Sunday, June 30, 2013

June 29: The rest of the news

This report will be brief. It is 2:30 am and we'll be getting up again at 6:30. We have been fishing only the day tides, closed down by Fish and Game for the night tides. There are some nice benefits to that - well, one. Sleep. It looks like those days may be done. Our fishing was extended until July 1 at 3 am. That's three tides of uninterrupted fishing, except we get a few hours to sleep when the water is way out. So now we have a different benefit: fish.

Roger has been trying different strategies for protecting his broken finger and finally today, in frustration, just wrapped it up with black tape - a tool we all regard as somewhat magical. So it wasn't a total shock when it worked better than the other solutions developed without frustration. The weather was so rough today, though, that it's hard not to get at least a bruise the way we're knocked around in the boat. The weather report told us to expect 15 MPH winds and they were at least 30. It wipes a person out to be pulling against that. The wind also affects the satellite Internet system, and not in a good way. In weather like this I mostly have an olive green light that says, "system degraded." They mean it. So I wait for a tiny window of "System OK" and hit "publish!"

Josh and David parked the rangers - oh! the Friendly Ranger has been fixed. It was the starter and Peninsula Automotive made a house call. We brought home the Killer Ranger anyway, just in case we need to tow the Friendly Ranger off the flats. But if we don't, we'll try hard not to use it. When Josh parked the Friendly Ranger, partway up the cliff, he lost track of where he was and it pretty much reared up on its hind treads climbing that cliff. I was watching and running toward what looked like sure disaster when it stopped its backward roll. I saw Josh from behind, almost with a thought bubble over his head, "What is this thing going to do? Is there anything I can do to regain control and should I jump?" David and I held it to keep it from rolling sideways and Josh let off the brake so it could roll backward. There was enough space to look like an excellent parallel parking job. I'm not sure how we'll get it out tomorrow. We'll worry about it then.

We ended up with about 10,000 lbs for the tide, about 9,000 of them on the flood. Tomorrow was predicted to be windier than today. I hope not. We'll have a better idea tomorrow. I think I hear rain - I hope so. We really haven't had any this season.

We planned to do fireworks for Alex after the tide, but it's late and we're tired. Our candles are lit and I'm trying to make friends with my impatience.

Saturday, June 29, 2013

June 29: The day before

This is not a fishing related post, except that the accidental death of Alex, my younger son, happened last year, during the fishing season.

I don't know if anyone reading this wants to join us in remembering Alex tomorrow, but that's what this post is about. A friend suggested inviting other people in and I thought that was a kind idea because I know that Scott (his father) and David (his brother) and I are not the only people who lost Alex.

I've posted this in a few places and just want to be sure that anyone who wants to join in has the chance to do it, but there is absolutely no pressure. Just an invitation. Here is what I posted. Please feel free to pass this along to anyone who might be interested.

Tomorrow is the first anniversary of Alex's accidental death in Micronesia. A friend who lost her two children in an airplane crash told me that the death of a child is like carrying a heavy weight that get heavier every year. I didn't understand that until we began to approach this anniversary and suddenly my mind raced ahead to next year's anniversary, 5 years from now and "he would have been 25" "he would have been 30" "he would have graduated college" and so on. I think that's how it gets heavier, because of the tendency to count and store the increasing loss.

I believe that if Alex could have picked anything he would NOT want to be for people who loved him, it would be an increasingly heavy weight. I know I don't want that.

Talking about this upcoming anniversary, a friend suggested that we could invite anyone else who wanted to do something to join us in that something. Scott and I talked about it and about what to do. This is our idea.

We thought of two things - the first one is easy. We will light a candle for him first thing in the morning. I will put mine in the sink and let it burn all day long until I go to bed. I will reflect on the meaning of the light that a candle sheds, the darkness it dispels, its impermanence in the world and permanence in my memory, and whatever else comes up.

The next thing is harder and more complicated. Scott thought of offering something Alex wrote for you to read. I liked that idea. I wanted to go a step further to try to lighten that weight. I thought we might borrow a whole page from Alex's book and live it - and invite you to live it, too. What does that mean?

Alex wrote several drafts of his graduation speech before he died. We put them together and his brother, David, read the result at last year's graduation. It was about having the courage to inhabit your entire life, painful and sweet, good and bad. Now, we've done some more editing and expanded a crucial section with parts of a message he sent to a beloved friend the night before his death. We've also added an introduction and explanation from us. Our idea is to invite you to light the candle, follow this link to the abridged speech (in Dropbox) and then do it. Choose something you don't like about yourself and stay with it. Befriend it, feel it, love yourself including this part of yourself, like you love your child, even when they are being difficult and even the parts you wish were different.

We thought that the weight of losing Alex could become lighter if it reminds us to be more compassionate and loving toward ourselves and if each year, instead of counting how much more of Alex we have lost, we could count how much more of ourselves we have recovered because our memory of him inspired us to have the courage to feel the whole truth of our lives and the strength to love ourselves, anyway.

June 28: Inside almost all day long

Desperate to finish that Seattle report, I worked on it from early morning until almost time to go set the nets. My valiant crew invited me to stay in and try to get it done, so I did... and I finished it. (Yay!!)

But Sarah and Rohan took some photos so I would know what I missed. The first thing I missed was the half hour wait for the water to reach the boats. That is surprising because in past years, when the tide book says that there is 7' of water at the mean low water mark, we hope it's only to our waists at our outside buoys. But this season, 7' of water at the mean low water mark is totally dry at our outside buoys. But it was a pretty day. And here is Josh, checking things over before the water arrives. That is a prudent move.
Sarah is now looking up the beach toward town. The first (dry) boat is our neighbors, the Hakkinens, and beyond them is the Ambi, also waiting for water. And the way we stack the nets into the Ambi - with all the weight in the stern, we need a few inches of water to be able to move it. The Bathtub is a different story. It is so flat on the bottom that all it needs is for the mud to be wet to be able to move it. It's our future hovercraft.
Once they were able to get the nets into the water, they got some fish. David was running the Ambi and he decided to load it up instead of delivering after a few thousand pounds. There was nothing wrong with doing that since the weather was mild, but it does make it a little harder to maneuver the boat and when we're delivering to the beach, we hit the sand a little sooner.

And here is the Bathtub in its pre-hovercraft form, being pushed in for the final delivery of the tide. This is the easiest part of pushing, going through the water.
But soon the water runs out and the boat is gliding across the mud, though I'm not sure "glide" is the verb the crew pushing it would use. Actually, I'm not even sure why they were pushing it since they knew they would bring the ranger out to drag it back to the outside site for the next opener tomorrow.

It's the end of the day now. We just finished dinner. The crew was leaving to take the ranger and the truck to higher ground... and the ranger wouldn't start. Not a total crisis because at least it isn't out on the mud flats on an incoming tide. There was some pressure because once the tide does come it, it would surely cover the ranger. And we're likely to need it tomorrow. We tried jumping it off the white truck and jumping it from the battery charger and generator. Finally, David started to tow it with Jeff steering the ranger from behind and trying to compression start it. It took a while, but that worked. So he drove it to the higher ground, turned it off and tried to start it again - they diagnosed it as a starter problem. Call to the mechanic first thing in the morning and hope he will make a house call.

Meanwhile, tomorrow we'll head in to town, charge up the new ranger and carry it down the beach on the propane truck. We'll hope that they get the friendly ranger back in service so we can just keep the new ranger parked high and not use it. It is a very expensive proposition to use it. Because of the corrosiveness of salty mud, even if they are driven into the mud only once, it's an expensive operation to clean them out at the end of the season. So, we'll try not to have to use it. But I want to have it here in case we need it to rescue the friendly ranger if it does somehow get stranded out on the mud flats with the tide pressing down.

June 27: Tides continue to build

And I mean that in both senses: the high tides keep getting higher, but since the crew now understands what "very high tide" means to our equipment, they practically got the ranger and the four-wheeler half way up the cliff. They were safe.

I got Josh up early (he is so good to me - even though he wants his sleep, he never complains or even gets grouchy) so we could go in and try to get the Grayling in the water. I hoped we could do it on the falling tide so it would be there for today's opener at 4. I thought we just needed to screw the lower unit into the Evinrude, pull the cord and we'd be ready. Alas - it was not to be. The fuel filter had a split in it. After many fruitless trips to Napa, coming back with multiple solutions that didn't work, we (Josh) just jury-rigged another filter that wasn't really designed to go there, but... good enough. That took...five hours. There must have been other problems, but I think I've mercifully repressed the rest of that morning. It was exceedingly frustrating, but finally, we (Josh) were successful. We had hoped to get the boat into the water before lunch - Josh would run it down to the sites and I would keep pace with him on the four wheeler on the beach. But by the time we finished, the water was gone, so we both rode home on the four wheeler. I felt my tightly knotted stress just begin to dissolve as we left town and approached the beach. Aahhhh.

We had little time before needing to gear up for the opener. I asked David to go back to town to bring down the Grayling right after we set the nets. Unfortunately, he arrived there just after dinner started, so that meant waiting for an hour before he could be set in the water. Luckily, David is far more patient than I am. That waiting would have rendered me irritable, but David was just his calm, even-tempered self. I was so happy and relieved when he finally got back.
Rohan was our boat's photographer today and he got shots I wouldn't have stopped to get. Go Rohan! This first one shows us running to make our first delivery to the beach. We are loaded pretty heavy (though on a calm day, that boat can hold more than twice as much... as long as no one sneezes) - this delivery ended up being 3000 lbs, but we were not concerned because the weather was calm and so delivery to the beach was easy.
This photo shows the fish accumulating at our feet from our next pass through the net.

Sarah also had some photos of her boat in action
This is Jeff, Josh, and David pulling the net with the fish into the boat. I'm not sure, but they may have been straining for the camera. But maybe I forget the challenges of fishing in the Bathtub. I prefer to put the fish in the brailers as we pick if possible. The Bathtub crew finds this difficult because their boat has so much less space. So their fish accumulate around their feet. This isn't ideal but it's OK unless the weather is rough, and then it can be dangerous because these fish will shift like water does and such an unstable load that shifts in the wrong direction at the wrong time can result in a swamped boat.
And here they are picking out the fish they just pulled in. It looks like only Jeff and David have fish, so Josh is holding the net open. When the current is running, the leads really want to be in front of the corks. But we insist on a cross pick, so we just struggle to hold the net open for each other. In my boat, we found many fish just lying in the basket so that when two people held the net open and the other two turned it inside out, usually, about half of the fish just fell out.
I again came in to work on my Seattle-work report once the fishing slowed down, but I can't resist coming to the cliff periodically to check on how they're doing. This time, I brought the camera. They were just wrapping up the tide, for a total of about 14,000 lbs.
I did take a small break today. I still had leftover egg whites from my birthday cake and leftover egg whites says "mousse" or "Pavlova" to me. Pavlova was a bit louder so I used the egg whites to make the meringue base, and David and Sarah brought the whipped cream and the kiwis.

We are having more glorious sunsets this summer than any others that I can remember. As I came out of my cabin to take this photo, I looked behind to the east and saw the blood red rising moon peeking out from the clouds, surprised by how much this moon rise looked like the sunset.

Friday, June 28, 2013

June 26: You put your hand where?

The morning started with looking over the cliff and seeing this. Uh... I guess we didn't get everything high enough. And what this photo doesn't show is the things that were swept farther down the beach, like pieces of wood we had collected, the little sleds for dragging fish in, the 200 lb bags of net...
Our little Skook was pushed down the beach and swamped. And behind Skook, you can see the ranger.
A closer look at the ranger. Thankfully, the effect of the tide eating the cliff out from under the back end of the ranger was that the front end of the ranger - the end with the engine in it - moved farther out of reach of the tide. However, it was a little tricky to get down.
This photo shows you just how high the tide came up the cliff. The next two night tides will be higher yet. I feel like I should sleep in a rubber raft.

Josh, Roger, and I returned to town in the morning to work on the remaining boats, hoping to get the boats ready to go before we had to be back for the afternoon opener. As the fishing builds, I'm becoming increasingly anxious about having half our capacity disabled up in town. So my job wasn't so much to work on the boats, but to arrange to get them in the water and handle whatever would come up.

Roy had managed to get the rod out of the lower unit of the Evinrude 25 and put in the water pump, so I thought that one was almost ready to go, and the starter for the power pack on the New Boat had come in. I hoped we could get at least the New Boat in the water before lunch. What was I thinking?

To get the rod out, Roy had to heat it and bang on it and finally saw it in half. The power of corrosion. So my first job was to go to Charlie's Sport Shop in King Salmon to get a replacement rod. They didn't have one and after about 4 phone calls, I found some all thread (rod that is threaded all the way down) at SeaMar Naknek. Yay! And while in King Salmon, I was able to replace the expired tabs on the boom truck and get the new tabs for the white truck. Even though I didn't have the necessary paperwork, nor cash, nor a checkbook, nor my ID. Ahhh, the benefits of a small town.

While working my way back from King Salmon, running errands on the way, I got a call from Josh. They had an injury and he was taking Roger to the clinic. Roger lost a fingernail and got some broken bones in the same fingertip. Aieee! They were working with the power pack. When they pulled the pull cord, they heard a puzzling chattering noise. Trying to discover the source of the noise, Josh asked Roger to put his hand on top of the power pack’s drum while Josh pulled on the cord. Roger felt nothing. So he reached under the drum to try to feel it there… but there’s no protection under the drum… and next stop, clinic.

Honestly, even though everyone I've mentioned the accident to grimaces as soon as I say that he put his hand under the drum (before I even say what the injury was), I wouldn't have known not to do that, either. He is OK.
He has a giant dressing on it, over which he puts a giant glove and then the same tide, proceeded to fish one-handed. The one-handed pick is something Josh perfected a few years ago after an injury of his own. Rohan took this photo from the Ambi as we were rafting up to the Bathtub (though in that weather, it was more like, "as we were ramming the Bathtub"). See Roger's big, floppy hand? Sarah is in the stern of the Bathtub with a bailing bucket in her hand, then the back of Luka's head, David in his shades, Jeff, holding the boats together, Roger waving his floppy hand and Josh looking worried about my landing. Did I scratch the paint?
It was our best tide yet, with a total of more than 12,000 lbs by the end of the tide. I find it very difficult to break myself away from the task of removing the fish from the net when we have this many, but I stopped to try to take a photo to show what it looks like to us.
It was a really windy day with very big rollers. Windy weather and lots of fish often come together. The problem is that when it's an onshore (southeast) wind, it is scary and dangerous (mostly to equipment) to deliver to the beach, especially if we have a load. Since the Jacqueline wasn't here yet (they need a lot of water to get to us, especially in rough weather), we decided to deliver to the beach, but after going through only one net so we wouldn't get into the surf break any lower in the water than we had to. After going through the other net, we saw the Jacqueline several sites away. We wanted to deliver to her, but we weren't sure she was coming our way. So we went to her. Directly into the wind and spray. We were all soaked by the time we got there. Here is Jeff, soaked in the bow.
When they take our fish into the Jacqueline, they drop it into their iced hold. Rohan got a photo of the fish floating in their hold.
Here is another of Jeff - just travelling between the sites. You can tell the man with experience. He holds on to the bow line. Anything can happen, including being lifted out of the boat. If Jeff is lifted out, he knows his best chance is to still be hanging on to the boat.

Many years ago when we fished for another fish company, we came to deliver to a tender on a dark and windy night. Climbing aboard the tender to complete the transaction, I had my back turned to the activity. When I turned back, I saw that one of the deckhands on the tender had fallen into the water as he took our anchor line and it was only because he hung on to it that we were able to find him and pull him out. It is a terrifying thought. Once he was back aboard the tender, they tossed him a life jacket and had him continue working. Not much energy to spare for sympathy.
I left the tide after high water, as the fishing winded down. I had a report overdue that had a hard deadline approaching more rapidly than I had energy to overtake. Rohan took this photo as the crew was walking in across the very reflective mud. But they weren't done - they still has the last fish to deliver.
Here are David, Josh, and Roger attaching the final brailer for the 11:30 pm sunset delivery. You can see the corks of the nets stacked into the boats ready for tomorrow's opener.
This looks like about an 800 lb brailer and David, still laughing at the end of a 12,000 lb tide.
Sarah showed me her camera with its very bright flash. Here we are with Roger and me sitting at the table and Jeff standing behind us. The tilt you can see on that food shelf is only about half due to perspective; the other half is related to the tilt of the cabin. When I look out the window of that cabin, the horizon is tilting. Hmmm.
And finally, an irresistible sunset photo by Rohan.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

June 25: Biscuits for breakfast - where's the wrench?

I don't know if overall, it's a good thing or not to have something to write about first thing in the morning. When we don't have a net in the water. As I have done every day of every summer since I was 20, after waking up, I walked to the edge of the cliff to see how things fared overnight. This morning, my heart sank a bit. The tide had come about 6" up the cliff. Much stuff, including the ranger, was below the tideline. Again.

I went down the stairs to see if I could start the ranger (I could!) - such an important piece of our operation - and noticed that the little walkway I put in at the very beginning of the season had been moved down the beach, resulting in very heavy shoes. Gas cans and our little sleds were also tumbled along in and in some cases, filled up by, the tide and the tide had tangled up some lines left on the beach. We had forgotten to look at the stuff left on the beach from the perspective of the tide, which will take or at least disturb anything it can reach. So it will be a day that starts with a recovery mission, moves into fishing, followed shortly, I hope, by the arrival of David and Sarah.

I'm picking this up at night with slightly different outcome to the day. I had the chance to talk with Roy this morning and he said he'd have some time to look at the dead green four wheeler. So I planned to start breakfast early for the crew (biscuits and beef stew). Turned on the oven to 450 degrees while mixing in the butter and kneading the dough. I used a drinking glass to cut out the biscuit rounds and prepared to put the first batch in the oven and... nothing. Out of propane. Argh. Can't find a wrench to change the propane. Argh. Went to my cabin to get a wrench and to the cliff to find a full tank of propane. But the oven still wouldn't light - not for about 20 minutes. By then I had started some biscuits as dumplings on the beef stew, and dug out the dutch oven to bake more on top of the stove.
We ate as hurriedly as possible and headed into town with the idea of just picking up the four wheeler and putting it in the back of the red truck. It worked! But where is the key? We dropped it off in front of Roy's shop, found the key in the white truck (??) and then made a quick stop at the post office (the starter for the power pack on the New Boat arrived!!!) before we hurried back to the beach where we had a few minutes before gearing up to go set the nets. In those minutes, a very thick fog rolled in.
This photo is looking over the cliff to the place where we would normally see mud flats, buoys, skiffs, ranger tracks, a horizon. But with the fog, here is what we could see.
I went to the edge of the cliff to see if I could mark it any better. Here is where we parked the truck and beyond it... well, we know what we think is there, and based on that, we geared up and headed out. We did make a point of having everyone stick together. In the past, we've had crew members who end up at the neighbor's boat because it is so easy to get lost on the way out - and even easier when the fog is so thick. I was worried about being slightly misoriented and missing the buoys and the skiff. We'd have to be pretty close to see them.
Here we are, down on the beach on the way out to the boats... if we can find them. Behind Luka is the neighbor's skiff about 100' away and about 250' behind that is a great big red 2 1/2 ton army truck. Can you see it?
This photo shows the view back to the cabins on the bluff more clearly than we saw it - I added some contrast because I liked the picture so much.
Here we are looking out toward the water again. We found the first buoy (relief!) and Luka and Rohan have just positioned it and are now walking toward the outside buoy and skiff which we were also relieved to find. Can you see it there, about 300' away?
We arrived at the boat about 17 minutes before we can have web in the water. If we're in the water early, it's a big fine. Here is Luka just as the tide reached the boat, about 12 minutes before time to set.
And Rohan on the other side of the boat, waiting. Today ended up being pretty windy and the waves were rough. When we have to handle the boat in the surf, it's a good idea to stand on the leeward side of the boat - you take less water there. But it also feels a bit more vulnerable, as if the boat will jump up and land on you. It takes some experience for new crew to learn how to stay a little less wet.

To give you an idea of how fast this pretty slow tide is rising, the picture of Luka with his boots just getting wet was taken about 10 minutes before this one. And this is a tide that was rising from a 4.5 to a 20.2. We get tides that rise 10 more feet in the same amount of time - like tonight, for instance, the tide will rise from a -2.0 to a 26.2 at 6 am. I admit it! I'm glad we're not fishing it tonight. I just hope we got everything up high enough.
Here is where I put the ranger. If it's not high enough, at least the engine will be out of the water (unless it falls over sideways). Eek!
Back to today's set. This photo just looks like fog. But the inside buoy is in there somewhere. That is another concern - if the fog holds, we could easily get disoriented and head off toward one of our neighbors' sites. The mud flats are so gradual and the tide is coming in with some wind behind it, so you can't go by decreasing depth. So it's really important to have your bearings. This photo is looking toward our destination. If you squint, like we did, I think you'll be able to barely see a red buoy. That's where we went and by the time we got there, the fog had thinned considerably... and temporarily.
Here is the outside net, set. The belly is in the direction of the outgoing tide, not the incoming tide. That's because we always push the boat opposite the direction of the incoming water so that when it pushes the net with it, we hope that it will push it straight, allowing us to reach the inside buoy. But when we're setting in very little water, the leads drag on the bottom and act like an anchor.
This is Rohan, setting the net on the inside site by pushing the boat from the bow while Luka pushes it from the stern. It’s important to move along smartly because the current can take the net creating a bigger belly than we like. (Isn’t that the story of my life?)
Happiness! I had noticed a couple of people loitering on the beach but didn’t give them much thought as I was pretty focused on getting the net set. But as soon as we finished, they started walking toward us… and it was David and Sarah! I was so so so glad to see them. And luckily Rohan was there to remind me to take a photo.
In addition to being windy today, it was just downright beautiful. We didn’t have as many fish as we have in the previous couple of days – but the experts assure us they are coming… and disconcertingly, they use expressions like, “A wall of fish.” But today we had a respectable amount and had the time to take some pictures of the beautiful light we get here sometimes. Here are Roger, Rohan, and Luka in the bow, guiding the net off the boat.

One of the effects of such a high tide as we had last night is all the stuff that has been resting on the beach finds its way into the water - including what seems to be an entire tree, disassembled and put into our net. We gave some thought to trying to reconstruct it at the end of the tide, but decided instead to focus on the New Boat's power pack with the happy arrival of the starter.
Don't they look like angels when they're sleeping? Naah, I don't really think so, either. This is what convinces me that we will handle those 5-digit tides just fine. We had so much time on our hands between picks, there was time to nap. At this time of the season, I'm a bit too anxious to nap - I worry that I'll fall soundly asleep and not wake up until the boat is dry. That would be bad because nets full of fish would be stretched out on the mud flats. This photo also gives some idea of how tiring it is to fish in the wind. I don't quite understand the competing and contradictory effects of the wind - I find it energizing and it goes a long way toward replacing sleep when we're fishing hard both day and night. But it is also exhausting.

After picking up David and Sarah, we took them over to the Bathtub and reclaimed Roger for our boat. The tide was also slow enough for them to come and visit us, just before our next to last pick through. When one boat is clipped to a buoy or otherwise anchored, the other boat will often come and dangle off the first, just to hang out - sometimes to sing. (My favorite.)
We gave some thought to breaking Josh and Roger free at high water to go into town and see if they could get the power pack running in the New Boat so we could launch it and use it, making our lives much simpler. But the tide was too high for them to cross the creek and we decided to take the more leisurely route of heading in after the tide. But it turned out that we didn't finish until 8:30 so it was just before 9 when we got to town. The staff at the cannery guard their time off and they really don't want fishermen running engines outside their bedroom windows when they are trying to rest and prepare themselves for the next day. Plus, in our rush into town, we assumed that the needed tools were in the back of the truck when in fact, they were in the cabin. So we couldn't get much done, but as Luka put it, we planted the seeds for more progress tomorrow. Soon, I am confident we will have more boats in service.

On the way back from town, we saw what looked like an eye looking at us through the clouds.
Back at the cabins, we had another glorious sunset. After this display, the whole sky became rippled with red. We fish again tomorrow at 2:30. First, we plan to get into town early and see if the New Boat is ready to go. Maybe the Grayling will be ready too. I'm so glad to have David and Sarah here. It feels almost right. Jake sent an email today saying he thinks he'll be here before July 4.

Proofing this post, I see very little mention of Jeff. He is quiet, but he is definitely here and he has become a crucial part of our operation. Besides piloting the skiff, driving anything we put him in, knowing how to use a wrench, being a fast picker and a hard worker, he is hilarious. He may be the only crew member who didn't start in the boat with me. But I am feeling the lack of Jeff in these reports and I may see if we can lure him into the Ambi for a few tides.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

June 24: David and Sarah arrive... not!

The phone rang very early this morning. I stumbled from my bunk and found it, but by then it had stopped ringing. So I took it back to my bunk with me and it rang again. I found it faster this time and it was David telling me that they wouldn't be coming until tomorrow because today's plane had mechanical problems. After an hour of not getting back to sleep, I finally wondered why they didn't just take a later flight. I called back to ask. Because their luggage might not arrive.

So now, at the end of the day, Rohan is heading to the airport to pick up 150 lbs of frozen food (I hope it's still frozen) and whatever other luggage they had. David and Sarah will follow tomorrow and still we won't be able to pick them up because again we have an opening. (Not complaining.) This one starts at 1:30. David and Sarah come in at 12:12. It would be close but we definitely don't want to miss the opening since that's when we've been getting all the fish.

We had a little more than 7000 lbs today. This is darned good for this time of the season.

When I headed down the stairs today for the 12:30 set, I noticed that the tideline was much higher than it had been - yikes! All the way to the cliff. This is a problem because we left our equipment (red truck, ranger, green four wheeler) parked in the way of the water. It is never a good feeling when the ground all around the equipment is wet and there are no tire tracks in the sand. I tried the ranger and it started. I was relieved and thought everything else would be OK. But Luka ran the green four wheeler into town and back at high water hoping that the starter for the New Boat's power pack had arrived. (It hadn't.) Then Rohan took it in to then take the white truck (the one with reliable brakes that was waiting for David and Sarah) to the airport, but once in town, at about the gas station - the green four wheeler just died. Non responsive, dead. Probably because, as Roy put it, it went swimming. My fault.

We decided that Josh should take the red truck in to gather up the disabled green four wheeler and deliver it to Roy. But when Josh parked the truck the night before, he forgot to turn off its lights and the battery was dead. Sigh. We have a spare charge battery thingie, but of course, it wasn't charged up. He took the generator down to try something. (I'm not sure what, but I was thinking about the car in which he used a coat hanger in the place of a battery cable that subsequently burned to the ground, and then netted him a parking ticket because it took him more than three days to get the carcass towed away.) Finally, I remembered a battery charger I have that has an "engine start" level and he was able to get it started with that. By then Rohan had identified a burned out fuse, found replacements and burned out many more. That was when he got the swimming-related diagnosis.

So the four wheeler will either stay at Naknek Engine for rehabilitation or go to Roy (not sure how it might get there, so Naknek Engine is the more likely solution). Rohan will leave the truck for David and Sarah again and come back on the old blue four wheeler after stowing the frozen food in the freezer in the net locker; and Josh will park the red truck and the ranger out of the way of the tide.

Final difficulty of the day: even though we try to leave the keys in everything, just for this kind of problem, the blue four wheeler didn't have a key, so Roger took the now-running red truck to town to bring a key so we would have a four wheeler on the beach. Time for bed!

Monday, June 24, 2013

June 23: Offshore wind

We had a fishing period today. We were allowed to start at 11 am and could go until 6:30 pm. That ending time is a bit later than we can actually fish because we run out of water, so once we set the nets, we don't pay much attention to the clock - instead we watch the tide.

We go again tomorrow at 12:30 for one tide. David and Sarah are scheduled to come in at 12:12 - so they'll be taking a cab to AGS where the truck will be waiting for them.

It was a good tide, despite the strong and consistent offshore wind. The waves were breaking backwards and we got splashed from the shoreward side of the skiff. We delivered almost 8,000 lbs, nearly all of them on the flood. That gives me confidence that we could pretty easily handle twice that amount, we would just have to fish during the ebb instead of waiting hopefully for more fish and finally pulling in the nets. I even had time for some action shots!
Rohan and Luka are doing great. They get what it takes to make the boat work and get fish into it. They know that the first priorities are safety of the crew (#1) safety of the equipment (#2) and then getting the fish out of the net and getting the net back into the water. When the fishing is heavy, we try to drop the fish we're picking directly into a brailer but they sometimes just fall to the deck of the boat and get "brailered" later. They also know that each time we deliver, we try to clean the boat by dumping in buckets of water, rinsing down the boat, and then bailing it back out. Other things to notice in this photo include the brailer stand with Luka's hand over it toward the bow of the boat. One bungee loops over the brailer hook under Luka's hand and the other three loop over three other hooks making the shape of a cube, open at the top.
Here are Rohan and Luka - Rohan is picking a fish out of the net. Luka doesn't have a fish he can reach, so he is springing into action with getting fish off the deck into the brailer bags. It's what we do when we have a spare moment because it's always wise to control a boat's load whenever possible and because they can get re-tangled and either have to be re-picked or worse, they might back out, unnoticed until too late.
This is the heaviest tide we've had so far this year. It makes such a difference to have this power roller. It pulls the net into the boat, the fish with it. Of course, because of the way we fish, it pulls everything else that might be out there with it too, so we get a lot of flounders.
Here is 99% of our by catch. This was toward the end of the tide. We usually toss them back in the water as we go, but we were moving through the net too fast this time to get them all out. This might be half of the flounders we picked out of the net on this pass through. All were still alive by the time we got to the end of the net and released them.
We can tell that the fishing slowed up on the ebb. My boat always swings by the Bathtub to make sure all is well (and it always is). Sometimes the Bathtub comes by to check on us. Here are Josh and Jeff (at the tiller), coming by to check on us. I can see that I need to clean that lens.
This photo of Roger would be really great if it weren't for the splat in the middle of the lens.
Luka asked if we every get any by catch other than flounders. I would have said, "No, not really," if it weren't for the fact that we had a bullhead in the next segment of net we pulled in. I think these creatures are ugly, but that's no reason to treat them poorly. I've only found one way to hold them that lets me avoid those spines they have all over them. It's by the upper lip. Sometimes, looking down the gullet we've found baby flounders, partially swallowed. Bleah. I think its real name is "Ratfish." Bleah.
I just couldn't resist including this one too.
When we pulled in the nets at the end of the tide, we pulled in this smelt with it. I can't remember how the heck it was caught. Our web is 5 1/16" from top to bottom. Smelt should be able to swim right through it. I've always liked the smell of these fish and I was surprised when one of our new crew members observed that they smell like cucumbers. Cucumbers??!! Yeah, kinda.