Saturday, December 19, 2009

Saturday Adventures

Today started with inky blackness.

About 0745 (that’s about quarter to eight for you non-military types) the power quietly went out. 

I was still in bed (I swore I was damned well going to sleep in this morning, this week has just plain kicked my ass) but the sudden lack of juice sizzling through the wires woke me right up.  Shipboard habits die hard, I guess.  It’s funny, on a warship you get used to the constant noise, the blowers and the engines and the pumps and the sound of the water and wind beating on the hull. There’s always some evolution going on, equipment clanging and banging, chains shifting on the flight deck, crew moving about. You learn to sleep through it, or you eventually go insane.  But let the ship go cold iron, a main bus blows, a switchboard kicks off, the generator fails, or the engines shut down for some unexpected reason and the sudden silence is deafening.  Navy Sailors can sleep through the hammering explosions of a main gun exercise on the firing line, but will come bounding out of the rack wild eyed and alert if the power dies.

I’m still like that.

It’s damned cold outside, as only Alaska in deep winter can be.  The house is well insulated, but it will cool over a couple hours if the power remains off.  We’ve got a fire place, both gas and electric, and wood stoves.  We’ve got emergency generators, one each for the house and shop, and I was reviewing how much fuel I had on hand before I was even fully awake. 

I got up, went downstairs and killed the power strips for the electronics.  Looked out the window towards the valley and didn’t see a single light.  Not good.  It meant a substation or power plant was down, not just the local transformer.  From the second floor I could see the glow of Wasilla in the distance, and Anchorage reflecting off the clouds.  So, a substation or a line then, not the plant. Better. The linemen should have that fixed fairly quickly.


I went back to bed figuring that if the power didn’t come on in an hour or so I’d get up and light a fire in the fireplace and then start the generators.  The gas fireplace was already on, so I wasn’t too concerned.

Just about an hour later the sound of the heater kicking on woke me.

So nice to have electricity.

Because, otherwise I’d have to fire up a generator solely to run the coffee pot.

And now, we’re off to Anchorage for the annual polar bear plunge. We’re watching some crazy people jump into a freezing lake for charity.  I’ll be cheering them on, but you can bet everything you own that I won’t be joining them.  I did it myself a number of years ago, twice in one day actually in two different oceans (once in the northern Pacific, then across the island and into the Bearing Sea 30 minutes later) and that was more than enough to do me for life.  My teeth still chatter when I think about it. Just for the record, it’s about 0 degree Fahrenheit today, and the wind chill is somewhere in the –30’s. 

Then we’re off to see Avatar.  We’ve already got our tickets.

The damned power better stay on until the movie is over.

Hmmm, maybe I better bring the generator along.

Just in case.


  1. Well I spent the morning arranging for my car to be towed into Edmonton (230km) because it's not staying on. At least it bit the dust in the garage instead of in a parking lot at -30C. Still I would rather been at class and I know it's not going to be home soon with all the stats coming up. I rented a Ford Focus for getting around.

    Enjoy Avatar!

  2. Our backup generator is hooked up to the 500 gallon LP tank and is automatic. I'll wake up when the power goes out and the house gets quieter, and then count the seconds. Generally hear the starter running at the 3 second mark and power back on at the 6 or 7 second mark once the electronics are happy with the voltage and frequency stabilization.

    Power is definitely civilization.

    Dr. Phil

    enessess = an excess of energy

  3. Other sound that will wake you up out of a sound sleep: water running loudly when it shouldn't be.

    Woke up many years ago to the sound of the water gushing somewhere, very strange sound. As it was winter and cold enough for pipe issues, threw on a coat and wandered around checking all the outside, basement, crawl space plumbing connections. Nada. Could hear still water running.

    Called the water company. Ah-ha! Apparently the cold damaged a pump and ruptured a line in our neighborhood. Then when the pressure came off the main line and off the pipes to the homes, the water just drained back into the main from the houses. They expected at that point to have the problem solved before daybreak. said to leave a faucet or two partly open to help move air out of the system when they turned the water back on.

    Sure enough, a few hours later woke up to the sound of air burping out the lines. Flushed all the lines until water ran and went back to bed.

    Roommates never did wake up.

    garboo = ghost garbage

  4. Power fun is pulling the main disconnect on a television network every six months just to see what happens.

    In theory we were supposed to stay on the air, sometimes we even did. The most embarrassing was when we stayed up for five minutes then things died. Seems they had believed the gauge on the day tank and also the pump had stopped working.

    kypin what you use to hold the ky jelly tube closed.

  5. It's one of the reasons I tell my wife to not tip-toe in the morning trying not to wake me up. It's better to just walk normally.

    vittiom - very small vitamins


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