Mid-Summer’s Light

Mornings are good, but there is nothing like evenings. The slow “set” of the sun in a great arc is what helps you notice. Oh, I know, the sun doesn’t set and the earth is not turning at a reduced speed. It’s the length of the northern rays. The way they can slowly disappear behind the rise and then sneak back into the bay through the clearing. When you least expect it. You’re getting ready for bed and suddenly you run up to the deck to catch the last act. It’s magic.  Some examples.

  • The beautiful double ended sailboat across the bay at Port Protection. The light on the shrouds and halyards Christmas treeing up its low mast. The shadows on the lapstrake woodwork of its yellow hull. Its reflection in the still water.
  • The golden glow of the hand adzed cedar of the long house on Shakes Island in the middle of the old port. At last light the three frogs on the famous totem flash red smiles.
  • A lone boat returning across the board bay to Wrangell. A dozen shades of blue, silver and rose gleaming in its wake.
  • The play of eagles and ravens on the wing with mist, sky blue and yellow sun dancing against snow capped peaks around Sitka Sound, beyond windows of Centennial Hall as pianist Natasha Paremski pours power and passion into Chopin, Brahms, and Prokokiev. (We’ve all watched nature films with great soundtracks. Imagine Nature’s visual tracks rolling in the background of performances of Sitka Summer Music Festival. Wow.)
Here it takes the earth hours to roll away from the sun.

It’s not like this in the lower latitudes. On the Equator the sun plunks down. One minute it’s light the next it’s dark. Uganda is certainly as colorful a place as Alaska but how sad that no one there can really see the colors! Imagine the bright green of a tea plantation and with a line of colorfully attired women picking the buds. Imagine what it would be like if the sun took many hours on to transit from low in the sky to the horizon. What a light show! But maybe it’s just as well as those workers would likely be pressed into longer days rather than being set free by the night. Alaskan workdays are long. Multi-day fish openings take stamina. Other days the mysteries of salmon runs take over, with some boats pulling out at first light, others at last. If you’re building something it has to be squeezed into a couple of months. Four seasons in the Pacific Northwest says Jack. Almost Winter. Winter. Still Winter. And Road Construction.

Sitka’s Harbormaster assigns us a spot at the “L” where the main docks of Old Thomsen Harbor converge. Which means everybody has to pass us. Eighteen hours of greetings and chat from the standard “Beautiful boat” to “Where you off to?” and “I’d love to sail” to “Crew of three, right. Here’re some sockeye steaks for your supper.” Wow.


Author: Carol McCreary

10 Inside Passages to Alaska. 10,000 miles. 10,000 hours on the S/V Aurora. This is the story of how Jack and I took up sailing late in life and are now finally getting the hang of it.

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