Jet Skiing Blackstone Bay
By Marc Donadieu
Glacier City Gazette
Located in Prince William Sound near Whittier, Blackstone Bay is a treasure. With huge tidewater glaciers, Beloit and Blackstone, calving at the bay’s head, the dynamic scenery always offers something different to visitors.
While my previous Blackstone Bay excursions were conducted solo and in a guided kayak, on a private charter, and on large sightseeing/wildlife charter, this trip would be my first on a jet ski. The result was a memorable day skimming along the bay.
In winter, Alaska Wild Guides (AWG) has a number of snow machine tours. During summer, one of AWG’s tours is the Ten Glacier All Day Jet Ski Tour, which departs from Whittier Small Boat Harbor and travels 21 miles along Passage Canal until turning into Blackstone Bay. The tour takes about four hours, all of it on the jet ski.
With the tour beginning at 1 p.m., the 12:30 p.m. Anton Anderson Tunnel entry into Whittier is the last one can catch before missing the tour. Once you’ve exited the tunnel, take the first left and drive a short distance before you reach the camping area and AWG’s storage containers roosted at the head of Passage Canal.
Co-owner Amanda Clayton led me inside to get fitted with a dry suit, wet shoes, a helmet, goggles and a life vest. Two other clients arrived, and shortly after we were in a van heading for the Whittier Small Boat Harbor to join up with Co-owner Derek Ruckel. We were given a short talk about operating the jet ski, safety, hand signals and how to use the brake, which redirects the water jet’s propulsion.
With Derek leading the way and Amanda last, the five of us putted at four mph through the harbor’s no wake zone. Once we reached open water, I put the jet ski into sport mode and tapped the accelerator. The forward surge was powerful and smooth. After some initial adjusting, I grew more confident with how the jet ski handled, which is similar to a snow machine.
Then I figured out I could hit the rising crest of a wave and punch the accelerator to catch a little air and descend in a splashy crash that lets me taste the sea. I scanned for larger waves to hit. We were travelling at about 30 mph on not too choppy water.
I wanted to see how fast the jet ski could go, so I eased off the accelerator to let Derek get further ahead before pushing my thumb forward reaching 45 mph. There were a few times I reached the top speed of 54 mph, which is exhilarating. If two people are on the jet ski, it may not go as fast.
We took a short run into Shotgun Cove to see a decaying shipwreck and a few sea lions keeping an eye on us while lying on a buoy. When we reached Blackstone Bay, we crossed the mouth to head to the southern shore and back to Beloit Glacier. Along the way we saw sea otters, got close to a small waterfall and had a sea lion pop its head up nearby.
As we approached Beloit Glacier, Derek slowed down and instructed us to follow him through the bobbing, calved ice to avoided hitting the pieces. We wound our way through until we were near the glacier’s face. We stopped and took in the scene, mostly in silence. With low cloud cover, Beloit Glacier was bluer in hue than it would be in clear sunshine.
The vast mass of ice is melting and crumbling into the bay, but there was only minor calving during our visit. We edged in a bit closer for a better view. After a generous amount of time, we proceeded to Blackstone Glacier.
On the way, we stopped near a kittiwake rookery and watched the mass of birds flutter and swirl about in seemingly haphazard fashion. The chaotic appearance serves as a defense mechanism to throw off predators like the five bald eagles present on the cliffs and in the air. A juvenile bald eagle in its mottled white feathers landed in a nook on the cliff and was barely visible while scanning the kittiwakes for an afternoon meal.
Our next stop was the waterfall shooting down from under glacier and onto the cliff face before plunging into the bay. Then we went to the face of Blackstone Glacier.
There was the roaring sound of waterfalls and the sharp thundercrack of calving ice, followed by rumbling and the splash of its fall into the bay. Blackstone was much more active than Beloit.
Through the ice chunks, we slowly approached the glacier from a safe distance. A couple of harbor seals were hauled out on larger pieces of ice while a couple more curiously poked their heads out of the nearby water. There was so much to take in with the scenery.
The return to Whittier was a blitz of speed across the water. My accelerator was pushed to its maximum a few times. It was surprising how well the jet skis handled and how easy it is to get comfortable riding one.
AWG’s Ten Glacier All Day Jet Ski Tour offers clients an unforgettable day of travel and scenery in Prince William Sound.