Snettisham 2023 - 7: Wet Closeup
September 19 - 23



Stunning fall sun on Stephen's Passage

Photo Album

Vast relief and a bit of exhaustion now as I find myself back at Snettisham following another month away. After a weekend at Echo Ranch, a trip to the Taku, and five days in Anchorage/Girdwood for work, I found a weather window, if a little sketchy, just four days after I returned to town. Still, enough to rest at home and prep. A huge southeast storm came in over the weekend and persisted, to a mild degree, last night, so to awake to relatively calm weather and sunny skies was a shock, even if forecast. By the time I'd worked several hours and was at the harbor, the wind had picked up and there were small white caps in the channel from a northwesterly. I predicted a big swell coming from the backside of Douglas followed by a collision with a northerly coming out of the Taku followed by a diminishing following sea. I was anxious, but the channel soon mellowed and the swell from Stephen's Passage only kicked up approaching Arden (two and some three foot swells), easy to manage. And wind out of the Taku never manifested, so it seems I misjudged the AEL&P weather cams I'd been watching all morning, or this northesterly had overshadowed it. Anyway, I got spray over the windshield once in Arden and then cruised into a gentle following sea until it really picked up again a few miles from the port with energetic, curling swells that peaked into little three foot mountains here and there. I wouldn't have wanted to ride into it, but it was tolerable on the tail, and I was overall very grateful for the conditions. The sun was bright, the sea beautiful. We passed two pairs of whales as we passed from Douglas to Arden and then saw three ahead of us as we raced for Taku Harbor. I stopped along the way to look at a couple of birds and use the bucket, which faced me back toward Juneau. A huge splash erupted toward Arden followed by a half-breach just next to it, surely from the pair that I'd apparently already passed. I caught the second act with binoculars--full breach of the first whale, then a half-breach (straight up just past the pectoral fins, down on the chin). Very nice! We were still rocking around a bit, and the whales seemed to have quieted, so we continued on our way.

The seas followed us into the port and all the way to Sentinel Point and beyond. When we were about two thirds of the way to River Point, Sally, my beautiful engine, suddenly sputtered and died. There was gas in the tank, but not a lot, so I put most of a jerry jug in there and pumped the bulb, to no avail. When this happened last year, I'd emptied the fuel filter and refilled it with gas from a jug since pumping fuel through the line is nearly impossible, and that's what I did here, surprised to find most of the liquid I dumped into the marine head was water with a bit of rust in it. Fascinating. I filled it and screwed it back on, and the bulb grew firm with only a few squeezes, something I almost never experience. Sally started without a hitch and we were soon in sight of the homestead. All the while I was extremely grateful that this hadn't happened just 20 minutes prior when I would have been among the sloshing, white-capped seas of Stephen's Passage. The water where we were was nearly calm and Cailey sat serenely looking out over the ports.

Although I was thinking that I'd left at the wrong time for weather (it was supposed to die tonight and it was fairly calm this morning), it was perfect for the tide, one of the reasons I worked this morning instead of leaving right away. We got within two steps of the log and, after unloading most of the gear, brought the boat close enough for Cailey to jump the distance on her own. I anchored in the stiff breeze and opened up in the bright sunshine, birds diving and flitting here and there. So it was that around 3:30 I collapsed on the couch in the sunshine and started a bird survey, dominated by at least three gorgeous hermit thrushes attacking the gray currents. Three warbler sized birds went through, but I only had a good look at a male Wilson's warbler. Although I hadn't seen any whales south of Taku Open, as I cruised in I thought how I wouldn't be surprised at all if a humpback came into the inlet this week, and indeed one spent a few minutes cruising the edge of Gilbert Bay. Somehow, I could hardly keep my eyes open, but I perservered until the sun went behind the mountain around 4:30, bringing an immediate chill. I retreated inside and lit a fire, then logged on to catch up on a few things online. That finished, and a small glass of wine doing its work, the quiet of the place descended on me, and the pleasure in being here with seas behind me and no particular hurry unless the weather prompts me otherwise. Although I can see the water coursing in from Gilbert Bay, inside it feels utterly calm and I look forward to soaking it in over the coming days.

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With only a few whisps of clouds in the sky and one ever-changing billow over Gilbert Bay, I did my best to stay late for the light show, sitting on the porch until well after the first star appeared, watching hermit thrushes diving for gray currents until late. Around 8:00 I came inside and read for a bit, then headed down to the log. By then many stars were out and I could see Cassiopia, but the sky was still light to the west and it would be some time before the sky became spectacular and the Milky Way made an appearance. With some shame, I decided I was just too tired to wait, especially knowing that a cold cabin awaited me. Cailey and I headed over around 8:30, she bounding ahead, perhaps in anticipation of the treat she'd get when she hopped up on the bed, our new tradition this summer (she knew I'd packed some in my bag). I found the cabin damp, the damprid bags already mostly full. I settled in and read until around 9:30, then left my fleece onesie on as well as the stove as I fell asleep, the cabin not really warmed up yet. Around midnight I shed my extra layer and turned off the stove and slept well the rest of the night. Cailey only turned around once, apparently comfortable and exhausted under her doubled blanket.

This morning the windows were all fogged over, not a surprise, and I plan to head over earlier tonight to give it another good warming. The morning was surprisingly bright, overcast but no hint of rain. I put the solar panels out, but they never transferred even the smallest amount of power to the battery. I worked for a little bit inside before settling onto the porch over the lovely morning, quickly starting a bird survey when a Lincoln's sparrow flew by. I added to that a young hermit thrush, a varied thrush, wren, four jays, an eagle, gulls, three chickadees, both kinglets, and three fox sparrows (the latter particularly pleasing as they are only fall visitors here). Eventually I managed to read a little, then went for a COASST survey on the expanding flats, surprisingly large for a three point something low tide. Cailey focused on what must have been delicious treats along the way, only making it perhaps half way to the grassy meadow. Since she still limps a little from her stairwell incident last week while I was in Anchorage, this was something of a relief for me. I hadn't quite wanted to lock her inside.

Shortly after I plopped back on the porch couch, rain came on suddenly and I soon brough my damp quilt inside, lit a fire, and made lunch. It took a long time to get the fire going and then to warm the room, but by dinner I was down to the bottom of four layers and the lodge was too toasty. As there's no simple way to control the head output, it's a delicate line deciding whether to keep stoking the fire or let it go out with the risk of having to laboriously light it again.

After finishing The Alto Wore Tweed (delightful), I spent most of the afternoon working on my laptop, cleaning up the summer's trip report frames (dates, titles, etc.), selecting the banner and bottom photos for each, and inserting them. Necessary, basic labor that is good to have under my belt. Around 4:00 I logged onto my work computer again and responded to some emails. I am desperately trying to keep up with my e-obligations, and that includes those at work. The forecast is currently calling for light winds all weekend, which is promising for a nice stay. I made a box of au gratin potatoes with chopped cabbage mixed in it, topping it with a piece of 2021 sockeye salmon that I found in the freezer last weekend about half way through the baking cycle. I started another new book while it baked, watched an X-files, and here I am at 6:42 with dusk falling outside and cozy rain pattering the metal roof.

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I stretched and cozied in while the oil stove heated Hermit Thrush, drank a cup of tea while reading in bed, and drifted off around 9:30, unable to stay awake any longer. My body is clearly shifting out of summer mode. I slept well and Cailey seemed to prefer to go blanket-less the latter half of the night. There was less fog on the windows than there had been yesterday morning, which I thought was a good sign. Glancing out the window I saw the mouth of the creek entering the river, but the scene was off--it looked both like the tide was high and that the creek was passing over rocks, the latter a low tide phenomenon. I soon realized that the creek was swollen and raging as it discharged into the river.

Having worn light shoes last night, I went sockless on the way back, knowing my feet would get wet in this saturated ground. The rain was pouring straight down and the land was flooded--pools of water between roots and the freshet full and rushing under the bridge. Although the porch couch didn't seem to have water on it (I'd wiped it off last night after the front passed), water was seeping over from the top of the steps and the front board was wet. In a very rare move, I did not settle onto the porch but stayed inside, eating pancakes by the window and reading a little before working on my UK trip report with internet on to fill in some of the details I'd left blank to research later. Although I was anxious to work on closing chores--those that were not last-minute--I hoped that, eventually, the mood would take me, as just then the drenching rain was not appealing.

Around 11:00 I was suddenly interested in some damp labor, so I suited up and set to work. In short, I removed the water filters on three cabins and tinfoiled them and the valves to Cottonwood and Mink, excavated (mostly by hand) the duff that has accumulated on the edges of the cabins, outhouses, and shed so it doesn't built up and damage the wood, put the tarps over both outhouses, and nailed in plywood pieces around the back porch to protect it from splashes. It was a good chunk of work done, and there is little more I can do until I'm ready to close down the water system for the winter. I did realize that I had entirely forgotten about taking down the canopy, but by that time I was very ready to come inside. I discovered that the entire front of my pants were wet as was the back of my t-shirt and some of my fleece. Thankfully, I'd dressed lightly and quickly changed into dry clothes and, once I cooled off a little, stoked up the fire that I'd lit that morning.

That fire has been simmering all day. Yesterday and today, it smoked profusely when first lit, although the door was as closed as I could get it. I couldn't see that it was leaking from anywhere on the top and think that it must be coming through the crack of the door, which sends out flickering orange light when burning. Thankfully, it doesn't seem to last long. It's been a challenge to work with, but once burning, keeps to it gently.

When I got back, I had a beer, thinking that it might be the only time this trip that a cold beverage sounds good! I drank it with the rest of last night's dinner, then read for a bit, worked on the UK trip report, and tried to check my work email. And internet did not come on. All the lights were on but "system." I bopped around the Hughesnet site a little, then tried a re-installation which had fixed the problem this spring. Eventually I wound up on the signal strength page and saw that it was a measely 33 when it should be over 100. The weather is probably some of the worst (in terms of rain and clouds) that I've seen since the dish was installed, but I had used it successfully this morning--even streaming a few short videos. What had happened? It's hard to imagine that the dish was moved at some point today. I shut it down and worked on a diorama for Ezra's miniatures, creating a sort of fall pumpkin patch/edge of a corn field scene with miniature pumpkings from JoAnne's strewn about over squirrel spruce cone duff and backed by grass and seed heads stuck up like corn stalks in styrofoam. The pumpkin headed creature is standing on a pedestal of three pumpkins and facing a skeleton on a small patch of bare sand.

I just tried internet again and failed. This time all lights came on again but system and the signal strength is 35. It would not register. I hope it clears up with the weather but, if not and another reinstall doesn't work, I'll try the hard reinstall by pushing buttons on the modem and, if that doesn't work, I'll try a new modem. I'm not optimistic though, and hope that Ezra does not worry too much.

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I had chili for dinner--it seemed right for the weather--and headed to Hermit Thrush around 7:00, early enough that it was still dusk and no headlamp was needed. Everything was flooded--standing pools between roots on the trails, the freshet flowing just an inch or two below the bottom step of the stairs on the way to Hermit Thrush, the rain so loud that I had to shout to make myself known to any damp bears around. There hadn't been a pause in the rain all day. It was also so noisy that I couldn't hear the second half of the Taskmaster episode that I'd started with dinner without holding it up to my ear, when these days the volume is usually ample. I finished out the episode, but otherwise read for the evening once we were settled in. I put Hank's soft rug between the bed and the astroturf mat in the entryway, and I think it's a good way to soak up some of the water in Cailey's feet before she hops up onto bed. She's been so excited about the new cookie-as-soon-as-she-gets-on-the-bed routine that I've now changed it to cookie-right-before-I-get-into-bed or else she is up and down all the time.

I noticed as we came in that the windows were still fogged over when, the last couple of days, they are clear by the evening, but soon discovered that they were foggy on the outside. Odd! This morning, though, it was back on the inside. The rain had lightened somewhat but was still steady and the freshet had risen overnight to an inch or so above the bottom stair. We hastened to the lodge and, naturally, tried internet while my zucchini bread toast burned on the stove. To my surprise, all the lights came on, but still there was no connection. The Hughesnet site showed that the modem had finished its reinstallation last evening when I'd been trying, which was interesting. All the lights came on again, but still no connection and, on the second try, I saw that the signal strength was up to the 70s, a nice improvement presumably due to the lightening weather. However, registration was immediately stalled by a problem with the SBC file. This is something I was at least somewhat familiar with--in theory--so I pulled out the OASIS app on my phone to upload the one I'd loaded on this spring in case this was my May issue. Naturally, the password had expired.

Having failed on the online reinstallation, I tried a "hard" reinstall, as the Hughesnet rep had suggested in the past, by pressing an inset button on the back (with the end of a twisty tie) at the same time as the WPS button on the front. This time we went through all the steps and everything checked out green. I'd tried sending a few texts to Ezra earlier in the process and then tried again. Nothing worked until my phone told me I needed to take it out of airplane mode--odd becuase I had wifi on--but as soon as I did that, my messages sent and my phone started to ping with new messages. Hallelujah! At least I'd be able to let Ezra know I was okay and to check the weather. It looks like the wind will turn from the north this weekend and persist into next week with two or three foot seas, so even if internet continues to work, it looks like Sunday morning is my escape. Perhaps the morning SE breeze between the northerlies Saturday and Sunday afternoon will take me home, but either way, I think that's what we'll try. While I'd like to stay longer, this seems like a good plan.

While agonizing over the internet, I'd made a vow that I'd sit outside on the porch and have tea if it worked. This was something of a "sacrifice" because right at that moment the porch was not exactly enticing! Only the floor board against the building was partially dry; everything else was wet and I found water pooling in the cracks of the couch, all of which was wet. But once I dried it off and settled in with a quilt wrapped around me and a cup of jasmine tea, I was grateful for the impetus to be out. It was marvelous watching the river flow, bringing one tree after another down in the current. It had unusual patterns on the surface and was full of debris, and I could spot over a dozen full sized logs, most with root wads. I enjoyed it quite a lot.

But then I suited up for more chores, everything else I could do before the final work begins tomorrow. First I took down the canopy (in 15 minutes) leaving the sides on the porch to stash on my kayak when I put it away and the top by the shed for placing at the last minute. Then I carried a pitcher of water and the jug of diesel to Hermit Thrush, left them there, and headed up trail to turn off the valve to the northern cabins. On the way back I turned up the trail to see what the flooded creek looked like. It was raging! The first thing I noticed was that the large log at the edge of the bank had been stripped of its mossy covering from the recent flood. It looked like it was in the wrong place, but I think that's because the water was so much higher. I could hardly tell where the waterfall was over the roar. I could see the water pipe arched over the water before plunging into the center of the roar, apparently stuck beneath a large rock. I was worried about that hose being higher than the inlet right away and wondered if we had running water only because of the great pressure of the water. But I didn't want to go anywhere near it!

Back at the bottom, I drained the water out of Hermit Thrush's hose, took out the filters, put a gallon or two of diesel in the tank (this time I could tell it was low and where the fuel level was clearly by tapping it), then carried the filters down to Harbor Seal where I opened its valve and left some tinfoil to cover it after it finished draining.

And then, the fun. I grabbed a small bucket from the shed and headed out to harvest potatoes! By then the rain had definitely diminished to a steady mist and by the time I'd finished harvesting the first mound, it had stopped entirely and the sky was brightening. What a refreshing change! That and the internet and the chores behind me put me in a fine mood, and I so love to garden. I started with the most upriver patch, collecting four, five, and nine potatoes from the first three starts. The next patch produced up to 12 potatoes each (not including the teeny ones). The most productive patches were the two on the downriver side--perhaps a matter of sun--and the biggest came from the one by the log. When finished, my small blue bucket was brimming with potatoes, all from the thirteen planted. Crops are amazing.

The day was suddenly so beautiful and the potatoes had done so well that I immediately decided to reuse the existing mounds. I'd noticed a small amount of rockweed washed ashore at the landing and set about collecting it, which was enough to cover one mound. Nearby were clumps of grassy wrack and I thought why not add to the volume of the mounds as well as fertilizer? I wound up adding several inches of grass wrack to each mound and, surprised and pleased to find more patches of seaweed wrack downriver, covered each in rockweed as well. Given that they had such little nutrition this year, growing in grass wrack with only a little seaweed mid-summer and one dose of fish fertilizer late-summer, I'm pretty pleased with the results. I'll take more care next year to trim back the bluejoint overhanging them as well.

Before I stopped for lunch I closed up all the cabins, cleaning the sinks from the muddy water I may have splattered in them during rainy water system chores, making sure the buckets under the sinks were empty, that the sinks each had a spider escape, the curtains were closed, and a damprid bag in each. Back at the lodge, I brought inside all the various sundry items I'd left on the porch during my work (potato bucket aside), organized the lodge a bit, and cleaned the floor from all the wet spruce needles and mud and debris that had come in on raingear and Cailey and I. When the basics were done, I made a quesadilla and reveled in the day on the porch with a grapefruit G&T. Looking out over the flooded inlet was magical.

In the afternoon I spent some time organizing and cleaning for departure, rinsing off the outsides of the filters and rubbing down the insides, washing the dishes including the hummingbird feeders (one was half drunk, the other only a little), tucking the recycleables in the tote, and spreading out wet raingear to dry. I'd had a little fire going all day, having successfully started it before I had tea this morning on the first try. From there, I've only had to put a piece of wood on every two hours or so to keep the lodge cozy all day long. I spent a little more time on the porch, popped on the internet again to check work emails and, because I could, watch the end of a Brigerton episode, then cooked a complicated dinner of carrots and cabbage stirfried with bison steak strips rolled in flour, plus toast, along with a dessert/breakfast of canned cherries and fresh plums with a pancake batter topping steamed on the stove.

As I'd been cleaning earlier, I'd noticed that the water pressure seemed a little low and, though it wasn't falling as fast as it sometimes does, I prepped a little for a possible loss of running water ahead of schedule by filling three pots with water, Cailey's water dish, and my water glass. After dinner I decided to quickly do the dishes again, thinking that it was possible that the diminished pressure was not because of no water making into the system anymore, but less water due to the drop in creek level, so it might be a matter of time rather than water volume I was working against. The flow is definitely low now, but I have plenty to live and do the final dishes with what I have stored up if it fails tonight. I was going to pull it out early tomorrow anyway, and a lower creek might make it easier!

Now I'm sitting on the porch again, my fingers becoming little icicles. The rain picked up again later in the afternoon--lightly--but has stopped again. I had expected that birds would come out of the woodworks when the rain stopped, but I saw only the wren and the hermit thrushes, who have never stopped harvesting the currents. I can see how fewer there are now than when I arrived a few days ago. It's good that they're being eaten and spread about. I've just had to put Cailey inside because she belatedly smelled a critter who went by earlier. She trotted down the stairs, sniffed under the deck, and headed downriver through the brush on the trail he'd come from. I was desperate not to have her run with her bad leg, so called for her mightily. Perhaps she relented, or perhaps the trail was too faint to be enticing by then, but she actually turned around and came back. She wanted to go under the deck, but I managed to lead her back upstairs and inside where she was rewarded with treats. Phew! Now it's 6:30 so I think I'll warm my fingers inside with some dumplings and then head to my (probably) last night in Hermit Thrush for the year. Looking out over the river now, I'm amazed to see only one small log floating by, the river fairly still on a high tide, all the debris apparently drifted out to sea and the flood evidently over. It'll be interesting to see what level the creek is in the morning.

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I probably should have sat down for a few minutes, eaten some breakfast, and at least put my hair up before I started on chores. But with so many things before me--things that would not, ultimatey, take long, but which would haunt me until they were done--I had a bite of cobbler and left Cailey inside while I immediately returned to Hermit Thrush to finish cleaning, take the stove pipe down, and haul the rugs and comforter back to the lodge. Then I returned and headed up the trail to pull out the water line. On the way to Hermit Thrush last night--at the very civilized time of 6:50!--I had noticed, somewhat to my astonishment, that the freshet had gone entirely dry and the creek was almost back to normal at the mouth this morning, though the first little side stream was still flowing. The edge of the bank had been eroded somewhat, with raw roots exposed.

I found the creek back to normal at the top, too, which was a relief, especially as I had to hop into the creek to pry some rocks off the top of the hose end and yank repeatedly to unbury it. Then instead of pulling it out from under the log, I just sort of pushed it into the bushes on the side of the creek and I don't think it'll be tempted to reenter the stream that way. I was a little afraid that the log might fall over the winter and I wouldn't be able to thread it under again. This worry was in part prompted by the fact that, after all these years, the log "dam" above which I have always set the water barrel/hose collapsed on the downriver side. It'll be a different setup in the spring, but might work well for the new inlet strategy.

With that done, I carried Hermit Thrush's battery and the diesel jug back to the lodge and locked it up, returning later to pick up the drill I'd left inside. I drained the water out of the lodge system, took down the filters (one required the special tool to twist off), pulled the scum and water out of the grease trap, unhooked the propane tank that has been hooked up, unused, to the propane lights for years, and hauled some wood to the back porch to bring inside later. It was then 10:30 and I'd been working for two hours and felt like I had too much more to do before heading out tomorrow, and so much to haul back home. I did some packing, then ate more cobbler and made a mediocre cup of hot chocolate, then had a nice bird survey on the porch as the inlet brightened and stopped raining for a while include the Wilson's warbler, Lincoln's sparrow, continuing hermit thrushes eating berries, a great blue heron, and a bonus white-crowned sparrow among the thrushes who severely masticated the berries before consuming them. Even a mouse made an appearance eating berries! Early in the trip I'd seen two thrushes together that were sleek and solid brown on their backs and thought perhaps the spotted and scruffy juveniles had grown adult plumage. Not so! Since then, most of the birds I've seen have been spotted on the nape and, in one case, spotted over their head as well, and still a little scruffy.

After that I retreated inside, lit a very reluctanct fire, and spent most of the rest of the afternoon reading inside. Cailey has probably sensed the packing up vibes and gets up every time I stand up, even just to walk a couple of feet, which is rather annoying. It's now almost six, the dishes are done, dinner is ready to cook, the sink is out, and most everything is packed up. The only thing I have left to do tonight is grease the filter o-rings, but tomorrow is going to busy with final cleaning, the stove pipe and radio removal, and loading the boat (and having a final cup of tea on the porch), all before 10:00 am.

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The evening was gorgeous--utterly calm, the inlet slowly sinking into twilight. I sat on the porch enjoying it with my bowl of ramen, cabbage, and peas (inspired by reading Yumi and the Midnight Painter), then lingered as the light faded. One bat flew over, but otherwise the scene was undisturbed. When I left the chill of the evening for the warmth of the lodge, I collapsed on the couch with Cailey and watched Brigerton until it was time to sleep (because I could).

I set the alarm for 6:15, which woke me, and rose shortly thereafter, starting six hours of steady work with the exception of 20 minutes on the porch with my ritual last cup of tea. It was still just beginning to lighten up, so I was grateful for the two electric lights as I finished packing up and began dropping the endless bits of gear on the porch before I swept and cleaned inside and covered the windows. Following that I took the stove stack down, fetched the boat (8:00), then sent my last text before packing up the solar battery, taking down the radio, greasing and zip tying the cables to the satellite dish pole in a plastic baggie, and carrying the ladder up to the outhouse to use it in wrapping a line (fetched from the boat) around the tarp and plywood to protect it for the winter. At 8:35 I started loading the boat, taking down one load from the porch at a time and stashing it away. This was necessitated by the ceaseless rain and the several items that should not get wet, namely the solar battery in its precious cardboard box, already weakened by spending the summer in the shed. Nothing made it on board dry, but nothing important got too wet either.

At 9:00 I was mostly loaded and it was time for tea. Cailey joined me on the porch, having calmed down a bit this morning during all the final close up chores, spending part of it crashed out on the edge of my down comforter that I'd draped over the couch for the winter. It was a pleasant 20 minutes, but over all too soon. I did the last dishes, packed up the perishables, and dumped the tub of water from under the sink, then carried another load down to the boat. As the last task, I brought the kingfisher from inside the cabin onto the porch. Oh, did I not mention the kingfisher? I'd been inside covering the windows around 7:30 when I heard the loud cackle of a kingfisher and knew with horror what was about to occur. I turned to the window and cried "Nooooooo!" but it was much too late to do anything to prevent the collision. This is only the third strike on the picture window I'm aware of in all the years its been there, and all have been kingfishers. This large male was on the deck, wings spread, beak open. I scooped him up and placed him in a small box with a towel on the bottom, covered it with a larger towel, and left him there until just before I was about to leave. Thankfully, as sooon as I began to open it, he struggled to get out and flew strongly around the corner and along the lodge, disappearing before I could straighten up and look for him. Thank goodness and God speed.

I gave Cailey a last rawhide to bury while I carried my backpack and miniature scenery down to tuck in the boat. Cailey came down when she was finished and easily hopped in the boat from the very back. I took a last photo before I pushed our, pleased as usual to find that it was 10:00 on the dot, my intended departure time to the minute. The river and Gilbert Bay were fairly calm, but a breeze blew down from Speel Arm, as I'd feared, to match the north wind that had created ripples down the river in the morning. As I turned toward Stephen's Passage, I was surprised to find that the wind turned more or less behind me, ultimately deciding it was a southeasterly. Southeasterlies are a dime a dozen in Southeast, but normally they manifest in Snettisham as seas coming straight in the port from Stephen's Passage, while this was originating from within the port. Still, I would take it, as it made the ride out quite comfortable after a brief rumble where the two breezes met. Just before I reached Stephen's Passage, my attention was caught by a bird chase over the water; I initially thought it might be a jaeger, but it turned out to be a falcon of some kind persistently diving on a small bird, song bird sized. He must have chased it out over the water, but it returned to last and, as far as I could tell, escaped, for the falcon ceased its attentions and I lost him when I extracted my binoculars.

I'd passed three whales in the port and another two soon came into view as I entered Stephen's Passage. To my relief, the two foot northly seas did not manifest as I'd feared and, though it wasn't calm, we were able to travel at speed more or less comfortably all the way to Grave Point. And that's where the wind picked up--not the southeasterly NOAA had (puzzlingly) promised, but the Taku wind to match the other breezes I'd encountered. It quickly slowed us down and we began a 52-minute tooth-gritting endurance run to Point Arden, the two to three foot seas crashing against us so the windshield was nearly always awash with spray and the boat constantly crashing and bouncing around. Thankfully the four dramamine tablets I'd given Cailey seemed to help as she kept her head down and didn't give much sign of being nauseous. I sang a little song on and off about how every meter brought us closer to home, but it was not fun. To add to my anxiety, a cruise ship was coming up on my tail and I was afraid of its wake compounding with the seas and making for a wet encounter. Thankfully, it passed just as I reached Arden far enough away that the wake wasn't a problem, and at that point the seas laid down and we were able to pick up speed. For some reason, it seemed like a good idea to follow the cruise ship in rather than catch its wake off to the side, so I turned and rolled through the wake well behind it--no green water over the bow, thankfully--and turned behind it. Suddenly a white foam appeared sinuously in its wake and continued for quite a distance. The only explanation I can think of is that it was discharging something (gray water?) as it approached Gastineau Channel.

For my part, I soon realized that I was catching up to it, so I wound up passing back through the wake and slowing overtaking it to port. By this time I was quite chilled through my many layers and the wool blanket over my lap and my fingers were icy within their gloves. As I passed the ship, I glanced up to see if any passengers were on their decks. I'm always surprised at how few there usually are out there enjoying the scenery, so was pleased to see some in the chill weather. I waved and was tickled that someone waved back. With all humility, they were looking at a proper Alaskan in that moment, and I wondered if any had seen me splashing my way across Taku Open.

I pushed on the throttle and left the Ovation of the Seas behind, turning into the boathouse around 12:30, cold and tense, and desperate for the head. Since neither Ezra nor Ken were around, I tied up the boat until it was just secure, then rushed into the Kathy M and used the bucket. Much relieved, I had the lines tied and the buoy in place between the Kathy M's engine and the bow when Ezra arrived with two carts. He was very kind as I gave incoherent directions in my frazzled state. There were so many individual items, but Ezra loaded them up efficiently in the carts and off we trundled (well, I was trundling) up the ramp with a badly limping Cailey whose drainage tract had begun to swell again, indicating the return of her implant infection. I left her with Ezra and the carts to fetch the car and, in an unusual turn of events, she chose to sit down by Ezra instead of wandering around sniffing the harbor dogs and harbor trash.

A long hot shower and lunch improved my mood somewhat and I soon doused myself in a thick fleece blanket on the couch and closed my eyes. I was still chilly, but I think I passed out as soon as my body warmed up sufficiently and I had my first good nap in months. It doesn't feel like fall yet, no climactic change of seasons as it usually feels, perhaps because the Taku cabin is not yet closed. But, with the Galapagos expedition in exactly a month, there is much town work to do!



Lovely wet forest