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Voyages of the “Exodus” No. 16

“You know Ron, it's just a boat”. Alaska, the final chapter.

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We are winding down our summer tour of Alaska as the days start to grow shorter in the land of the midnight sun. Although I will miss the expansive wilderness and the bears, I'm looking forward to warm blue water, big blue Marlin, and little blue bikinis dancing on the sand at a certain little beach cabana in Jaco, Costa Rica. But I'm sure we'll get to that around installment 23 or so.

Most of you reading this have known Brad for years, and his reputation for bold, daredevil, risky, dare I say FOOLHEARTY exploits and adventures is extremely well deserved. So picture the boyish gleam on his face when, after looking at charts of southeast Alaska over a few beers one night, we come across a tiny little “T” shaped fjord named “Ford's Terror”. After a little investigation we learned a bit of the history of this fjord and the tale of a 19th century explorer name Ford who apparently soiled his skivvies when he got stuck in the fjord due to a wicked tide and a narrow bar. The entrance to the fjord narrows dramatically and the depth shallows quickly at the bar from more than 200 ft to perhaps 8 ft in about 100 yards. The only sane time to enter or exit the fjord is at high tied slack when the current is still and the depth can approach 20 feet in the shallows. When the tied is anything but slack, the currents entering and exiting the fjord via Endicott Arm run between 14 and 16 knots.

“Let's head up there tomorrow and drive the boat up Ford's Terror,” Brad said with unabashed glee as he finished off the last of his Alaskan Amber Ale.

“WHICH boat are you talking about??!!” I said. “I hope to hell you're talking about the dink Mr. Knievel!” I said incredulously, knowing full well what Brad was thinking.

“No, let's take Exodus up there!!! We'll be fine at high slack. We'll check out the place for the day and cross the bar at the next high.” Brad explained with that oddly reassuring look of his that is half childish mischief and half unwavering confidence. So up Endicott Arm we went.

As we approached the entrance to Ford's Terror, the shear magnitude of our proposed folly became apparent – at least to one of us. The entrance to the Terror was a torrent of white water, easily a class 4 rapids. It wasn't possible to see the alleged deep water on the other side of bar as the entire fjord makes a hard right jog behind a wall of shear granite. Oh yeah, this is going to be a great idea Einstein!! But after much debate (OK, and lots of impassioned pleading and a bit of groveling on my part) sanity ruled the day and we decided to head up the terror in the dink. Endicott Arm was too deep to anchor, even with Exodus' 600 feet of anchor chain, so we left Captain Jason in charge of the mother ship. Captain Peter came with us in the dink to add a little sanity check to any other fool hearty notions that we might concoct.

I took the helm of the dink, against the advice and very mild protest of our seasoned captain. We were about 15 minutes in front of high tide slack and the current was ripping through the narrows – it was very intimidating! I kept the dink towards the left side where Peter thought the deeper water was, but I kept a keen eye on the depth sounder. We'd traveled about 150 yards in when the depth sounder started climbing rapidly – 20', 15', 10'…. 8', 4'…. oh this was no place to shear off a prop! I panicked and dropped the dink into neutral as the gauge went to just 3' – wow, that was close!! It took a few seconds for the screaming to register. I broke my transfixed stare away from the sounder to see a granite wall approaching to port beam-on at 12 knots!! Holy leotards Batman this is going to be bad!!! I jammed the throttle to max and cut her hard to starboard about half a second before we hit the sharply undercut wall of granite broad side.

CRASH, GRIND, SNAP (more screaming), and finally some forward, mostly controlled motion as the prop started to grab and make headway across the current. We had hit the wall beam-to at about 8 knots, and the overhang above the undercut at the water line projected to within about a foot of clearing everyone out of the front half of the dink – it could have been ugly. After a quick damage and injury check, we realized that we had come through unscathed, except for a crushed port downrigger. I looked up at Brad, my heart pounding in my chest and feeling stupid beyond belief. Brad met my glance with that giant toothy grim of his, let out a belly laugh that was infused with pure childish glee and said, “you know Ron, it's just a boat!!” This little phrase has become a theme of ours whenever we'd do something stupid, or learn a hard lesson about seamanship, and it did my heart well to see Brad's smile and here these words of reassurance. Explorer Yachting isn't about sitting at the yacht club while stewardesses in “martini uniforms” bring you drinks on the flybridge (not that we don't enjoy that from time to time) – it's about exploring. Everything about the Exodus is designed for one purpose – exploring the far reaches of the world in pure comfort and ultimate safety, and we fully embrace this mission.

Well, “Ford's Terror” lived up to its name, and also proved to be a place of indescribable beauty. One of the most spectacular waterfalls we have ever seen empties into the fjord, and its roar could be heard for more than a mile. We also encounter a Black Bear at the end of one of the fjord's two arms, as well as a pair of common dolphin (I think these two had been back there for a while).

So what did we learn from our little trip up the “Terror?” Well, we reinforced a few of our oldest bits of wisdom:

Exodus Experience #10: It's just a boat!!

Exodus Experience #11: You don't run into many problems, or many truly life-enriching experiences tied up at the dock.

And, a new bit of wisdom

Exodus Experience #50: No propulsion, no steering (duh).

So I know I promised a little information about our experience having stabilizers installed, but Brad is behind on writing up some of the details – so we'll cover that next time. We'll also talk about our stop-over in San Francisco on our way to Costa Rica.

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Owners and Crew of the M/V Exodus

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Broker John DeCaro
Fort Lauderdale, FL 33316 USA
Telephone: 954-646-1411

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