I've been trying to get a blog to my sister to post from Florida as per usual, but technical problems and an extremely poor signal have made that difficult, so I thought I'd try to send off a short one just to let everyone know what's going on, and to apologize for my delays in responding to emails.
We're working on our floathouses, hoping to get them in the best shape possible before we get any snow fall that sticks. Yes, I wrote about doing the same thing last winter, but we have to do this every year because that's the nature of floathouses. They're always losing flotation for one reason or another. My oldest brother Jamie, who also lives in a floathouse, was visiting the other day and describing all of his plans to get his place into snowfall shape, too.
A few weeks before that, I was sitting at my laptop, writing on my memoir, when my whole house shook so hard that things fell off the walls. This was right around the time of the big earthquake up in Anchorage, which wouldn't normally affect us at this distance, but earthquakes were on my mind. But when I checked outside to see what kind of damage was done, I found that a vital piece of my flotation had broken, dropping the back of my float about six inches underwater.
I couldn't leave it like that, but with our early nights I didn't have much time to do anything too permanent. Still, I rounded up extra foam, a heavy board, a drill, a spike, and a sledgehammer while my dad quickly put together q partial cradle to keep the foam in place. I managed to get the new piece of flotation in place just before darkness fell, but I need to work on something more permanent.
So that's what we're busy with right now. Usually it's pouring down rain and blowing a gale so I can't take pictures, which is why I'm posting a couple of dawn photos of the little tidal bight we live in on a gloriously unrainy, unwindy day--something we haven't seen in weeks. Hopefully the technical and signal issues get fixed soon and I can post a regular blog. Thanks for everyone's patience!
It's that time of the year when bears are everywhere. Thirteen-year-old A.C. Darden who comes and stays with us frequently told me that the day before she came to visit there was a black bear down on the dock at the nearby village. Fortunately there aren't that many tourist vessels in yet and the summer people are still sparse so there was no interaction.
My dad, A.C.'s brother, and I went over to work on the dam a few days ago and found that a bear had been there, too. While I was gone the bear had ripped the pump off the dam and chomped into almost every piece of plastic around, including oil jugs and the container we use to prime the pump. Fortunately he didn't bite the pump itself, or the waterline. He did carry off our can of ether, though, that we use to get the balky pump engine started. I pictured him passed out somewhere in the woods after puncturing the can.
Apparently, though, it didn't keep him down for long--either that or there's another bear around--because two days ago my dad saw a black bear near the beach that has a good signal, where I go to send my blog posts.
Not wanting to make the bear's acquaintance, even though I go everywhere with a .44 strapped to my hip these days, I've decided to just send off this short blog post explaining why my longer post about my trip back from Juneau will be delayed--it's on a bear hold.
(If you want to read about what took me to Juneau and the trip up there here's a link to my column that talks about it: http://juneauempire.com/capitalcityweekly/ccw-columns/2018-05-23/alaska-real: wilderness-nanny-interrupted.)
Sorry for the shortness of this post, but I have to use as few photos as possible so it will send from my house. I'm willing to brave deep snow, gales, and pouring rain to send off blog posts, but I'm not willing to face this:
"Message in a bottle." That was the subject tag on the email I received on March 27, 2017.
I've always been fascinated by messages in bottles. One story that sticks in mind is about a steamer named Saxilby that left Ireland in November 1933. It disappeared, but two and half years later a message in a bottle washed ashore at Aberayon, Wales. It said: "S.S. Saxilby sinking off Irish coast. Love to sisters, brothers, and Dina. Joe Okane."
What's Twilight Zone eerie about this particular message in a bottle is that it washed ashore less than a mile from the people to whom Joe Okane sent his last message.
An even more remarkable story is the one about Chunosuke Matsuyama, a Japanese seaman who, along with forty-three companions, went searching for buried treasure on a Pacific Island in the year 1784.
They were caught in a terrific storm and the ship was wrecked on a coral reef. Matsuyama and the other crew members made it ashore, only to find that the island had little to offer in the way of food or drinking water. Matsuyama was the last survivor. In the wreckage from the ship he found a bottle and carved a message about what had happened into thinly sliced bark from a storm-downed coconut tree. He put it in the bottle and flung it into the ocean.
In 1935 the bottle, with the coconut bark message inside it, washed ashore on the beach below Hiraturemura, Japan, where Chunosuke Matsuyama had been born more than a century and a half before. Hmm. Is that The Twilight Zone's theme I'm hearing?
My brother Robin, when he was a teenager, found a message in a bottle while he was hunting on the islands across from where we live. It turned out to be part of a meteorological experiment, but it was still an exciting find. I wrote about it in this blog last year. (Click on "Communication" under Categories.)
As I wrote it and thought about the stories of shipwrecked sailors sending out messages in bottles, I started thinking about being on unpredictable Clarence Strait at a time when there wasn't much boat or plane traffic. What if we were in a boating accident with no way to communicate except by a message in a bottle? How long would it take before someone found it, and where would it end up?
On April 21, 2016, during a happily uneventful trip crossing Clarence Strait, returning from a grocery and fuel trip to Thorne Bay, I put a message in a bottle, tied a red buoy to it for greater visibility, and dropped it overboard at the halfway mark.
Nearly a year later, I received an email with a subject line that read: "Message in a Bottle."
The email was brief: "I found your message you set adrift on 4-21-16. Found it on Saturday. It stayed in Clarence Strait as I found it on Bushy Island next to Zarembo Island."
I responded right away, asking for more details, and the finder wrote:
"Well, that morning was a pretty decent morning so my friend and I decided to go out on the boat. The water was calm for a while until we got farther north. It was at that point it began raining and hailing. We were getting pelted pretty good so we decided to stop on the closest beach to make a fire and have lunch.
"By the time we finished lunch the weather went back to being okay. We figured that since we were already on the beach we might as well do some beachcombing. While I was moving around some logs, I spotted a plastic bottle that had a rope tied around it. Normally, I would never think twice about picking up something like that, but curiosity got the best of me.
"I gave the bottle a good yank and out from under the log it came along with the buoy. It was then that I saw a Ziploc bag inside which made me realize it was a message in a bottle! I had always wanted to find one of those so that was definitely the highlight of my day."
I had my answer: If I was in a boating accident in the middle of Clarence Strait, it would take nearly a year before anyone knew about it from a message in a bottle. (It traveled at least forty miles, not counting possible side trips, from where I dropped it to where it was found.)
Interestingly, the bottle that I put the message in was from a soft drink that I'd purchased in Thorne Bay. The man who found it, twenty-eight-year-old Brandon Robinson, works in the very store in Thorne Bay where I bought the bottle.
Do I hear music from The Twilight Zone?
NOTE: A version of this blog post was first published in Capital City Weekly, April 15, 2017.
A special thank you to Terry for the Twilight Zone DVDs!
Tara Neilson (ADOW)