PHOTOS: courtesy Cocktails yacht crew
Editor’s note: For our new series, Must-Visit Megayacht Destinations, we’re going straight to local residents, captains, and others with first-hand familiarity with the locations. For “3 Superb Southeast Alaska Yacht Charter Stops,” Carrie Freeman, a former crewmember and currently a charter broker with IYC, shares her insight. The best time to visit Alaska is from June to September. It’s especially important to note that high demand and limited yachts mean you should plan a year in advance.
Whenever I speak with clients about their vacation plans, I cannot help but try to bring Alaska into the conversation. It’s a yacht charter paradise, offering the very best of this vacation option. Specifically, you have anchorages all to yourself. Days are filled with sightings of bald eagles, seals, bears, and, of course, whales. You’re surrounded by snow-capped mountains, waterfalls, glaciers, and more. From private helicopter rides over Glacier Bay National Park to a private lunch atop a glacier, from salmon and halibut fishing to crabbing, and from hot springs to hiking, so many opportunities await to unplug.
Here are my favorite southeast Alaska yacht charter stops to incorporate into any itinerary. They’re from my experiences as a stewardess on a 157-foot charter yacht in 2013. We were a crew of nine catering to up to 10 guests, with more than seven weeks of charter—a full summer of sharing the best of Alaska.
1. Elfin Cove. This charming, small (population: 20) Alaskan coastal town is at the gateway to Glacier Bay National Park. Our crew fell in love with this anchorage, though, because we made it our “campfire on the beach” night. We’d do lunch, dinner, or just cocktails and s’mores (above). As the summer went on, we made our campfire beach even more special, adding benches, chairs, tables, and more from the surrounding wood.
Elfin Cove also provided a breathtaking afternoon watching a humpback whale dance on the water. It was so consistent in jumping that the captain invited some of the crew onto the tender to get a closer look. We nicknamed the whale Vladamir, and each week we’d be on the lookout for another special dancing show.
2. Ford’s Terror. This beautiful, protected area allows guests to explore the shoreline and view several waterfalls up close via tender or, for the more adventurous, by PWC or kayak. The other possibilities are endless, too: bald eagle sightings, kayaking alongside icebergs, and perhaps a bear tracking along the coastline. Furthermore, the Tracy Arm Fjord and North and South Sawyer Glaciers are nearby. You can watch the glaciers calve. Some of our guests did a family jump into the water with the glacier behind them, brrrrr!
3. Baranoff Warm Springs. Just pulling into this anchorage is picturesque, since a beautiful waterfall greets you. Enjoy a short hike to find a breathtaking natural hot spring right alongside a raging river. Hike a little further through the forest to find a lake for a polar-bear plunge! Baranoff Warm Springs has a community public bath house, too, by the waterfront (above).
However, the true secret to an Alaskan yacht charter is in the journey, cruising the waters and keeping your eyes peeled for your next National Geographic encounter. Whales literally come right up to the yacht, and you can almost touch them. Once I felt the breath from their blow hole! Icebergs float right by you, and perhaps you can hop on one and cruise down the inlet a bit. You can watch a seal cruise by on his iceberg, too. Seal pups play in the wake of your tender, meanwhile, or laze on one of the red and white buoys marking your course. Witness bears exploring endless miles of coastline and, if you’re lucky enough, looking for their salmon lunch in the waterfalls.
You can arrive in style to the yacht in a floatplane, or have the crew pick you up for an extra-special inland adventure. Crabbing was a guest favorite, setting and checking the traps for fresh crab cakes later! But, just putting a few fishing lines off the back of the yacht for the catch of the day (above) was among our favorite activities. We even sourced ice from icebergs for cocktails, and our deckhand carved a bear from an ice chunk one night.
Ultimately, it’s all about customizing an Alaska yacht charter based on your interests, and letting your incredible crew show you the best Alasks has to offer.