Thursday, August 4, 2016

July 27 2016: Goodbye David and Sarah; hello Katmai!

I don't think we've ever checked the weather forecast before heading off to Katmai in any previous trip. If we had, we probably would have made different decisions. But this year, we did and today looked like a good day.

David and Sarah were also leaving today, so they wouldn't be coming with us. David and I talked about how to get them to the airport and in the end, we decided that they should just take a cab as the white truck would be pulling the trailer with the Ambi on it and ol' Red finally developed a problem that would need attention: coolant pouring from the radiator.

Looking at the flight information for our other crew, Davey would leave tonight on the 8:50 flight. Jeff was also scheduled to leave on that flight. Yikes! That would mean just me and a few new crew members left to finish the close up. So Jeff decided to postpone his departure for a few days, something I appreciated greatly. Figuring two hours to get there and two hours to get back, Davey would either need to take a float plane back, or we would have to leave by 4 so we could dock by 6 and get his fish and check him in by 7. If nothing went wrong (and that would be a first.) So we needed to get an early start because we also had more preparation to do before we could even leave. We needed to get hot dog buns and ketchup, a new plug for the Ambi (the old one is very hard to use), and fill our five cans with gas, really having no idea how much gas it would take to get there - and to put some extra weight on the tongue of the trailer. The Ambi sits pretty far to the back of the trailer, so we were happy to be able to put many pounds of fuel in the bow.

We had planned to get off the beach by 8 am when the tide would be at 18', the last possible moment to get around the concrete to get up on the beach access road. I got up early and a little past 7, took a four-wheeler to get the truck. The tide was rising, already pretty close to the beach access road. I decided to take ol' Red down to the cabins because if some truck was trapped on the beach until the tide turned, I wanted it to be ol' Red, not the truck we were counting on to pull the trailer. I passed David coming out toward the beach access road in the Carry as I headed down toward the cabins. People were tired and moving kind of slowly and forgetfully, so we didn't get away from the cabins till 8:30. As we headed toward the beach access road, with the tide already kind of high and coming in fast, ol' Red started to act like it was running out of gas. I had just filled it up a day or two earlier, so that seemed unlikely. But I had been smelling a lot of gas, so maybe it had a leak... As soon as it started misbehaving, I turned toward the cliff so it would be as high on the beach as possible at the height of the tide. I didn't really want another swamped piece of equipment.

We had a five-can of gas with us, so we fed some in. Then Jeff found a rock and started pounding on the gas tank as we tried to start it. After what seemed like hours (and was probably more like 15 minutes), with Davey and Matt feeding in more gas and Jeff hammering, Inku got it started. We continued, hoping that we had gotten the trip's mechanical difficulties out of the way. We were definitely too late to make it around the concrete blocks onto the ramp to the beach access road. So we parked high up on the beach next to the access road, hoping it would be safe from the tide while Austin went ahead to get the white truck. We transferred everything to the white truck and we were on our way.

First stop: gas station to fill up the five-cans. Then to the garbage receptacles at AGS (it seems we always have bags of garbage to contribute), then over to the Ambi which we had parked at the freezer plant two day earlier. Load everything in, weighting the bow, find a way to hook up the chains, do the lights work? How about a new plug? Let's go!

We got to Lake Camp without incident. Austin backed the trailer into the water, trying to get it deep enough for the Ambi to float off. But the trailer started to float first and as it did, it began a fast drift in the direction of the river. I guess that's as deep as the Ambi will get, so Jeff pulled it off with the outboard and Austin pulled the truck up and put it away.

Here is Jeff, our brave, confident, and competent pilot, pretty sure he knows the way. We did have a map - something I found and tossed into my gear at the last minute. In a little foreshadowing, I'll say that that was a lucky thing to remember... and we might need a packing checklist for the future.

Austin served as look out in the bow when he wasn't working as navigator in the stern. Inku is standing to his left and Davey to his right. The water was beautifully calm and we made pretty good time.

Sarah Y and Matt, ready for an adventure. Experience has taught these two to be prepared for water.

This is what the water looks like. I think the green color is related to glaciers somehow, but that's really the color we were in. It is clear and beautiful. Nice day for a boat ride, huh?

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