Ford’s Terror

Aboard the kayak mothership Home Shore, we travel from Petersburg to Sitka, paddling in Endicott Arm, Ford’s Terror, West Chichagof, Taylor Bay and other Southeast Alaska locations.

Home Shore in Thomas Bay, Alaska.

Home Shore in Thomas Bay, Alaska.

July, 2006. Petersburg, Alaska. We motored out of Petersburg under gray skies, heading north aboard the Home Shore – my 8th, and, as it turned out, wettest tour aboard the mothership. A zig-zag course across Frederick Sound gave the six guests good views of Humpback Whales that blew and flashed their enormous tails. As we approached the Brothers – a scenic island group with good anchorage – we discovered Humpbacks feeding singly, and each was followed by a flock of newly-arrived Red-necked Phalaropes, on July 7th already in migration. The birds followed the disappearing tails for the stirred waters that contained herring remains, perhaps dead whale skin or other bits of food on which to feed.

Home Shore Galley: Capt. Jim Kyle, guest and breakfast

Home Shore Galley: Capt. Jim Kyle, guest and breakfast

A goal of the trip was to paddle Ford’s Terror, a branch of Endicott Arm named for the explorer who entered the gorge and was unwittingly trapped there by a building tidewater rapids. Our third night out we anchored at the entrance. In the morning, I paddled over to have a look as the ebb roared out, driven by a 16 ft tidal swing. Three hours later, we paddling in on the slack into a narrow, glacial-carved, granite canyon with walls that rise to 5,000 feet – a Yosemite of overhung rock and glistening cascades of water. It was spellbinding. As John Muir put it in Travels in Alaska, “A grander array of rocks and waterfalls I have never yet beheld in Alaska.” Unlike the broader Endicott and Tracy Arms, Ford’s Terror no longer has glaciers that reach tidewater. A few miles in, the canyon splits, with both forks inviting. We paddled right, and took a lunch break above a second tidal rapids that was flowing about 6 or 7 knots into a lovely chasm. We soaked in the views and lingered. Too soon, we hopped into the kayaks, paddling reluctantly back to the mothership before the ebb built to a “terror” at the entrance.

Home Shore will offer cruises in Glacier Bay next spring, as well as its usual itinerary out of Sitka.

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Posted in Adventure, Kayak Mothership, Sea Kayaking