Mistress of the Mix: Shipwrecked! (Sorta.)

And then there was that time we were shipwrecked in Alaska.

This is a story I almost never tell, probably because it involves a little stupidity and poor planning, so even my own family will be surprised when they read the true story of the time we got stuck on a little island with no possible way to get back home, and not a soul knew we were there. Maybe I'm over dramatizing it a bit with the title, because we weren't on a ship, and we weren't actually wrecked. But close enough.

It was back in the '90s, and some good friends were visiting from down south. Mike, Delynda and their daughter Apryl, who was about 12 years old. We wanted to take them on a truly Alaskan adventure, and well, we certainly accomplished that.

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Valerie Ing
Valerie Ing has been the Northern California Program Coordinator for Jefferson Public Radio in Redding for 14 years and can often be found serving as Mistress of Ceremonies at the Cascade Theatre. For her, ultimate satisfaction comes from a perfect segue. She and her husband are parents to a couple of college students and a pair of West Highland Terriers, and Valerie can’t imagine life without them or music. The Mistress of the Mix wakes up every day with a song in her head, she sings in the shower and at the top of her lungs in the car.
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20 Responses

  1. CODY says:

    What is the story with the boat in the photo, the Point Reyes?

    It is amazing that someone would rent you another boat, after you destroyed the prop on the first one…

    • Steven Towers Steven Towers says:

      The “S.S. Point Reyes” was a dilapidated fishing vessel intentionally beached by the owner so that he could do some repairs on the cheap, rather than dry-dock her. Probably some hippie who bought her for chicken scratch and intended to live on her—he never got around to the repairs and abandoned it. An idiot burnt about a third of the boat to the ground while photographing it several years back—he was doing shot with a steel wool fire burning in or near the stern, which sends up sparks, creating a fountain effect with time-lapse photography. He lost control of the fire. People were pissed, because it’s a landmark.

      Bent props happen, and they’re not cheap. Can’t run ’em when they get bent unless you want to shake the engine to pieces.

      I guess I can excuse the exclusion of “Wrangell Mountain Song” by John Denver, even though the town of Wrangell is mentioned prominently in the story. The Wrangell Mountains aren’t anywhere close, and John Denver isn’t everyone’s cup o’ tea. As a Colorado native, I really don’t ever need to hear “Rocky Mountain High” again in my life. (Any mention of aurora borealis always takes me to the opening lines of Neil Young’s “Pocahontas,” and I’ll take it.)

      • Eleanor Townsend says:

        Yeah but what about ‘Wild Montana Sky’ John Denver with Emmylou Harris. (nothing to do with Val’s story.) And sometimes I wonder, Steve, (and this is a compliment, truly): Do you know everything, or just most things??

        • Steven Towers Steven Towers says:

          I’m pretty good at trivia. Not so adept at learning foreign languages. Or names, unfortunately—including Latin binomials, which is something of a failing in my profession.

      • CODY says:

        Interesting. Is the ship near Point Reyes?

  2. Darcie Gore says:

    Thanks for the story Val. Cody the photo was related to her title of the story. It is a reminder that just because things don’t go as planned or expected, doesn’t mean it won’t turn out well.

  3. Adrienne Jacoby Adrienne Jacoby says:

    Ebb tide? Ummmm . . . maybe a bit before your time.
    And I’ll have to say, having transversed the Narrows, TWICE, going from Wrangall to Petersburg, I can see the need for GREAT respect for the tides. All’s well that ends well, as they say, but sometimes the best part of the story comes before the “ends well” part.

    And yes, let us all pray that there is an emotional homesteader’s hut to shelter the broken hearts and lives living in the north state this year.

    • Joanne Snyder Joanne Snyder says:

      Adrienne, isn’t Wrangall where you bought me that chunk of Garnet stone? One of my treasures.

      • Adrienne Jacoby Adrienne Jacoby says:

        Yes , , , you are absolutely right, Joanne. A long story about miners and some family that bought the garnet mine then ended up willing it to the local youths (scouts, sports teams, etc.) who go on mining expeditions then sell the chunks of garnet stone to tourists when the ferry lands. It’s not terribly high grade garnet, which is why it isn’t mined commercially, but is a lovely way to support the local youth activities.

        • Beverly Stafford says:


          • Valerie Ing Valerie Ing says:

            I still have a sweet little rock with a chunk of garnet sticking out of it from the Wrangell garnet mine! Every time I see it, it reminds me of the Stikine River and that time we came face to face with a bear. But that’s another story.

  4. Steven Towers Steven Towers says:

    I’ve never been shipwrecked or otherwise stranded on an island. Stuck on a boat with a dead outboard in a frigid rain with ice on the water? Yep. Swept out to sea by a rogue wave? Once, and that was enough. Caught on the wrong side of a river when it suddenly rises too high to wade? It happens. Pretty damned lost in the woods? Too many times to count.

    Regarding tides, one of my all-time favorite gigs was a tidal energy pilot project initiated by the U.S. Navy in Puget Sound. The Navy has lots of remote outposts, many unmanned, and the source of energy is generally diesel generators, so any alternatives to that are attractive. The tidal energy turbines for our project looked like underwater windmills. My role was to determine potential environmental impacts and mitigate them. The big issue was conflicts with orca whales. Orcas are smart, and the potential for a harmful encounter was low, but one orca strike was going to be one too many from both permitting and PR standpoints, so there needed to be a fail-safe method of detecting orcas in the area and braking the turbines until the whales moved on.

    There wasn’t a cost-effective way to do that, and there are other tidal turbine designs that are better suited for remote locations that don’t have potential marine mammal-chopping capabilities, so the Navy pulled the plug and the pilot turbines never went into the water. (Not in Puget Sound—we did put six in the East River in New York City, next to Roosevelt Island. There’s an Atlantic salmon run up that river, but the public outrage over a few dead salmon wasn’t going to be a show-stopping PR nightmare. And it turned out that the salmon gave them wide berth.)

    It was a fun three years. One of my favorite aspects of the project involved tipping a few beers in the evenings with the retired career Navy engineers and scientists who were working on the project for the design engineering consultant. Super smart guys, with amusing Vietnam- and Cold War-era sea stories.

    • Valerie Ing Valerie Ing says:

      I think the world needs to do a lot more exploring into energy that can be harnessed through wind, waves and tides! You are right about Orcas. So smart. While humpback whales were a far more common sight in Alaska, we also had a pod or two of Killer Whales that would come up every year (usually we’d see them around Easter), and it was such a spectacular sight that people would line up along the shoreline for miles. In fact, people would call the radio station to let us know they were headed up the narrows, and we’d pass it along to everyone so that the entire population had a chance to watch them. So beautiful. Until they would hunt and kill the seals in the harbor. Then it was kind of a bloody mess, but that’s nature.

  5. Valerie Ing Valerie Ing says:

    The photo (like Darcie said) was just part of an illustration, but thanks Steve for the story behind the Point Reyes! It’s kind of an iconic old wreck, a lot like this year. I should’ve photoshopped “The Year 2018” over her name! I tried to find a photo that would fit a bit better, but that’s what I ended up with. I’m still trying to track down a photo of that old cabin. I’ve got my feelers out, just waiting to hear back.

  6. This is what I love about ANC’s comment section: it takes on a life of its own and completely spins off into new stories and interesting exchanges.

    I love it. I love you.

    • Valerie Ing Valerie Ing says:

      And I love you back! Hey, if I DO get my hands on a photo of that old cabin, how would I post it? Can I do it in the comments?

  7. Val, if you find a photo, send it to me or Joe and we’ll post it for you in your column. 🙂

  8. Matthew Grigsby says:

    Val, I truly love this article! Interesting, funny and filled with stuff this landlubber would have no way of knowing. I learned a lot about tides and that I never, ever want to have to “time the tides” to try and keep from dying because my shoe got stuck.

    • Valerie Ing Valerie Ing says:

      Matt, did you read the articles I linked to about Some of the people who have died that way over the years? Just before I moved to Alaska I bought an issue of Alaska magazine that carried the sad tale of a honeymooning couple that were gold mining on the flats and got their ATV stuck. She got out to help push it and got one of her legs stuck in the mud. People tried so hard to get her out. They gave her a breathing tube, they considered cutting her leg off with a chainsaw. In the end, she drowned in her husband’s arms as that ruthless tide rushed in. I’ve never forgotten that story.

  9. R.V. Scheide R.V. Scheide says:

    I once made a port-of-call in Ketchikan, Alaska. My mates and I bought a fifth of Yukon Jack and polished it off next to a river overflowing with spawning salmon. We walked across the backs of the salmon into town to the strip club. The strippers asked us all to take our clothes off. We obliged. Unfortunately we weren’t shipwrecked.

    “Louie Louie” by the Kingsmen
    “The Endless Sea” by Iggy Pop

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