And Then Gillie was Gone… Or… Intrepid C-Dory Thwarts Thieves!

Gillie and Canola_n

Gillie faithfully following her crew, enjoying the canola fields of Alberta.

July 18, 2016, Yukon Territory. In an incredible act of heroism, the fishing vessel Gillie, a 22’ C-Dory Angler freed herself from an attempted abduction. Following her captains north to Alaska on the Alaska-Canada highway, Gillie, along with Stanley the Chevy Silverado and Lance the Cab-Over Camper, had pulled off the highway for a driving break at the Smart Creek turn-out near the British Columbia/Yukon Territory border. Her captains were gone for mere minutes, looking for grayling and char in the trouty-looking river just out of Gillie’s view when the thugs attacked.

Armed with precisely the right tools, the perpetrators made short work of Gillie’s couplings, hitched her to their own criminal vehicle, and sped off. At this point, Gillie feared the worst. She imagined herself in a chop shop, her engines torn from her stern, her insides gutted. She shuddered, knowing she may never see her beloved captains again.

But when she shuddered, she noticed that in their haste, the thieves had neglected to properly secure the nut holding the hitching ball in place. Each time the speeding trailer hit a bump on the very bumpy Al-Can, Gillie put her own two tons of weight into the bounce. Bit by bit, the nut worked its way down the hitching ball shank.

“If I can just get free before they hit the chop shop…” She didn’t complete her thought. Not more than 50 meters up the road was a bright orange marker. She knew what that meant. Big Bump.

“This is it,” she thought, digging deep for the courage she’d need to withstand the crushing impact when the tongue of her trailer hit the pavement at 70 miles (110 kilometers) per hour. The front wheels of the thieves’ truck hit the bump, Gillie gave herself a mighty lift, the trailer wheels careened over the bump, Gillie slammed down hard on the hitching ball and, to her great joy, rebounded, catching just enough air to lift herself clear.

The tongue of the trailer came down with a heavy, metallic, grating crash! The safety chains holding the trailer to the truck went tight. Now, atop the trailer, still upright, Gillie was being dragged along while the tongue of the trailer cut a scar into the highway asphalt. From the cab of the truck, Gillie could hear loud shouting and words that can’t be printed here.

The next thing she knew, the truck was pulling off the highway. “Yea!” Gillie exclaimed in thought. But the shoulder was steeply canted. “If they go any further, I’m going to roll!” She thought in a panic.

Just in the nick of time, the whole rig skidded to a halt. The thieves burst out of their truck, cursing their “bad luck” and accusing each other. They had little choice and they knew it. Already, police between Watson Lake and Teslin were looking for the most unmistakable boat on the Al-Can. Gillie didn’t know it, but her captains had already supplied the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (who always get their boat) with a photo of Gillie and a description of a possible suspect vehicle. Gillie didn’t know this, but thanks to their friends who listened to police scanners, the thieves did know it. With a hot boat atop a disabled trailer and police on the lookout, the thieves had no choice but to cut and run.

Her captains were in the midst of a rather quiet, pensive dinner at the Yukon Motel and Restaurant in Teslin when Officer Stelter of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police entered the establishment and confidently strode toward their table, barely able to suppress a grin.

“She’s on the road, down at marker 1168. It looks like they abandoned her.”

The restaurant hostess quickly packed the dinner “to go.” The captains climbed into the Chevy, fueled up and hustled to the site, 42 miles to the east. By the time they arrived, Officer Stelter had already secured a brand new 2” hitching ball to the trailer – held fast in place with a properly tightened nut.

You never saw a bigger smile on a boat. Her captains were smiling pretty hard, too.

A Lance Camper, a C-Dory and Two Mighty Trucks

A mighty little truck. The first year we came up to Alaska, 2009, we used our C-Dory as our camper and towed it up and back – more than 8,000 miles over 43 days with our 2004 Toyota Tacoma. We had a sunroof, which proved to be just the thing for wildlife photography. Here the rig is parked in front of Muncho Lake in Northern British Columbia. Right after we took this photo, three Rocky Mountain Sheep ewes and their several lambs crossed the road right in front of us. (See C-Dory 22 Angler: A Boat for Alaska)

I have long admired the line from Robert Frost’s poem The Road not Taken, “…Yet knowing how way leads on to way…” for the simple, universal truth it holds. When we purchased this boat, we had no idea we’d be towing it to Alaska, using it as our camper both on land (it was a great conversation starter in campgrounds) and on the water. Nor did we have any idea that we would fall so hard for this great state. I don’t recall who spoke first, but on our way back to California that summer at some point one of us turned to the other and said what we’d both been thinking: “We need to figure out how to move up here.”

A few months later, we had job offers in the Alaskan bush, a new Lance camper and a Chevy Silverado 2500 pickup truck. We were ready!

The camper is equipped with air conditioning, heat, a shower and toilet, three-burner stove, a surprisingly large and very adequate refrigerator-freezer, TV, stereo, queen-sized bed, small dining table and comfortable seating, skylights and lots of cupboards and cabinets. Good headroom, too. We’re comfortable living small, so for the two of us it’s a plush set-up. We keep reminding ourselves that we’re preparing for a future chapter in our lives when, hopefully, we will live aboard a sailboat. An item we installed that has proved indispensable is the solar panel which, even on cloudy days, supplies enough of an extra trickle of electricity to make life easier.

It was a red-letter day when we got our Alaska license plates! That morning we walked into the DMV in Haines where a friendly clerk gave us a couple of driver’s license booklets to study. We walked to a nearby coffee shop, had our soy lattes, returned to the DMV, took the test, got our photos taken, and were issued licenses.
Although we are in the heart of a near-record cold spell, we’re over the hump in the school year and our thoughts are beginning to turn toward another summer in Seward, exploring the Kenai Peninsula and boating and fishing the beautiful waters of Resurrection Bay.
Gool ol’ Stanley, our reliable Chevy Silverado 3/4 ton, loaded up on her maiden trip to Alaska.