Friday, June 24, 2016

#15: Shipwreck Near Skagway!

The shipwreck of the bark Canada, Skagway AK 1898
The bark Canada shipwrecked near Skagway in 1898, 118 years ago. For eight years I've been anxious to explore what remains; however, the tide has always covered her. Today? There she was! Ray Tsang and I pulled my Honda Fit to the roadside and headed down to the beach. Yes, yes, yes! I was excited.

One might ask, How did the Canada get here to shipwreck in the first place? The National Park Service explains the basics on an interpretive sign up by my car.

The tale of the bark Canada is as ­­­exciting as a swashbuckling sea novel. Although her final resting place lies in the cold water below, her surprising story lives on.
The bark Canada, a merchant “windjammer,” was built in Bath, Maine, in 1859. During her 39 years at sea she hauled a variety of cargo to ports on six continents and in over twenty countries. She was damaged by hurricanes witnessed mutinies, enduring labor strikes, and once collided with another ship. Yet the Canada’s most exciting episode happened­­­ toward the end of her life. 
When news of a major gold discovery in the Klondike reached the world, any vessel that floated was pressed into service for the Alaska trade. In late January 1898, the aging Canada with a cargo of building materials, set out on her last adventure.

She set out on her voyage, but here she ended up. Once we got down to the beach, Ron and I had to first cross a stream. He didn't want to go.

Little creeks I had to cross

But I was determined. He filmed it, but wait. I'm across and Ray has my
phone to take that film. I wobbled and shrieked back over.

I started my second wobble across the creek. Ray came up with the idea of walking sticks for my balance. But it still leaves me skidding over slime and barnacles in my less-than-ideal footwear. Crocks! Half way to the what was left of the ship, I realized he'd changed his mind and was following me. Here is what we found.
Part of the shipwreck

Part of the shipwreck

I must say, there's not a lot left. A century plus 18 years has taken its toll.

Time to go back. Ray crossed first with his sticks, then hurled them over the creek to me.
Ray crosses the creek

Ray tosses the sticks to me, so I can cross the creek

A great adventure!

Friday, June 17, 2016

$14: Tick Tock, Wrong Dock!

This is how asleep at the wheel I can get. Our ship-list in Skagway, AK, showed that TWO ships we needed to collect guests from were both at the Railroad dock. Easy peasy. Bryan, the driver, and I, the dock rep, roll out. But wait, check my video. At the beginning you can see one ship docked, right? Do you see it? Of course you do. One ship, not two. I don't even notice.

Now, as I turn west in the video, do you see the OTHER ship? Yeah? There it is. Clearly, the two ships are not on the Railroad Dock. I must have been snoozing. I carry on.

I head for the Railroad dock and find 4 of our 13 guests. All on one ship. Time ticks on. And on. Where is everyone from the second ship? I wait some more. "Brenda to Bryan," I radio. "Anyone sneak past me?"

"Nope. Waiting on  9 more guests."

Tap my toes. Wait some more. Tap my toes some mre. It's now 7:40. We leave at 8 sharp. Tick, tock, 7:45. Where the heck is everyone??? Bryan calls me on the radio.

"Go for Brenda!" I radio back.

"The other ship is over at the Ore dock! The second ship went to the wrong dock! Haha, all our missing people are over there!"

Yikes! As the British say--I can bloody well see it over there! "We better roll! Ten-four!" I holler into the radio as I race pell mell back to my car to see if I can't beat Bryan over to the Ore dock. Some of those folks, waiting in the wind that defines the Ore Dock of Skagway, might be madder than you-know-what. Nothing's worse than cranky tourists.

Bryan beat me. He soothed the troubled waters and had all but one safely into the bus, out of the terrible wind. "Missing one," he radioed.

So I take up position at the gangplank exit, hold up my SOUTHEAST TOURS sign, shout a happy hello through the roaring wind to other doc reps I've known awhie. Mr. Duley has three minutes, just three minutes, to show and then I'm outta here.

"Bryan to Brenda, it's 8:00! I'm headed out."

"Roger that!"

I can't believe it. We actually got out on time, minus Mr. Duley of course--never mind the wayward ship and me asleep at the wheel--all on video.

Here's the "take-away" point of this story. Never believe the paperwork, believe your eyes.

Of course, you have to look first!

Sunday, April 3, 2016

#13: White Pass & Yukon Route: A Video (link below)

Brenda Wilbee's sketch of first tourists in Skagway AK, 1898
sketch by brenda
Skagway’s #1 attraction has always been the White Pass and Yukon Route, built in 1898 for the Klondike Gold Rush. Today, thousands walk off the cruise ship gang planks to scrabble up the three high steps into the old Gold Rush train. This historic, narrow-gauge track takes off from the waterfront with a huff and a puff, a jerk and squeal—and then clankety-clanks along the rails for about five miles to where the narrow valley closes in. Mountains rise  straight up on the right, Pullen Creek and Skagway River trickle and rumble on the left, the pulse of the train is something alive as tons of steel push into the curves and pick up speed, as if to ease the train into the climb ahead. But then the mountains converge. The river cuts a scraggly seam between and the train--by necessity--must begin to climb 3,300 feet in twenty miles.

Photo of Brenda Wilbee leaning out the White Pass Train, taken by Blake KentMy first experience on the train was one of exhilaration. The day was May 29, 2009, my birthday—a sunny day, all yellow and blue and green, the air pungent with the scent of the sea and temperate rain forest. I travelled alone, a gift from my son. I was to meet him at the summit of the White Pass Trail, where I’d disembark and board his motor coach to travel with his guests up into the Canadian Yukon. As the train chug-chugged out of the station, as it passed the chimney ruins of the old Pullen House, as it swept by the old gold rush graveyard where death had eclipsed so many dreams, my adrenalin pumped in rhythm, and I found my spot on the carriage apron—the wee porch on the back of the passenger car where I could lean out, take in the view, wind in my face, and breathe a glory so palatable I seemed to be standing on  the threshold of eternity.

Brenda Wilbee and bestie Nick Mistretta
standing on the apron with
Nick Mistretta, a bestie
I’ve traveled the train many times since. Once with a gaggle of friends all the way up to Lake Bennet, another with close friends on a day off. One excursion was an end-of-season staff party, another a partial trip to Denver Point where a handful of us got off to go hiking. I took my grandson once, ten years old, the summer of 2012; John McDermott, then senior conductor, let us ride up in the cupola. Once it was the Santa Train in the middle of December. It doesn’t matter when I go, who I go with, how far I go—I never tire of the exhilaration.

To take your own ride, click on this link: 
White Pass and Yukon Rail