(August 21st, 2017)
We’re on our tenth straight day of driving, drizzling, misting, bone-chilling, damp, wet, sloppy rain. I’m at my wits’ end.
The rain began on August 12, when we left Loring for Ketchikan. We knew the rain was coming, because there was a low coming in; but as soon as the low passed, we expected the sun to return. Well, it didn’t. It’s now August 21, and all we’re seeing is low after low after low, with rain after rain after rain.
Our radar has gotten a lot of use lately. When it’s not raining, it’s foggy. When it’s not foggy, it’s misting so thick you can’t see more than a mile, sometimes only half a mile, in it. When it’s not misting, its drizzling so thick visibility is significantly reduced. When it’s not drizzling, it’s just plain ol’ raining, so densely you can’t see through that soup either. When it’s not plain old raining, it’s driving rain, and no one can ever see through that, because all you can do is turn away and hope the driving rain doesn’t peck your eyes out like a bad horror movie.
But, we were so highly encouraged by our two weeks of hot sun (now nearly two weeks ago), that we removed the enclosure on our cockpit, and stowed them in their storage space, a cabinet buried beneath Morgan’s toys, clothes, and blankets, nearly impossible to access. She didn’t want me in there, but I promised her that was probably the last time I’d disturb her room to put the curtains away for maybe the next year or so. On that condition, she agreed.
Again, we knew that low was coming, but we figured we could suffer through 3-5 days of rain until the sun appeared again, and when that happened, we’d be happy the enclosures were off. Now, it’s 11 days later, and I’m not happy that the enclosures are off. Today, I will endeavor to ensure they get back on. Maybe having them back on will bring back the sun. Murphy’s law in action, perhaps?
There’s not much to do in all this rain. Fishing is one of the few things that I personally am up for, because it’s the only outdoor activity I can do from within the protection of our cockpit roof. The girls spend most of their time in the salon, playing legos or dolls. If nothing else, this rain is giving their imaginations good exercise.
But, that’s about all that’s getting any exercise, because it’s too miserable to get off the boat most of the time. There are a few (but not many) hikes we could be exploring, but shin-deep mud (not an exaggeration) sucks all the fun out of it (pun intended). (All of these parentheticals are evidence of the delirium to which the rain is driving me.)
So today, we’re stuck in Butedale until mid-day, until the currents allow us to the next rainhole, Klemtu. I tried to figure out if there was any way we could skip Klemtu today and get straight to Shearwater, just to get south and out of rain-country quicker, but unless we’d left at 3AM, the current would turn an already long 10-hour run into a 12-15 hour run. We wouldn’t arrive until about 10PM. With the rain making daylight hours shorter, and with the abundance of logs in these waters, that run would be dangerous.
The saddest part is, I think I’d adore Butedale if it weren’t pouring. I don’t even need sun – just a reprieve from feeling like I’m standing in a cold, neglected bathtub all the time.
There are several amazing things about Butedale. The first is the ruins. Butedale is an old cannery. In the summers, it had a population of about 400. There are ruins here from two houses, numerous dorms, a general store, and the cannery operations.
I don’t know why, but the cannery ceased operating in the 1950s. Since then, it’s been falling into disrepair, and now has the distinct appearance of a ghost town. Today, the population is exactly 1.
Six years ago it was sold to someone interested in developing it into a resort and historical site. He hired a caretaker, Cory (hence the rise in population to a whopping one), who has left the island exactly twice in that six years. Cory is the second fascinating thing about Butedale.
The first time Cory left the island was to take a job at some remote mine to earn some money; the second was when he burned his arm badly on his wood stove, and two days later the wound became infected so he had to go seek professional treatment. Cory doesn’t have a boat – so he has no way to leave the island on his own – so to get his burn treated, he had to call in the Coast Guard.
Without a boat or any other way to get off the island, Cory has no way to get food or supplies. So, the owner comes with groceries and supplies once a week. It appears that pleasure boaters and fishing craft that are regulars through these channels also bring Cory food, supplies, and gifts. I’d love to stay here longer and talk to Cory and learn more about his life up here, with plenty of visitors in and out all summer, but without another soul coming by for months at a time in the winter, and no escape from the island. He must have found some fascinating things in his time here. One of the things he mentioned was his favorite fishing hole, up at the lake that supplied hydroelectric power to the cannery (and now powers only his home). There’s a natural dam formed by log snags where the lake exits to the waterfall that barrels into the cove, and he uses those logs as a a dock to do some great lake fishing. He must have other interesting past times.
Cory isn’t completely alone. He lives here with his dog, Buddy, and his cat, Tiger. Tiger is sweet and loves pets, but she (or he?) must be one tough cat. Tiger was one of a litter of six, born on the island, and was the only one to survive to adulthood. The other siblings fell prey to eagles, wolves, bears, and other wildlife, and in the winter, maybe even cold. Tiger is now 13. It was evident from the watch he kept on the dock yesterday that rain doesn’t phase Tiger in the least.
The third fascinating thing about Butedale is that it has a spirit bear. I’ve been hoping and wishing to see a spirit bear as we made our way through these channels, keeping my eye on shore as often as possible, but so far such sightings have escaped me. Apparently, Cory’s Butedale spirit bear comes down to the beach on low tides regularly to hunt for crab. She was down on the beach just two days ago, and Cory showed us a video he took – she’s beautiful. Despite my watch (which is impeded by need to go inside and warm up occasionally), I haven’t seen her during our stay here. Given more time and less rain, I’d interview Cory about whether he’s ever seen her with any cubs, and what color they are.
But, my need to head south and find some sun currently outweighs my curiosity about Butedale, so on we go.