When will the Ferry Be In?

Write about things that are going to happen about 10 days after you write them, the editor says. Oh, to be a Nostradamus at such times.

About 10 days from now, the George Black ferry will slide down the wooden rails leading from its winter berth to the Yukon River, chasing away the ravens trying to eat the biodegradable lubricant that eases its passage.

It might be less than 10 days, but the river broke up four days earlier than it did last year, and that could affect the timing.

Three evenings before the break-up, I was in conversation with a member of the Highways crew out here who was hoping that the ice would not disappear too fast. Once it’s gone, people start agitating for the ferry to hit the water, and the schedule for getting the boat ready for that slide down the greased rails is based on an average breakup date rather than an early one.

There’s a ton of logic behind that kind of planning, but it doesn’t stop people from complaining. “When will he ferry be in and why isn’t it now?” is an oft-heard refrain.

This was a strange year. As early as April 5, it was certain that the ice bridge would close a bit sooner than usual, as it was slushy even then and the drag racers were moving their cars off the convoluted ice track they had enjoyed during the winter.

A West Dawson colleague was going to dogsit our puppy for us at her place while we travelled to Alberta to see our son perform in a band and choir concert at his college. We’d told her to move into our house if the ice bridge looked iffy. She turned up with her suitcase on the day we were leaving. She wasn’t worried about falling through the bridge, but she was concerned about getting her small car stuck in the water and slush.

The closure sign went up about a week later.

Earlier, spring had seemed to be coming so fast that the members of the IODE were concerned they might not have their Ice Pool tickets printed and ready for sale before the river flushed, but their printer came through during those first few days of April and the Yukon Order of Pioneers put the tripod out on the ice not long after.

They need not have worried after all. They sold almost all of the 4,000 tickets they had printed and half of that take made a healthy shared prize for the two winners of the ice pool on April 30.

Meanwhile, boards were coming off the seasonal businesses all over town. The Westmark was holding a training session for its summer staff and other summer business owners were travelling north for the new season.

Soon the tourists will begin to arrive. Some have already, and have been surprised to find that, no, they can’t get across the Yukon River and drive to Alaska just yet. But give it another eight to 10 days and we should be well into the summer swing of things.

See – there’s that prediction thing after all.

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