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Wednesday, July 5, 2017

The Ill-fated Buoy Swing

Climbing up the tree to tie the rope for the swing

Before the trip I promised Nora and Stuey that I would build them a buoy swing on Afognak.  So on the first day out there we scouted likely trees and places, and found a buoy.  We used the rope that Stuey and Ryan untangled on the beach last September.  A lot of thought went into our decision and we decided to put the swing in the leaning spruce tree next to the tub.  It had a big root to act as a platform and the beach berm is steep enough that the swing would not hit the beach at the bottom of the arc.  Stuey was excited to try it at high tide and maybe jump into the water!

And so the time came to put the swing up in the tree.  It was kind of scary climbing the tree and I even told Nora and Stuey what to do if I fell - get on the VHF radio Channel 16!  Directions for the SAT phone are in the case.  Up the tree I went.  On my way up I thought, 'what if the tree suddenly decided to fall over?' Then I answered my own thought, 'nah the tree has been here forever and withstood big storms. It's solid!'

Also the tree this year is looking very healthy.  Last year the spruce aphids had it a little denuded, but this year the tree was covered in new buds.  It looked healthy and strong.

And so Stuey and Nora got their swing and we used it for an hour or so.  We'd jump off the platform and go swinging out over the beach.  Or I'd pull Stuey up using the line attached to the bottom of the buoy.  It was a good buoy swing and got full approval from Nora and Stuey.

Now the scary part.  Overnight it rained and in the morning it was flat calm and foggy.  We ate a leisurely breakfast around the wood stove and I was cleaning up and Nora was just off to go to the beach.  When suddenly there was a loud grinding sound - like a landslide of rocks and a HUGE crash.  Nora called out, 'Daddy I saw a tree fall'.  She reported that she saw a cloud of twigs and sand fly up when the tree fell.  And yes it was our buoy swing tree that had fallen down.

WOW!  Good thing we weren't in the swing.  Another thought went through my mind, 'now I know what sound a tree makes when if falls down in the woods and no one is around'.  It's loud and spontaneous.  Like an unexpected earthquake.

I'm actually thinking the rain and healthiness of the tree might have been its downfall.  I think our swing was probably the tipping point (the butterfly effect is real!), but the tree had soaked up a lot of water and put up a lot of new growth.  It had probably added a ton or so of new weight - way more than I weigh, anyway.  This new load is probably the main reason the tree fell down.

Totally weird that we were there when it happened.  Patrick

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