Thursday, June 30, 2016

June 29 2016: Waiting is still hard

I went into town to use the internet at Roy's again.
Most of the crew stayed at the cabins, but Jeff, Patrick, and Oksanna went in to town looking for volley ball equipment. While there, they decided to go visit Jeremiah, see the sauna he is living in, and meet the dogs that he lives with, as well as their owner, Anne. Here is Anne teaching Patrick about some of the plants growing around here. She taught them to make tea from plants in the tundra. I understand that she is a talented healer and is prepared to share her knowledge with Jeremiah.

Here are Oksanna and Jeff with one of Anne's dogs. She has a pack of sled dogs. Oksanna said that these photos make them look small.

The day ended with another glorious sunset - and I caught Matty in one of those photos.

June 28 2016: Matty gets his driver's license

And we continue to wait for an opening. But this time they tell us to wait until 3 PM for the next announcement.

Matt and David went to King Salmon early for Matt to take his driving test. They almost didn't let him take it - we need to get a light fixed on the truck and the horn doesn't work. This is one of the many things I like about a small town - people have the latitude to be reasonable.

He passed! No thanks to the parallel parking part of the exam. Matt reported that the testing officer said the same kind of thing I did, "You're now driving through the front of the car behind you!" I guess he needed more practice and maybe better instruction.

Part of our supplies each summer is food we can take into the skiffs with us, in dry bags so that we can still eat something high quality when we are fishing too hard to come in for meals. (And when I write that, I don't want to disparage the Hershey bars I grew up on. I heard that on the drift boats, they call them, "deck steaks.") I always try to explain that these need to be saved for when we're fishing... though I do understand that when someone needs some chocolate, they need some chocolate. Well, I think those brakes are slowly failing and pretty soon, we won't have any Peanut M&Ms for the boat. We will be really sorry when we are out there striving to get through the net but running on fumes... only to find one of the birdseed or chalk dust bars to keep us going.

I went into town to take advantage of Roy's internet access. I think the GCI system that the Mifi relies on has been a little overtaxed with all the fishermen in town and trying to find something to do with themselves.

The crew came in a little bit later to go swimming at the pool! Not everyone wanted to swim, so a few were wandering around the dock of AGS when a young bear ventured out onto the mud flats to try his hand at fishing in the remaining water. Roy told me that a couple of kings were trapped there. Oksanna, ever ready with her camera got a bunch of photos.

As I was preparing to leave for home, I noticed this. It always gives me a hopeful feeling.

Some of us returned to camp (David, Sarah, Oksanna, Patrick, and me) and the others stayed in town to have dinner at the D&D (expensive but big servings and yummy) and stop off at the Red Dog. Honestly, that left me a little uneasy, but they identified a designated driver (Davey L) and others said they weren't planning to drink, anyway. I think that's all going fine.

Those of us who stayed back at the cabin practiced a little aviation.
So, I think we should let Oksanna get a little more practice before she solos - somehow, her plane lost its wing as it left her hands. See that shape on the horizon? That's the wing. Nope, no longer attached to the plane.

Then we all went for a sunset walk, some of us in mosquito gear.

David led us up to our old net locker at Pedersen Point - so many of those lockers are empty. It gave me a lonely feeling.
We spent many years here, mending nets on these net racks, visiting with our friends who might have been hanging nets or just hanging out. I've never been graceful with change. I do admire people who embrace it with enthusiasm.

These walls have stood against the weather for many years. I think they gave up on the windows long long ago -- maybe once they got electric lights in the warehouses and web lofts.

We may not be fishing yet, but at least it's beautiful.

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

June 26 2016: Rocket Ron fly by

One of the cool things about living here on the beach is the type of visitors we get.
They don't always drop in, but they usually wave as they go by. This is Rocket Ron, whose hangar is next to Eddie's. Jeremiah worked with Rocket Ron for part of the summer last year. That's how we met him.

I think the pilots here are sometimes just the tiniest bit slightly nuts. They have so much fun flying, seeing how far they can push themselves and their machines, living for the thrill of surviving another crazy stunt.

Here is a really good shot of his plane. But it's not just the pilots.
Here is our very own Jeff, trying to see what he can do, just for the fun of it. The good news is: a) he is Mighty Jeff, so he can, and b) this time, too.

I just realized that Oksanna got a similar shot of Ollie.
Hmmm, Ollie and Jeff covered in mud... Ollie and Jeff on the balance beam. Is there a pattern here?

June 27 2016: We continue to wait

Another update this morning telling us to listen again tomorrow at 9 AM.

Last night, the crew passed some time absorbing the sunset and the eerie fog that sometimes settles over the tundra after sunset.
Here are two of our Davids hiking out to the lake behind the cabins, in the increasingly chilling fog.

And here is the lake they are looking at as they walk out. It's not very deep, but it is a pretty wide and long depression in the tundra.

Patrick and David L finished off the roofing project today. Patrick especially has been working diligently on it. He's sort of a stealth worker. The first indication that the rest of the crew has that he's over there is hearing the banging away on the tin. I am so relieved that they were able to do this. And I wouldn't even say that it's ugly. There were some holes in the tin so there will be some leaking, but that's minor, compared with the problems it had before... and would have probably developed with the next strong wind.

The crew found many constructive pursuits, and a few that were just for fun. We have many guitar players, so there was much guitar playing, practicing, and learning from each other. Additionally, we had knot tying clinic (I'm still trying to remember how to tie a one-handed bowline.) Here is Jeff, getting the crew up to speed with the main knots we use: the bowline, the clove hitch, and what we used to call a net knot - other people know as a rolling clove hitch. It's good for tying a line to a taut line without slippage.

We also had net-mending clinic. Jeff, Oksanna, and Jeremiah worked on learning how to mend a net. Jeremiah is a friend of Jeff's that we met last year after an intense misadventure in Anchorage that started with the loss of his wallet as he slept in the airport awaiting his flight. No wallet, no flight. Net mending clinic went well. I think ending up with five-sided diamonds and king gear in the middle of the net is part of the learning process. And even a five-sided diamond is better than a gaping hole. So this is one of those cases where a little bit of knowledge and a willing hand is a helpful thing.

The weather has been warm so David N instigated a swimming event out front. This wouldn't be such a good idea if fishing had been going on - then the water can be pretty icky with a wide range of organic material from a wide range of processes. But now, it shouldn't be that bad. However, it is cold.

They used the anchored Cockroach as a diving platform. David said that after he'd been in the water for a while, he started not to be able to move. When he did come back in, he brought the life ring with him, just in case he couldn't walk. A few wise souls (notably the ones from Hawaii, the old one, the females, the one without a change of clothes, and maybe the one with good sense) declined the swimming event.

David D probably became everyone's favorite crew member because while the others were lowering their body temperatures, David was getting a fire going. That must have been a welcome surprise!

There is something about boys and rocks on a beach. They have to throw rocks. I think it's in the genes.

June 26 2016: Etch-a-Sketch crisis - Jake, we need you!

Today at 9 AM, we got another... update! And the instruction to listen tomorrow at 9 AM.

It has been warm and I have been making much use of the opening windows Roger installed in my cabin last season. That breeze is heavenly. Today, though, for some reason, it was a little sticky. I tugged and tugged and it wouldn't open, until it flew open hard, knocking everything in its path onto the floor. The Mifi went down and so did the Etch-a-Sketch. I found that I was almost indifferent about the impact on the Mifi, but I was holding my breath over the Etch-a-Sketch outcome.

In 2009, Jake, in his first year, revealed many talents to us. His talent as an Etch-a-Sketch artist was among the most remarkable (but I will add that it probably isn't the most remarked on. And Jake, you know what I'm talking about.)
Jake created this impossibly genius piece of art after the second fire of the season threatened our camp. The second fire happened on July 4. Something about smoking in an outhouse a few cabins south of us. We were out in the skiffs when we saw it. We rushed in to see if we could help. Our heroic neighbors were there before we were and saved their neighbor's cabin. Luckily, the wind was blowing away from their cabin. Unluckily, it was blowing in the general direction of ours.

The helicopter with a water scooper came to try to put out the fire (it looked sort of like it was delivering a thimble full of water from where we were) and a B-52 loaded up with red fire retardant stuff came flying over our cabins, dropping the red stuff on the other side of the lake behind our cabins in an effort to stop the fire's progression. The fire fighters told us that we probably wouldn't have to evacuate, but they didn't want to have to deal with the paperwork if we died from the fire, so if it looked like evacuation was necessary, they would be sure to let us know. For a while, we were standing up on the roofs of our cabins to get a better look. But eventually, we realized that we needed to sleep because we were fishing the next tide. So we all went to bed, knowing that the fire department would come get us if we needed to leave. It turns out that we slept through the smoke-jumper part of the process.

After it was all over, Jake picked up this mini-Etch-a-Sketch and created this drawing, complete with clouds, helicopter with water scooper, smoke, cabins, stairs, bluff, water, skiff with outboard and two people going through the nets - and the nets have corks and fish in them (you usually can't see the leads anyway), and signature.

My only comfort this day was that I had this photo of the Etch-a-Sketch art. Jake, your blank slate awaits you. I'm sorry I lost the precious original.

June 25 2016: Happy Birthday, Matt!... and congratulations on that mosquito eating contest

The day started with ... another update. No fish here yet. It is hard to wait.

One of last night's activities was to lay out a firm plan to bring the fish in from the outside sites. Here is what we came up with. First, deliver as many over water as possible. That means being early on the nets, especially on the ebb. Second, carry small amounts of ebb fish to the Bathtub and use the pulley on the beach and the truck to pull it in. That will mean putting out a line between the 'Tub and the pulley. If the crew is exhausted, we'll break out the ranger to do it. If the crew isn't exhausted, we'll just put the line out by hand. Or, depending on how the mud evolves, maybe we could just push the 'Tub in by hand as we have in past years.

If there are more ebb fish than it is reasonable to carry to the 'Tub, but not so many that we can't get the fish out before the nets go dry or before we come to the end of the period, we will use the ranger to pull the Bathtub around between the outside sites to pick up the fish from the skiffs, and then it will pull it in toward the beach as far as it can go. When the ranger is no longer able to pull the Bathtub, we'll transition to the pulley system. The ranger will be carrying a line in its box (length to be determined). We'll tie one end of that line to the stalled 'Tub and the ranger will run toward the pulley on the beach, dropping the line behind it as it goes. Then we'll run the inside end through the pulley, attach it to ol' Red and pull. But what if there are more fish out there? How will we get the Bathtub back out to pick them up? The ranger can pull it part of the distance, but what about after that? Maybe the crew will be able to push the empty skiff out to where the ranger will have the traction to pull it. If not, we can affix another pulley to an outside anchor, run a line from the bow of the skiff, through the outside pulley, back to the inside pulley, and attach it to the truck... and pull.

That will work. If there are huge piles of fish on the ebb, we might need to roundhaul. We roundhaul when there are too many fish in the nets to get them out before running out of time or water. Instead of emptying the fish out as we pull the net in, we just pile the nets, with all the caught fish, flounders, floaters, and all into the skiff and sort them out afterwards. If we do that, we'll need to work out where to sort out that roundhaul. If it's out on the flats, then we'll be signing up for needing to transport the fish across the mud, but we'll be in position for the next opening. If it's on the beach, we'll be in position for the fastest delivery of the salmon, but the skiffs and nets won't be in the right position for the next opening. We might offload the roundhauled net onto a tarp on the beach. We might set out of the Bathtub next time. We have options.

So the first order of business today was to bring back to the beach the freed pulleys and a couple of tarps. Then we set out to confirm that the ranger can pull the Bathtub around between the outside sites, and to find out how far out it can pull the Bathtub from the beach (about the first 450' of mud), and how far in from the outside sites (about 150' from the outside buoy of the inside site). That means about 400' of mud that the ranger can't help with much.

We gathered together all the things we would need to install the outside end of our over-mud transport plan - that would include a screw anchor, a turning bar, a buoy on a line to help us find it and to help the skiffs' props avoid it, a shackle or two and an adjustable wrench.
Then using... uh, let's call them "experiential" methods, we figured out where to put the anchor. Basically, it needs to go a few steps seaward of where the ranger can no longer pull the Bathtub when it's heading toward shore. To get the 'Tub back out on the flats, we'll use the truck and the pulleys to pull the skiff over the "no-ranger" zone. The ranger will take it from there.

So, David and the ranger pulled the Bathtub around between the sites (good) and then pulled it in until he lost traction. We backed up a few paces, and put the anchor in there.
Oksanna and I are attaching the shackles to the eye of the screw anchor. The big one is needed to attach the pulley, but it won't fit through the eye of the screw anchor and besides, it's so rusty, I'm afraid it will wear out the line that the buoy is attached to. So we'll use another shackle to connect the pulley's shackle to the anchor.


Oksanna and Jeff both came out in their bare feet. It definitely is easier to make it through the mud without boots on, but I'm uneasy about the consequences - cut feet and needing to gear up in the skiff either over muddy extremities or wet ones if the water is up. I do feel strongly that we can't be barefoot in the skiff.

After we'd finished this phase of our work, we watched Jeff, already partially covered in mud, run from about 100' away and execute a graceful sliding dive, face first, into the mud.
Here are the visible results. I don't know how much mud he scooped into his ears and swimming trunks. If I'd known what he was about to do, I'd have tried to stop him. It seems like a good idea right up until you realize that that smell is actually coming from the mud. Well, now the mud, and you. And though it's not quite as hard to get it off of you as it is to get it out of your clothes, it ain't easy, especially without a shower.

After helping Jeff clear the mud from his face - or at least his eyes and mouth, it was time to try to figure out how much line we would need to make this all work. After placing the anchor we calculated the distance (ok, we paced the distance) from the anchor to the outside buoy of the inside site. We know the running line is 700' long. And the anchor that the pulley will be attached to on the inside is probably about 150' from the inside anchor of the inside site. So ...square root... hypotenuse...plus... minus...times pi... about 700', the same as the running line - let's make it 750 just to be on the safe side.

Next we needed David to pull the Cockroach (anchored in, just beyond the swamp zone) out toward the outside sites as far as he could. That would help us figure out how much more line would be needed to pull the Bathtub from where the ranger would have to leave it on its seaward journey to where it could pick it up again. About another 400'. There. We should be ready.
Here David is, bringing the ranger and the Cockroach back in after we had completed our calculations and now know how much line to prepare, with Dirty Jeff and Patrick trailing behind.

Ollie also had been frolicking in the mud, though I think Jeff ended up more thoroughly coated. Ollie gets credit for trying to keep his face out of it, anyway. Jeff and Ollie both took a bath in the lake behind the cabins.

Most of us took a trip into town, except for Patrick and David L who stayed back to finish putting a pair of hinged vents into the bunkhouse. Many of us needed showers (some more than others - ahem), and we returned with what we needed for Matt's birthday dinner. Matt tackled making his requested sloppy joe's while I made the birthday cake. His birthday cake request was pretty much for chocolate. Not with any fancy flavors mixed in. Just... chocolate.


The crew headed back in after dinner for a night out for Matt's birthday. I'm not all that interested in the bar scene, unless there's music involved. And it turns out that there was! Our favorites were playing at the Red Dog and besides, it was open mic night. Every Saturday. And Friday is open mic night at the Fisherman's. Maybe next weekend.

The next day, the crew told me that Matt played pool with someone they didn't know... and they got into a dead-mosquito-eating contest. In a dubious victory, our team took that one. Go, Matt!

June 24 2016: And the Cockroach makes four

Every morning we wake up, hoping for an announcement. Those always start with, "This is the Alaska Department of Fish and Game with an announcement for fishers in the Naknek/Kvichak district. The time of this announcement is ..." Whenever her voice comes over the radio, the room falls quiet. Anyone who misses the cue is hushed. When instead the voice says, "This is the Alaska Department of Fish and Game with an update for fishers in the Naknek/Kvichak district..." The room fills with disappointed but interested silence. It is hard to wait.

First order of business: launch the Cockroach and bring it down to the sites.
There's Patrick pulling from the bow and two of the Davids pushing from the stern. Really, they didn't get it all the way down here like that. They must be repositioning it.

They took the dogs with them into town. Here we see thrill-seekers Patrick and Ollie riding on the tailgate.
Before too long, Oksanna saw an eagle perched on the cliff and she asked David to stop so she could try to get a good picture. Ollie must have perceived wildlife out there, so barking as only a small dog can, he flew off the back of the truck along with the other dogs who also thought it was their duty to scare away that interloping bird. They chased it off the cliff
and down the beach for a distance. Oksanna said that as the eagle flew along, barely perturbed, he started looking back, perhaps considering other possibilities for the tasty morsel chasing him. Ollie needs a mirror and perhaps a carefully selected episode of Animal Planet.

Once they got to AGS and got the Cockroach up in the transport truck, David noticed that the Cockroach had a leak. It was draining from what should be the air pocket in the transom on the port side of the skiff, right above the seam that connects the deck to the hull. It looked like a hole had been drilled there. We don't remember drilling it, but it was a perfectly round hole and water was squirting out. They were about to go into the water, so it was sort of a now or... well, not "never," but we don't know when - situation. OK, go into the water, go like hell down to the sites, and then beach it. Actually, as long as they keep up a good pace, they shouldn't take much water. It's hard to believe, but if the boat is running along quickly, it's possible to pull the drain plug and water will go out instead of come in. I'm not quite brave enough to try that - maybe it's just when a boat is up on step so the drain hole is actually above the water line.

Besides, even if water did fill the air pocket, that isn't enough to make the skiff sink. It's just that if it also took a lot of water over the side, that erstwhile air pocket would not help it stay afloat.

They beached it as high as they could allowing David to lift it with the crane so that the water would finish draining out, and then they plugged the hole with Splash Zone, a mending goo that will affix to most surfaces, under most conditions (including under water), and harden into something that can be sanded. After they were pretty sure it wouldn't be compromised by dragging it down to the tide line, they dragged it along to get it out of the swamp zone (that is, about out onto the moon crater mud).

OK, so now here is the story on the Cockroach. A dear friend taught me that term - it means to sort of sidle up to something and absorb it into your own thing. He did this with a net locker. He's an ambitious fisherman, with lots of fishing stuff. When the fisherman in the net locker next to his cleared out, he just took out the wall separating their net lockers and suddenly and somewhat mysteriously, his net locker was bigger and the web loft was down one net locker. That's a classic cockroach. I know I've already said how much I love our neighbors. They are just the world's best neighbors. Period. We've fished next to them since 1969 (and ha! I still think of them a little bit as newcomers). A few years ago, Mark mentioned to me that he was looking for another skiff. That made me look over at our Bathtub and realize that while we have back ups of just about everything (fishing gear, trucks, rangers, four-wheelers, even fishing skiffs) we don't have a back up of that crucial piece of equipment, a skiff that will slide across the mud - a skiff like the Bathtub. Oh, yeah, I should probably start looking for a back up skiff, too! I was also looking for a replacement drift boat for the old woody Harry had been fishing, the Janice E.

On my next trip to King Salmon, I saw a flat bottomed skiff on the side of the road with a For Sale sign, and a drift boat behind it with another. OK, I'd better stop. I didn't know how to evaluate the drift boat, so I just passed the information on to Harry, but the Bathtub did look like just what I needed. I offered him $1000 less than he was asking, and we made a deal. Only later did I learn that that was the very skiff Mark was trying to buy, hoping to get it for $2500 less than the seller was asking. Mark had made his offer, but the owner wanted to wait for a better one. It turned out to be mine! Probably, if nothing better had come along, he would have taken Mark's offer - or sold it to him for something less than I paid, anyway. If I'd known, I wouldn't have bought it from under him. I felt terrible!! But there wasn't really any going back. So... it's the Cockroach.

The rest of this day was spent in musical pursuits (here is Austin, playing for the tundra and the seagulls - and himself) and in working on Debby's roof.
Nearly all of the crew started out working with Patrick, dragging over tin that's been lying around in the tundra (possibly originally from Debby's roof. A good sized chunk of it blew off in about 2002 or 2003. My long time dear friend and temporary husband Tom rebuilt that part of it for us.) They also moved our insulated totes and other totes out of Debby's and into the Cockroach (to be our ice barge - that's the blue thing in the middle of the Cockroach in the first photo above) and the back of the crane truck. As high as the tides have been coming, we were reluctant just let these sit at the bottom of the cliff where the tide could carry them away.