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Thread: An Alaskan Thanksgiving

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    Senior Member boznarras's Avatar
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    An Alaskan Thanksgiving

    OK you might like this. It is very Alaskan. It covers 11 days in Southeast Alaska. I set out to go to/from where I live in Wrangell, to Baranof Warm Springs, about 125 miles away, in Sockeye, my 32' boat. I wrote this to my sister to explain what I had been up to, and she thought it was interesting. Hope you do too. Sorry it is so long, alot happened....


    Day One.
    On the way there I encountered a bit of rough water the first day(Sunday), maybe for the last 25 miles that day it was 2 to 3 foot waves. Just bouncy with water splashing on the windows. Anchored in a nice little bay, took Jackie ashore to pee. Made about 50 miles that day.
    Second day (Monday)was through a constricted waterway where weather was less important, wind could not line up with any long stretch to make waves, but the tide was a factor, since we have twice a day rise and fall of over 20 feet in water level. This created current that I had to predict to be in the shallow constricted areas when the tide was high slack. Have done this for years, no problem, but very critical to be right in your calculations.
    In this area, saw thousand or more sea otter, myriads of ducks, murres, murrelets, seals, other critters. Again anchored in a nice bay after some 40 miles run, took Jackie ashore in the small boat to pee. Built a fire and let her go swimming, since is was a balmy 28 degrees. Had about 2" snow at sea level. Found agates in the intertidal zone on shore. Also found an old Indian camp.
    Third day (Tuesday)crossed a big open piece of ocean, about 35 miles. This can be one of the worst parts of se alaska, but that day it was so calm I vacuumed the rugs in the boat as it went along on the autopilot.
    I arrived at Baranof Warm Springs Bay about noon on Tuesday. Met old friend Jeanne, who I met way back in 1980 when I first moved to Alaska. Her former husband Bill was one of my best friends there, we went hunting and fishing, shot our first deer together. Bill died in 2005 when his commercial fishing boat sank in rough water...I was a speaker at his funeral, and their son Brian was born on my birthday. Strong ties.
    Jeanne has a new partner John, and together they own a house in Baranof. There are about 20 cabins in this bay, and a lodge, and a dock.
    John and Jeanne are the caretakers for the winter, the other cabins are unoccupied now. They have to keep the snow off the roofs so it doesn't crush the houses. It has snowed as much as 52 feet in recent years.
    The lodge also has a couple care taking, Dave and Anka (German name).
    The bay has a huge waterfall at its head and thermal hot springs. There are hot tubs for soaking in, both enclosed in buildings and open ones next to the river. Both are nice but you have to bring a garbage bag to put your clothes in when using the outdoor ones or they get wet with rain/snow while you are soaking.
    So I meet up and watch John fix a snow blower. We all go to their cabin and I brought my guitar. We fix some supper, I throw in some fresh food from Wrangell, (plus newspapers!) then we play some music.
    John plays bass, Jeanne plays keyboards and balalaika.
    Next day (Wednesday) we get together after Jackie and I get up off the boat and do a hot tub.
    Find out the lodge has a problem. Their electricity comes from a little dam up the hill from them, and it got washed out by heavy rain that brought logs down the mountain. They've got enough fuel for a generator to have light 6 hours a day through the winter (it is dark at 330), but no heat. There is not enough firewood.
    There is a fishing boat at the dock, with a couple from Sitka, Kaleb and Andrea. Together, we all decide to go get firewood with the fishing boat. We load up chainsaw, rope, peaveys, etc. I had some moose lasagna I made. Took off in the troller, went to the next bay down the coast, four miles away.
    Four men can roll a big beach log pretty good. We made a raft of 16 logs by pounding in big spikes and staples and tying together with rope, towed it all back to shore in front of the lodge. Next day at high tide, pull it up next to the house. Now all they have to do is buck it up and split and stack, easy!
    So then we have a big supper at the lodge, everybody throws in what they got. And then we play. Dave plays banjo, Anka plays mandolin. Kaleb plays violin and guitar. Andrea plays ukulele and guitar.
    Challenged by all these multi instrumentalists, I found my harmonica. Everything turns into Amazing Grace....

    Next day, Thursday, Thanksgiving day. We all agree to come to John and Jeanne's. I cook a 7 pound turkey breast , two pumpkin pies, and dressing on the boat, carry it up to the house. Dave has some halibut. We have some salad and homemade bread. No TV!
    After dinner more music.
    There is no one song that all of us know. Each person introduces a song and teaches it to the rest. We write the chords on a piece of scrap and put it on the floor so all surround it to play...after 5 or 6 runs through we get better, then somebody does a solo, pass it around the circle..on it goes. Stay up late, 930 or 1000? Late!
    Friday. Kaleb and I discover John and Jeanne low on firewood too. Chainsaw comes out. Buck up some dead trees downhill, start packing it up, split and stack a cord of wood in a few hours...in the rain.
    While we are doing this, into the bay comes a large boat, 75' landing craft with a propane truck on board, here for his twice a year delivery. Turns out some of the 20 cabins need propane. Go disconnect and roll all those tanks to the dock with hand truck to fill up.
    On the landing craft are two younger couples. Chase and Hillary, and Tammer and Ashley.
    Tammer and Ashley are tagging along, they have a 18 ft boat they ran some 150 miles to Juneau to get a new motor, and now are just with the landing craft to here to get closer to home.
    Chase and Hillary own the landing craft and go to all these isolated places to deliver supplies, like propane.
    So we help them fill up all the tanks, and then we all go to the lodge for Thanksgiving 2. They have a full blown turkey. I had some corn on the cob, and some leftovers. Another feast. Sadly, all the instruments are back at John and Jeanne's so we pass the evening telling lies and huge stories of animals we caught or killed. Usual stuff.
    Saturday and Sunday, tremendous gale sets in. Retie dock lines as the wind stretches the knots. Take hot tub baths, go for a hike in full rain gear.
    Tammer and Ashley take off in skiff for 60 mile ride home in a gale. La la la they say.

    Play more music with full crew at J&J's Sunday night.

    Monday: Kaleb and Andrea leave before light in fishing boat. Call me on radio. They say despite bad weather forecast, it is calm outside the bay!
    So I quickly de pee the dog, and get under way. I just need three and a half hours nice weather to cross the strait, and it is predicted to storm all week, heres my chance. And for the first 1 1/2 hours, it is nice....
    Then the waves start to build and the wind starts to blow. I finally get to a point where the waves are 6' tall and the winds are 39knots, according to a tug boat I talk to on the radio. Jackie trembles and hyperventilates, everything falls off counters, waves come half way up the wind shield. 6 hours later I get to an anchorage, drop anchor, take Jackie ashore to pee.
    (She refuses to pee on the deck, I have shown her how, she refuses. Have to go ashore.)
    The boat did well, waves crashing over the bow and all. While ashore, I find in the pouring rain a burning campfire. There is an Indian village nearby, on another island 10 miles away, nobody else for 50 miles. ? Nobody here, no boat?

    Tuesday. Get up at 6, get going. Pee Jackie on shore, still no Indians. Get the boat going. Seas are much better, maybe 3'. I see a Coast Guard ship still anchored up about 10 miles from where I spent the night.

    About 11am, the motor stops running.

    I open the engine compartment and crawl in. I figure the fuel filter is clogged with sediment from the rough water, and I have secondary fuel line all plumbed in, quick fix.
    No wait, the engine compartment is full of smoke.

    Fire!

    I get wire cutters to remove insulation round the exhaust, find the fire. The boat has umpteen fire extinguishers. I put the fire out with spray bottle of Windex. Trained firefighter.
    So now I am dead in the water, no thrust. 3' seas, wind. Boat full of smoke. Quickly turn beam to and rolling.
    About a mile offshore, 350' deep. Drifting parallel to shore at 1knot.
    I put a drogue off the bow, turned the boat into the waves. Better.
    Open all hatches, let the smoke dissipate.
    Look at the damage. The wiring harness to the engine (15 separate wires) is melted together. There is a blown fuse from the short created. The fuel flow is shut off by an emergency solenoid I cant fix until I find which melted wire powers it....hmmm. Not a good morning.
    So I call on the radio to the Coast Guard.
    The speaker is in Juneau. Describe my problem, my location, etc. can that boat nearby help. Wait we will check.
    No there is no boat near you. We will broadcast an appeal for other mariners to assist.....but first some questions.
    Do you have enough food and water on board? (Actually a little low on mayo, now you ask...)
    Can you anchor? (No it is 350' deep, but thankfully I am drifting onto a rocky shore and it will get much more shallow eventually)
    Finally they announce on hailing channel that somebody is adrift. Misrepresent where, so I break in and correct.
    Awhile later, maybe an hour, a big fishing boat calls me. He can be there in 3 1/2 hours, should he come?
    Please do, I say. (Bring mayo).
    I drift into 140 ft deep. Drop anchor. I have 350' of chain, but try just 225', and it holds. Start rigging a tow line on the bow. Not sure I have battery power to pull anchor without engine. Find hacksaw.
    About 330, boat shows up. He (Kurt) is by himself in a 58 ft fishing boat with an airboat on deck, was going hunting and trapping. Circles me with a line which I pull up and tie onto and then happy day, the anchor winch works fine, I get to keep my anchor. Off we go, he tows me for 5 hours to the nearest town. We visit and chat on radio the whole way, talk about family, his kids, hunting, what ever. Never see each others face much, never on the same boat.
    By the time I get assisted to a slip in harbor it is 10pm. Kurt takes off, I ask can I pay for your fuel....never mind he says. Hmm

    Jackie gets to pee after holding it since morning.

    Next day. Wednesday. I call Dave, who is brother of the man who used to own Jackie. He lives here in this town I am in, and used to be a shipwright. We get into it and about 5 hours later the engine is running. He goes home. I finish up and come over to his house later for supper with Dave and Kitty.
    I call fuel dock. Does Kurt have an account there? Oh sure. Well lets put some money on it with my credit card, say 150 gallons marine diesel worth. Showed him, never mind indeed.

    Thursday. Got up and started motor, head home. Check several times along the way, all OK.
    Whale next to boat, 20 yards.
    Stop twice on the 5 1/2 hour trip to Wrangell to anchor up and take the dinghy ashore so Miss Jackie could pee on dirt.
    Arrived in calm seas, and refueled the boat for next week.

    And that,
    is how you do Thanksgiving,
    southeast Alaska style.
    Last edited by boznarras; 12-12-2015 at 01:01 PM.

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    Senior Member Fred's Avatar
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    Amazingly entertaining story of real life in the southeast, really makes my day.
    Hard working, self-reliant yet helpful to all one encounters...Why can't we all try to lead such noble lives?
    Boznarrass, you are one heck of a good story teller!....a firefighter who battles flames with Windex indeed!
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    Senior Member Dryden-Tdub's Avatar
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    That is ALSO the spirit that America used to run on. Great Thanksgiving story. Thank you.



    Tom
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    Senior Member Fred's Avatar
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    Back before Three Mile Island I did some uranium exploration in South-East Alaska that entailed chartering a fifty-something foot long fishing boat to act as a base for evaluating occurrences on several islands. As an ignorant Cheechako I had assumed vessel could motor from one island of interest to the next at night while I snoozed...after all it stayed light until midnight, islands dampened out almost all the waves, what me worry? Wrong. I sure learned about tides and currents that summer, as well as where not to land a dingy....and rain...and Devil's Club thorns... and mosquitos...and salmon...and bears....and how not to climb over downed old growth logs encased with 2" of moss. Lots of fun as I learned to truly respect those who thrive on the edge there. Boznarras is the man!

    P.S.I also learned without crampons one cannot walk across glaciers. Never made it past the first crevasse. Gee, and it looked so easy from the comfort of an office desk a thousand miles away.
    Last edited by Fred; 12-06-2015 at 04:21 PM.
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    Senior Member Lyterx's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Fred View Post
    Back before Three Mile Island I did some uranium exploration in South-East Alaska.
    Fred, What does TMI have to do with this? I am a few miles from it.....

    Boznarras, Can you post up some pictures of your boat?
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    Senior Member boznarras's Avatar
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    Boznarras, Can you post up some pictures of your boat?[/QUOTE]

    Heres one on a nice day in front of town. Mine is the red one. The blue oneis the Matanuska, Alaska state ferry.

    image.jpg

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    Super Moderator littletommy's Avatar
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    Awesome boat bro!!
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    Senior Member boznarras's Avatar
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    [QUOTE=Fred;231825]Back before Three Mile Island I did some uranium exploration in South-East Alaska that entailed chartering a fifty-something foot long fishing boat to act as a base for evaluating occurrences on several islands. /QUOTE]

    Fred by any chance were you on Coronation Island, Egg Harbor? I was there a few years back and in a cave found stacked core samples with rotting cardboard. Never found out who did what.
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    Senior Member Fred's Avatar
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    Three Mile Island killed off demand for nuclear reactors and thus the impetus for further uranium exploration.
    I was just a wet-behind-the-ears summer intern then so I had to do all the icky stuff like collect reconnaissance samples via helicopter, float plane and Zodiak, poor me. That year we were following up on airborne detected radiation anomalies that often were just disperse radioactive petrified wood occurrences, not the sizable pitchblende or uranite deposits we seeked. Background radiation was so low that these petrified logs really stood out but had no economic potential. As such never had a drilling program, not my core on Coronartion Island. Visited several islands in the Kuiu's perhaps? Big swath between Petersburg and Ketchikan if I recall. Killer tidal bores, mirror-like ocean surface, untold uninhabited islands and millions of salmon and mosquitos was what I remember, unfortunately not all the islands names.
    Later I was fortunate enough to do a little exploration for rare earths and strategic minerals in the interior as well as along the shore of the Bearing Sea on tip of Seward Peninsula. Amazing country. Height of the Cold War so was kinda neat to be able to see Russia from the air. I'm sure US and Russian military radars painted us every time the helicopter lifted off but the world seems uninhabited from my right seat viewpoint. Pilot would fly me from creek to creek while I would un-ass and collect stream sediment samples. Best day had something like 34 landings in the bush, one emergency/preventative filter change on a mountain top after a "Chip Light" came on,and three refuelings. As low man on the totem pole I got to hand crank way too many a barrels of Jet A fuel. To this day I still dislike the smell of kerosene.
    Last edited by Fred; 12-06-2015 at 10:02 PM.
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    Senior Member Lyterx's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by boznarras View Post
    Boznarras, Can you post up some pictures of your boat?
    Heres one on a nice day in front of town. Mine is the red one. The blue oneis the Matanuska, Alaska state ferry.

    image.jpg[/QUOTE]

    Very nice. Work boat or pleasure boat?
    Last edited by Lyterx; 12-06-2015 at 08:39 PM.
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