Whether sifting through sand, or scrambling over a rocky shore, it's about finding treasures in every day. 

Floathouse Dreams

"Do you know of a floathouse for sale in Southeast Alaska?" This question pops up in my inbox once in awhile. The letters usually include the writers' reasons for getting away from where they are plus bits of hopeful dreams.  ...it is so beautiful there in Alaska!...I want to be close to the real world...fish off of the front deck...be in a peaceful cove...run an Alaskan lodge...  So this post is to give you some grist for your daydream mill.

I feel for the people who are drawn to make such an enormous change in their lives. It can be idyllic to live in a cozy floating cabin, tucked into a tree-lined cove, to jump into your skiff to run to town for supplies every few weeks, and to catch a salmon for dinner. Now I'm not going to idealize the floathouse life too much, as there's the difficult part, too. Floathouses are a great place to live if you are strong, energetic, and have a career that doesn't require you to show up in town daily. 

This floating shop is for sale. It needs to be moved to a new location. Info is HERE

This floating shop is for sale. It needs to be moved to a new location. Info is HERE

Living in Alaska is expensive, and the price of land seems astronomical to some people. A floathouse may be an affordable dream.

Floathouse kit: This furnished floathouse is listed with a truck (in town) and a boat HERE.

Floathouse kit: This furnished floathouse is listed with a truck (in town) and a boat HERE.

It is not open and free to live in a floathouse in Alaska, but it is doable in some cases. The State of Alaska, Department of Natural Resources, Division of Mining, Land and Water has an application here (opens a new window) as one part of the process. They want to be sure that the applicant has a solid plan for the footprint of the float, anchoring the float, handling waste, and other considerations. If a permit is issued then State personnel will occasionally come around to be sure that floathouse is in compliance. There is also an annual fee, but I don't know how much it is.

Spring, and the season for selling and buying homes, is here. This year there are several floathouses for sale near Thorne Bay. That is kind of unusual, so when we were out in the skiff today I took a few pictures of available floathouses with my little point-and-shoot camera. It was dreary and starting to rain so use your imagination to add sunshine and dream about life on the water.

Here's a floathouse that has a fun driftwood railing on the upper deck. It is listed on Craigslist with way better pictures HERE.

Here's a floathouse that has a fun driftwood railing on the upper deck. It is listed on Craigslist with way better pictures HERE.

One of the floathouses, shown in the photo below, already has an offer pending and might be off the market soon.

Cute little floathouse for sale in Southeast Alaska

But really, if you are going to dream then dream big, right? This dream includes a floathouse to live in and an amazing lodge business. Even the story of the floathouse is cool - the house started out on land in Ketchikan! Check out McFarland's Floatel at their website, or look up Coastal Real Estate Group to dive right in to living the Alaskan Dream. The older floathouse is a great home - we were there today - thanks for the great visit Jeannie and Jim! - and the cabins are gorgeous.

Floathouse Floatel in Thorne Bay, Southeast Alaska

I have to do this. This post sounds like an ad, but really it is just a response to a lot of requests that I have received. *Disclaimer* I'm providing the links for your entertainment and convenience, and am not representing anyone, and do not receive anything for posting about these floathouses.

So Keep Dreaming, Dear Ones!

Alaska Beachcomber

More floathouse posts: Floathouses, Hello Prince of Wales Island!

More about floathouse living at Alaska For Real (a friend's site)

A Tool Repair with Splash Zone

You know when you find a tool that works perfectly and you think that you will have it for a lifetime? I have had this shovel for 35 years, and I love it. It is the right size for a woman to shovel snow without injuring herself. At 13 inches wide it fits along the side deck of the boat. It is plastic so it is light and it doesn't gouge boat finishes or camper roofs.

It has the perfect angle! This is a biggy, and I don't know why I can't find another one with the correct angle. I can stand upright and fling snow off of the roof of the boat. Most newer shovels make you bend down and hurt your back.

But after decades of winter use this shovel has two cracks. It is worth repairing, and I am using Z-Spar Splash Zone to do the job.

Splash Zone is a two part epoxy-polyamide mastic. What I have found is that this stuff sticks like crazy and holds up under difficult conditions. It can be applied to metal underwater, as confirmed by a fisherman I know. He used it to repair the oil pan on his boat engine. The repair was made underwater in oily conditions and it held for the life of the boat.

Splash Zone is on our "Absolutely Necessary" list for the boat.

I don't see any recommendation for using Splash Zone for plastic repairs on the label, but I once used it to repair the plastic water tank on a roller. You know, the type of heavy equipment roller used in paving. The roller needed to run the next day, and was down for the count when one of the guys demolished the water tank when he backed a loader into it. My sweetie and I fit the pieces together like a jigsaw puzzle and glued them with Splash Zone. The roller was on the job the next day.

So here's the kit for the shovel repair - the hand shovel, not an excavator.

  • Cotton cloth and paper towels are not shown
  • Permanent marker, not shown
  • Set of Z-Spar Splash Zone
  • Paint key and rubber mallet (Really! Splash Zone is somewhat expensive, so be nice to the cans.)
  • Sandpaper
  • The dead pen and cap are tools for pressing the mastic down into grooves where my fingers don't fit
  • Several sets of nitrile or latex gloves. Yep, it can be a messy process
  • Water in a disposable container - in this case a cut-off plastic water bottle

Here we go...

  • Sand the area where the Splash Zone will be applied.
  • Clean the area with a damp cloth. Allow to dry.
  • Read the can for prep and cleaning recommendations if you are doing metal, concrete, or other surfaces.


  • Open one can of Splash Zone and then write the color on the lid. Do the same with the other lid. This prevents mixing up the lids and contaminating the (kinda spendy) product.
  • Put on gloves and dip your hands into the water. Wet your gloves often through the process. This keeps theSplash Zone from sticking to your gloves too much. If your gloves get nasty then pull them off inside out and put new gloves on.
  • Grab a glob of yellow with one hand and a glob of black the same size with the other hand. This way you don't contaminate the tins of (did I mention expensive?) Splash Zone.

Mixing just started. Splash Zone will be olive green when thoroughly mixed.

  • Knead the globs together until the Splash Zone is a uniform olive green color.
  • Pull off a manageable piece and shape it so that it will apply smoothly to the surface.
  • Splash Zone needs to be applied at least 1/8" thick.
  • Apply with firm pressure, pushing it along to prevent the formation of air or water bubbles.
  • When adding another glob, start it on the Splash Zone that has already been applied and then work it out onto the surface being repaired.
  • Wet your fingers again.
  • Smooth the Splash Zone out with wet, gloved hands.
  • Wipe up the edges or splatters with damp paper towels.
  • Cure time varies depending on temperature and how thickly the Splash Zone is applied.

To reinforce the repair I applied Splash Zone to the back of the shovel. The pen cap was the right size to work the mastic into the groove. I added more, pressed it in firmly with my fingers, and smoothed it with wet gloves.

I filled and covered the long crack, and then made sure to cover the small sideways crack. On the back of the shovel put in some extra fill in an effort to reinforce the ageing shovel.

I pounded the lids back onto the Splash Zone with the mallet. The cans went back into the box with several sets of gloves for convenience. Splash Zone has a reserved space on the boat. If we need to make emergency repairs then we know right where it is.

If you have an amusing repair story that includes mastic then click the comments button and tell me about it!

May the cracks in your life be easily repaired,

Alaska Beachcomber

More on repairing older equipment: Skiff Rebuild

Making do with what's available: Always Improvising

Boat safety stuff: Go Box

Winter Then

This is a continuation of Winter Now and Then.

In 1950, Chuck, at age 14 had walked three miles in the wilderness, set off dynamite to signal the cannery watchman to run across Hood Bay in the skiff, and was walking back to camp over the frozen south arm of the bay...

Chuck was walking along and picked up the tracks of a fawn. Pretty soon there was a fawn standing in the tracks, quiet and alert. Chuck approached slowly and then caught the skinny, ribby fawn. There were no doe tracks, and the fawn was not going to make the winter if it was left alone. Chuck hefted the baby up over his shoulders and pack, held onto the fawn's forelegs in one hand and back legs in the other, and carried it back to camp. The fawn calmed down and looked around while riding along. The little guy was a big hit in camp, and Chuck's sister named it Bambi. Bambi took well to camp life, and especially well to corn meal mush and pancakes.

Pet fawn in Southeast Alaska Hood Bay 1950

The fawn loved tobacco! Chuck would crumble a few of the men's cigarette butts and the fawn would greedily reach for the tobacco. Once Chuck pulled the tobacco away, teasing the fawn. The normally docile animal reared up and quick as lightning struck Chuck four times with its sharp front hooves, then it took the tobacco and settled right down.

The camp had oil stoves for heat, and in the cold weather the oil didn't last. The boss called out on the HF radio for the Baggen brothers to bring 50 barrels of oil in on the big tug boat named Lumberman. The ice in the bay was too thick for the Lumberman to break, and several miles of ice was too far to skid 50 barrels of oil. The Coast Guard cutter Sweetbrier was transiting the area and the Coast Guard agreed to break trail for the Lumberman.

The 180 foot Sweetbrier had inch-thick steel plating on the bow, and it came crunching heroically through the bay. As the Sweetbrier approached the camp the ice was very thick and two times the Sweetbrier had to back up and get a run at the ice to break it. Near the camp the ship turned and stopped.

The Lumberman was close behind, coming alongside the edge of the ice.  The men brought planks from camp to roll the fuel barrels off of the deck. Chuck's dad told him to stay out of the way while the men unloaded 50 barrels of fuel.

Chuck walked over by the Sweetbrier and the Coast Guardsmen offered him a tour of the boat. He climbed up the ladder and onto the icy deck. The uniformed Guardsmen gave him a nice tour. Chuck marveled at the three one-thousand horsepower diesel engines driving a huge electric motor that turned the propeller. Up in the wheelhouse he had the heady experience of putting his hands on the shiny ship's wheel and looking out over the deck. The cook even gave him fresh cookies, and then it was time for the ship to depart. Chuck scrambled down the ladder and walked over by his father, still grinning about such a great experience.

Sweetbriar breaking ice in Hood Bay winter of 1950

The Sweetbrier cut a big circle, and then the two boats left in the channel that had been made shortly before.  Within a few hours the lead that the Sweetbrier had opened froze over and the residents of the logging camp went ice skating on it that evening.

Chuck standing on an ice cake Hood Bay Admiralty Island winter 1950

It was a cold, cold winter in the shadow of the mountains in a remote bay in Southeast Alaska. Chuck and his sister were teenagers. They did their schoolwork and chores. They built an 'igloo', ice skated, played with their pet fawn, and made the best of the short days. The events of the winter of 1950 stayed with them, as any great adventure should.

There was more that happened that winter...but that is another story for another time. This post is an abbreviated version of the story of Chuck's time in Hood Bay. I am working on a book about his life, and will update you from time to time about the progress on that project.


Stay snug and warm!

Alaska Beachcomber

The start of this story is Winter Now and Then.

Another article with some old-timey details is Mack and Mattie's Cabin.