Snettisham 2014 - 6: Game Night
  July 19-21

Heading south

Although, to be honest, we didn’t even play any games until the second day. Craig, Darren, Grant, Jared, Chris and I left Aurora Harbor around 9:20 a.m. Saturday morning on the Kathy M, generously donated for our larger group by my parents. It was raining, so tarps covered tote, cooler, and some gear in the bow while another covered packs in the stern. Cailey started on the floor, but had curled up between Craig and Grant by the time we hit Marmion Island, around the same time I finally managed to trim out the boat at about 4200 rpm. Chris and I had fueled up the night before so we headed straight down the flat calm channel toward Snettisham, Pacificos in hand. We passed one whale in Taku Inlet and arrived at the homestead around 11:00; the day was overcast but the seas could hardly have been more perfect and it stopped sprinkling at the end of the channel. The tide was low, but not so low that we weren’t able to offload everyone in boots at the edge of the channel while Chris and I offloaded all the gear in waders. Everyone packed it to the lodge while I anchored the boat out with Cailey. When I got back we took a tour of the property, then I set to work replacing the sink in the lodge while most of the group was outside. By the time I’d disconnected the old sink, assembled and replaced it with the shiny new one, and retaped and screwed together all the connections, Grant, Chris, Craig, and Jared had found and retrieved the perfect rock to place at the bottom of the new stairs we’d made the weekend before. I made quesadillas for everyone and we enjoyed the mild afternoon on the deck.

After lunch, Jared, Grant, Darren and I walked upriver to deep water while Chris and Craig began searching the property with the metal detector for treasures. They found a metal band in the middle of the new trail between the bridge and the edge of the property and were excavating another one wrapped around a large root in the stunted forest near Harbor Seal. There were curious openings in the ground around and we speculated as to whether they could have been created by the barrel the band had been abandoned with.

Darren finished that excavation while Jared unearthed a round stove top several feet from the front of Harbor Seal, Chris found a large nail or spike right in front of the porch, and Craig found a nail farther toward the point. We left Jared picking blueberries and returned to the lodge, eventually dropping the large rock into the wheel barrow for its trip to the stairs. It was the first time I’d taken the wheel barrow across the bridge and it worked beautifully, amply wide. Other than getting over the roots and onto the boardwalk, it was an easy walk. We casually placed the stone and even without excavating and leveling, it fit in place perfectly—the ideal stone.

Everyone spent most of the rest of the afternoon on the porch and deck, except for the big push to get the riverboat ready for action. It had finally dawned on me that with a group of six I might be able to get the motor on the riverboat and the riverboat in the water. Moving the boat across the deck and down toward the log (and the edge of high water) was easy work, as was rolling the motor (on a dolly with flat wheels) down to the boat. Getting the motor on the boat proved more difficult. It took a lot of grunting and fumbling and many tries to get the motor in position enough to accept all four bolts, positioned as it is several inches above the transom. It didn’t help that the noseeums were ferocious and I found it impossible to give directions that made any sense to the guys on all sides of me. It was awkward and I’m sure unpleasant for my helpers, but we did eventually manipulate all four bolts into position and tightened them and the clamps. As far as I knew, it was in position.

The only thing to do then was have dinner. We cooked the Papa Murphy’s pizza that Jared had brought along and feasted inside away from the insects, taking a break after dinner to push the boat into the water around high tide at 8:00 p.m. While the others went back inside, I tied the kayak to the riverboat with the intent to paddle them out to the Kathy M and tie the riverboat on for the night so I could have more options at low tide the next day. But, surely it wouldn’t hurt to just try to start it, right? I mean, what if it actually started…? It took me a few minutes to hook up the gas tank and pump the fuel through, during which I saw that the fuel filter was filling up with water. I drained it out into a bucket, paddled back out from shore, dropped the engine, and gave a few yanks. And then a few more. And then the engine started! My engine started! Elated, I cut the kayak loose and motored back and forth in front of the lodge until Chris came out to watch. Not wanting to stop just yet, I retrieved the kayak and brought it aboard, then went back to the beach near the rocky point for Cailey, who was pacing me anxiously. We puttered about for a while longer, strutting in front of the lodge in the hopes of more enthusiasm from the crew as well as pictures, then I tethered the riverboat to the back of the Kathy M by two lines and kayaked back to shore with Cailey. I found the rest of the group less than impressed with my accomplishment, but of course none of them understood the significance of what had just happened—the first time the riverboat had been in the water since its arrive three summers ago. And it had worked!


Jared and Cailey walking upriver

Barrel hoop and cavity

Chris excavating the barrel hoop

Pondering the rock

Me and the rock on the bridge

Chris appropriates Cailey's dog bed

Cailey joins me on the river

Two boats on the river

We chatted the rest of the evening away, then went to our respective cabins for the night. I got up around 8:00 the next morning and found Grant up and about the lodge. I made us some Russian tea, then sat on the porch with my tea and binoculars and watched parade of fledglings in the bushes around me. Right off the bat a young hermit thrush appeared around the elderberry bush, then a pair of charming fox sparrows. One adult and two fledgling Wilson’s warblers moved through the area along with a Pacific wren and Lincoln’s warbler fledgling. I’d seen a male and young varied thrushes in the alders along the boardwalk (perhaps mourning the loss of their mother, who’d struck the upriver window of the shed the day before while I rolled the rock to its stairs) and they continued to rustle through the salmonberries all weekend. Pacific slope flycatchers called from behind and downriver and several hummingbirds (as many as four that day) buzzed in and out of the feeders. It was fun to watch the other birds react to them as they zoomed to and from their perches in the bushes.

When a few more people showed up, Grant made blueberry pancakes with beer and cooked ham and we feasted—the pancakes were truly amazing, the berries transforming them (already delicious with the tangy beer taste). When everyone had eaten, the first game began: cribbage between Grant and Jared. I, on the other hand, was ready for adventure. I had a river boat out there, after all. What exactly to do with it and five other people, I wasn’t sure about, though. It was too many to do any real practice or exploration upriver, but it was suggested that I take everyone along upriver and drop them off at various places—Jared at least to fish—while I then went to check the game camera and perhaps play around trying to get over sandbars father upriver. Chris pointed out that the tide was falling, but I had a riverboat—nothing to worry about, right? I kayaked out and fueled up (borrowing the oil measurer from the Kathy M as I couldn’t find mine).

In my defense, it had been a couple of years. The boat easily carried all of us, but it wasn’t going to get on step. Still, I felt it was better to keep speed up as I headed upriver. I realized too late that I’d undershot the main channel where it meets the rocks on the north side of the river, but there was no turning around—I could only try to go forward. And when we clearly hit bottom I didn’t stop the engine in time. It seized up and it was clear that I needed a little time to care for it. I put my waders on and Chris and I got in the water and pushed the boat toward shore. I soon realized that there was only one good solution: cut the others loose and try to work on the boat with Chris. We’d gone aground near the upriver end of the sandbars above the grassy point and the tide was dropping, so I told everyone else to get out and walk back while Chris and I pushed the now-light boat up onto the bar and began sloshing water into the bottom and jimmying the impellor with a long screwdriver. We traded off sloshing jobs for quite a while until no more sand drained out and the impellor moved freely with the urging of the screwdriver. I gently pulled the starter cord while Chris continued to slosh water up until there was no more grating sound. We drug it into deeper water, but after one pull apparently more sand was dumped into the impellor cavity and the engine seized again. Chris and I wound up walked the boat down the river in our waders, only occasionally boarding to paddle through deeper areas. In waders with a light boat, it actually wasn’t a difficult job and a little fun. We brought the boat stern first into the mud at the edge of the little channel at the homestead and left it there for the tide to finish falling. In the meantime, the rest of the group (including Cailey) had made it back to the lodge and had eaten leftover pizza for lunch. Chris and I caught up, then I set to work cleaning out the engine. Grant told me later I was at it for 45 minutes, but it was a pretty leisurely approach. I unscrewed the six screws that hold the boot in place, then sloshed water endlessly inside until it eventually ran clear. I took my time and more or less enjoyed the work. In the meantime, Jared and Darren had both stopped by on their way downriver to fish, followed by Cailey.

The day had been mild and overcast to that point, but shortly after I finished with the riverboat a front of rain swept into the inlet and we hastily moved our gear inside and lined the boots along the wall of the lodge to keep them out of the driving rain. I put some cookies in the oven, but soon started worrying about my dog out there on the slippery rock beach with a rising tide, making it more difficult by the minute. I also thought that the guys might appreciate the pickup, so Chris and I suited up and went after them into the rain. We clumped our way down the inlet, surprised that we didn’t find them by the time we reached River Point. They were just around the corner at the edge of the first little cove. Cailey came right down to the rocks and eagerly jumped aboard as soon as we pulled up, as did the boys. On the way back we passed the whale that had been in and out of the inlet over the weekend, then came ashore. I attached the anchor back to the boat and pulled it up above the log so I didn’t have to worry about moving it later.

In the afternoon, Grant and Jared played cribbage and the rest of us played a round of hearts before I made pasta, garlic bread, and bags of cease salad for dinner. We then started a game of Bang in which I was quickly killed for my too-obvious support of the sheriff. I took that opportunity to get the ratchet system ready for pulling the boat up the beach. While the rest of the game played out and the rain began to fall, I found the length of chain and its shackles under the lodge (banging the subfloor and rattling the chains outside the open window in honor of the ghost of the deputy (me) killed in the game) and carried it to the tree straight inland from where I thought I wanted to pull up the boat onto the beach (I’d already drawn it up as far as I could and chosen a route). Then, eaten by noseeums, I managed to shackle the chain to itself around the tree and the ratchet to the chain. Then I attached the long line I’d used in the past to the end of the unwound ratchet cord on one end and to the boat at the other end. I finished all this about the time that the game ended and then cajoled the boys into helping me try to pull the boat up. Apparently I’d never tried it with more than a couple of people, as the boat scooted up with ease as far as I wanted it to go in seconds. I tightened the line and set the anchor, then went back inside and relaxed, drying off my soaking wet pants while chatting with Jared about his expedition to Mt. Edgecombe and Pacific Northwest kelp forests. Grant was inside with us while the others lingered on the porch, most of them smoking old swisher sweets they’d found in my cupboard. When we all gathered inside again, we had a loud and vigorous debate over when to drink the last six beers and the bottle of champagne (and the emergency bottle of wine), which was the only alcohol left on the property. In the end, everyone had a beer but me and we played a second game of Bang, won by Chris the sheriff.

We load up

The rest of the gang walks back

Walking the riverboat home

Craig looks on as a front moves in

Two boats at anchor

The perfect rock in place

 I got up a little later the next morning but repeated my sitting outside. There were fewer birds in the bushes this time, but I did enjoy watching a young fox sparrow bopping around in the grass below. The highlight by far was a Pacific slope flycatcher who landed in the salmonberries downriver, catching my interest with his white eye ring, then flying to a spruce bough just above me and sing once before he flew up the tree and away. Always a rare sighting, it was an honor so watch the bird sing so close.

Grant made an impressive breakfast of homemade hash with peppers and onions and eggs (and bacon for the others). I spent most of the morning on the porch watching birds and thinking about how best to leave the river boat. I’d pulled out the bilge pump system first thing, only to find that the battery lacked wing nuts over the connectors—I must have left them on the back of the riverboat or somewhere equally unhelpful the last time I unhooked the bilge pump. I eventually decided to brave my father’s wrath and take the spare battery off the Kathy M, replacing it after I got back to town. To that end, Cailey and I kayaked to the boat, but that battery also lacked wing nuts. There would be no bilge pump. That meant that either it would fill with water when it rained if I left the plug in or fill with water on high tides if I left it out. I opted for the latter option. The next really high tides over 18’ high were on August 10; until then, the boat would be above the high tide line. Chris later helped me run a line from the back of the boat to a stake I pounded in the ground below the log; after pulling it tight, I made sure it was level, then measured how high it was from where the tide had been the night before. It indicated that the 18.7’ tide might fill quite a lot of the boat, though it was hard to believe at that moment. I wound up having the guys pull the boat even farther up the bank, quite close to the edge of the salmonberries. I think it’ll be fine, but perhaps I’ll make it down there the weekend of those tides to check on it and push it back into the water to play.

By the time everyone had wandered in and Grant had prepared the last batch of hash, it was after noon. People spread out cleaning their cabins or playing cards while I cleaned the kitchen, then my cabin and the lodge. Departing was a bit of a handful, as the tide was in the middle of falling and in that really awkward stage where it’s too shallow for the Kathy M for some distance except in the little channel. I brought it to shore then hastily loaded the boat with Chris, who then pulled the kayak back to the lodge. I was originally going to organize the inside of the boat, but quickly realized that not only did we not have the time with the falling tide, but that there was no way to get the rest of the guests (without the waders Chris and I wore) to the boat without getting them wet. With increasing anxiety, I asked someone to grab the kayak again quickly, after which we transported each person one by one to the boat and hustled them onto the back deck while we held the boat off. Then Chris heroically drug the kayak back up to the lodge. We had to shove quite a bit to get the boat floating in the channel, then walked it far offshore before jumping in ourselves. I knocked some people around getting on board and making my way to the helm while the wind pushed us toward shore, but I got the engine going and us into deep water without issue, at five minutes after 2:00. We finally got the boat ship shape and balanced, then broke out the bottle of champagne. We each took a sip and made an offering, then we kept passing it around until it was no more.

The fine weather that had greeted us that morning made us pay with a brisk north/northwesterly that bounced us north all the way to Arden—I was immensely grateful to the Kathy M for making that trip very bearable. I’d not have wanted to brave it in a smaller boat. By the time I had the boat all tied up and ship shape, all the gear and carts and boys were gone and I met up with them, all loaded up, in the parking lot. They headed out for showers before bowling and I headed home for a shower and a nap.

A whale blows as we head back to the homestead