Snettisham 2015 - 5: Family
  July 18-20

Mom fetches another battery from the Kathy M

I draw the line at 'small craft advisory.' So, to my chagrin, we were forced to cancel our family trip to Snettisham on Friday. On the bright side, we had a nice (if stormy) day in town with my cousins from Fairbanks and aunt and uncle from Phoenix.  Thankfully, the weather let up a little the next day with just enough of a time window to make it down and back for the weekend and still pick up my other aunt from the airport Monday afternoon. The Kathy M headed out with Jeannette, Ayzling, Valerie, and my mother to fuel up and Ben and I headed to the Ronquil in Douglas Harbor a few minutes later. Although we took our time, we wound up drifting up Gastineau Channel while we waited for the other boat to emerge from under the bridge, during which time I pondered the logistics of unloading the Kathy M at Snettisham and realized that I'd forgotten my waders. Since it looked like we had a little time, I called Chris and asked him to bring them over, naturally pulling back into the harbor to the launch ramp just as the Kathy M appeared, to their confusion I'm sure! I met up with Chris and said goodbye, then puttered over to the Kathy M outside the harbor to make drink offerings and head out. The image of Valerie, John, Jeannette, and Ayzling on the back deck dumping sips of drinks into the ocean was a delightful image that I wished I'd captured on camera.

The water was a huge relief, just a bit bumpy, but overall the best Snettisham run I'd had yet that summer. We efficiently unloaded the boats at the homestead and went to anchor in the river. When I was done anchoring, I picked up my mother in the kayak and she paddled us to shore (Cailey had thankfully remained behind). It was already mid-afternoon (we'd left the house around 11:30) so after a tour of the property I laid out snack foods in the lodge, most of which was eaten in the sunshine on the deck. Cailey all of a sudden fell in love with Hunter and amused us with her whole-hearted attempts at play! She later turned her attentions to Ayzling and played with her on the deck, mouthing her and prancing in and out of reach until she nipped a little too hard and ended the session. Later, despite endless other entertainments around her, Ayzling found the most enticing plaything to be my plastic water tub for rinsing my feet. She splashed around for a long time as though it was the most fun swimming pool imaginable! Several of us went for a short walk downriver along the game trail and looped back in the meadow. When I discovered that the battery I'd brought down remained uncharged (despite having apparently charged it at home), my mother generously offered to kayak out to the Kathy M to pick up the other battery I'd brought and stashed on her boat. Thankfully, it had retained a charge, but I didn't give the internet a try until the next day. We had salmon and rockfish for dinner (generously contributed by the Johnsons/Fairchilds from their fishing charter in Sitka earlier that week) and homemade French fries. Later on, much later than I am usually up and about, the Fairchilds, my mother, Jeannette, and I wandered up the river at low tide to the grassy point and back, enjoying especially the pink macoma clam shells laying on the mud and the holes made by live clams (or something else?) that reacted to our presence. The usual mid-summer arthropods swarmed under rocks. At the point we saw some impressive (and not so impressive) demonstrations of rock skipping in the river!

Cailey on the Ronquil

My family makes offerings as we get underway

Hunter and Cailey

Cousin Azling and Cailey

The most fun pool ever

Mom and Aunt Valerie

John on the grassy point

Skipping rocks from the grassy point

The next morning I sat on the porch with John and Valerie watching seals in the rivers, then made pancakes and eggs as people got up before working on satellite internet now that I had a charged battery. Thankfully, the weather was beautiful, which makes fidgeting with the satellite dish and a laptop on the front deck more pleasant and less dangerous for the machinery. After hooking everything up, I pressed the magic link: RE-registration (emphasis mine). After quite a few increasingly frustrating email exchanges with the HughesNet representative (who refused to acknowledge that I had, as I said several times, adjusted the satellite dish until both receive and transmit signals functioned), he finally spoke with a HughesNet guru who said that my 'TCP acceleration status' error was because I had used the 'registration' link to set up the satellite (which I had been told I could). He said that if I used the re-registration link, my troubles would be solved.

Find a reliable signal was difficult, with the transmit signal again causing the receive signal to drop catastrophically when functioning. But eventually we got a steady receive signal and a passing transmit signal and I nervously continued the 're-registration' process. It started downloading encryption keys or something, and then timed out, but when I started again it finished the process and, BINGO, the 'system' light went on the modem and I had internet. I immediately starting typing an email to Chris while standing on the deck, and then realized that I could move up to sit on the upper deck now that we had the signal. I finished my email quickly, then went to see who was on g-chat. Just Torsten! So, Torsten became the first person to hear from me in Snettisham. He quickly texted Chris and told him to get online, so within a couple of minutes I was actively chatting with Chris. Halleluiah!

Meanwhile, the rest of the group was gearing up for a walk to Garnet Rock and asked if I was coming. I said I'd catch up'after all, I'd just cajoled my satellite internet system to work for the first time! I quickly finished our conversation and suited up for a walk in the rain, which had just started to fall. Although I was relieved and pleased to get internet going, the long, unnecessary frustration had sapped it of most of the glory. I caught up with the others a little way down the beach walking along the mud at low tide. I showed Ben and the girls the garnets on the rock and then we headed back to the lodge for a lunch of quesadillas, cooked on two frying pans simultaneously to increase the pace. After lunch, as the rain came down harder and harder, we decided to go on a proper adventure and visit Sweetheart Creek.

We knew it was early for sockeye, perhaps just the beginning of the run in normal years, and this was already looking like a late year again for run timing. But, we thought it would be a fun excursion, and you never really know, so both Ben and I had permits. I left my boat anchored in deep water in the river and joined the others in the Kathy M for the trip to Sweetheart. After dropping us off and anchoring the boat, my mom kayaked in and we tromped through the woods, yelling for bears through the soggy forest. I was particularly impressed with Valerie who was carrying a sleeping Ayzling on her back, up and down those steep, slippery points. We could see right away that the creek was raging, and only one net-sized area of green water in the main pool we fish was calm enough to use the net. I taught Ben the basics of cast net throwing and we both made a number of casts with no success. There were no flocks of gulls, bear sign, or carcasses to suggest any spawning activity yet.

On the way back the tide was higher and we floated everyone out to the boat over the grass in the kayak. My mom anchored in deep water next to the Ronquil and paddled in, then made pasta primavera for dinner with Valerie's help.


I type my first email

Ben and Azling on Garnet Rock

Mom feels Cousin Ace kick

I was the first up the next day at 7:30, washing the dishes and cleaning up the lodge. We wanted to leave by 10:00 to pick up Vicki at the airport, so breakfast was DIY. The departure was complicated by the fact that it was low tide (the reason we'd anchored the boats out). Since it was a long walk, I kayaked from the edge of the flats in front of the lodge to the boat with the cooler, tote, and my backpack, forcing Cailey to run along the bank beside me. I picked up the others in two loads at deep water and hauled them to the other boat, leaving the kayak tied behind a log for pickup another time. Ben came in my boat again and we had a tolerable, but not a great, ride back staying behind the Kathy M most of the way. They went straight to the airport from the harbor!

John heading up after helping me haul gear to the water

Watching whales in Snettisham

Crab dinner at my parent's house

The Kathy M on the way to Snettisham