|WarmSprings Bay frozen over (clear part is ice, too)|
Started with a marten in the house. He'd show up downstairs, and we thought at first he was slipping in with us. Then he came through our open bedroom window one night. Got him out without too much trouble. When he showed up again, with us on high alert and window screened, we realized he must have a hole. Found it leading into the attic. Isolated attic from rest of lodge, but couldn't drive him up there (lot's of places he can go that we can't), so played guessing games as to whether he was out, or in but inactive. Once out, we screened it with machine cloth (wire grid), which he merely tore apart. Next try was successful with expanded metal mesh.
So we'd been up nights with a cold snap coming.
Maybe I should start with an introduction. For the past while, we've been alternating years winter caretaking Baranof Wilderness Lodge, this being our third year 'on'. It's an inefficient way to earn money, but the owners are great, there's internet and power for writing projects, and it's a way to earn, out-of-town. There's one year-round resident, one 'town' caretaker (currently with a couple filling in) and us. Last plane was about two months ago. We work October through April. Most years its considerable but not overwhelming work.
|Quite a change from our little Boat!|
One of our prime jobs is to keep the 10KW, pelton wheel based, hydro power system going, so long as possible. Water comes from a small lake at about 33degF, down some falls to an intake reservoir. In low temps, water super-cools to about 30degF, and forms ice slushies on rocks and intake grate, impeding flow and reducing power. After several days of this, the falls and creek freezes over, insulating the water; it's temps climb a bit and slushing stops. Our part is to clear the slush, and as water level falls in the dry, freezing conditions, reroute more water toward the intake. Should the whole shebang freeze solid, it's a small disaster.
In advance of the deep freeze, we cut steps up the hill (about 600 feet of rise in a rough quarter mile), dug out the rope lead for the really steep part, and took tools to intake pool. Thought we were ready. HA.
As temps dropped to 5-10degF lows we had to clear the intake of ice every 2 hrs for three days, then 3hrs, then 4hrs. During the whole time, we're losing power as the supply pipe freezes from the outside in. Finally the creek froze over and we could relax to every 6 hrs... 30 round trips in 5 days! Got a stone diversion dam in place to keep water level sufficient from the falling creek, and we're just about to get some sleep.
|Extra Sensitive Meter to ensure heating elements not encased in ice (explosion danger while thawing)|
Then the three water heaters showed themselves to be freezing from their bottoms up (despite water happily running full bore through them. The first one absorbs surplus power, the second is a dump load for considerable extra, and the third is a standard domestic heater with thermostat. They're plumbed serially, and freeze-up could mean fire danger from excess power heating wiring.
We had to bypass the middle and domestic heaters, and use our last gasp of power to thaw the domestic. Then transferred its hot load to the middle, then drained both. Just about to get some sleep.
Did I mention that meanwhile, the Bay froze over?
We look out at first light, and the inshore piling is at an unlawful angle. Down we go... the ice sheet is moving, and forcing the dock and piling SE. Six hours busting a moat around the docks with sledge hammers and shovels, then 2 hour watches to chop more as it refreezes and/or advances. Luckily, only two nights and a day of this... then luxurious 3 hour watches on advance only (no refreezing in warming temps).
Meanwhile, we'd been waiting for the community caretaker and then his replacements to pump gas to run our skiffs and snow-blowers. Pump won't pump. Siphon about 3/4 of a gallon, when (sucky noises), we hit air! Dipped it and (metallic noises) sounds EMPTY (20,000 gallon tank, which should be at least half full). OMG!!! There's been a spill!!! Panic and $50K debt filled our sleep deprived minds. Wisely, we tabled it to deal with ice and got some snatches of sleep.
In the morning, new hypothesis... the dip tube is blocked (must be solid ice for that metallic a sound). We dipped again at the other end and landed right on the owner's marks. Siphoning works from there. Flooding sense of relief!
Since the Bay's frozen, fuel's got to be rough-hiked across (the 'Townies', are exhausted, too, from work on their intake and snow blower probs). Fortunately, by the time we figure all this out, the tide's broken up ice alongshore... at high tide, we can sneak a skiff around the edges.
THAT's when the four (count 'em) four winter storms came through. Two feet and change of wicked wet and sticky snow, before the break-up. Of course, we can't throw it into the moat, or it's durn hard to see when it's time to chop. Blower gets it out and past, but around the rim (cleat zones) has to be hand shoveled. Meanwhile, snow on ice depresses sheets to about 8 inches under slop, so chopping is an ordeal.
We're happy, healthy and mostly caught up on sleep... and though a little wobbly in the knees, are about as buff as you'll ever see us.
|Down in the Valley...|