In our latest destinations installment courtesy of‘s Jim Burgoyne, we discover the magic of Southeast Alaska’s Tracy Arm.

Our crew was new to chasing glaciers, of course, but our expectations were not so high that we could get a decent view of Tracy Arm’s North or South Sawyer Glaciers.

A few days before, in La Conte Bay, we had battled icebergs the size of pickup trucks, literally to a standstill, far from where we could get a view of its glacier. Try as we might, we could not find a way past the clogged ice that blocked the final turn in the twisting fjord, allowing us to see the wall of ice which clearly was calving bergie bits at an aroused heart rate. And the sound of ice grinding against our fiberglass hull added chilling images of Titanic misadventures to our imaginations.

Berg sits outside our anchorage as we enter Tracy Arm.

So we didn’t know how in heaven we would get to see the glaciers up narrow Tracy Arm. Surely they would be blocked as well.

We had arrived at Tracy Arm’s Entrance Cove in the late afternoon after sailing up Stephens Passage. Since leaving Foggy Bay, our first landfall in Alaska, we have experienced pretty good sailing with mostly southwesterly winds. There was some motoring, but with the exception of one unpleasant morning in Frederick Sound, off Petersburg, there had been little pounding into wind and waves.

We overnighted in Entrance Cove, the best anchorage in Tracy Arm. Holding, depths and swing room are excellent, and bergs occasionally float past the entrance. Some cruisers opt instead for the head of William Cove, 5nm north, but finding good depth and holding can reportedly involve much frustration.

We set off early the next morning for the glaciers at the head of Tracy Arm. No matter how early, Rob, our new crew, would bounce out of bed without complaint to attend to the piling chain in the bow chain locker, knocking over the galvanized heap with aplomb.

Some 90 percent of this berg remains under water.

At the first corner we encountered a cruise ship, with likely thousands of passengers having eggs over easy with wedges of bacon and melty cinnamon buns while watching through walls of glass as we sailed by in our Dinky Toy far below.

Around the elbow, the arm turned inland into a narrowing, ice-polished mountain valley. Photos do not do justice to the smooth, glistening rock. Waterfalls everywhere. Rob said that in the last couple days he had seen more waterfalls than he had in his lifetime.

Smallish icebergs began to populate some 20nm in, nearing Sawyer Island, where Tracy Arm forks north to the North Sawyer Iceberg or continues east for 5nm to its southern cousin. We took the southern route, zigzagging around and between the chunks of ice, sometimes getting a little too close to shore.

Robert captures the towering walls of Tracy Arm.

Then we came to the head, and into view came a kilometer-wide skyscraper of blue ice, that you could sail up to as close as you dared, which wasn’t all that close given that the glacier rumbled, echoing across the bath, threatening to drop an office-building-size piece of ice on us.

A powercat, with maybe fifty tourists aboard, came into the bay. Along with the cruise ship it was one of only two other boats we would see that day. It was fun to watch the tourists up on deck and know that photos of Silom, dwarfed by the South Sawyer, would likely be emailed far and wide, and maybe be held by magnets to a few refrigerators.

Getting away was not so easy. The ice floes seemed to have more closely congealed at the entrance to the bay and we had to thump against a few more little bergs to push our way out. But we did so without too much drama.

At Sawyer Island we turned north up the narrow channel to visit the other glacier. This glacier is huge, spread over several mountains, but has retreated slightly from the water’s edge and has virtually stopped calving into the sea, so bergs were not a worry.

But there were waterfalls that delivered brownish, finely crushed ice into the sea. All around the water was filled with Coke-flavored Slurpees. Mmmm, maybe I will pass.

The further north we go, the more the Alaska we expected and hoped to see is unfolding in front of us. It just gets better and better.

Rob (left) and I, posing for Lynne after returning to the anchorage at the entrance to Tracy Cove, look a tad older than the kids who grew up together at a lake east of Winnipeg.

Note: This post was originally published on and is courtesy of the authors.