Photo: Kent Devine
In this photo, my water-loving Bengal cat Tarzan is keeping an eye on a fresh load of driftwood stowed on the bow of the big boat, as I prepare for a trip in the dinghy to visit an especially productive collecting beach.
Depending on the size of the beach and the amount of wood there is for me to examine, it can take anywhere from a few minutes to a couple of hours for me to examine and collect everything, load it into the small boat, and carry it back to the big boat, "Room Seven", for the trip home.
From the boat, I survey the shape of the beach, examine the way it is oriented to prevailing surf and currents, and gauge the wave-energy exposure of the beach by the size and number of trees have been carried to it over the years.
Here is a beach on the western side of Perry Island that I am visiting for the first time. Piles of driftwood are visible from offshore, but I can never tell how productive a new beach will be until I have gone ashore for a closer look.
Although there are a few long beaches where an intrepid explorer can hike for a half-mile or so, most of the Prince William Sound shoreline consists of bold, rocky coastline indented by small pocket beaches like this one. These rock-covered beaches can be as small as a 2-car garage or as large as an airplane hangar, and each is accessible only by landing a small, outboard-powered dinghy on the rocks and wading ashore.
The stretches of Alaskan shoreline where I find the best material are located far from civilization, and many of these beaches probably go years between visits by a wandering beachcomber. I have some favorite spots that I return to often throughout the season, but part of the enjoyment for me is finding and picking a beach that I've never visited.
on Alaska's Prince William Sound
I select and gather all the material used in each driftwood sculpture and furniture creation myself. All the drift comes from the beaches of northwestern Prince William Sound, a network of bays and fiords with more than 3,500 miles (5,000 km) of shoreline and hundreds of islands.
Prince William Sound has a fantastic combination of indented shorelines, heavy forestation, and wind and wave patterns that tend to accumulate a wide variety of interesting material.
Please visit my Gallery page to see some of my recent Alaska driftwood creations.