Thursday, June 30, 2016
This day looms large for us because it is the anniversary of the accidental death of our beloved Alex.
I went into town to use the internet at Roy's again.
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.
Wednesday, June 29, 2016
One of the cool things about living here on the beach is the type of visitors we get.
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.
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.)
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.
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.
Tuesday, June 28, 2016
Sometime when sleep refuses to come, pet worries will come instead. One night, I lay awake worrying about the state of the roof on Debby’s cabin (“oh no! How will we fix it?! We aren’t roofers! If we just let it go, we’ll lose the cabin and everything in it! Oh no! All is lost!”) and not having the piece of wood to close the door on the ranger’s box (“oh no! Without that piece of wood, the ranger box might fall apart! And everything will come spilling out! It’s so hard to keep track of! It’s just the right size! And I don't know where it is! All is lost!”). After letting those thoughts have a night of my sleep, I realized that the roofing job doesn’t actually have to be great or even good; just good enough and solid enough. It's OK if it's ugly. The ranger box lock might be found (maybe I should look for it!) and if not, we can make another. Hey! Maybe we should label it! I also have spent some fretful hours worrying about and planning how to get the fish in across the mud flats and how to get the skiff back out.