Everyone in town knew the routine: LJ always slept late after a night trip to Anchorage. Townspeople always respected his privacy until well past 11 AM. The New Yorkers, however, didn’t.
LJ’s telephone rang precisely at seven. Mr. Watson wanted to meet for breakfast at The Fo’c’s’le right away. Bleary eyed, LJ drove the three miles to the restaurant in a pouring rain. Few people were out and about. Dawn was just beginning to break as he parked his old Chevy.
Mr. Watson, sitting at the table that afforded an incredibly beautiful morning view of Resurrection Bay, apologized, “I just found out about your overnight drive, LJ. How can I make it up to you for waking you so early?”
“No problem, I’ll get solace when I’ve completed the contracts.”
“I believe you will,” he smiled. “What’s good for breakfast? We usually have a bagel or two in New York.”
“I always suggest a thick rib steak, home fries and eggs or fresh salmon, fries and eggs. They usually hold me over ‘til lunchtime. But, I usually eat breakfast around 10:30, Mr. Watson.”
“Please call me Bill. The mister stuff is too stiff for good conversation.”
“OK, Bill. Another friend named Bill and I drove to Alaska in a two car convoy over ten years ago.”
“You mean people actually do drive all the way to Alaska?”
“We did, in December blizzards, with families and dogs, all the way from the Ohio valley. I’m planning to write a book about it someday.”
“God! I can’t begin to picture that expedition. How long did the trip take?”
“Nineteen days. I towed a utility trailer loaded with a ton of household effects and Bill drove a little Volkswagen car with his wife, two kids and a dog aboard.”
“Well, I expect by now you have learned that flying is better than driving. I understand that nearly everybody here in Alaska flies wherever they go.”
“I’ve flown to and from the Lower 48 twice, but I’ve driven the Alcan eleven round trips too.”
“I would probably drive it once, and only once, to find out what the adventure is like.”
“Well, it’s never the same twice. I’m going south on vacation again next winter, probably to visit Baja Mexico again. I prefer driving the Alcan in winter.”
“To the business at hand, LJ. Can you construct a realistic cabin and dock, transport them to the Holgate site, and have it ready for a Friday shoot?”
“I’ll have them on location Thursday, but I need to know the exact spot of the location.”
“Peninsula Aviation will take you out there today where you’ll see the precise spot. We have Kenneth on payroll as of yesterday afternoon.”
“I’ll model the cabin after the Forest Service cabins that are everywhere. OK?”
“Fine, L.J. I’ll be going back to my office in the hotel. So, go on out to the glacier with Kenneth and let me know if you expect any problems or changes.”
Breakfast over, LJ decided to get the flight over as soon as possible. He drove to the airport and approached Danny checking the Super Cub, surprising him.
“Hey, L.J., what are you doing up so early? I heard you drove to Anchorage last night.”
“Yeah, I did, and got back just after 4 AM. The movie company got me out early to go see the Holgate location. I’ve already had my breakfast.”
“You want to take the Cub? Ken is over at Ninilchik this morning and won’t get back until after noon.”
“Do you know the exact spot the movie guys picked for the cabin and dock at Holgate?”
“No, sir. Ken and that movie director know, though.”
“I’ll have to fly over with Ken. Tell him to call me as soon as he gets back. In the meanwhile, I’ll be getting the movie set construction started.”
“Okay, LJ, but I was hoping you’d fly the Cub over there and I could go with you. I’d like to see what Holgate Glacier looks like from the air.”
“You and me both, Danny. Maybe the next time I have the opportunity we will go. Bye.”
LJ spent the four hours sketching details for construction of seven prefabricated sections, all to be transportable on the deck of a small boat. When done, he turned the sketches over to his foreman, Nate.
Well past noon, Ken called with instructions to meet him at the boat harbor so they could fly to Holgate in his floatplane, the Otter. Using the Otter would allow them to land near the site and allow gathering better on-site information than simply circling overhead could.
LJ had not flown in the Otter before and was surprised Ken was using it since its operating costs were so much higher than those of any of his other planes. The Otter was a military surplus airplane, on two huge aluminum floats. It was easily capable of carrying ten passengers with their camping gear. LJ considered it strange that Ken was using it for a simple sightseeing trip.
At the harbor, he observed the Otter at the fuel dock with its engine idling. Ken was talking to the Harbormaster.
“Hi, L.J. Let’s get going. The Harbormaster will cut us loose from the dock. I don’t want any rotten weather moving in on us before we get back.”
“Okay, Ken. Let’s go.”
Forty noisy minutes later, they circled just above Holgate Arm; the fjord cut over the eons by ice calving off the face of Holgate Glacier. Holgate was just one of a dozen glaciers flowing from the Harding Ice Field high above, hidden in mist and clouds. LJ surmised the colossal glacier face was why the moviemakers selected that particular location.
Ken slowed the Otter and lined it up for landing on the smooth, blue water about a mile out from the glacier wall.
The face of Holgate Glacier, looming over a thousand feet into heavy clouds, appeared to be made of a single blue-white diamond. A lone rock island sat about a quarter mile in front of the glacier.
As soon as he viewed the perspective of the island to the wall of ice, LJ knew the set location had to be on the giant boulder. The rock, about 200 feet high, was the only island in the blue water fjord, stationary and solid among several drifting icebergs. The icebergs certainly did not appear to be large enough to use as set locations.
“Ken, I’ll bet that big rock island is the location for the prefab dock and cabin.”
“Right. They want the cabin in that notch on the east side and the dock at the end of that projection down on the water’s edge. It looks small from up here, but it’s about fifty feet across. I’ll land and taxi up there and you can see the rock is smooth everywhere except for those two notches.”
“I’ll have to set an anchor about a mile away for my boats. The map indicates there are no shallows any closer than that to the rock.”
Ken agreed, “I didn’t see a beach anywhere in the whole bay, so you’ll have to work off a set of buoys. I don’t think you could tie up to the rock anywhere.”
“Yeah,” LJ agreed, “that looks like the best we can do. I certainly hope no storms blow up while we’re working out here.”
After taxiing closer to the immense rock, Ken turned the slow moving Otter seaward and took off. He circled up to two thousand feet, but was forced to fly back to Seward via the long Pacific Ocean route. Visibility remained below three thousand feet and the mountains exceeded six.
Back in the Seward small boats harbor, Ken taxied the Otter to the transient fuel dock and hastily inspected both pontoons for ice damage. He was visibly relieved to find none. LJ was equally relieved to be back in town before darkness fell.
He stopped in the Harbormasters office to inspect the Coast Guard charts of Holgate Arm and found he was correct about Holgate having no beaches and very few anchorages. Any large swells or high winds would be hazardous, so he needed to set a very heavy working buoy for the boats.
The best location for that buoy appeared to be a mile south of the big rock, on the western side of the fjord. A short promontory there should help shield the workboats and the bottom was clay, affording a reasonably firm anchorage.
After returning to his construction company’s Jesse Lee Heights workshop, LJ was much encouraged. Nate and his crew of carpenters had completed several prefab sections. But, he contemplated that they may have trouble transporting the sections aboard his two small boats and mentioned the fact.
Nate offered, “My brother, Charlie, says Tuck’s old forest service boat will haul everything in one load. It has four bunks and a galley, so we can be independent of that movie mob on The Skipper.”
“Can you arrange for us to hire it for, oh say, about a week?”
“I’ll see what Charlie can arrange with the Widow Tuck. She’s the owner, now that Jim Tuck’s dead.”
“Okay, Nate. Arrange something suitable and I’ll go along with it. I know all these prefabs won’t fit aboard both my cruiser and the Jolly Roger together. Our construction barge is still at Marine Tech in Homer getting refitted.”
“LJ, Charlie wants to be in on this construction job. Is it all right with you if I hire him on?”
“We need six guys, counting you. Make up your own crew. Just don’t include any barflies, Nate.”
“Okay, boss. I won’t.”
The prefabrication arrangements done, LJ drove downtown to The Fo’c’s’le Restaurant and had dinner. It had been an arduous day, but tomorrow promised to be even tougher, so he descended the back stairs to an old couch in the basement and was sound asleep in minutes.