Keeping It Cool

Playing It Cool

It’s tough to keep smiles and laughter at bay while exploring Alaska aboard the 120-foot Kayana.

Story and Photos by Kim Kavin - November 2003


 More of this Feature

• Part 1: Alaska
• Part 2: Alaska
• Part 3: Alaska
• Alaska Photo Gallery

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When the tip of an iceberg topples, it is a rare and precious sight. Most shatter into chunks and melt near the glaciers from which they calved, but occasionally a mammoth mountain of thousand-year-old ice floats far enough south for humans to see. The one we’ve just encountered has survived a trip of about 22 miles, all the way to the end of Admiralty Island’s Tracy Arm, where it has grounded in about 70 feet of water. What remains of its 30-foot-tall, 85-foot-wide snowcap is heaved over on its side, dripping a slow death under the August sun.

We approach in our suddenly very small, 18-foot Nautica RIB. To starboard, endless layers of 4,000-foot-tall mountains collapse into one another like cleavage. The iceberg’s exposed belly glistens like a crystal pendant, so compacted by time and pressure, so flawless without air bubbles or fis sures, that it cannot absorb the color spectrum’s indigo rays. It reflects them like the most turquoise Caribbean waters, only in a deeper, more penetrating blue, the kind that makes it impossible to look away and deny that it has captured you.

“I’d sure like to climb all over that thing,” says John Martin, the college-age deckhand at the wheel.

He carefully noses the Nautica’s bow under the beads of water rolling off the sideways ridge of snow. A travel magazine editor from Texas pokes his face underneath the cold droplets. He grins as they run down his cheeks, then laughs like a child.

Another guest, the grandson of a Vietnamese prince, rubs his hands and exhales a cloud of warm breath into the cool air. “I’m going to take a photo to a sculptor,” he says, “to keep it on my desk.”

A guest from Florida who lays tile for a living thinks, then says, “I wonder if we could chip off a few cubes to put in our drinks later.”

No matter your background, your age, or your previous journeys, moments like this—which we enjoyed just five hours outside of Juneau—will captivate you in ways unimaginable. I found the majesty of the Alaskan landscape difficult to internalize even when I was smack in the middle of it, as if I were trying to guess how many gallons of water the Grand Canyon might hold. However, my more intimate memories are countless: touching that dying tower of ice with my bare fingertips, listening for the shotgun-loud blasts that precede a glacier’s visible crack, lapping my kayak paddles in near silence as a brown bear searches for breakfast along the shore.

It’s the stuff of thrilling adventure and solitary exploration, and it’s accessible only by private yacht.

Next page > Part 2: What a difference nine months in the yard and a healthy dose of woodwork make. > Page 1, 2, 3, 4

This article originally appeared in the October 2003 issue of Power & Motoryacht magazine.

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