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Archive for the ‘Island caretaker’ Category

Island life and travel off island requires planning, mostly around tides and weather. The tides are predictable, the weather less so.

Last night was lovely, the moon wasn’t quite full and the cabin looked like a little house on the prairie.

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There are certain times, at least once a day, when the tide is too low to leave or enter the marina. It falls lowest when the moon is new or full; somehow the tide table we rely on states it can fall below 0. That means we frequently wake up and leave before 6 am, like this morning. I actually understand tides better now that I they are frequently presented in graph form.

The other piece of information we gather is the weather forecast, issued at least three times a day. Early in the week today’s wind was forecast to be light, then it was going to be a little stronger and when I woke up at 4:20 this morning there was a gale warning. I was crushed.

The wind seemed very calm around the cabin although one of the buoys in the Strait reported steady 20+ mph winds. We had been shadowed by the land to the south all night while the wind blew. I got binoculars and looked at the water I was able to see and it looked pretty calm. Weather point forecasts, confirmed this, so I left. Just as the sun rose. There were some gentle rollers and it was fine.

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Pretty spectacular and I docked like a champ!

Then the day really began. I walked a couple of miles to get breakfast,

IMG_2337IMG_2340a couple more miles to the post office, where I added so much stuff to my pack I decided to walk another 2 miles (roundtrip) to ship some stuff separately because I was going to tour Seattle. Until I got a text which said my midnight plane was delayed until 0100 and I wouldn’t catch the little plane back to the Adirondacks. After a mere 2 hours on the phone!!!! the problem was worked out. And I should catch the little plane and get home with only

I would love to have an assistant when travel plans hit the dirt. It takes all the fun out of travel. My phone calls were dropped at least 3 times, by the 5th person, I had a chance to look up flights online, when the bus was on the ferry, and after giving 3 pieces of evidence that my flight was actually delayed just kept saying, I want to be on X flight on a different airline. To be truthful, I was ready to just buy that ticket. But my 5th agent got the message, hung in there and made the change, requested a refund from Jetblue and I only had to pay $16 more. You might argue I shouldn’t pay anything, but I’m happy. And I am scheduled to leave 3 hours earlier so although I didn’t get to see Seattle at least I was on the bus to the airport. Home tomorrow by noon.

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It was quite a jolt back to the world of schedules, delays, and customer service representatives. My transition from island time has begun.

 

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It used to be that way with cars too, before fuel injectors replaced carburetors, because the engine gets “flooded” with too much gas and not enough oxygen. I’m trying to get things in shape because I leave in the morning and Tim will return to the island. I made chile, did the laundry, made the bed, and cleaned the cabin. I filled all the gas cans and placed them in their respective flame proof cabinets. And I thought I filled the water tower, I ran the generator for 8 hours but when I went to check the water level, it hadn’t changed.

Now the weather has been beautiful and my first thought was, oh my, the well has run dry. So I went to check the generator and see what happened when I turned the pump on again. Nothing. No draw on the generator. I noticed that the AC circuit breaker was tripped, so I decided to try again. But then the engine would not turn over when I pulled the starter cord. Nada, nothing. So I took a breath and walked away because I thought I might have flooded the engine.

I went home and baked a quiche and some chocolate chip cookies, like any good mechanic, and read the manual to make sure I understood the various breaker settings. I did. (I even know what a spark arrestor does, but I digress). After the oven was off ( because sometimes the gas makes and whooshing sound and cannot be left unattended) I went back to the well shed. I flicked the various switches and gave it a shot. The generator started like a dream, like any Honda generator does, I turned on the AC and then the well and it made the right noises. Back in business. I’m running it now to make sure the breaker doesn’t trip again, since I am not sure why that happened.

This gets me back to the energy that runs this cabin and island. It’s pretty remarkable. We have 2 large generators and one small backup, all Hondas. The large one near the cabin runs the AC for the washer, dryer and vacuum. The smaller is back up and portable – we have the same one at home. The problem child is the one that runs the well but there is duplication in the system. If that one crapped out, we could use the one from the cabin.

We have propane for hot water, the stove and the refrigerator. Our friend Chuck researched it on the internet to try to explain how a propane flame keeps our food cold and it is mind blowing. Something about ammonia gas changing states and heat exchange. I’m waiting for my daughter to explain it to me. She’s an expert.

Solar power charges batteries and provides lighting and a charging source, with an inverter, for all our electronics. If that fails, a small generator can charge the batteries. And things generally run beautifully.

These 10 days alone on the island flew by more quickly than I imagined. We bonded. And now that the gremlin has been outed, it left the ax alone.

This morning ten eagles watched me from the bluffs while I did some work in the generator shed. I spotted this seal, and it spotted me, while I walked down to the marina.

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And this lovely sailboat passed by as the wind picked up.

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Tomorrow I’ll head ashore, way too early to beat the almost full moon low tide, use Washington’s mass transit and play the tourist in Seattle before catching a red eye flight to Boston then on to the Adirondacks. We already have a family reunion planned for next weekend. I’m very excited!! Something about Crash Bandicoot.

 

 

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Protection Island is only a fraction of its former self. The northwest bluffs are buffeted by wind and waves and over time have been carved away. On the marine chart, the area now known as Dallas Bank was above water and part of the island. It’s depth is only 20 feet, while the surrounding water is hundreds of feet deep.

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I saw it happen yesterday. As I was crossing the Bank in the boat, I noticed a cloud to my left. A part of the bluff near fell off. This is the second time I witnessed this. At this rate, pretty soon…

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I don’t have any photos to prove it but last night I saw fireworks from at least 6 spots along the shore, quite a show.

Now about that gremlin. Last week I chopped some kindling and thought I left the ax in the block when I was done. The next morning when I checked the woodshed, the ax was on the ground. I scratched my head and thought, “That’s funny, I thought I left it in the block. Oh well, maybe not”. So I drove it into the block with conviction. The next morning, it was on the floor again, and a piece of wood from the woodpile was on the ground. Hmmm. Well, it has happened every night since. One morning I found a piece of wood outside the shed. Now I know how legends are formed. Of course it would be more curious if I left the ax on the ground and it ended up in the block. Given the bird droppings and feathers in the shed, if it wasn’t a gremlin, then perhaps it was the owl that likes to dine in the vicinity.

IMG_2054IMG_2053Maybe it thinks I have built a perch for it to conduct its business. I’ll see what tomorrow brings.

I spent the morning in the comfort of my lazy boy chair watching the barn swallows wait to be fed. They are flying but return to sanctuary to rest and get fed. Soon they will figure out there are plenty of bugs out there.

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The eagles by the marina were looking for their next meal. They must have targeted a seagull because one gull was badgering them.

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Just another day in bird paradise.

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Began like this.

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IMG_2127What a nice sight to wake up too, even if it was 0430.

How fitting that the barn swallows left the nest and learned to fly today. Last night they looked like this, packed in tight in the nest and the rafter, singing for their supper.IMG_2107

Today they were on their way to independence. I tried to get shots of the parents making fly-bys with dinner but they didn’t come out too well. The rest of the day they clumsily flew around the porch and rested on the picnic table, floor, and windows. They are still being fed. Pretty soon I’ll be able to reclaim that space for humans, after I fumigate it.

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The crows have been expressing a bit too much interest.

Down at the marina, at least one pair of oyster catchers is back. Look at those beaks.

 

I took the boat around the island and may have seen one elephant seal on the beach. There were several piles of harbor seals on one of the spits and beaches. Separate from them was a humongous, pale large mass on the south beach. Either an elephant seal or a huge log. Time will tell.

I finally got a halfway focused shot of a tufted puffin out on the water. I love their huge orange beak.

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I dissuaded at least one boat from being too close to shore but haven’t got a close look at the two jet skis I have seen cruise away from the island, twice! Cheeky buggers.

I’m feeling pretty independent myself.

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It’s me.

All the residents are talking about it. Whenever I leave the cabin, the news goes out to the seagull colony around the house. Guards sound the alarm. Seagulls hop off their nests to come out and squawk at me.

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There are eagle sentries all over the island. When I walk, word goes out with their screech. They perch along the bluffs, usually at least 4 near the marina, on the water tower, some fly off to tell the others.

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The deer are quiet about it but they know.

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The barn swallows announce every time I open the front door. Their nest is packed to the rafters, literally. Time may be near for the little ones to leave.

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Actually, this is just like when I lived in downtown Brooklyn in the 1980’s. It was a very safe neighborhood, because it was controlled by the mafia. Safe if you weren’t part of the mafia because, of course, there was the occasional shooting in the local coffee shop. But it was never random. There were sentries posted on every corner, watching out, all day, all night. And this was before everyone had mobile phones. Word got out.

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  • “We are all visitors to this time, this place. We are just passing through. Our purpose here is to observe, to learn, to grow, to love… and then we return home.” – Australian Aboriginal saying

 

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First of all baby, mom, dad, brother and her Pops are all doing well. She was discharged to home yesterday after a brief stay in the neonatal intensive care unit. I’m usurping her dad’s photo recently shared on facebook, here she is.

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Isn’t she precious? I only have one sleeve left to knit and she will have a sweater. Hat and booties are next.

While the family bonds on the east coast, I continue to be the only person on this island, and it is fabulous. I am finding that I experience it differently on my own. For one thing, it makes me realize how many little things Tim is always doing – spraying seagull s**t off the house and solar panels, dishes, and just being a wonderful companion.  But … I am not making as many dirty dishes because my meals are very simple and desserts are fewer.

Now I am responsible for keeping things running. I’ve been mowing, weed whacking, doing some projects for Fish and Wildlife, filling the water tower, and cleaning the boat and dock, and filing reports. I’m keeping active with long walks every day. And of course I weave and knit.

The seagulls are in full nesting mode around the cabin and I do my tasks quickly while one or two guard gulls yell at me. I hope I don’t have to don the hard hats I see lying about. The barn swallows have little ones in a nest directly over the picnic table, which cannot be moved for a variety of reasons, and are making a big mess there. They poop before they land in the nest and right after they take off – on the picnic table.  We’ll reclaim the table when they leave.

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IMG_1770IMG_1768Yesterday I awoke to thick fog.IMG_1817 I couldn’t see beyond the edge of the lawn. I heard water dripping off the windows and roof but the air was thick. As I drank my cuppa in the cozy cabin, I looked outside and saw the two river otters exit from under the porch, scamper across the lawn and head to the bluff.

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The fog cleared around the cabin mid morning and I went to the other side of the island to do some work. I could tell fog was rolling in again because I could hear ships’ foghorns, in the Strait of Juan de Fuca. The sound was wonderful, I felt more than heard the low tones of the various horns. I went to the bluff to try to see them but it was too socked in. There is an app for the phone called Marine Traffic. Commercial boats and some pleasure boats have Automatic Identification System (AIS), automatic transmission of their name, location and course, ideally to prevent collisions. I use the app to identify ships I see off the island. It shows photos, course and final destination. Cruise ships leave Seattle and sail by on their way to Juneau all the time. Here’s this morning’s screen shot. You can see marine traffic anywhere in the world.

Screenshot 2017-07-01 at 11.19.21 AMThe other day I saw a dozen eagles flying together,  off the bluffs near the marina fighting over some bounty.

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I’m especially mindful of my own personal safety now that I am here alone. I wear a life vest when I clean the dock. Look at this toxic plume I created yesterday from seagull s**t.

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And I found a perfect way to listen to my music, podcasts, books without bursting my ear drums while I mow and weed wack. Before, I just turned the volume way up. Then I found these babies and can hear my music, etc. at a normal volume. But I can’t hear the fog or the foghorns.

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That’s what they say when a woman goes into labor. Preparations must be made. Our third grandchild was born on Monday, 4 + weeks early. We are thrilled but weren’t quite prepared. I had started to knit this lovely sweater during our trip to the Olympic Peninsula. It’s a pattern by Stephanie Pearl-McPhee called Noveau-ne. It will be lovely but could not be finished in time for Tim’s departure. Here’s how far along I am.

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It needs a little more length and a couple of sleeves, and a bonnet and maybe booties. I thought I had plenty of time. We both had planned to be home individually to span the projected arrival. Ah the best laid plans. Tim spent most of Monday rescheduling his trip. It entailed a boat ride ashore at 04:45 yesterday. I finally saw the sunrise, or was awake enough to take a photo. It was lovely when we left the island after the wind from Monday settled down.

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I dropped him off at the marina and headed back to the island, where I’m the only inhabitant at the moment. He took a bus, ferry, bus, 2 planes, bus, train and should be there by today. Ah modern travel.

I thought I would put something together fast so all day Monday, while Tim arranged his trip with airlines, bus companies, hotels, etc. and waited for word on the labor’s progression, I pieced together several squares woven on a 4″ pin loom. I have to confess, the squares came with the second hand loom but I had it in mind I would make a bonnet or something from them. Then I got more ambitious and made a vest.

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It is sort of sweet but in the end, I decided it gave me something to do rather than pace or boil water and served its purpose. I didn’t send it off with Tim. I’ll decide if little Juniper gets it when I am home.

In the meantime, the eagles and deer will look after me while I am here on my own.

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