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A Wheelchair-Accessible Boat Is Born

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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 was 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

My Guardian Angel, Al – Continued

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.

Continue reading

My Guardian Angel, Al – Part 1

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

A Dinty Moore Thanksgiving

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

A Calling Evolves

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

A Paradise Lake Log

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

Do Your Sphincters Leak?

As one who has sometimes been plagued with taking myself too seriously, I’ve discovered upon growing older that it helps to laugh at myself and my circumstances whenever possible. One of the things that we “seniors” have to deal with is that our bodies’ various functions start acting up. Things that we’ve taken for granted all of our lives and haven’t even had to give much thought to, now start demanding our frequent attention.

When I started “leaking” a few years ago, first my reaction was nearly always swearing and fretting. Then at some point, I realized things weren’t likely to improve and fretting was just souring my disposition. I began experimenting with words and phrases that tried to make light of the situation. These somehow eventually evolved into the “poem” below. When the occasion demands, I still quote these lines to myself (out loud!), and invariably, the cursing stops and the smiles start.

I’ll end this intro with a gentle warning that, if you are offended by mild bathroom humor, stop reading here.

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The Last Leap

Here’s another breaching whale to pique your curiosity — and to hint at more to come. But this one is special, because it’s the very last breaching whale shot I captured on a Sound Eco Adventures trip, on August 28, 2013. The boat and business were sold the following April.

I had been especially looking forward to this wildlife photography trip, which had been booked the prior January by two couples from Sweden. Continue reading

A Tendonitis Tale

It is now early summer 2014 as I write this piece. Just last fall I had begun seriously looking at bicycles that would work better than my trusty old Specialized Crossroads on the many dirt trails around Anchorage. I had been looking forward to a new mountain bike ever since, and here I was on my very cool new Specialized Hardrock “Hardtail 29er” on my favorite paved trail, Anchorage’s Tony Knowles Coastal Trail. I rode my usual out and back nine-mile route from Point Woronzoff to the hill that rises from the flats up to the Kincaid Park chalet. No problems, and I felt great about finally having a bike I had waited so long for. Continue reading