Taku 2018 - 4: SPOT Works!
September 23-24

Canoeing the slough at low water

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It's a pretty long ride from Snettisham and I admit to being somewhat relieved to pass Cooper Point and be back into familiar territory, not to mention that the seas died down readily there. The visibility was very poor though, and I could hardly make out anything beyond Jaw. The valleys were hazy in the thick mist, but eventually I could verify that I was passing Davidson Creek and then the grassy bank leading to the Forest Service cabin. I couldn't see the glacier at all. Suddenly, just off the Forest Service cabin, BAM, the boat shuddered. We had gone aground at speed. Terrifying. Thank goodness the engine appeared unharmed; I raised it up and puttered father off shore. I really was closer in than usual, and I know that the river is low, or at least it was before I left, and the Whiting is. Finally I saw the glacier, but everything was still pretty foggy and obscured. The water along the lower end of the meadow was about four feet lower than the last time I was there so I was moving slower and more cautiously. Somewhat short of the last waterfall we ran aground again and, this time, raising the engine didn't get us very far. I stopped it and raised it out of the water, and the hull was hard aground, our wake washing over shallows well ahead of us. Uh oh. I tried pushing with a pole, to no avail. It was 1:15, 15 minutes past high tide in Juneau, 15 minutes before high tide at Taku Point. What if I was stuck? As I was looking at the tides inside, both on my phone and in a tide book, the boat started floating and actually drifting upriver. I got out of the cabin, as did Cailey, to help us along poling. After several minutes it seemed like the water was getting deep enough for the engine and a couple of boats were coming downriver, so I dropped the engine and slowly started up the bank again as the two boats peeled away from shore downriver of the slough and continued a hundred yards out or so. They clearly know about those shoals, but I am too chicken to try to imitate them tomorrow--if I get stuck out there, I'll have nothing to go on. Maybe if I follow someone closely; still, they are mostly jets and probably not carrying the gear that I am. Along that shore, we also passed a boat moored up along the grass.

I was very much relieved to make it across the slough mouth, also slowly, and noticed a huge spruce tree with root wad aground in the middle of its mouth, father in than the sandbar that crosses it. The water really was low, the clay bank exposed about 18 inches. It made pulling up to the landing easy, although we drifted back out too quickly for me to get out and I had to motor back in a second time. I had everything pretty well packed, so grabbed two totes (one packed from town with only Taku things, the other packed from Snettisham), plus my backpack and the little buddy heater in case it would benefit from being dried out sooner rather than later. Oh, and the signs. This time I tied the bow to a tree and threw the anchor off the stern, which was a little awkward since the river still wanted to run backward so it was running under the boat at that point. Nevertheless, it seemed to sit nicely just off the sheer clay bank. I left some signs there for the downriver property line and carried everything else to the cabin, dropping the signs somewhat short as they became difficult to carry. After opening up the building, I first lit a fire to start warming the place up, which both Cailey and I needed. As soon as I could light the pilots on the stove I put on some hot water, pleased that I'd left the jugs full from the last time I was here (the whole place really looked quite nice). I changed into dry clothes, unpacked the food, and was soon slurping mediocre instant teriyaki noodles in front of the fire with a last minute beer I'd grabbed from the cooler. Then I made myself sit down for 15 minutes to rest before heading out on our afternoon adventure.

My plan was to put the signage up on the downriver border and the stake for the motion sensor camera in the meadow this afternoon, then do the upriver border tomorrow on the way to the canoe. I grabbed a hammer from the shed and took off, starting to enjoy the beautiful fall Taku day. It was raining and I was suited up, but the rain wasn't as hard as it was this morning. Getting soaked was inevitable one way or another. I also brought along my staple gun and secured the tarp over the side of Fox Hole where I'd pulled it off this spring to measure the siding. Then I nailed a no hunting sign to the side of the building, finding no suitable trees nearby. I thought that I'd be able to follow my old trail along the border to the meadow, but after the first three or four pieces of blue survey tape, I never found another. I more or less recognized, or thought I did, the path and the clumps of trees it went through at the edge of the meadow, but I was also unable to find the boundary post in the middle of the meadow where I intended to post the sign. So first I went to the edge of the slough, scaring up a group of beautiful blue-winged teal, and put a sign there at my best conservative guess of the boundary. Then I backtracked and posted another in the middle of the open meadow bordering the slough, again being somewhat conservative I think in the property line. I was surprised to find that I posted the sign only a short distance from the canoe which I could see through the sedge.

On the way back I picked up SD cards and considered my options. The whole task had taken less than an hour, it was only 3:10, and I had a lot of energy left for some reason, despite closing up Snettisham that morning and making the long boat ride here. Although I'm sure Cailey would have preferred to stay at the cabin, I instead rounded up the rest of the signs and the bike and, dropping SPOT off closer to the river for another try at an OK message, headed upriver. I didn't get very far on the bike, as it was just not working to ride it with the three sings/posts on board along with the hammer. I abandoned it by the cabin and we walked the rest of the way, enjoying the easy trail. The first sign was easy, placed near the No Vehicles Please sign, which was falling down. I propped the latter on a tree, unable to make much headway driving it into the ground (it's not very pointed anymore and the top is too rotten to pound it very hard anyway). From there I followed the slough toward the river, again hoping to run into the sign post I knew was nearby. I never did, but tried to keep my bearings between the cottonwood and the marker on the mountain. It was trickier to pick a spot for the midway post, as there are numerous breaks in the clusters of alders and willows that a hunter might walk through from upriver. Which was the biggest/most tantalizing/most likely to be used? I made an assessment, choosing what seemed like the biggest and the one closer to the slough. Then I posted another at the slough, again conservatively I think, and this time managed to watch a cluster of peaceful ducks upstream preen and paddle and rest before I disturbed them with my pounding. There was also a sparrow or similar bird out there, a handful of which tittered or flew away here or there on my walk, though it was overall pretty quiet. Not eager to retrace my path through the thick sweet gale and brush back the way I'd come, I instead walked along the slough and then angled over behind the cabin, tickled to see the white back of the sign in the middle of the meadow at the other side. Poor Cailey was soaked and exhausted, her enthusiasm for bounding through sedge exhausted; instead she followed close on my heels, annoying me by bumping me and connecting with my heels. I can't imagine what it would be like to push through that if it was over my head though, so I understand her tactic, if wish she'd give us just a little more space.

The cabin was nice and warm and cozy when we got back and I set to work changing and settling in. Oh that felt nice, with a lot of my work done! Two hummingbirds, to my great surprise, had been tussling over the dregs of the front feeder (the other was rancid and full of bugs), so eventually I decided to go ahead and leave one up for them and cleaned it and filled it with fresh nectar. It's hard to tell seeing them mostly against the white sky, but I haven't seen any orange yet; surely they aren't Anna's? But isn't it really late for rufous? Are they migrating and hanging around this feeder, or are they stragglers? Well, either way, it won't hurt to leave the feeder up for the winter if it comes to that, and anyone who finds it will (hopefully) benefit. I rewarded myself with a tiny bottle of wine.

I ate chili for dinner out of the pan, watched a Salvation, and then set to work on this (checking on the boat in the middle). Now I think I'll make some jiffy pop popcorn and watch something else. It was pretty much dark at 7:30. Somehow I am unnerved by that, despite having a whole day of daylight tomorrow. I plan to get underway about 1:00, which would put me on the shoals about the same time I was on them today, though the tide is half an hour later. Maximum flexibility! The tide at Taku Point is at 2:00 according to my phone, 1:30 in Juneau, so hopefully it won't be long before I'll get over them. I will surely breathe a sigh of relief when I do.

I slept on the couch with Cailey, making her get up fairly quickly and reposition to the bottom of the couch as she overheated, squeezed between me and the back of the couch, sort of half panting/wheezing. At 7:00, she smelled a bear (presumably) and bolted out of bed to stare out the window and bark. I was less enthusiastic about rising and, after seeing that there was no bear in sight, laid back down. But not for long. The bear evidently reemerged from the trees, as I saw the waving bushes when Cailey set to barking again after about 20 minutes. And so I was up and quickly set about with chores, starting with changing the propane tank (the pilots were out) and then filling the drinking water tubs. Full for most of the summer, I'd been using water out of the white jugs Mike had brought up last summer for the large family gathering. By this time, only one of six jugs had a little water in it, so I carried them all back to the barrel and filled them each about 4/5 full by dipping with the pitcher inside while another jug was getting partially filled by leaning under the spout. It took a little less than half an hour and they were all full, one inside and the others on the porch with their caps loose. I brought in the porch swing and did a handful of other tasks, put away everything in the shed and locked it, ate breakfast, and read for about 45 minutes until just before 10:00 when I set out for my final close up adventure--bringing the canoe around to the landing. On the way I set up the motion sensor camera on the back porch, grabbed the one off the tree at the start of the trail, turned on the one at the trail junction (after resetting the date), and set the other up. Cailey eagerly jumped in the canoe when I turned it over and I had to chase her out before dragging it down to the water. This time it was low tide (two hours into a rising tide) and the low water in the river was dramatically evident. On either side of the slough were wide bands of mud below the edge of the sedge and I had to drag the canoe over that as well, which I don't think I've done before. The middle of the channel was only a few inches deep and we were barely floating, poling along. It was still pretty early and I knew that canoeing on the river would be easier the closer we got to high tide, so I took my time and paddled upriver to go around the other side of the island. The channel through the middle of the island was mud and one of the three rocks in the slough was fully exposed on the bank, the others mostly exposed. I thought I might be able to see the entrance to the beaver house at such low water, but it was not apparent, but it was clear that the mountain side was the main channel, as it was still a few feet deep in the middle. I'd startled a skittish flock of blue-winged teal downstream when I'd first arrived, despite my best efforts, and saw several large shorebirds fly by and land in the mud. They were large enough that I wondered if they were plovers. Another flock flew by, some with white stripes down their exposed backs, and these landed on a mud island in the middle of the channel just below the island I'd passed. I could see a straight line in the mud just off the tip of it which I suspected was from the keel of the boat and wondered if I should have put the no hunting sign on the other side of the island, since it looked like people who knew the channel might take the opposite side where I now knew the channel was. Well, not this time anyway.

Amazingly, this little flock of shorebirds on the mud island were not skittish and I was slowly able to drift toward them and eventually paddle near them to reach the opposite bank again, where it was clear the deeper channel would be (it didn't look like I'd be even able to float along the other side). There were several smaller shorebirds with short beaks and the white band on their backs when they spread their wings and a more contrasting gray back and pale belly, the feathers on the back standing out individually. The other three birds were much larger with less contrast between the back and the belly. Most interestingly, they had long beaks that looked slightly upturned and they were using them magnificently to probe deep into the mud. Dowitchers? I think I've seen the other ones before, identified them, but I need to look them up again.

Shorebirds and ducks were not the only ones that had been using the slough. With about half the slough bottom exposed in brown muck on either side and around islands in the middle, the tracks of those that had crossed the slough were exposed everywhere. Is there always that much activity, I wonder? Just before we reached the mouth of the slough I saw a bird on the shore and heard an unfamiliar, slightly melodic, corvid-like call and quickly took a guess as to its creator: rusty blackbird! Sure enough, there were three on the mud, reminding me of the time my mother and I had seen one behind the cabin, also on fall close up. This supports my idea that this is a migration corridor, not having seen them in the summer yet.

The entrance to the slough was entirely cut off from the upriver corner all the way to the downriver channel, leaving only a narrow flow along the shoreline. The sand on the bar was probably 8" or more above the edge of the water in a near vertical slope. There was as narrow channel of river water cutting through it next to the huge beached spruce tree on the downriver corner. I turned into this shallow channel to minimize my time in the river and briefly got out to walk around on the sandbar and glass downriver where I'd be trying to pass in a few hours. I could see a large sandbar all along the shoreline where I'd gone aground, extending well out into the river. I couldn't get enough of a vantage to see where I'd need to go once leaving the meadow's shore (how far into the river to go and whether I needed to weave or go straight), but it was clear that the sandbar I'd gone aground on wasn't just a shallow spot caused by a stump or something, it was a real sandbar and was probably as high out of the water then as the one I was standing on. Pondering what to do, we got back into the canoe and shoved our way into the river where, to my relief, I discovered that paddling, especially along the shoreline, was not difficult and we made decent time. It was only when I had to leave the shore and paddle out around fallen trees that I felt like I had to work harder at it; three hours before high tide, I think the tide was already having an effect on the river at such a low water level. On the way I passed a red-necked grebe paddling around on the calm river. It was low overcast, clouds hugging the mountains a couple hundred feet up, but dry without promise of rain, a lovely morning to be out. After just under half an hour from entering the river, we pulled up along the Kathy M and I started walking the canoe up the stairs. I was surprised by how easy it was to grab the line right at the bow and simply walk up with it, but once I reached the forest, I lost power, as the bow needed to come up beyond my ability to reach and pull before I could lever it down horizontal. I wound up tying the line to an alder to prevent it from sliding back and then hauled it up from the top from its side. Soon I had it in its cuddy between trees and propped up on pieces of lumber and branches.

Back at the cabin, I heated water for lunch (instant peanut sauce noodles for energy) and washed the dishes, including the second hummingbird feeder, cleaned the cabin and packed up, turning on the motion sensor camera on the back porch as I circled the cabin. Encumbered with my backpack, two grocery bags of food, linens, and other items, the little buddy heater (which was working perfectly, to my surprise and relief), and the empty propane tank, I tromped down to the boat, loaded up, put ten gallons of gas in, pulled the anchor, started up, and we kicked off the landing. It was, once again, precisely 1:00 as I had planned. The tide was supposed to be at 2:00, so I didn't expect to be able to float all the way down immediately. However, I figured that leaving early gave me a lot of flexibility. If I went aground, as I expected I might, then I was quite likely to float off with the tide and then I'd be farther downriver and closer to escaping through the rest of the shallows. There were still two beers floating in slush to drink while I waited to drift off.

When I passed the slough, I could see that the sandbar along the bank was disappearing but still exposed in its highest parts, so I decided to try following the other boats offshore, where I might actually make it through without that sandbar even fully submerging. I was idling and everything was going alright, splitting the distance between sandbars to either side of me. Ahead, pretty much crossing the channel I was in, except perhaps right along the sandbar I was trying to avoid, I could see a small change in the water, about a five foot wide ripple. It looked to me like a shallow bar, a narrow riffle, though it seemed awfully long and skinny. Well, no matter, I thought, I'd float off it shortly if I went aground, and I didn't want to try to avoid it by getting into even shallower water so close to where I could see the sandbar. And so we touched bottom; I raised the engine, and we touched again. But it looked to be such a narrow bar, I thought maybe with a little power I could just motor across. So, with the engine raised enough that it was not above the sand but still enough in the water to provide power, I gave it a little gas. And went harder aground. I'd have to wait for the tide. So, I shut down and raised the engine and started poling. Since the pole (a 2x2) sinks into the sand, it was unclear how long it took to start actually moving the boat and not just burying the pole, but in less than a minute I'd say we were inching across the shallows and into water that was deep enough to lower the engine again. I was fairly confident, now that we were just about half an hour from the high tide, that I was unlikeley to hit bottom again past that point. I lowered the engine. It did not start. Uh oh! I tried again. I gave it a little choke. It chugged and chugged and chugged and did not start. I tried again. Nope! Now I was in a predicament, in the middle of the river at the mercy of the currents--the reason I was uneasy about leaving the meadow shore in the first place. When the tide had lifted me off the bar the day before, it had floated me Upriver, not down. Would my kicker even start? It seemed the next step. I pulled the choke, opened the vent, set the tiller to start, and opened the gas lever (which was backwards from what I thought it should be, making me wonder if that's why I hadn't been able to start it earlier this summer) and, to my great surprise, she started up after a dozen or so pulls. Whew! Now, where to go? If I went back upriver to the cabin, it seemed likely that I would be stuck there for at least 24 hours, even if I was able to trouble shoot the engine. With the water so low, there seemed to be a pretty narrow window for escape. Alternately, I could try to escape the river and...well, take it from there. I had to make a fast decision and I decided to go south, out of the river. At first it was actually fairly pleasant. The morning was still fine, I was warm enough, and I seemed to be making pretty good time. Maybe I could even kicker all the way to Juneau! When I got to the cliff face I drifted for a while and filled the gas tank, then continued on my way, enjoying the burgundy colors on the cliff face I was slowly slipping past. The kicker didn't want to stay centered on the boat, so I did put some strain on my shoulders keeping it from rotating, and any time I stepped away for even a moment, the boat turned wildly and it took way too much time and effort to straighten it out again. Just before passing the rock island around Taku Point, a boat from upriver passed me by; they were staring at me from some distance and...I waved and let them go on. I wasn't panicked and really wasn't sure what I'd ask them to do if I flagged them down. I certainly didn't feel like having people I didn't know on the boat, so feeling a little guilty about passing up that opportunity, I watched them disappear. It was the only other boat I saw that day.

When I entered the river, I decided to send an "OK" SPOT message so people back home could see that I was leaving the cabin, and was okay since I was not going to be at the dock at the expected hour. Ideally, it would tell them that something was amiss but that I was okay. About half an hour later I sent my first "help" SPOT message. I was not making as good a time as I thought, I was now sloshing over one foot seas from the southeast, promising more out in the inlet, and it was starting to sprinkle. It didn't seem likely I'd get anywhere even near the Gastineau Channel by the time it was dark around 7:30 and I wasn't sure that I wanted to cross Taku Inlet on a kicker with a southeast system of unknown strength coming up. At that point, I had one main goal which preoccupied me: escape the river. While I could anchor anywhere in the river, I would quite likely wind up aground for an unknown distance from a channel at low tide, and then if help came, could they get to me, could I get to them, and if I left the boat, would we be able to recover it at a tide in the near future? It seemed wise to have options, and so I pointed the boat as well as I could toward Scow Cove. Once I was there, I knew I could be in a permanent channel and soon enough leave the river at Flat Point. Oh, but that river is wide and long when you're kickering on an eight hp motor! Off the bottom of Grizzly Bar I ran out of gas for the first time and filled up the built in tank awkwardly, sadly overfilling it a bit. I think this must have saturated the carburetor or something, as it wouldn't start at first. It took some pulling and reluctance to get it going, but I did get it going, and we continued. I was by now wrapped in the blue quilt from the lodge and had changed into my long underwear top beneath hoody, vest, and rain jacket. I even tried to tie the kicker to at cleat to make it easier to hold it in place, but eventually gave up. I kept thinking that I might be able to steer with the main engine down, but testing that would take time and we'd have to reorient as we got off course from the errant kicker, so I just endured back there, grateful for safety and all the gear on board, and for the gift of adventuring, and waited to get to Scow Cove.

With some relief, we reached it, and I passed it by, knowing that it was the last anchorage until Sunny Cove. It itself is so river-intertidal that it seemed an unwise place to stay. Since it was looking increasingly unlikely that I'd make it to town that night, my next plan was to go to Annex Creek and see if they could hail Juneau and let me tie up for the  night, and trouble shoot the engine a little more. I'd already sent a second help SPOT message so people could see that I was underway in case someone came. I was wondering when my mother would check her email, and wishing I'd told Ezra to call my parents when he got the message, as he was sure to do so before her. I had a surge of uncertainty as I passed by Flat Point with the unrelenting rocky shoreline stretching before me and Annex Creek not even in sight. There was now no longer any chance to anchor, and no reasonable place to go ashore. Cailey was on the bench inside lying down, clearly perplexed and not happy about the way the day was going, and periodically stood up to peer at me through the back window. I was getting chilly. And the seas were a little bigger, cavitating the engine a little, though they were not large. And so we crept down toward the next point. I did try to start the main engine a couple of times in there, hoping that it would just start right up without explanation. I'd drained the bottom of the fuel filter until it was clear that gas was coming out, made sure there wasn't a kink in the fuel hose, pumped the bulb until it was taut, and even took off the cowling to see if anything jumped out at me (it didn't). Most of that I did after passing over the sandbar, and I really couldn't come up with anything else to do. Since it was making a good effort at starting, I thought it might be fuel related, but what? Anyway, each of the couple times I tried to start it, it just chugged and chugged to no effect, even seeming to peter out after a few tries as though maybe the battery was dying (which made me more conservative in my attempts).

To my relief, Annex Creek suddenly showed up, having been blocked from view by a rocky promontory, mostly a relief because I was farther along than I was afraid I was. However, there was no dock, just some pilings and what appeared to be a crane over the top. So much for my idea of a cozy dock to tie up to! There was a small gravel beach along the shore there, but otherwise it was unwelcoming rock. I was hoping to make it around the next point before the gas ran out again, but wound up running out just past the power plant. I took off the gas cap and heard something snap, and found it free in my hand; the attachment to the inside of the tank had broken off and was inside. That didn't seem like it would be a problem, but after filling it up (carefully this time), the pull cord ticked in a new way when I pulled it and I couldn't get it to catch, possibly not to pull smoothly enough to do so. I worked on that for a while, I tried the main too, then switched to the Johnson kicker. My mom had had quite a trial getting it started this spring, which was one reason I'd started with my own kicker. If I'd realized it would start so nicely and was actually twice as powerful as my kicker, I probably would have tried it sooner! I hooked up the tank, read the instructions for starting on the engine and it sprang to life in about ten pulls. It was slow to translate the twists of the throttle into actual changes in speed, but we were soon underway again and this time I did test steering with the main engine, which worked beautifully. Sitting inside and steering like a civilized person, dry and warm, gave me much more courage than I'd been feeling in the rain on the back deck. If I hadn't gotten the other kicker going, my next idea was to try to hail Annex Creek on my handheld to see if they could lend assistance. Although the tide was dropping, I had been drifting upstream while working with the engines, so maybe I'd have ended up back at Scow Cove anyway!

But we plugged on and, after a while, the shoreline at Sunny Cove showed up just where I thought it would be, a strange way to return (having camped there with Chris, Katie, and Rob some years ago), but it was nice to be somewhere familiar. My plan was to let Cailey off to go to the bathroom, then anchor the boat out from the shore in deeper water so there would be more flexibility in picking it up; we'd walk around, I'd send more messages, then get the cabin cozy for the night. When it was time to sleep, we'd be aground on the low tide and Cailey could go to the bathroom again. However, the delta there is so gradual that as soon as we touched bottom I wasn't able to push us off and I really didn't try that hard; we were still 20 yards from dry land. Instead, I slid into the water in my waders, picked up Cailey, and carried her most of the way to dry land. On the way up the muddy intertidal zone, I tried to send an okay message to let them know where I'd landed, but when I looked at the SPOT in my hand, I saw two red lights--no satellite and batteries. Scared it would run out before I got out the needed message, I turned it off and tried again when I was stationary sitting on a log at the top of the beach. I managed to send a help and an okay (so they knew I was fine) and another help (so they knew I wasn't canceling the help). It was a lot of messages, but I didn't know what was actually going through since I'd had trouble up the Taku sending messages this summer. And as I sat there watching the lights flash on SPOT, a Ward Air plane flew in low from up the river and I waved as they flew by the boat. Although I would have been more than comfortable on the Kathy M that night, I did almost tear up with gratitude. My messages had worked! I slipped my way down the beach and waded out to the boat as the plane turned around and landed. I put out a bit more anchor line since I wouldn't be there to monitor it and tried to set the anchor a little bit (driving it into the mud), awkward under a couple feet of water. I grabbed my backpack from inside, the one item I wanted to bring with me, and waited for the plane to come, trying to sign that the water is very shallow in there--there was already a shoal above the water father out from shore than the boat. My mother had a grim look on her face when I saw her through the windshield, but I just grinned back. They were also worried about the tide falling and a log we could see underwater, but my mom pointed out that the main engine was tilted down, so I turned the plane around per Ed's (the pilot's) instruction, rushed back to tilt that up and also put the garbage inside the cabin so birds didn't go after it again. I'm really embarrassed that I hadn't tilted the main up, but since I wasn't driving with it, it just didn't occur to me--no wonder the boat wouldn't push off! I also set the anchor better and tried to pull the line out from around it to avoid tangling if I could. The plane was in waste deep water, so I plunged my hands into the water where Cailey was wading up to her belly and deposited her on a float before climbing up myself. Getting her inside the 180 was a little tricky and ungraceful, but it was accomplished, followed by me. Ed put down his rain jacket so I didn't get the seat wet. And soon we were flying over the foggy, rainy inlet and down the channel to Juneau. I was feeling pretty good, and very happy to be home that night. My mother set me up with chili for dinner and Ezra came over to decompress with me. Per his request, I did not shower or change clothes before he arrived, so I remained looking adventurous when he showed up with flowers and chocolate popsicles.

The next morning I went to work, still rocking a little (literally) as though I'd been on a boat much longer than part of two days. Late in the morning I texted my mother and suggested that we could go out the next day on the Ronquil and tow it in; she wrote back and said that, after much discussion, she'd told my dad that we were going and asked if that was okay. I said that was fine and we agreed on 12:30. As I got ready to head out for lunch and while I was walking Cailey on the flume, I texted her to ask her to bring a few things (like leaving the harbor beers, since I had discovered that my refrigerator had fully failed while I was gone and I had no way to chill anything), lastly suggesting that she bring her mustang suit. She texted back to tell me that she was already wearing it. That was puzzling! Did she think we were leaving that day...? I called to find out and, sure enough, she thought we were talking about that very day, and the weather was supposed to be better than the next day ("not a whisper of wind" according to the person at the weather center that my dad had called). So I rushed home and turned around, picking up my mother just half an hour late. We loaded up the Ronquil with everything we needed, including the three jerry jugs of gas she'd flown out to me in case I needed them, and created a bridle to tie a tow line to by tying a doubled line to rings on either side of the stern. Then we took off drinking cold beers down a calm channel. Things got a little rockier as we approached the end of the channel and a squall came through, definitely more than a whisper! We were in chop, then rolling a little in seas as we crossed to Bishop. From there it was mostly on the stern, so not too bad, and soon as were cruising along the shoreline past Cooper. By then it was raining steadily and we discovered that the rain had soaked through our survival suits in places when we stopped to go to the bathroom. We approached a beach through the mist and I commented on how small it looked at high tide. I saw a big gray blob, though, which I hoped was the boat. The closer we got, the less familiar it looked, until we finally agreed it was not Sunny Cove after all--it turns out that there is another gravel beach between Sunny and Cooper! Good to know for future reference. My big gray blob was a huge boulder. So on we went until we hit the real Sunny Cove and saw, with some relief, the boat sitting nicely at anchor. Whew!! It was calm there and we tied the boats together and started trouble shooting. I unclipped and reclipped the emergency stop clip (though it looked fine) while my mom looked around the engine. There was no noise when we opened the fuel cap, suggesting a vacuum hadn't kept fuel flowing. My mom drained the fuel filter a little, but only a tiny bit of water came out, and she pumped the fuel bulb. Then she started the engine. Yep, it started right up, just as usual. Naturally I felt a mixture of relief and irritation. Frustrating as that is, though, I know that engine well enough to know that it really wasn't starting when I tried. If it was flooded, I gave it plenty of time between tries to drain it out. I suppose we'll never know what was wrong, but something was wrong. Perhaps if I hadn't been picked up, I'd have tried it again in the morning and had it start up right away myself.

But overall this was really good news. My mom offered to tow me back so I could sit in the shelter of the Kathy M, but that sounded like more work and would take longer, so we rode back in tandem. By then it was raining fiercely and everything on my boat was soaked. As we approached my office building on the channel it was nearly 3:00 o'clock, or time for afternoon dog walks, and I wanted to text my friends at work to tell them to wave at us from the boardwalk. I abandoned the idea, though, as there was no escape from the driving rain coming down the channel behind me. It was too wet for any kind of phone work. Once we got to the dock, there was then all the unloading of all my gear in the pouring rain. Just by clenching my fists, torrents of muddy water streamed out of my gloves. I think we filled four carts with all my sundry gear and stowed the jerry jugs, may full, in the boat house. It was with great relief that I stashed everything to dry on the floor of my garage (much of which is still there as I write this three weeks later). I'm pretty sure I managed to crash pretty well that night!

Posting along the slough