Thursday, August 24, 2006

I guess that's why they call it rainforest, duh.

Sorry I've been so bad at posting, but I've got these mountains of laundry, gear, and work to deal with.

So, did I ever mention that it rained A LOT on the kayaking trip? We estimated that we got about 10 hours of blue sky and sunlight in the entire two weeks.

You might already know this but when you're a boat on the ocean you can use this thing called a VHF radio to communicate with other boats when necessary. (For us, never necessary.) It also has a station that continuously reports the weather and marine forecasts, spoken in a robotic voice-synthesized tone. This helps you plan your route and what you can expect. It goes something like this:

Marine forecast for Tuesday August 1.
South Chatham Strait. Winds northwest 20 knots. Seas 3 feet. Rain.
North Chatham Strait. Winds northwest 15 to 20 knots. Seas 3 feet. Rain.
Point Ascension to Point Leo. North winds 35 knots. Seas 11 feet. Rain.
[and on and on]...

It was ALWAYS for rain. The way the robot-voice spat out that word "rain!" sounded so spiteful to our ears the first few times, and was downright hateful-sounding by a week into the trip. It was kind of like when someone punches you in the arm to joke around but it actually fucking hurts and you start to think that person is a total asshole. Aaaaaaand they keep doing it.

Tuesday RAIN!
Wednesday RAIN!
Thursday RAIN!
Friday RAIN!
Saturday RAIN!
Sunday RAIN!
Monday RAIN!

You cope though, you know? We made a joke out of it, taking turns imitating the voice, optimistically expressing our hope that maybe in southeast Alaska "showers" (the only other forecast we heard, though very rarely) meant "showers with sunny periods". You know, that sort of thing. But we were doomed to sogginess.

(above photo by the inimitable Janna)

I have never been more grateful for drybags. At least at the end of the day, I could peel off my wet paddling jacket, wet fleece, wet neoprene wetsuit, hat, gloves and socks to briefly reveal my water-wrinkled pasty flesh to the wet landscape and wet paddling friends, and then hastily clamber into dry long underwear, dry fleece pants and top, dry waterproof shell, dry wool socks, dry boots, dry hat, and for the first time not desperately wish I was already dead and being eaten by lingcod.

(above picture by Marcus, the lingcod caught by Shawn is the one in the middle, red snappers caught by Graham on either side and surrounded by fresh mussels collected and rigorously tongue-tested for poison by Schencky)

Once over the White Pass on the way back to Whitehorse from Skagway, we found ourselves back in the more typical Whitehorse climate (dry, clear) and everything was different. It was like God opened his kimono at last and gave us the celestial money shot.*

* There was a bit of debate about what this actually means. Of course, I mean it in the least pornographic way possible. Naturally.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

it takes a village take a bath, that is.

Tenakee Springs has some crazy little hot springs.

I stole all these pictures from this website, but it plays music and tries to force you to download RealPlayer and the mouse has a trail of letters on it, so I thought I'd spare you and just load them here.

The bath house:

The bath house hours:

The bath house rules:

(They are fucking serious about the nude bathing and get mad at you if you wear a bathing suit.)

The bath:

Most people in town use the hot spring as their bath/shower because many don't have hot water, or don't have running water, period. You soap and rinse before getting in.

It's kind of funny to eat breakfast in the cafe and then bathe naked with the 67 year old woman who just cooked your greasy eggs (she closes the cafe when it's her bath time) and the woman you just met in the laundromat. Especially when the bath was built in the 1930's and hasn't been renovated since and feels a little like you're hanging out in a mine shaft.

two and two

These humpbacks swam right past the point we were camped on, and did a bubble net feed in front of us. I don't have a shot of the bubble net feed happening because I was too busy standing literally agog, but it looked pretty much exactly like the ones at the top of this page.

My sister and her partner hopped in the tandem kayak to be on the water when the whales came by (we could see them moving down the inlet toward us) but didn't realize they'd come up quite so close. There were about six or seven whales in the pod.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Graham's Very Specific Instructions for Cowboy Coffee

On the morning of a rest day at Point Leo on the Pacific coast of Chichagof Island, Graham made us all some cowboy coffee, and in his beneficience, passed on the method in excruciating detail.

Graham: Start with cool fresh water from a mountain stream.

Janna: With a little bit of cedar poisoning.

Graham: Bring the water to a boil. I can't say how much because that's the art of cowboy coffee. Whatever makes your heart feel that it's enough. About a liter.

And then what you do is cup the grounds in your hand. About as much as will stay in your hand without a battle. If you have small hands you might have to add more. Spread it into the water with one cast like sowing seeds. Sow the land like Jesus. You have to think that way while you're doing it. It's as much about love and attention as anything else.

Bring it to a boil again. And this is really serious. It cannot boil over. If you boil it over it's all done but the crying. It means you're not paying attention. Like you left a baby alone and it got into something it shouldn't have. Tend it gently.

There's a froth layer that will develop on the top and you have to let that become part of it. Move it [the pot] counter-clockwise, or clockwise in Australia, so the boil hits the outside of the pan in a counter-clockwise motion.

Janna: Can we call it the coffee carioles? Is that what we're creating? Can we call it the coffee carioles vortex method?

Graham: And then, once that's all done, back it right off, once you feel it's had enough chance, about 300 heartbeats, calm heartbeats, pre-coffee-drinking heartbeats. About 60 beats a minute we're talking. That's why you should make enough for everyone the first time around, because it will throw the heartbeat measurements off.

Set it on something flat. Pour a quarter of a coffee cup of cold water in a counter-clockwise spiral (clockwise in Australia) from outside to in. Let it settle. Tap the side of it gently to settle the beast. Not enough to stir it up. Then it's ready.

Someone: Are you going to have some Graham?

Graham: Me? No. I don't drink coffee. It's about the making.

Tenakee Inlet Poetry Slam 2006

OK I'm back. More later.

Summary: We changed our route due to forecasts of 35 knot winds and 13 foot seas. The 8 foot seas made me throw up in my mouth repeatedly so I'm glad we didn't venture into the ones that were a few feet higher. We instead did a neat little loop through Peril Strait and Chatham Strait and ended up in a wacky little town called Tenakee Springs, where we met some seiners (some sweet, some demented), some hippies (some laid-back, some surprisingly uptight), and some very cool feisty retired folks who gave us coffee and homemade salmonberry jam and a bounty of fresh delicious things from their garden and who I now love (hi Leba and Roger!). We also ate monstrously huge Dungeness crabs dipped in garlic butter.

There were also whales, but that whole subject deserves its own post.

Instead, since I've just mentioned garlic butter, I give you one of my entries to the Tenakee Inlet Poetry Slam 2006, held August 6. Participants: Janna, my sister, me, and "Schencky". To give you a tiny bit more context, this was after we all started sipping bourbon at about 11 AM, just after breakfast, and we'd been watching humpbacks feeding all morning in front of us. (It was a day off paddling, and just before we paddled into the actual town of Tenakee Springs.) Someone would say a word, and we'd all have to write a poem about it.

Vampires beware!
I have a necklace of the finest
toes of garlic
dancing at my throat
tapping a rhythm
while blood surges past
under the thin fine skin
from my heart to my mouth.

I ate it raw too
let the delicate burn of it
on my tongue
and if you breathe near my skin
you will smell it.

When I sleep tonight
I will dream of you at the window:
unable to enter.

My mouth
like a sour kiss;

your mouth
like a slashed heart.