Saturday, August 1, 2009

Old boats, New Tales

We took a side trip into Ninilchik harbor, where we used to base from in our old halibut longline days, and lo and behold, our old vessel was still there. When we fished her, (as did Orin), she went by the name of Brandi Jo, but now is the Cindi Jo. The Russian fiberglass boats are the majority in the harbor, but she still looks tough as ever in all her aluminum glory!

Well, our part of the season is over - the tales are still being told, and the memories and scars will last for a while, but for us, back to the “other” life! . The Thursday opening was cancelled, and many of the fish operations pulled their gear out of the water and began the shutdown process for this season, so we felt it was time to leave.
We fly standby to take advantage of Emery’s benefit with the airlines that lets parents get around pretty cheaply, so getting home was somewhat of an adventure in its’ own right.
We flew in a Cessna Grand Caravan operated by Grant Airways out of Kenai (holds about 8 people) up to Anchorage on Thursday night. The hospitality of my cousin Katherine, her husband Brian, and the 3 Dean boys was welcome – she picked us up at the airport, fed us supper, gave us a place to sleep after several hours of reminiscing, then got up at 4 am and took us back to the airport to get our plane.
We got out of Anchorage fine, but were stuck in Seattle till 9 that night. Finally we got a place on a plane to Missoula, about 3 hours from home. We called David, my climbing buddy, on the off chance that he was visiting his daughter Ashley in Missoula and we could bum a ride. He and Debbie were on their way home from Missoula, but he delivered his wife to their home in West Glacier, turned around and drove back to meet us at the airport at 11:30pm, then drove it over again! What a guy! We finally got home to slobbery kisses from Willie at about 3:30 am!
Stay tuned for next year – we’ll either own a site ourselves, or be checking out trollers down in Southeast Alaska. Want to read a good fishing book? Try “Alaska Blues”, by Joe Upton.


Here’s Todd with the largest of the Kings we got on Monday.

I still hope to do a post on the infamous Captain Kenai Kev, our fearless motorman. It could be a book, if I got even half of it, I think! It may take another week before I get it all out, but don’t go away yet! This is Lovie and Kev with one of the King Salmon we got.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Clams, Tides, and Kids

Lovie took the kids clamming on Saturday, and we took the results to Uncle Virgil's Saturday for supper. That, along with his gourmet spaghetti, made for a good meal. This photo is about half-way through the cleaning process--just for those who are a little bit squeamish about food that isn't pre-packaged! We've already removed the shells, but haven't separated the necks from the feet, or cleaned the innards out yet. Plus, you can't quite communicate the aroma via blog -----

Anyone interested in a great place to stay when you come to Alaska, check out Uncle Virgil's cabins at the Anchor River. Great fishing available nearby, and I highly recommend the management!

So we've had a very sporadic week fishing, due to the high tides and low fish counts in the rivers. The high tides washed out the bottom 3 feet or so of our road down the bluff, so getting the boat and trailer off the beach ( which is completely awash in any tide over about 18 feet) has been impossible. We made arrangements to use the neighbor's road, but it was still a problem. Their road also washes out, but they are aggressive with their front-end loader in between tides, and generally access is possible.
The high tides have brought logs and all sorts of debris floating up and down the inlet, so net picking sometimes resembles a logging operation more than a fishing one!
The fish escapement up the river has been a little low, so they cancelled some regular fishing days, and we had a stretch that was pretty slow. Right now the only fishery opening at all is the 1/2 mile corridor along the Kasilof beach area -- the drift boats and all others are shut down. The 1/2 mile is where we are fishing, so we may get back in the water again today.
Monday, they didn't open us up until 10 am, and we shut down at 9pm. Emery and Todd came on Friday night, so Lovie got a break while they took over in the boat. Emery was back in her element as "Super Set-Net Emery" or "Pigtails" as she was known by before! Once an ocean fisherman, it doesn't take but a minute back on the sea to feel at home! We caught 2 smaller kings in amongst the 50 or so Reds, and it was great to see Todd's eyes and smile as he helped get them in the boat!!
It was a long day -- up at 5 to check the message regarding whether we would fish or not, then 1 am by the time we got the boat and nets all sorted out and ready to go again -- we also filleted a box of fish for the kids to take home for their troubles.
We almost had a catastrophe -- when we put the boat in at low tide, we miscalculated how far up the beach the tide would come, so the truck and trailer got parked right up against the breakwater, between surf and log wall. When we returned on high tide, waves were already breaking against the passenger side door. We still had a half-hour of incoming tide, and knew that the truck would be completely submerged if it didn't get move. I jumped in, and luckily it started! My only way out was to back the trailer along the breakwater and then pull it as high as I could up on the gravel. The breakers kept slamming me on the side, but I kept the backing straight and managed to keep the engine running long enough to get clear! Moments of adrenaline -- something I seem addicted to! All's well that ends well...
I had to get up at 4am today, take the 4-wheeler a mile down the beach and recover an anchor that we had to cut loose -- it had fouled around a rock, and we couldn't get it free from the boat when we were picking up gear at high tide. At the 4am low, I drove right to it, dragged it out from under the rock it was hung on, got the buoy, and drove back home. Lovie, bless her heart, was very kind to let me warm my frozen toes and fingers on her when I crawled back in to bed. She did scream a time or two, but that's reasonable!
We are waiting to hear about an opening later today, but some part of me hopes it doesn't materialize... !
Emery and Todd fly out this evening, then on to home tomorrow morning. Les and Annie come home tomorrow, and then we leave at the end of the week.

The Last Week

Well, it's our last week here, and we finally found our dream home! This gem of the oceans is located in a tidewater pool out on the Homer Spit, a 7-mile long piece of land that juts out into Kachemak Bay, at Homer. We were down there on Sunday -- stayed Saturday night at Uncle Virgil's, had a potluck at Jim and Donna Toci's, then went to Homer to see Gail Sorenson, a dear old friend from EMT days at the Homer Fire department. Emery and Todd are here, and we went out on the Spit to be tourists and look at the boats. This one caught our fancy, but I don't see a For Sale sign anywhere! Oh well...

Friday, July 24, 2009

Living Space

Home, as we know it, and all the fine necessities of life!

My dear Aunt Katy pointed out in an email today that I have a cousin visiting a "posh" resort in St. Augustine, Florida this weekend, and mentioned some of the nice things that they would be involved in. Opposite ends of the country, and more or less opposite ends of the accommodations spectrum, but both of us are probably happy with the way things are!
I haven't said a whole lot about the actual living situation here, as the fishing operation takes precedence, but this little section might give you an idea of what it's like here.
There are several structures on the site, along with several trailers and other sleeping places. Typical of Alaskan working ventures, utility has been the driving force for construction -- not aesthetics or what the latest home show had to offer! The rustic little plywood sauna felt awesome when we fired it up last night! The larger of the two buildings shown above is the nerve center of the camp. It's the kitchen, dining, office, living room, and observation post. About 12 x 14 feet, it does it all, in style! There's electricity, telephone, and running water -- (if you run out of water in your jugs, you run out, flip a switch, and fill the jugs from the running water in the hose, flip the pump off, and run back in!) Can't beat that! The oceanside wall has a 4 x 8 window, so there is a magnificent view of the ocean. This is situated about 10 feet from an 80 foot bluff that drops down to the beach -- some of the pictures of beach nets in earlier posts were taken from this location.
We sleep in the master suite with Les's permission and absence ... it's a nice 5th wheel trailer with a wonderful bunk and the best amenity of all -- a hot water shower! Lovely after a cold, fish-slimed day at the beach!
There are a couple of other wooden bunkhouses for use when all hands are around; Emery and Todd are going to bunk in the "motorhome" wing of the estate.
In the center of it all is the cutest little cottage that is under construction -- wonderful wall of windows facing Redoubt, with a basement, loft, and all. Should be nice when completed -- I see a foundation extension from the house, but I am not sure what the plans are for there.
The second photo is for those less privileged to envy -- the Facilities. At the north end of the property is a path out into the woods -- you can't see over the fireweed and other vegetation -- and at the end of the path, the Moon and Star room. Nothing beats the daily trip down the path, with the door open to the sea and the sound of the surf. I definitely would remodel and add the Jumbo seat, however -- my only complaint is the mini-seat, and I DO find the duct tape holding it together a bit irritating! No flushing, just drop in a cup full of powdered lime... flush potties are overrated in our society.
We use an old F250 Ford with big whoopie tires for the sand for our beach truck. There is also a nice Yamaha 4-wheeler that serves as utility runabout -- I see by the look in Lovie's eye that she probably needs one of these at home! She uses it to go most everywhere, since she popped her knee out real bad and can hardly walk around. Same knee she had operated on last year, so I think we'll see about a refund from the doc. Health care reform needed here...
Well, the high tides are on their way down now, and it will be back to fishing. Kevin's back needed a couple of days recuperation, and the piles of logs and debris picked up off the beach and deposited in our nets by the high tides made fishing go on hold for a few days. We've been mending nets, fixing vehicles, doing laundry, running the smokehouse (smoked about 10 nice salmon with alder! Yum.) and other menial duties for long enough. Em and Todd get in around midnight, and more than likely we'll fish tomorrow! Better go.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Another Fish

This is a nice 39-pound female King Salmon.

Well, Monday fishing was sort of laid back. We set in glassy water this morning, and just tied up on the buoy and waited for slack to turn the nets, as it was just about an hour till the water stopped running so fast.
We turn the nets on these really low tides, because on a couple of the sites there are rocks that the lead lines get to when the water is down, and they can get hung up. We just point the boat against the tide, pull the cork and lead lines over the bow, put a couple of pins up to push against, and steadily move the net the opposite way from what it has been filling. Looking from above, imagine 2 pink buoys as the edge of a mouth. The tight line stretches between them, with just a little sag in the direction of the tide -- the upper lip. The corks make a bigger arc downstream, and form the lower lip. It looks like a whole bunch of smiley faces from up here on the bluff. When we turn the net, we start on the bottom lip and poke it up to where the nose would be. When the tide starts running in the opposite direction, then the smiley reappears, inverted. Us moving it keeps the chance factor down as far as snagging the bottom goes.
We caught about a million flounders, that basically just foul up the net. We caught a lemon sole that we filleted for a meal, and somewhere in the middle of getting all this miscellaneous stuff, this nice 39 pound female King decided to stop in the middle of our net. Pretty nice fish for a guy from Montana!
We set both our beach nets this morning(Tuesday) on low tide, but no outside nets -- the weather forecast is for 30-50 knot winds, with seas to 7 feet, and we really don't feel up to pulling gear in that! The water is glassy, but the wind is just starting to make new ripples...
We picked up 50 razor clams while setting the beach nets this morning, and are frying them up for supper. They are a lot smaller than they were 30 years ago -- continuous picking over the years has reduced the average size by a bunch. Still taste good, though!
Well, Em and Todd are supposed to show up Friday -- looking forward to that! Lovie has a swollen knee, and my broken rib talks to me when I cough, but other than that we are having a good time. Miss Willie....

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Low vs High Tides

These were taken from the exact same spot today, 6 hours apart. In the one, you see a beach net stretched out on the beach, high and dry. The next one, at high tide, shows the boys picking fish out of that net from the boat. The low tide this morning was 1.1, which means it was 1.1 feet above the median tide level. The high tide today is 13.5 feet, so what you are seeing is only about 12 feet of water difference. Now figure that the inlet is 30+ miles wide, over a hundred miles long, and you are talking about a lot of water moving! Our highs and lows get extreme this week, with the lowest being minus (-) 5.4 and a high of plus (+) 21.7, for a difference of 27.1 feet of water on Thursday -- double what you are seeing here!
Went to Kenai today with Rich and Tina Caffroy, our neighbors from our cabin in 1978. We've both raised families in the interim, lots of water under the bridge, but great to be with them. Talked to the famous fisherman from Sitka, Keith Billi, today -- he's down slaying Coho(silvers) using a hand trawler, where the fish pay for the priviledge of jumping out of the water and biting the hooks he drags around. Sounds nice -- low tides, lots of fish, no net hauling -- Good Fishing, buddy! Ski with you this winter in Kalispell!
We sat today's emergency opener out, as Kevin had lots to get done, and we didn't mind the break too much! Back at it again tomorrow morning!