I recently retired as a nature tour guide and boat captain, after 24 years showing people from all over the world the wonders of Prince William Sound. Before that, I enjoyed an even longer career as an oceanographer and wildlife biologist, working on projects as diverse as plankton ecology and fur seal food habits. It may seem odd that someone with such fascinating work would end it early at age 51 to start an uncertain career, but that’s exactly what happened. Finally selling the tour business (Sound Eco Adventures) after the 2013 season was a big life change. Being “retired” still seems strange.
With this blog, I aim to share many of the stories and adventures from those amazing years on the Sound. Continue reading →
Dee, with hubby Verne, was the first wheel-chaired tourist aboard the Sound Access. Jesse Owens and Challenge Alaska volunteer Julie re-board the Sound Access after a short demo trip after the boat was first launched.
By the end of my forth summer doing the water taxi thing in 1990, it was clear that the 21-foot Lavro Sea Dory I had been using was not making a go of it business-wise. My Coast Guard “Motorboat Operator” license allowed carrying up to six passengers, but the boat’s carrying capacity usually limited the payload to four people and their gear. It was clear that a bigger boat was needed, but its details were quite unclear. Fortuitously, other things began happening that would influence the details of any boat that I might consider as a replacement.
I had been asked that summer by Challenge Alaska — an outdoor recreation organization for the handicapped in Girdwood — if one of their board members could ride along on my next trip to one of the two Chugach National Forest accessible public-use cabins in the Sound. Challenge was exploring adding sea kayaking to their offerings, and they wanted to visit an accessible cabin to see if it could fit their plans. I saw the chance for some positive publicity for my still-budding business, so I jumped at the chance. Plus, I remembered well my own mother’s trials of being in and out of a wheelchair the last ten years of her life, so I was glad to do this small thing for Challenge. Continue reading →
Foreword: This installment updates an earlier post (A Real-Life Spiritual Experience), and adds examples of Al’s intervention when the boat’s bow deck was under water.
My first experience of being vividly aware of being protected by an “unseen force” happened while transporting four hunters back to Whittier from Naked Island, where I had dropped them off a week earlier. Naked lies 40 miles from Whittier, about in the geographic center of the Sound. The morning weather forecast on the day of the pickup called for a small craft advisory, with northeasterly winds. I left Whittier mid morning, traveling close to land along the north side of Wells Passage as much as possible, which afforded some protection from the wind. Once past the protection of Axle Lind Island, the seas were running four to five feet in height, and were fairly far apart, so they were not especially steep. The seas came directly from the northeast as the forecast had predicted, putting them on the boat’s port beam, or left side. It was a fairly tolerable ride as the boat rose up over the crest of a swell, and then descended into the trough between the crests.
I have a guardian angel I named Al. I haven’t always been aware of Al, but he has definitely been there for me when I needed him the most. The name comes from my middle name “Albert,” after my Uncle Al, my Mom’s number two brother. I believe that Al has always been with me, but it was only after experiencing close calls while boating in big seas in Prince William Sound that I became more aware of him. With my being an adventurous sort, there have no doubt been times from childhood on when Al intervened on my behalf that I was totally unaware of. However, there were also times when I miraculously evaded calamity that I remember all too well. Continue reading →
We had quite a crop of spring dandelions at the Nikiski Senior Center, located in rural north Kenai Peninsula, Alaska. A couple days after I captured these shots, our extensive lawn got its first mowing.
Part of my adventurous second career operating a water taxi and tour business in Prince William Sound was running deer hunter transport charters out of Whittier in the fall. With challenging, potentially-dangerous fall weather always a threat, no two trips were alike. “Weather rules in Alaska,” as the saying goes, and hunters had to accept the possibility of being weathered in or weathered out. The shorter daylight hours of fall often complicated things as well. More often than not, this forced unplanned changes to the schedule. Most of my hunter clients were weather-savvy Alaskans, so that was rarely a problem. Thanksgiving weekend in 1997 proved to be a “good” example of how that scenario can play out. Continue reading →
As I have grown older, I have become increasingly aware that my interest in nature is a big part of who I am. At age 81, I’m inspired to continue writing, including finishing projects that I planned for and started years ago, culminating for now with this blog. A big advantage in writing at this age is that I’ve been able to slow down enough to get a clearer view of how the different events and phases of my life have played out. It’s easier to see how they all reinforced and rounded out who I am now. Continue reading →
It was just over 22 years ago that I house- and critter-sat for my daughter Christine and hubby Jim Crossen at their homestead in the Alaska bush. I had volunteered to take care of their place while Chris and Jim were away on a needed break. Their place was located on a small lake a half-hour by float plane west of the Parks Highway near Willow. In winter, oversized skis replace the plane’s floats. This was to be the longest I had ever been alone, away from civilization — 16 days. It turned out to be a very relaxing time that I spent writing and exploring near their cabin. I also split firewood daily, kept their wood stove stoked, and kept their three dogs and assorted chickens, ducks and goats fed and watered. Here’s my original log, with minor edits for readability. Continue reading →