Jan 17, 2012 Baranof


We wanted true winter and, suddenly, we were in the thick of it!  Pete came back from the morning walkabout and roused me with a report that the bay was freezing over and the float plane dock was covered with eight inches of ice. What a sight this was!  The bay was choked up with pancake ice, plates of ice of various sizes with raised edges.  Waves were breaking over the float plan dock, causing additional layers of ice to form and dangerously weigh down the dock.  Pete sprung to action and, sledgehammer and goggles in tow, set out to clear the ice.  It was a cold, sweaty job and he had to be careful not to get frostbite on such a frigid day, with temps hovering around 7 degrees and a -20 degree wind chill.

A true arctic blast had come our way, the brutal, biting air a taste of the Yukon.  At least we had blue skies and sunshine in this frozen world!  Ice skirted Privateer, ringing the rudder, waterline and bow.  The poor boat was taking a beating in these conditions.  Sand bags attached to the boat cover were frozen and slamming against the hull.  The sound made me wince; something would have to be done about this.  Everything around us is frozen stiff, the forest groans and longs to be limber again.  It’s amazing to see birds still about, surviving in such a harsh environment.  Pete spotted a Rock Ptarmigan near the river donning its winter camouflage, a beautiful white coat.  We felt lucky to see this elusive bird bobbing about.

Our visit to the hydro intake revealed that the river’s water level was still a bit low and the pipe not fully submerged, but we were still maintaining good flow and generating sufficient power.  Back in town at the hydro shed, Pete turned a nozzle down on each of the two hydro wheels to increase the pressure at which the water hits the wheel.

Around noon, high tide pushed many of the cool looking Frisbee-sized platelets (as I had decided to call them) onto the shore and these crusty discs were scattered over the rocks at low tide.  With the movement of the tide and the current generated from the waterfall, the platelets gone back to sea had shifted from their original configuration, now overlapping one another.  The scene reminded me of the mating moon jellyfish that I had seen last August in Hood Bay, translucent like the ice, of similar size and drifting in such thick, milky  masses that there were little gaps between them.

The cold water pipe froze up today and we lost our supply to the cabin.  Anticipating this, we’d filled three 5-gallon jugs full of water to have on hand.  After these are empty, we’ll have to seek out the most convenient drinking water source. Fortunately, we have the option of diverting hot spring water from the hot tub into the house for washing hands or doing dishes.  To flush the toilet, we fill a bucket from the outdoor hot tub. This does the trick.  Having the hot spring source makes the situation not so desperate.  Our new reality will require a bit more work than before, but we’re glad to have such an abundance of water around us to draw from.  It’s an odd thing when you lose water but are surrounded by it.  There’s even a stream that normally flows under John’s cabin!

With everything at risk of freezing, we went to rescue the remainder of our egg supply on the boat.  After already having withstood so much, we couldn’t let them fail us now.  They are a hearty bunch.  We’re preparing for a potential black out, but are now in brown out” (i.e. power conservation) mode.  The long-term forecast doesn’t show much in the way of above freezing temperatures and we figure we may be living by candlelight in the coming month.  Though the idea is romantic, the reality may be different.  It’s reassuring to have neighbors nearby, even if contact is largely radio based.  Everyone (the five of us within a one-mile radius) has banded together in a state of emergency, offering wood, generators, gasoline, assistance…whatever it takes to survive the cold times ahead.  Weather reports on the VHF radio repeatedly state marine conditions for nearly everywhere in Southeast Alaska as freezing spray” and heavy freezing spray.”  The open waters are unfriendly, no place for a boat to be right now.  Pete and I are eager to establish an overland route to the lodge for safety reasons.  Pending more snow, we’ll need to procure gasoline for the snow blower from the lodge.  Rowing may be unsuccessful in these icy conditions.  We’ve deemed 2012 The Year of Survival.” Since the beginning of January life’s been about basic needs–food, shelter and warmth.  Fortunately, we’re having fun surviving!

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