A Good Haul (Part 2)

By , August 24, 2012

Sorry to leave you in the lurch yesterday. If brevity is the soul of wit, I risked becoming a  half-wit.

So, as we rounded the tip of our peninsula, I saw that a large tour ship from Skagway bore down on us from the north.

These massive ships are designed to minimize wake. We’ve seen bigger wakes generated by the far smaller Alaska Marine Highway ferries than from some of the big tour ships. However, a lot of factors come into play in determining how large a wake each ship generates. Usually, they pass our property fairly slowly, but some power on through, and the resulting waves can be massive as they hit our shore. And, many times, the wakes will be strong enough to crest out in the fjord, despite the deep water.

I could see a few local fishing boats dotting the waters of the fjord ahead of us. The tour ship’s heading angled somewhat from west to east as it came south, indicating that the ship would be avoiding the fishing ground, and probably traveling a bit slower to keep from rattling the fisherfolk too much. These signs gave us hope.

We consulted briefly, shouting above the noise of wind and waves. We could make for the last good beach on the coast and “ditch,” landing our canoe and its load ahead of the ship’s wake.

This would be difficult for a variety of reasons. The ship’s wake would gain energy as the sloping beach tripped up the wave form; this meant that the waves would crash like surf on the beach and anything on it. If we ditched, we would need to drag the fully loaded canoe far enough up the cobble beach to clear the surging waves. We would then have to prioritize the load. We could leave the cargo in the canoe, provided we pulled it above the next high tide line. We’d need to tarp it up against the weather, and haul home overland anything that might be of interest to bears or other critters.

The better solution would be to stand off the shore and ride out the wake before putting in to our homestead beach. In the deep water, the wake would most likely be a large, smooth swell—unless it curled and broke. We decided to risk it, and continued up the coast, slacking our pace a bit. We were eager to arrive, but knew we couldn’t land the canoe until after the wake passed.

By then, the wind had increased to a fairly steady 20 knots (23 m.p.h.), and the swell had grown to the point that a wake, even from a huge tour ship, seemed somewhat academic. However, with the wind and sea at our back, we bobbed along relatively peacefully, keeping a sharp eye out for the approaching wake.

When it came, we were gratified to find it a large but smooth rollercoaster ride that lasted a few minutes, then passed. Watching it sweep the shoreline, we could see that, as tour ship wakes go, this one was a relatively gentle one. We gave it time to settle, then landed below our boat deck.

As we touched, Michelle lept from the bow with our long painter in hand. I watched the waves behind me for my chance, then scrambled over the load and off the bow, removing my weight from the stern before a wave could “poop” us. Then, we hustled our load up to the covered porch of the boat house, dragged the canoe to the deck, flipped it, and secured its painter.

Throughout the adventure, rain fell steadily. We managed to keep our cargo dry for the most part, but we had soaked to the skin. Once we had secured our gear, we rushed to the cabin, traded wet clothes for dry, fuzzy bathrobes, and started dinner.

We had weathered an intense stretch of activity in less than optimal conditions, but we liked the pay off: a good supply of food and other supplies, two full propane tanks, and a new set of three cast iron skillets in graduated sizes, a treasure found at our local second hand store. At the end of it all, we found ourselves safe and sound in the heart of the homestead.

It doesn’t get much better than this.

7 Responses to “A Good Haul (Part 2)”

  1. Russ says:

    I love exciting mariner tales which have good outcomes… I Love riding cruise ship wakes in my kayak as long as I’m not near shore. We had a young friend freak out and try to land before the wake got to him, and he got severely thrashed in the surf.
    Also I Love your new family portrait!

  2. Mark Zeiger says:

    Hey, Russ, welcome home!

    Avoiding wakes and waves is counterintuitive. I guess that’s why East Coast fishermen generally launch and head out to sea in the face of hurricanes. I’d much rather ride out the wakes in a kayak than a canoe, even our steady old Scanoe.

    That portrait turned out okay, didn’t it? I’d have preferred to have you or Eli come out and shoot it, but I think doing it alone reduced the self-consciousness to a tolerable level.

  3. Jim Coe says:

    Cool article. We don’t get any cruse ships here in north central Texas. Keep them up.

  4. Mark Zeiger says:

    Thanks, Jim. Someday, someone will figure out a way to route cruise ships through your area, I’m sure!

  5. Jim Ball says:

    Mariner tales? Cruise ships? It’s the three cast iron skillets that are exciting!

  6. Mark Zeiger says:

    I agree, Jim! The other stuff’s not as rare as that find!

  7. Roger Murphy says:

    I thoroughly enjoyed the entire story! However, I am glad to see the 3 skillets made it. 🙂

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