more exploring, I got in the dinghy and rowed to the nearest beach, a high tide bar that separates the harbor from another bay.

The beach was steep, making it easy to pull the dinghy high enough to ensure it wouldn't float away. I hiked up to the top. Acres of sea asparagus stretched off towards the next harbor. In the center of that harbor a sailboat was anchored, surrounded by impressive looking rocks. Rocks, bars and islands were everywhere. I was looking at the remains of an old terminal moraine from a glacier long gone. Nothing else could explain the interlocking bays and bars. Swanson Harbor was a destination in itself. Not just a place to stop enroute to Glacier Bay.

I walked towards the nearest island. Beyond the sea asparagus stretched a line of beach grass, beyond the beach grass a thicket of thimble berries and beyond the thimble berries a stand of tall spruce trees.

While I was exploring, three additional boats had arrived and tied up. I returned to the dinghy. It was time to meet our new neighbors.

To see where Swanson Harbor is, search for Swanson Harbor, Alaska on Google Maps.
Vessel Name: Osprey
Vessel Make/Model: Annapolis 44 sloop
Hailing Port: Seattle
Crew: Steve and Elsie Hulsizer (author of Glaciers, Bears and Totems and Voyages to Windward)
Elsie and Steve Hulsizer have sailed northwest waters since arriving in Seattle via sailboat from Boston in 1979. [...]
2019 Seattle to SE Alaska 2018 San Juan Islands to Great Bear Rainforest 2017: local cruising including South Puget Sound and San Juan Islands 2016:north up West Coast VI, across QC Sound to central BC coast 2015: trip to SE Alaska 2014: Seymour and Belize Inlets through Nakwakto Rapids 2013: [...]
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