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Friday, July 9, 2021

Three Days at Sea That Have Nothing to Do With Politics – Day 2

We last left me, drifting off to sleep thinking about typhoid and consumption, and sick English children in orphanages. If you have no idea what I’m talking about, you can click HERE to catch up.

7:42am – I was roused from death-like sleep by a booming voice calling “I’m gonna need your help here!” Eyes flew open, desperate effort to assimilate why the ceiling was eight inches from my face, and where I was. Then a mental rewind of what I’d just heard from the deck. An urgent cry for help is not my preferred method of regaining consciousness on a boat. My heart was jumpstarted by a flood of adrenaline, and I pulled myself out of my sleeping bag and into the chilly morning. I could see through the hatch that the clouds had rolled in like a blanket. As I climbed the ladder and took in the scene, I noticed the wind had picked up and it was obvious what the problem was. We had dragged anchor in the night and were now precariously close to banging into the rocky wall that rings our little cove.

~Rocks – bad.

I ended up at the tiller as Spouse hopped off the boat, scrambled over rocks, untied us from the tree and walked the boat like a naughty wayward dog to safety. I shivered, and sat at the stern, reversing the motor and giving it gas when necessary. One catastrophe averted.

8:30 – We’re now re-anchored further out in the middle of the cove away from the perils of shore. After saving ourselves from a (literally) rocky morning, the next mission is coffee. I forgot coffee only once on a boat trip, and never again. I also forgot sugar only once on a boat trip, and never again. Milk? Same thing. This time, I made absolutely sure I was prepared with all necessary ingredients. I’d even brought a tea infuser, hoping to have found an ingenious way to brew a single cup. I set the coffee-loaded infuser in the pot of water that was happily steaming on the camp stove, and soon realized the mesh wasn’t small enough and all the fine coffee dust was flowing freely into the pot. It would require straining it through a folded paper towel which I would lay over the top of the ….. mug. Argh! Completely forgot the mug, so this morning my coffee comes in an old soup can. At least it has milk and sugar.

~Gourmet java and damp mini scones.

9:05 – Another discovery. We’ve accidentally grabbed the wrong radio! We are now afloat in the Sound with an aviation radio, while the marine radio sits in the basement in Anchorage. Granted, the lack of a basic safety feature is not as big a calamity as having to drink muddy coffee out of a soup can, but it does cause us to alter plans. There was a low pressure system headed our way that we were going to keep an eye on… or an ear on, and now we can’t. So, instead of heading out further, we’ll stay here for another night, closer to Whittier and a series of safe anchorages along the way if the weather turns.

Damp scones are eaten, the tide book is consulted, and fishing strategy is plotted. The early morning chill seems to have lifted. Either that or the coffee has kicked in.

10:40 – We are motoring out of West Twin Bay and heading to the entrance of it’s counterpart East Twin Bay. Both bays are located on Perry Island, which is more or less shaped like a giant E with each of the bays being the white spaces between the horizontal strokes. We are looking for halibut, the most delectable mouth-watering ocean ambrosia in the seven seas. You think I exaggerate, but I do not. Anyone who has hauled in a halibut and sauteed it on a camp stove in butter and onion and lime, with a dash of mayo knows this to be the truth. Halibut are bottom fish that like mud. The bottom of the entrance to East Twin Bay seems to be muddier according to our chart, than the entrance to West Twin Bay, where we once had what is referred to in our family as “the rockfish debacle.”

Let me start by saying that the rockfish debacle was completely my fault and I accept full responsibility, but my intentions were noble. Someone, I think it was Spouse, pulled up a vermillion rockfish from the depths. We were disappointed because it wasn’t a halibut, but simply the fact that it was a big vermillion fish made us all gasp. You can imagine if you are expecting this:

and you get this:


it’s quite something.

It was really lovely as far as fish go, with huge eyes and dazzling color. Compared to a mud-colored halibut, with its face squished all on one side of its head, and looking like the marine version of roadkill, this fish was a supermodel – a vision of loveliness. At the time, nobody was sure whether it was a good “eating fish” either. So, I found myself overcome with compassion for this magnificent creature who might or might not be edible. Based mostly upon my pleading, we let it go. But here’s where the debacle began. It didn’t go. It stayed. It had been pulled up so fast from so deep that its air bladder had inflated and it could no longer swim down.

It was awful to watch this gorgeous jewel-like big-eyed creature in its mighty struggle, but maybe if given time it would manage to get home. We watched, and watched, and cheered its efforts. Probably to alleviate my obvious suffering, it was suggested we take a sail and come back later to see if the fish had succeeded. If not, we could put the creature out of its misery, take it home, and hopefully find out it was edible. After a tense hour and a half sail, we returned to the cove. Sure enough, easy to spot from a distance because of its color, there on the surface was the poor unfortunate rockfish, that we soon realized had become even poorer and more unfortunate than before. A dark brown shape soon revealed itself as we got closer to what we hoped would be our salvaged and potentially edible dinner. But, the dark shape turned out to be an otter who had beaten us to it, and was happily munching on the fish, looking like this was the best day of its life.

And indeed it probably was. The fish, as I have now come to learn, is quite delicious. And despite my good intentions we had a perfectly edible fish that we didn’t get to enjoy, but watched it suffer not only the air bladder issue, but being mercilessly eaten alive by an otter. So, that’s how I managed to derail the fishing expedition the last time we were here. This time I intend to stay out of it and leave the fishing and its related life and death decisions to others. Besides, it is chilly and damp, and I plan to stay below bundled up, and read.

“Mom! The burritos!” Also, not a gentle awakening. I hadn’t intended to sleep, but when faced with the decision to read, I had only three choices. The political book that seemed like a really good idea in Anchorage was now, in this context, the last thing in the world I felt like reading. Reading ahead in Jane Eyre would have been cheating. And so I did what I had to do and read the only other thing I had – my camera manual. Hence, the unplanned nap.

The burrito warning went up because I’d wrapped up in foil, four previously frozen burritos and stacked them like logs on top of the heater. The potatoes were too big a job for our hobbled heater the night before, but it handled the burritos just fine. They were quite hot an hour later, and I and the unsuccessful fisherpeople enjoyed a steaming hot lunch. You can get away with a lot in the galley on a cold rainy day, as long as whatever comes out of there is hot.

The scene outside when I fell asleep is exactly the scene now. Poles over the side, lines in the water, occasional conversation about bait, and the gentle slopping of salt water on the sides of the boat. No bites. No nibbles even. And so we wait.

I found a hand warmer. This may not seem like big news to you, but here in the cold, damp cabin it’s pretty exciting stuff for me. The hand warmer was in the pocket of my green Northface coat which I seldom use. It’s been located in the seldom used pocket of this seldom used coat for years – perhaps more than a decade if my calculations are right. I was waiting for “an emergency” but this will have to do. There were a pair, but since they are air activated and there must have been a leak in the packet, one of them doesn’t work. But after shaking the little sack of granules and waiting ½ hour for the chemical reaction to take place, I am now enjoying a tiny bit of warmth, which I have chosen to stuff in my sneaker to warm up my toes. It’s supposed to last “up to 10 hours” so we’ll see how that goes.

You thought my archaeological discovery of the ancient handwarmer was big news… I heard “Check it out!” come from the deck, and not knowing what to expect, but hoping for wildlife, I grabbed my camera and popped my head up. Alas, not a whale, but  a giant cruise ship headed to Whittier. I couldn’t make out the name, but I didn’t want to stand out in the drizzle any longer than I needed to.

All this excitement. I might need another nap. Where’s that camera manual?

5:47 – After a lot of fishing, and no catching, the two fisherpeople are finally abandoning the quest.  50 percent of them are grumpy and 100% of them are wet and cold. As often happens when one is at the mercy of weather and fish, it’s been an unsatisfying day. It looks like my optimistic lime, onion and garlic mayo will remain in the bottom of the cooler, and spaghetti will be on the dinner menu instead of fresh halibut.

~Abandoned poles


As for me, it was a day of sleeping, thinking thoughts, and reading my camera manual – with more than enough of each to suit me.

9:22 – The spaghetti was cooked and eaten, and the evening’s activities centered around fixing the heater which ultimately led to success! It is now blazing away and the cabin has gone from 56 degrees to a toasty 68.


Back in the cover, it is a much gloomier scene than yesterday and the colors which were so vivid, in jewel tones of green and blue, have become subdued and almost forlorn. The only sound outside is the sound of drizzle on the water and everything inside is damp. Tomorrow we’ll take our time and make our way back to Whittier hoping for a return of the sun.


10:05pm – Tonight is Chapter 10 of Jane Eyre which begins with the word “hitherto” with a large decorated H. There was no death tonight, which came as a relief. Instead Jane having taught for two years at the orphanage (which cleaned up its act after the typhoid/consumption epidemic) has decided to apply for a new position and has just gotten a letter of acceptance. She is now waiting for the coach to take her to Thornfield and a new future. I snuggle in to a much warmer sleeping bag than last night, and fall asleep to the light sound of drizzle on the deck.

(Tune in tomorrow for the return trip and several lovely surprises)



16 Responses to “Three Days at Sea That Have Nothing to Do With Politics – Day 2”
  1. mike from iowa says:

    Come on guys,What is this fixation with water? If god had wanted you to be aquatic She wouldn’t have invented tractors or ear infections or man-eating whales and sharks. There is a reason why you have two arms and legs and no fins. It has escaped me for the present time. You should embrace your land-lubberness and not be so eager to tread where even angels could get wet. Hot tubs and saunas just aren’t enough for some folks. Did you ever stop to consider how much enjoyment you could have in a hot tub with dancing girls? Let’s please exhaust all Earthly pleasures before you drown them all. I’ve had my rant for the day.Please disregard this if you like dancing girls. All opinions expressed herein belong to somebody.

  2. Kath the Scrappy says:

    My kid Sis, well she’s 3 yrs younger than me, has always L-O-V-E-D to fish. In fact, growing up in Phoenix we could park her with a bucket of water, stick w/string & hook hanging and she would ‘fish’ for hours. Not exaggerating.

    So, Sis drove up from Phx to N. Colorado yesterday to visit for Big Bro’s 62nd birthday weekend and they’re trying out his new boat. A few months ago Rog bought a bass boat (still stuck in the snow) from a friend that was selling at a major loss because he needed money.

    Sis & Rog asked me to check my garage for life jackets after they had searched everywhere at her place. She keeps her pontoon boat and fishing gear for when she’s up here. Yep, I found 3 of ’em stacked near the ceiling, had to do some serious ‘fishing’ with the window washing pole device to get them down. Cost around $40 to mail, but cheaper than buying new or getting tickets from their Fishing Rangers. Safety too, so money well spent.

    Tucked into the box of life jackets, I put in this picture with a note.

    “Hey Rog, I just Googled to see what a “bass boat” was. You just paid $2,500 for WHAAATTTT?”

    Redneck Bass Boat

  3. leenie17 says:

    When I was a kid, my family had an old wooden fishing boat that we took out into Merrick Bay on the south shore of Long Island every weekend. As I got to middle and high school, the fish became quite scarce, and sitting on a bench in the hot sun holding a fishing pole alllll day with nary a nibble just didn’t enthuse me. Sooo…I made the cabin my home and spent many an hour reading and munching on ham and bologna sandwiches (somehow they just tasted better on the water!).

    My choice of reading material tended toward Nancy Drew, Hardy Boys (after I had run through the entire Nancy Drew shelf at the library) and, later, Agatha Christie. My early affinity for mysteries continues to this day and my favorite books are still murder mysteries, a trait I shared with my father (who always solved the ‘Quincy’ murders on television before the opening credits had even rolled!).

    Looking back, I’m rather surprised that the rocking of the boat (which increased substantially with the explosion of boat traffic on the bay in the late 1970s) and the enclosed space of the cabin didn’t deter me from the reading or the munching. Although the combination of me being a rather picky eater and my mother being an atrocious cook severely limited my food intake during the week, I never failed to have a hearty appetite while on the water, and made up for the weekdays’ lack of consumption by eating all day whenever we were on the boat.

    Of course, the view on Merrick Bay (lots of boats and houses) was nothing like the spectacular scenery you were able to enjoy on your little marine jaunt!

  4. LoveMyDogs says:

    When we lived in Sitka I always used to say that one could make a fortune on those cold and rainy/foggy days with a “party barge”. Said “party barge” would have an espresso stand as well as ice, water and other sundries that always get forgotten. Perhaps we will have to add mugs and marine radios… DH felt that we should do it in international waters and also have dancing girls (something that slip and benlomand might appreciate….)

    • benlomond2 says:

      oooohhh 🙂 LMD !! I absolutely agree with your DH !! Sounds like my kinda guy !
      Will be on one of those cruise ships in Sept, looking for Chinese American T-shirts …. (H/T to fishingmama !) Do they have any that say “Pal’in around with Palin” ? Wouldn’t want to stand out in a crowd up there….. 🙂 But the other couples that are coming with us , might be fun to get them some matching Palin butttons to wear with the t-shirts….
      Use to do overnite sailboat trips in Fla , in a wee 18 ft Highlander… sleeping bags, and anchor away from shore to stay out of reach of the skeeters… bass fishing in the am, and beans for breakfast if no fish.

    • slipstream says:

      Dancing girls? Thanks for thinking of me, LMD. Actually, I was camping Monday evening up on the Denali Highway. No rain, too many mosquitos, and sunrise at 4:24 a.m. — but I had an extra coffee mug in my kitchen box. Checklist, AKM, checklist.

  5. Micheal says:

    i go on a major camping trip every year to desolate places. in other words if you don’t bring it, too bad. so here is my solution. make a list. (first year) during trip, i have a notebook, and write down everything that we forgot or wish we had. when i get home, i add that (those) items to the master list. (kept on a computer, and printed out 3x and kept with various camping gear) next year, follow the list, and add subtract things from it from notes from last camping trip. if you keep this up year to year, and ALWAYS copy master list and stow it where you will find it the next year, you will never “forget” anything again.

    so, AKM, sit down right now and make a list while everything is fresh in your mind. then copy the list 3x and put it in 3 different places in your camping gear for next year. don’t forget to put coffee cups on your list….

  6. merrycricket says:

    When my boys were youngin’s, we dis a great deal of camping and backpacking. I still have all my shopping and packing lists along with menus for 2, 4 and 6 people. We had a set of camping gear full of the previous “forgottens” kept in boxes ready and waiting. I could get us packed and on the road in three hours. I loved camping with the boys and really miss it.

  7. AKPetMom says:

    Nice write up of your adventures! It reminds me of why I let others do the fishing and purchase their catch. We too experienced the bringing up of the Rockfish and found after releasing that it would not be able to return to the depths. We hauled it in and took it home and cooked it, but still felt bad that we’d hooked it in the first place, which is why I no longer fish.

    Our times on the ocean involve no fishing poles and no tackle, just pure enjoyment of the scenery. I’ve learned to leave the fishing to the “experts” and purchase it from the dock on the return trip, or from a local fishmonger. I loved your “water totem” photos a few posts ago. Prince William Sound is truly a soul cleansing venue.

  8. Really? says:

    What a wonderful family outing. Thats great you take the time to enjoy Alaska., there is so much to see and do. Halibut fishing is one thing i have yet to do, and halibut is my favorite fish. Keep enjoying your family. , and sharing your photos,

  9. Kath the Scrappy says:

    Thanks for sharing your trip with us! Almost as good as being there, while not having to deal with the cold & damp.

  10. fishingmamma says:

    I saw many cruise ships pass at a distance when I was commercial fishing in SE. I always thought, “Here I sit, with my hot coffee and my cozy toes, watching all those people, who paid thousands of dollars, slide past on a huge ship on the way to town to buy t-shirts made in China.”

    Looking at your photos brought back many fond memories. I could almost hear the eagles and the rain on the water.


  11. Downeaster says:

    Thanks for sharing your family outing with us, Jeanne. I envy anyone who can travel on a sailboat or any ocean-going craft. My middle ear wasn’t designed for motion-filled activities but my wife and I spend as much time as possible near the sea here in Maine. What great memories you all will have someday!

  12. Alaska Pi says:

    Oh AKM- where were you on every camping trip I ever made?!
    Could have used your ideas and your humor as the list of Oh-I-forgot-the… expanded to how-could-I-forget-the*&$@%&ing… !!!!
    Very beautiful cove- even wearing it’s foggy woolies.

  13. Ivan says:

    I’ll grab that radio and deliver it to you. Please.

    • Irishgirl says:

      I did give AKM my addy to share with you…but it was in the midst of the book being released. I haven’t forgotten and I want to see your photos.

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