National Geographic : 1933 Jul
"NAKWASINA" GOES NORTH in the rain or confess ourselves beaten. Once we almost quit. We had paddled for three days in a ceaseless downpour that penetrated oil skins and canvas deck as though they had been cheesecloth. For two nights we had tried to sleep in eiderdown bags that were reduced to the thickness and warmth of wet sheets. To make matters worse, the shores were 99 per cent sheer rock; so that no drift wood collected. Only once each day did we manage a fire and have a hot meal, and on the second day we achieved a feeble fire only by pyramiding dripping splinters over the flame of a cigarette lighter. On the third day we found a new Japanese settlement and borrowed their kitchen. Before night we had reached the cannery at Klemtu, where the manager gave us a shack. It had been raining there for five weeks. In the Klemtu shack we hibernated for three days, drying our equipment and de bating. Should we go on, or should we ship to Juneau and take short cruises from there when weather permitted? By the time the three days were up we realized that our greatest need had been for rest. We couldn't quit. We had started out to paddle to Juneau and to Juneau we would paddle. The fourth day was fair, and we started out, glad to be on our way again. That night, at Swanson Bay, we were told that 345 inches of rain had fallen there in 1925, and that sometimes the 5-inch rain gauge had to be emptied twice a day. We laughed without any rancor. One can get used to anything. A few days later we reached Prince Rupert. On August 2, 30 days out, we crossed the Alaska line. To stamp that occasion still deeper in our memories, we had six miles of magnificent sailing in Dixon En trance. Against deep ground swells from the Pacific a nor'easter sent a lively chop, and with a taut sail and a bending mast we raced over them both. During the en tire cruise we had not more than twelve hours of sailing, but what we did have was tremendously exhilarating sport. Had we never sailed except that day in Dixon En trance, we would have felt that the sail had paid its way. After Prince Rupert our next town was Ketchikan, and when we reached it, on the 41st day, we felt, despite the 300 miles between Ketchikan and Juneau, that our voyage was nearly over. Already we be gan to regret its ending. Rain and all, we loved it, and our faith in Nakwasina and our affection for her had grown almost to idol worship. But a few adventures still awaited us. A TRAGI-COMEDY AND A CORONER'S VERDICT We left Ketchikan at 9:30 in the evening, and found a beach with the aid of the flash. Perhaps it was Ketchikan beer; perhaps it was merely the fact that the tide tables had changed to Sitka time and we had not. At any rate, that night witnessed a diverting tragi-comedy. It was Kayo who woke us, wailing mourn fully. The bow paddler tried to sit up to spank the pup, but gave it up. "I can't get my feet down," she said in a puzzled voice. "Down where ?" I asked sleepily. "Down to the ground," said she. The situation sounded serious, so I hauled an arm out of my warm sleeping bag and plunged it down into six inches of cold salt water. We were floating, except for our shoulders! The next scene is one of confusion rescuing the grub box and dripping clothes, diving for shoes by the last feeble rays of the water-logged flash, scrambling up the bank in the darkness and groping for a level spot. We found one, a very hard one, and went back to sleep. That should have been enough for one night, but the chortling gods sent two great moons, shining side by side, to flood us with light. From behind the rattling moons came an injured voice: "Hey there! What's the idea, sleepin' in the middle of the highway ?" We moved and the ancient Ford crashed on its way. There was nothing left but the steep bank, with tree roots to keep us from rolling down into the brimming tide. This time we slept till the sun was high, and awoke to hear a coroner's jury in ses sion on the beach below us. They had reached a verdict: Death by drowning. "Gee," said a juryman, "I'll bet he drowned, an' his canoe drifted ashore." "No, sir," stated another. "He paddled ashore an' slep' here an' the tide got him an' he drowned."