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Spring It On Me

Alvah and Diana prepare Roger Henry for further exploration into Alaska, despite the blanket of snow on deck. "The Roger Henry File" for April 22, 2009

April 22, 2009

Diana Simon| |Throughout the winter our resident sea otter fed on the mussells attached to our dock in the Seward Town Marina.| On the fourth day of last October, our steel cutter, the Roger Henry, was already buried beneath the snows in the harbor at Seward, Alaska. Today, on the ides of April, we remain beneath that white mantle with no indication of a let up.

Just beneath the obligatory weather complaints of the local sailors I detect a hint of parochial pride. One old salt asked me if we would be in this area during the third week of July. I said no, we should be long gone by then.

“Shame to miss our summer,” he replied.

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Another diehard advised us “Up here, we quit sailing when the wind speed is equal to the air temperature.”

For the mental exercise I went up and down the scale searching for the optimum convergence. The best I could do was 33 degrees of Fahrenheit and 33 knots of wind. At that point one is just above freezing and just below gale force winds.

Diana and I are plugging away at the long work list that, in spite of our best efforts, seems to miraculously grow in a Biblical fishes-and-loaves fashion.

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Diana is tending to our beloved but seriously ill cat, Halifax Of The North, laying in provisions, refurbishing the medical kit, restocking the ditch kit, washing the winter bedding, cushion covers, and rugs, cleaning the bilges, and digging out the safety harnesses and tethers. In her spare time she is varnishing the galley.

My progress is not quite so apparent as hers. The engine is still out, the control levers are broken, the transmission is yet to be repaired, the roller furling lies in a pile of apparently unrelated parts, and two large boxes of engine room insulation still clutter our small main salon.

Diana Simon| |Apparently in Alaska April comes in like a lion, and stays that way. The Roger Henry is still shrouded in snow.| I believe that once the dock lines are cast a calendar is the most dangerous piece of equipment onboard a boat. But while we are still dockside it serves the important function of pressuring me to perform. I will write the number 30 across today’s square on our calendar, 29 on tomorrow’s, and so on down to our ETD in mid May. I try not to think about the checkbook balance racing the calendar countdown towards zero.

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The payoff for all this effort and expense lies just to our east–the Pearl of the North Pacific–Prince William Sound.

Vic and Kathy Martin, off the Island Packet Capella III, spent an evening marking our charts with bullet proof anchorages, the best spots for hauling in a cornucopia of halibut, salmon, oysters and shrimp, and prime habitats for spotting whales, seals, sea lions, grizzly bears, black bears, moose, mountain goats, wild sheep, wolf, fox, and if only I could be so lucky, wolverines.

This is big country. Prince William Sound alone boasts more coastline than the states of California and Oregon combined. One would need a lifetime to see, much less understand, it all. All the economic value of its natural resources aside, Alaska serves an important role in the American psyche. This last haunting expanse of wilderness stretches the imagination and the soul.

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It is a crucible. In testing us, this land toughens us. But it also humbles us, for up here Nature rules supreme. We will have to be physically and mentally well prepared for the next six months and 2,000 miles of wind, wave, jagged rock and shoal as we cross the Gulf of Alaska and wend our way south towards the Lower 48.

Which reminds me, I had better cut this short and get back to work.

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