As I got back to the dock in the skiff from the cabin Sunday morning, I saw a text message from Brian, who is up here with the fleet from Coffman Cove to fish for DIPAC chum salmon for the first time. He said to call him as Doug was broke down. Turns out Doug needed a water pump, so I called OReilys, who incredibly had one. Doug had planned to either get the part flown down from Juneau or get it up from Petersburg on a tender. I told them I’d go buy it and be down with it in my skiff in a couple hours. I trailered my boat at North Douglas, drove to the house, grabbed the electric car and drove out for the part. I ordered them a pizza too, which I picked up on my way back to the house. I figured his deckhand would need something to eat watching the captain do a parts replacement.
As I got ready to drive to the Douglas Boat Harbor ramp it hit me: here’s free transport for stuff to our place in Craig. So into the skiff went the toyo heater, a double burner electric hot plate and a couple shovels I bought at Salvation Army, and a folded-up Alaska map on poster board. I launched the boat at Douglas. There was a 1 foot chop on the water. I headed down Gastineau Channel, and as I got past Salisbury Point I could see the gill netters lined up at the fishing district line to fish near Point Bishop. Other gill netters were fishing all down Stephens Passage. About an 45 minutes later, as I neared Taku Harbor, I thought I saw Brian’s boat near mainland shore, but thought I’d get the part to Doug to get him going, then find Brian on the way back.
Doug was all smiles as I came into the dock. When he looked at the picture of the part on the box, he immediately said – uh oh, this doesn’t look like it. But I said don’t worry, the part inside doesn’t look like that. Doug had called me on his sat phone at the parts store and described the part he needed to compare with the one I was buying, and he was relieved when he opened the box to see the new one matched the old one. The water pump for his Cummins diesel is surprisingly small and only has a rubber gasket to seal it – no fiber gasket and a ton of gasket dope like my old Ford truck diesel or Detroit 453 diesel in the Dutch Master. I handed him the pizza, and asked if he could take my items to Craig, and of course he said sure. Plus he had lots of room. So I helped the deckhand with the items and we stashed them in his hold.
It took 19 minutes to get the part in and the coolant water replaced and the engine fired up. We sat and chatted at the wheelhouse table while the engine came up to temperature. After about 20 minutes, all looked good, and they were off to fish. They untied and idled away as I got into my skiff, untied from the dock, and idled behind them. Doug came out on deck an asked me to stick around. It was overheating again, and I could hear the engine alarm going off. There were some tense moments of them drifting back towards the tenders that were anchored up in the harbor as he assessed the situation, but after about 5 minutes, all was well- just an air lock that he bled off or had cleared on it’s own. He gave me the two thumbs up and I scooted past them, out into Stephens Passage, and headed towards town.
I found Brian about a mile down the beach. He was all smiles. His deckhand was a young man who was the grandson of Brian’s friend in Craig who also used to trap with my friend Ken Dunshie in a super cub up out of Fairbanks. Ken is from my hometown of Bolivar, and went to Alaska in the late 60’s as a teacher. I stayed with him and his wife my first month in Alaska until I could get a place at a UAF dorm. The deckhand had his rain gear buttoned right up to his neck and was pitching chum salmon into the fish totes. They’d had a great first set – and as this was their first set ever up here and they didn’t really know what they were doing – that made it even better. Already they were glad they’d made the two day run to get up here. Brian’s friend Mike came over in his boat as I was leaving to say he caught more his first set than he had the whole last opening down in Clarence Strait, and he thanked me for getting Doug, who by now was catching up to me set his net. He called later in the day and said fishing was good.
I left them all to their work and had a slight following chop on the way back to town. I sipped from the coffee in the thermos and thought that I’d be back on the water commercial fishing by this time next year, one way or another.