We had a very wobbly departure from Seward. When coming out of the bay, there was suddenly this swell that greeted us. It caused the Veendam to pitch considerably. There had been nothing in the weather forecast and only after we had experienced the large swells (up to 16 feet) it finally showed in the weather charts when the new carts were published. It turned out that a wave system caused by a Mid Pacific storm had ventured further north than had been anticipated by the meteorologists. Sometimes Mother Nature can still surprise the scientists. During the night the waves abated more and more by mid morning there was only a very long and low swell running that did not really affect us.
I had the Veendam going full out. It is a bit of a tight schedule to the Hubbard glacier as it has been laid out of average speeds and the ice flows might not make it possible to maintain those average speeds so I try to built up a bit of “plus” that can be spend at the glacier. During the morning we could see the sun shining on the Fairweather mountain range on the portside and that bode well for good glacier viewing. We arrived early at the pilot station but as I had forewarned them, the pilot, Ed and Ted and a park ranger were all waiting to step on board. After briefly slowing down for the pilot boat the Veendam was flying again towards the glacier. This time we could see Hubbard glacier from about 20 miles away. Cold air and the sheer size of Hubbard (it is about 6 miles wide and goes for about 50 miles inland and up the mountains) made it possible to see the Glacier even from outside the bay.
About 10 miles from the Glacier we came across the first band of ice, a north westerly wind was pushing the ice to open water. Luckily the concentration was not too thick and I could push through it with about 10 knots of speed. It was quite a nice sight, as the ocean swell reached all the way up the bay to here and the ice rubble was gently riding on the waves. Think they call it an undulating motion. After the first band of ice there was about 3 miles of clear water so we sped up again until we came to the edge of the solid ice field. We were still 4 miles from the glacier face but as the glacier is soo enormous in scale, the view was awesome. It is only the beginning of the season but thus far the Veendam has been the closest to the glacier face of all ships visiting. Hopefully our luck will hold and even improve in future voyages.
I had promised the photographers of the Veendam that if the conditions were good, that I would lower a tender so they could take some shots of the glacier with the ship in the fore ground. So while we were viewing Hubbard at its most impressive, the little tender sailed around the Veendam taking photos. After 30 minutes they were back on board and I could swing the ship around so that could have a good view of the whole bay. The Park Ranger gave a narration in the mean time and this was followed by Ed & Ted, the Indian Interpreters with their lecture in the main show lounge.
On the way back we had to go through the ice band again, which due to tide and wind was now thickest where we came through first, so we found another thinner band more to the west and then we sailed back to the Yakutat pilot station. Here we disembark the Ranger and the two Indian Interpreters again. The pilot is staying with us, as we need him on board for sailing into Sitka. It had been a beautiful day and the guests were very happy. More good things are to come. The weather for Sitka is predicted to be glorious. No wind, sunshine, blue skies and temperatures in the high sixties.