There's been some occasional debate about how many large cruise ships should be allowed to visit Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve, and the NPS currently limits the number of such trips to no more than two per day on an annual basis. Last Friday, the visitors aboard the daily tour boat Baranof Wind were probably glad one of those larger ships, the 1,260-passenger Statendam, was in the area. After mechanical problems left the smaller vessel dead in the water in a remote location, her passengers were safely transferred to the cruise ship and carried on to their destination.
Word that the sightseeing vessel Baranof Wind had lost power was received at park headquarters early on the afternoon of August 2. At the time the problem occurred, the boat was in the remote upper reaches of Johns Hopkins Inlet in Glacier Bay.
The Holland America cruise ship Statendam was nearby on a regularly scheduled visit, and at 1:45 p.m. that vessel was requested to stand-by for possible assistance. Shortly thereafter, the ship lowered two tenders, which collected 102 tourists and one Glacier Bay National Park interpretive ranger and transferred them to the Statendam. A Glacier Bay National Park ranger who was already aboard Statendam for its day trip in park waters assisted in coordinating the effort from the ship’s bridge.
As part of its normal route back out of the park, the cruise ship would pass near Bartlett Cove, where the Baranof Wind’s excursion had originated earlier in the day. The Statendam reached that area at about 7:30 p.m. and paused to allow the tour boat's passengers to be transferred to the dock. The cruise ship then continued its scheduled voyage to Seward, Alaska, where it arrived as planned on Sunday morning.
The Allen Marine vessel St. Juvenaly reached the disabled tour boat later that evening and repairs were made. The Baranof Wind returned to Bartlett Cove and successfully provided the Glacier Bay tour for the next day.
"I want to express deep gratitude to Captain Bakker and crew of the Statendam. I also want to extend my thanks to Captain Cook and crew of the Baranof Wind," said Glacier Bay Superintendent Susan L. Boudreau. "Thank you for ensuring the health and safety of our visitors."
“Statendam's Captain Jochem Bakker and his crew responded quickly and professionally to assist the passengers of Baranof Wind,” said Richard Meadows, Executive Vice President, Marketing, Sales and Guest Programs for Holland America Line. “We are proud of our officers and crew.”
The Baranof Wind provides daily excursions during the summer for 7-hour, 130-mile sightseeing journeys through Glacier Bay. The 79-foot catamaran has a passenger capacity of 149. The Statendam was on the 5th day of a 7-day "Glacier Discovery" voyage from Vancouver, British Columbia, to Seward, Alaska, at the time of the assist.
Last August, another cruise ship assisted in the rescue of 72 passengers from the Baranof Wind after it apparently struck a rock and began taking on water. No one was injured in that incident.
Although the size of the vessels obviously provides a somewhat different experience, the concessioner-operated daily summer boat trips on the Baranof Wind and the several-hour transits of the park by large cruise ships such as the Statendam both offer visitors a chance for a first-hand look at the park's signature glaciers and spectacular scenery. Both trips have NPS interpreters on board on a "cost-recovery basis" for the cruise up Glacier Bay and back.
Ironically, my wife and I enjoyed a cruise on Glacier Bay on these same two vessels during separate visits to the park within the past several years, and our experiences on both trips were very positive. I trust that opportunities for a few other visitors to experience an unexpected combination trip on both the smaller tour boat and a large cruise ship on the same day will continue to be few and far between.