The morning had dawned bright, though cold, and Toe (a logging buddy) and I decided it was too beautiful to sit idly in the float house, so we broke out the skiff for a day of adventure on the water. Leaving Crab Bay I had to use an oar to break the ice in front of the skiff until we reached the deeper water of the channel. The journey through the islands was mostly uneventful; we had hit a snag halfway though the day and bent the prop on one of the outboards and met a wolf trapper anchored in a quiet bay on Baker Island, but other than that our only company were eagles and gulls, searching endlessly for fish in the myriad channels. We reached our destination, Noyes Island and the old fish cannery at Steamboat Bay in early afternoon and spent a couple pleasant hours visiting with the loggers staying there. Although the weather was still frigid, the freshening wind and clouds appearing out to sea made it clear that foul weather was coming, 'twas then we made the first mistake; we decided (unwisely as it turned out) to make the 23 mile run back home to Craig, Alaska at night through the Gulf of Esqubel, in hopes of outrunning the storm. Due to the cold we put on full immersion survival suits, and headed out. We made good time as the rising winds were behind us, in spite of our having to fight the roughening sea and outgoing tide. The real problems began when we were nearly in sight of town. Toe was running the skiff, and although he was not as familiar with the waters as I, decided to go around the south end of Fish Egg Island (a very small island which guards the port of Craig) against my advise. As we came around the island we could see the lights of the village about a mile off, when I saw what looked like splashing water ahead; turning on the light showed waves breaking on jagged rocks just ahead! Toe quickly reversed the engine and backed straight into the oncoming sea. Three waves broke in quick succession over the stern, as fast as thought it seemed and the bow started to rise. I leaped for the bow but just as my hands touched it I found my feet were floating and watched the light tied to the bow disappear below me as the skiff headed down into the depths. After a moment of panic I realized my survival suit was unzipped and filling with frigid water so the next few minutes were spent trying to zip it up and attempting to get my bearings. I yelled for Toe, while spitting out seawater and finally was relieved to hear an answer. He had taken his suit off down to his knees shortly before we sank and had been busy pulling it on while treading water. We both knew that in these northern waters we needed to make land quickly or perish, even in survival suits and that trying to fight the outgoing tide across to town would be a fatal move so we took the only option left open and started swimming towards Fish Egg Island, barely visible as a darker shadow in the darkness. We both knew our chances were very slim, but freezing out in that dark sea left little in the way of options! It seemed hours we swam, the waves breaking over our faces (in a survival suit you have to back float), the island seemingly staying just out of reach and the cold creeping into our bones and brains. I remember threatening to beat Toe to death for drowning us and him screaming "Swim, swim", over and over. When landfall came it was sudden and timely...we would not have lasted another five minutes I suspect. As it was, when we tried to stand we both collapsed back into the water, hypothermia had reached the point in us that our muscles no longer worked well enough for even standing. Somehow we got the suits off and laid there, hugging like a couple of schoolgirls and trying to make jokes about it. We may have made land but we were still in dire straits; wet hypothermic, without food or fresh water on a deserted island with a storm brewing and no cover but the trees. Somehow I had managed to keep a lighter dry, and started slowly peeling bits of frozen, dried bark from the spruce and cedar trees as Toe crawled around looking for some kind of shelter. I was having a hard time making fire, shaking like a leaf when Toe crawled back with his prize...a chunk of Styrofoam which had washed up on the beach! A touch of the lighter to that and we had fire, wonderful, warm fire! As I fed the fire he crawled off again and returned with a dirty, torn length of black plastic to wrap around ourselves. And so we survived that long, long and very miserable night. The next day we flagged down a passing fishing boat who took us back across the channel. It still took days to recover from the cold in our bones but we beat the massive storm which hit and stayed for days by a few hours and now can look back on it as an "adventure", although when it was happening somehow THAT word never crossed my mind!