Alaska Inside Passage

Mendenhall Glacier: What were we thinking?

Wednesday, September 23, 2015S.V. CAMBRIA

Cambria was too quiet after our friends, Paul and Julia, left and we needed to do something drastic to change things up: So, we decided to become tourists and take the city bus to Mendenhall Glacier.

When we got there, the scene was pretty much what we’d expected: Hundreds of people aimlessly milling about with cameras in their hands, cruise ship ID tags around their necks and fanny packs around their waists. In other words, a pretty depressing sight. But desperate times call for desperate measures. And (apparently) we were desperate, so we joined the frenzy and tried our best not to look smug and blend in. I don’t think we did a very good job.

We walked to a photo outlook and Nugget Falls, working our way around the masses of people taking selfies or pictures of their loved ones in front of the glacier. It felt contrived and a little cheesy – a bit like Disneyland (complete with a park map pointing out the attractions). For a couple who’s used to arriving places on their own keel, it was too much: We needed to rejoin the non-vacationing world . . . and fast!!!

So, we went to Costco. 

David likes to joke that shopping’s a sport in my family. But because we live on a boat and I don’t have the room to hoard piles of useless junk, I limit my addiction to provisioning. And, for me, there’s no better place to get a fix than Costco. Surely that would help improve our moods . . . or at least mine. Besides, we were out of beer.

As it turned out, filling a cart with hundreds of dollars of comfort food did make us happy (until we had to pay for it). But there was no way we could lug everything we’d bought on the bus (let alone back to the bus stop), so we called a cab and “Doug” came to pick us up.

Twenty dollars later and we were back in Auke Bay carting everything down to the boat when we noticed a couple walking towards us on the dock. The man looked familiar, but we couldn’t place him right away. It turned out to be Tom, a single-hander we’d met back in May. The first time we saw him was in Bishop Bay then Lowe Inlet, Prince Rupert, Ketchikan and, now, Juneau. The funny thing is, since Ketchikan, we’ve been moving in completely different directions.

We still had three days to kill before we’re allowed into Glacier Bay and lots to do before we could leave Juneau: The engine oil needed to be changed. I needed to buy fresh provisions. The laundry needed to be done. The diesel tanks needed to be topped up. David needed to go up the mast. But most importantly, we needed to visit the Alaskan Brewing Company.

With a forecast of 25 to 35 knot winds out of the southeast for Thursday, we weren’t going anywhere. And neither were Tom and Gale on Impossible Dream*. So we took care of boat jobs on Wednesday and made plans with them to take the bus to the brewery the following afternoon.

It was the best $5 we’ve ever spent. 

First off, it’s not a tour. It’s a tasting (with information about the history of the company thrown in for good measure). For the price of admission, you get six 4 ounce tasters and a souvenir glass (we may have had more like 8 or 9 and possibly ended up with extra glasses in all the beer-drinking chaos). But, if you’re feeling really cheap, you can skip the souvenir glass and belly up to the bar for three free tries at what’s on tap. Secondly, it’s a major social event and more like being at a party where you don’t know anyone but are having fun getting to know each other than a boring brewery tour: I really don’t think we could have found a better way to pass the time on a cold, rainy, windy afternoon (for the record, I thought "Gold Creek" was really nice but we both agree, "Alaskan Amber" is beer of choice).

The weather was much better on Friday and we should have been on our way, but it was still too windy to go up the mast. A couple of days before, an eagle had landed on our wind vane and left it dangling like a broken limb. Before we could go, David needed to assess the damage to the anemometer and either fix it or replace it (we have a spare aboard). So, I called Glacier Bay and told them we wouldn’t be in until the 5th – losing one of our precious days inside the park – and used the time to finish up some boat jobs.

By Saturday morning, the sun was up and the wind was down, so I hoisted David to the top of the mast for a look. Fortunately, the eagle had only bent the wind vane and he was able to bend it back into shape, fixing it on the spot – I think it’s fair to say we lucked out there.

With the last of the chores completed and David safely back on solid ground, it was time to get moving again – Glacier Bay, after all, was waiting!

*Tom’s boat, Impossible Dream, has an interesting pedigree. It was originally owned and named by Roy Disney when they were developing the first feature-length animated film (Fantasia). People told him and his brother, Walt, that it would be “impossible”.

Note: This blog entry was written on Friday, 04 July 2015.

You Might Also Like


  1. You should be glad all those 'cruisers' are doing what they are doing and not doing what you are doing, or you'd have to share your anchorage with them. No reason to have such an elitist attitude. Different strokes for different folks.

  2. Wow! I was trying to be a bit tongue-in-check but obviously missed the mark (we didn't really walk around trying our best not to look smug) . . . and touched a nerve. With that said, we knew what we were getting into by going to Mendenhall Glacier but that doesn't change the fact that it was a 'culture shock' for both of us . . . or that it felt contrived. The tourist scene simply isn't our thing. Like you so aptly said, "different strokes for different folks."