A Winter Fireside (True) Story Part II
It is December 1947, and Nell and Glen Parker are aboard their boat the Glenellen trying to get to Juneau for badly needed supplies for the Point. We’ll begin the second part of our story with Nell Parker explaining why they are still held up for the 2nd time in Swanson Harbor, nearly freezing to death and running out of supplies. Once again the passage of Lynn Canal is a problem…and as they wait Nell explains…
The third day’s weather report (sitting in Swanson Harbor) was not encouraging. We sat dismally and listened while the radio announcer said that the northwest wind was of sixty-one mile velocity, swinging to the northeast. The waves on the tip of Admiralty Island, were ten feet high. If we continued to Juneau, we should have to round Point Retreat! And if we tried to cross in our little boat, heavily iced already, it might sink. From our anchorage we could see the spray blowing across the islands of Icy Straits, to the west. We couldn’t go home, either!
By the fifth day we were out of nearly everything. We rationed ourselves to one can of meat a day. It was all we had. We had seen a man walking along the beach one day, and smoke coming from the house on one of the fish traps that were moored in the harbor for the winter. We debated a long time about whether Glen should go ashore. The man was probably a trap watchman, and he might have food to spare. On the other hand, this was surely an isolated place and you never could tell who might have chosen it for a hideout. Such a person would no doubt be hostile toward an unexpected caller. Then, too, if we pulled anchor and ran around to the point where the traps were anchored, the ropes would freeze and we might not find a good anchorage on the other side.
Before we could come to any decision, we ran out of water. Our tank carries only twenty gallons. Something had to be done. Glen went ashore in the skiff to see if he could find a creek, but he was back in a short time to tell me that everything was frozen solid. He said he’d go and find the man we had seen on the beach, while I stayed on the boat and kept the fire going. As a precaution he strapped on his six-shooter. I watched somewhat uneasily while he put off in the skiff.
Glen approached the traps and called. A man came out and answered. He seemed friendly enough. He warned Glen that his dog was viscous, directed him on how to walk the logs into the cabin where he was living, and held the dog on a leash while Glen entered the cabin. He was a genuine winter trap-watchman, all right, and a Godsend to us! Glen was back soon with food. We tore into it the very minute he got it aboard the boat.
Next morning the weather report was not much better, but the wind had gone down a little.
“Do you feel like cooking up some vitamins?” Glen asked. “Then we’ll get out of here. I think we can get home, and we’ll just stay there until this weather breaks.”
I hustled around and we soon had a hot meal of potatoes, canned corn and meat. Now we were out of coffee. If Glen needed anything to make up his mind, that did it. He was going home.
The weather settled down to a thick snowstorm as we neared Gustavus. Passing Pleasant Island, we could see deer on the beach. The poor things looked so cold. We went ashore at Gustavus to find two and a half feet of the finest snow I’ve ever seen. It was like walking in flour.
The mercury had gone down to fifteen below, and at home we found everything frozen solid—boxes of apples, canned gods, potatoes, vinegar—and frost decorating everything. We got the fires going, and things finally thawed out. How good it felt to bathe in hot water. We hadn’t even taken our clothes off for ten days!
Now the southeaster really hit. The rain poured down, and everything began to thaw. It was now December 18 and the C.A.A. personnel still hoped that we could make the trip to Juneau. They needed provisions and the Christmas goodies and gifts that were waiting. We were the Christmas boat. So, for the third time, we loaded up and started out—determined to pound it through this time.
Will Gustavus ever get her winter supplies? Next month the conclusion to our story.