Joel and Clay Stopha on Mark's boat

Brother and Nephew pay a visit

Joel and Clay Stopha on Mark's boat

Took brother Joel and his son Clay out fishing and exploring this week. Clay is my last nephew who had not been here before.

We fished all week on the boat, anchoring each night. The tug has comfortable beds, enough space for 3 or 4 people, XM radio to listen to ball games, and ample cooking and bathroom facilities. So, nobody is in a hurry to get back to civilization, as we are already living quite comfortably.

We fished for king salmon each day, and I set my two-hook longline skate for halibut. From Sunday through Thursday, we fished all over the islands. We managed only two kings and no halibut. We’d hear of fish being caught elsewhere – we even saw what looked like a 30+ lb king caught right where we were fishing – but couldn’t buy one ourselves. I have to laugh at myself in retrospect, as this is not the first time this has happened to me. Even when I was a fishing guide out on the Nushagak River in Bristol Bay, it would happen. I’d doubt myself, wondering what I was doing wrong. Was I fishing the wrong lures? Was I fishing too deep or too shallow? Should I be fishing another spot?

On Thursday, we fished in sight of the cabin. After catching only the two fish a few days earlier, it took me a second to recognize what the buzzing sound was as I was making coffee in the galley. Then I got it – it was the line being dragged out the reel! Out I piled onto the back deck, as I was closest to the fishing rods. When I grabbed the rod, it was doubled over but not pulsing, and I hoped it wasn’t just a bunch of kelp that had pulled the fishing line out of the downrigger release. But a second later, I felt the heavy fish pull, and knew we had one on. I handed the rod to my nephew now at my side and cranked up the downriggers and the other rod. I got the net out and was ready when he brought the nice king salmon to the boat. What a relief.

We’d planned to fish the rest of the day and go back to the cabin for a relaxing Friday, as the boys left on Saturday. We saw deer on most every smooth beach on the drag, including a nice buck in velvet on a point. Not sure what brought the deer out, but they all seemed happy for the sunshine, and several seemed to be running back and forth on the beach, just for fun. The boys had seen a black bear on the beach where we’d anchored the night before, so they’d seen the big mammals on the islands, except for a wolf. Even though the fishing had been slow, there were always new sights to see for them.

Then I got a message from my brother-in-law – there were fish where he was. He’d fished the same drag as we were at now earlier in the day, but had caught nothing and moved. The spot he moved to was a spot we’d fished a few days earlier, where there was lots of feed and whales and birds, but we couldn’t catch a fish. I wasn’t going to tell my crew and make them feel bad we weren’t catching more, but when my nephew asked me how my brother-in-law was doing, I told him. I told the boys we could still go to town today as they’d wanted, or we could run the two hours to the spot my brother-in-law was fishing, anchor there for the night, and fish their last day here instead of relaxing in town. “Let’s go fishing,” said Clay. That’s my nephew! We pulled in the gear and headed for greener pastures.

On the way to the new spot, I set out my two-hook halibut skate. I set it in the same spot Joe and I caught the two big halibut about 2 weeks ago. I had set there once or twice since and caught nothing. When we got to the salmon spot, we still had plenty of evening daylight left, so we put the lines out. There was tons of feed showing on the sounder. Whales were everywhere. Many surfacing uncomfortably close (for me) to the boat, but the boys seemed unconcerned and enjoyed the experience. Some of the whales were feeding at the surface. What a show. Bang. We got a nice king. So the fish might still be here. We got to our anchorage, hopeful we might get lucky the next day. The boys wanted to get home midday, so I guessed we’d fish til about 10 am, and then a two-hour ride home.

I was up early as usual. I pulled the anchor, and Joel and I set the salmon gear as we idled out of the anchorage. It was a little before 5 am. The sounder didn’t show as much feed as yesterday, and the whales were more dispersed (thankfully), but we were hopeful. It took about an hour and a half when we got the first fish on. And then another. And then another. By now it was 9:30 am. I said we can leave now and get home at noon, or do we want to try for our last fish for our daily limit? “Keep fishing,” said Clay. That’s my nephew!

Several boats were showing up. All friends of my in-laws and me. They’d heard through my brother-in-law and me that there were some fish here, and several had kids with them to see all the whales. Plus, it was a bluebird day, with calm winds and sunny skies. The best weather of our trip, for sure!

About 10:30, we got our last king salmon. We’d also caught 4 coho along the way. Joel had taken over fish cleaning duties after I showed him how when we caught the first fish of the trip, and he kept up with cleaning and chilling the fish all morning. We picked up the gear, and Joel cleaned the last king salmon as I headed for home. We stopped to check my skate. I think all of us were thinking this might be the day for a halibut, since all our luck seemed piled into this final day. We were not wrong! I got a harpoon into the halibut, stunned the fish on the head with the backside of the gaff, and for the first time, easily pulled it up over the swim step and through the stern door, rather than it taking two of us and all we were worth to haul it over the rail as I’d done the previous – what – 10 halibut I’ve caught off the tug? I’m a slow learner, but still learning. I cut the gill to bleed it and headed for home. What a day. And not yet noon.

We steamed back to the beautiful cleaning tables they have on a dock here in Craig. White cutting boards and high-pressure city water from garden hoses. I got Joel started on filleting the first halibut he’s ever tried, and he took right to it. I got to filleting and portioning the day’s catch of salmon, while Clay double rinsed the portions. We let them dry in a colander basket, then piled them into a clean bucket. And as if things could not get luckier, 3 of the 4 king salmon were white-fleshed king salmon – a delicacy – especially here in Southeast Alaska. It’s rare to see a white king salmon in these outer waters of Southeast Alaska, much less 75% of your catch!

After the fish butchering was done, we hauled all the fish, gear, clothes, and trash up the launch ramp dock. Clay said he’d stay with it to protect the fish from the birds, and Joel and I took the tug to the harbor. We found a transient moorage spot, tied up, walked the green mile to the harbor parking lot, then up the street to the harbor master office lot where the truck was parked. We drove the few miles to the launch ramp and picked up our belongings and Clay.

Back at the house, we got down to vac packing. Joel filled the bags with fish, Clay ran the vac packer, and I wrote the fish species and year on each package. I filled the freezer with fish, separating layers with the racks I used on the boat freezer, and then begged Brian for more freezer space as we had more fish than space. He, of course, said sure, and we ran the overflow over to his freezer.

Bad luck struck this morning as I went to pack fish boxes at 4:45 am: the fish had not frozen in the freezer overnight. The fish were plenty cold, but not frozen. That was puzzling. I have racks I made to separate layers of fresh fish going into the freezer so they freeze quickly. They’ve always frozen overnight. But not this time.

Luckily, there was plenty of frozen fish from the previous days’ catch in there, so it was only the last day’s catch that was not frozen. So, I mixed the frozen fish with the chilled fish, carefully weighed the fish so I could get the two box weights right at the 50 lb limit, and taped up each box. I sort of limit my friends’ and family’s take home of fish to one box each. I don’t even know if anyone has asked for more than that. I know it irks locals to see boxes upon boxes of fish leaving their waters with non-residents – many asking how much fish can a person eat in a year, are these fish being sold or bartered, etc – so I try to do my part to be modest.

We loaded up and headed out for the ferry about 6 am. We stopped for the obligatory coffee (Clay got chocolate milk) and donuts at Black Bear store and chit-chatted all the way to Hollis. The boys were soon checked in and said they were boarding the ferry. We said our goodbyes, and I headed home.

When I got back, I went over to get the fish in Brian’s freezer, now that I had room in mine. The fish from his freezer were frozen solid. Huh. When I got home and started filling the freezer, I noticed something: the plug for the freezer on the floor! A power source plug from a radio on a cabinet had fallen yesterday when I was moving things around, but I didn’t notice it had unplugged the freezer on its way to the floor. Mystery solved.

Joe with a large halibut on the boat

Halibut!

Joe with a large halibut on the boat

Summer in Craig: Week 1

My friend Joe came in to take the boat with me from Juneau to Craig. I decided to try the summer in Craig with the boat, and I”m having eveyrone that’s coming to see me this summer come there.  Joe got stuck a day for weather, then another day on a jet mechanical. He showed up and off we went. We’ve known each other since we were in our early 20’s, when we met as Peace Corps volunteer trainees in Norman, Oklahoma at the little college they have there. I think we were there Boz’s senior year, but we didn’t make it to a ballgame. Seven of us trained together before 3 of us went to Sierra Leone and 5 to Liberia. Most of us have been family ever since.

The first day we headed less than a day’s run from Juneau and then up a bay. Nick told me it was a good place to try for shrimp. Joe was eager to see the trawl work. I would dehead the shrimp while we towed the net. We made 3 drags that evening, set the crab pot, and anchored for the night. In one of the drags we caught a tiny little octopus that we admired as it swam away. It was the size of my thumbnail.

The next morning, we made one more drag, pulled the pot, and headed south. We caught almost all coon stripe shrimp and I’m learning a little more every tow on how to fish the shrimp trawl. The second trawl with the smaller net and smaller doors, was much easier for me to set singlehandedly than the larger first net. There was a big king crab in the pot, but unfortunately the season for them didn’t open until June. We  We let the  tails sit for a day in the cooler as I recently learned this makes shelling them much easier.

As we ran down Stephens Passage and rounded the corner to Frederick Sound, I was missing seeing Paul in Petersburg. Kurt and I stopped in and had lunch with him last year. We anchored at the entrance to Eliza Harbor.

The next morning we tried shrimping in the northern end of Rocky Pass, waiting for the tide to rise to mid flood tide before heading down south through the pass.   No shrimp there. We ran the pass without incident, although we saw a big rock pile on the Kuiu side of Devils Elbow that doesn’t show on the chart, which I duly mentally noted for the next trip. We made it into Port

Protection in the evening. The skipper of The Loon kindly moved some boats around at the dock so we could tie up. He looked familiar, but I couldn’t place him. Maybe from television. We also got the sad news that Brian’s Aunt Mary had passed away. She was a good friend to Sara and I, and always with an open door and plenty to eat when we passed through Ketchikan.

We were off at 5 am the next morning to run El Capitan Passage. We were looking forward to shrimping when we came out of the pass, but when we got there, we found several commercial shrimpers pot fishing there. We tried one spot out of their way over what the chart indicated was mud, but caught a huge rock that we were barely able to get to the surface. We called it quits and headed for town.

We got in about 7 pm, and I sure appreciated having Joe with me to offload all the crap I had on board, including a futon for the container, a cart of groceries for Ellen, and a pile of Covid vaccine boxes from Dr Amy’s for packing fish. When we got to the container, we got the old broken futon out and the new one in, and Joe said he slept well on it.

We got out fishing the next day. I set a 2 hook skate on the way there. We fished all day and didn’t even catch a bomber. On the way back to the skate, we tried dragging the shrimp net over the mud bottom, and came up with a cod end full of sea cucumbers and sea squirts, but no shrimp.

We got to the skate, and when I started pulling it in hand over hand, I felt some weight on it, but nothing pulling back. When I got to the first hook, though, there was a nice halibut. We had to find the harpoon and I got a strike that wasn’t quite all the way through the gill, but I managed to get it on board.   The second hook had an even bigger halibut, but with a huge chomp precisely  taking out all the stomach area. The width of the mouth of whatever chomped it was about 2 feet!  We guessed either a shark or an orca. But the fish was still plenty good, and was already bled, and we didn’t lose all that much meat.

We measured the fish to get the estimated weight off the chart in the tidebook. The first fish was 92 lbs, and the second 188 lbs!  I thought maybe the tide book was wrong, so I looked it up online, and the tidebook was not wrong. We had a pile of fish. Joe learned how to clean halibut last year, and you’d think he was a seasoned professional fish processor. There was little flesh left on the bones when he was done.

By the time we got to town, Joe was just about done with the second fish. We stopped to let him finish so we could pitch the carcass outside of the harbor in deeper water. We took the fillets up to the truck in 3 buckets, then drove over to the launch ramp on False Island, where they have nice tables with white cutting board tops and running water with great pressure for cleaning. The bugs were out, so maybe that got us done a little faster. I skinned the fish while Joe portioned. We finished about 830 pm and headed for home. At home, we got to vac packing, and finished that about a half hour after midnight. What a day!

We got one more day of king salmon fishing in a different spot, and just nothing again, even though there was plenty of feed along the drag. When Kevin came over later and told us the fishing had dried up, that made us feel a little better, since Kevin is a high liner on king salmon with the sport rods.

On Joe’s last day, we drove across the island to Thorne Bay to get some rodholders I bought on the local facebook buy-sell-trade page. We then drove down to a bay I knew had sea asparagus to check it out. We were not disappointed. More asparagus than I’d ever seen in one place. We picked for less than an hour and got plenty for pickling.

We continuued on to Kasaan, as I’d never been there. We saw some of the beautiful totem poles, but only saw one person anywhere in town. People may have been to a memorial service in Hydaburg and/or gone to Juneau for Celebration.

Joe left on Monday, but his flight was cancelled to Hyder for weather, I guess. And looks like he’ll be there awhile as the weather is poor, with high winds and rain, the next couple days. I spent Monday picking through the sea asparagus. Joe’s bag was virtually clean. Mine had lots of grass and sea weed and snails. Kinda who each of us is.

I spent Tuesday pickling and canning the sea asparagus. We picked enough for 38 half pints, so I have sea asparagus for awhile. It was blowing 25 and pouring rain, so a great day for canning and listening to KRBD. I will try to send a case of the sea asparagus over to Joe if I can get it over there before he leaves.

Pickled Sea Asparagus

6.5 cups water + 6.5 cups 5% White Vinegar, brought to a boil

In each ½ pint jar:

Pinch of rosemary
Pinch of garlic powder
Boiling bath water canner for 10 min.

Spring Boat Maintenance 2024

The Dutchmaster boat

Funny. When I had the Dutch Master, my first commercial fishing vessel – a 1970’s era plywood commercial fishing vessel with pleny of rot here and there- I didn’t worry about through hull fittings. I didn’t even know where they were located in the bowels of the boat. I was in my 30’s and just learning about boats.

At 60, I have a fiberglass boat in great condition, and I’m still learning. I got one of the kids in the scout troop to help me with the through hull fittings while the boat was hauled out for bottom painting and zinc replacement. I had him hop down in the engine room and try to work the handles on the seacock valves while I sprayed lubricant into the through hull hole on the outside into the valve. Two valves never gave and remain seized open, but the valve for the intake to the raw water pump, thankfully, works. Perhaps it does because this valve is the easiest to access, and it’s used more regularly when you need to clean the sea strainer or change the water pump impeller when the boat is in the water.

The engine has never overheated. Always shown right in the middle of the temperature gauge. I noticed that the raw water pump water flow overboard was more like a dribble than a flow, but I didn’t worry because the temperature seemed fine.

After watching some you tubes on regular maintenance, I realized I’d never checked the sea strainer for the raw water pump, so I did that while the boat was out of the water. And wow, am I glad I did. The strainer was full of vegetation. I was surprised the engine has not overheated. Even though the strainer basket is small, it took a good while under the kitchen spray hose at home to get all the gunk out.

When we put the boat back in the water today and I got back to the harbor, I looked at the raw water pump flow exiting the boat now, and it was a thick, steady stream. Now I know what it should look like, and another boat lesson learned.

I started to try to look at the impeller, too, but the access point is not in a particularly easily accessible location and I stopped before I might do something that would prevent me from starting the engine, which I’d need to do when they put me back in the water. Now that I know I can close the seacock, I can work on it anytime, so don’t have to be out of the water. Hopefully it’ll be good another year.

Another good thing I found out today was my high water alarm works just fine. I installed it in the drive shaft alley last year. I forgot to turn the bilge breaker back on after the boat went back in the water, and as soon as I threw the breaker switch back on, the alarm sounded. It took a good while for the bilge pump to pump the water overboard, but eventually the water subsided and the alarm quit blaring. Glad to know it works and good practice to recognize the alarm sound.

I’ve been loading the boat for days now in preparation for the run to Craig. A futon for the Craig cabin, a small kayak for people to paddle around when we’re at anchor, a heavy door for the storage shed in Craig, and a dozen boxes for sending fish home with my family and friends coming up to visit this summer.

Joe drove down from Smithers this morning to take the Taquan Air flight from Hyder to Ketchikan, but that flight was cancelled due to poor weather in Ketchikan, so he didn’t catch the jet to Juneau from Ketchikan as planned today. Hopefully, he’ll get here tomorrow and we can leave the next day. Nice to have a breather til then.

New tricks

Although I’ve been out shrimping once with Mike in Craig, I really wasn’t sure how to deploy and retrieve a trawl on my own.  I bought a trawl from my old trolling buddy Matt last year, but hadn’t fished it yet.  Nick had offered to go out with me to teach me when I took him and Jesse trapping this winter, and yesterday we went.  His friend Amanda (who I knew) went along to look for black bears while we were shrimping.
We were to meet Nick at the launch ramp at 730 am.  We all showed up early.  It was a bluebird day and calm seas.  All of us were itching to get out on the water.
We ran in Nick’s sweet 20′ (?) long landing craft  down the channel to the shrimping spot about 40 minutes away.  If I understood him right, he got the boat because the owner only listed it by it’s brand name, and people didn’t realize it was a landing craft, and Nick was able to get it – motors and all- for only $20,000 about 8 years ago- from the seller in Pelican who just had it to transport supplies to build his cabin.  I love stories like that.  It’s a great platform for doing about everything on the water except staying dry, since it has no cabin.
The shrimp trawl consists of a net, otter boards, lead lines, and tow line.  The otter trawl net has two boards on each side of the net that keep the net mouth open. The net opening is about 12 feet wide.  The top of the net has floats and the bottom has a light link chain to tickle the bottom and make the shrimp jump up off the bottom and then into the net.  To each board is tied a 100 foot lead line, with a caribiner on the other end.  The net end of the towline has a swivel with a 10 lb cannon ball on one side of the swivel, and a caribiner tied to the end of tow line that is snapped onto the other side of the swivel.
The caribiners from the door lead lines are clipped to the top of the swivel alongside the tow line caribiner, and not the bottom where the cannon ball is.  Nick said if you clip them to the cannon ball side, the net leads will twist.  Good to know.
Our tow speed was 1.3 knots.  We were fishing over a flat mud bottom, which is what a shrimper is looking for.
I helped Nick deploy the net while Amanda drove the boat.  We stood along the side of the boat in the rear, with each of us holding a door and the net between us.  Amanda put the boat in gear and we each let our our boards over the side, then slowly let out our lead lines until the net was behind the boat about 20 feet.  Then we rotated back around the stern. Nick had us pull our lead lines up near the outboard so he could visually see the net was open and working properly.  Another important step, he said many times.  Then I handed him my lead lead and he, alone, let the net descend slowly, under tension, behind the boat.
While he was letting the lead lines out, I found the caribiners on each end of the lead lines, and snapped them to the top of the swivel at the end of the tow line.  When the net was out to the end of the lead lines, I handed the tow
line up to Nick and fed the tow line out of the barrel to him, trying to unravel any kinks before they got to him.  There was about 1200 feet of tow line, and we used most of it each tow.
We fished the net in water ranging from about 250 feet of water up to about 150 feet of water.  My friend Matt, who fished the same location with the net I bought from him, said he fished in 40 to 60 feet, which was surprisingly shallow to me for some reason.   At 250 feet, we used about 1000 feet of the tow line; a little less tow line if dragging shallower.  We’d gauge that the tow line length was sufficient by watching to see that the tow line twitched now and then, indicating the boards were bouncing on the bottom.
We towed for between 30 minutes and an hour.  So lots of time to drink coffee and yak and take in the spectacular snow covered mountains around us and look for a black bear for Amanda on the beaches.
Hauling the net was simple.  The boat was shifted to neutral, the tow line walked from the tow bar in the rear to the bow of the boat, then the person hauling the tow line stacked it back into the garbage can while the driver tried to just keep up with the line hauler so the hauler wasn’t having to pull the boat to the net.  When most of the line was in the boat and the net directly under the boat, Nick started his Honda pot puller, and he hauled up the rest of the line with it – except for the one time I did the hauling, and hauled the line by hand all the way to the boat, which wasn’t too difficult.
Once the net was alongside the boat, we’d swish it up and down in the water several times to rinse off as much mud as possible.  Then, depending on the haul, one or two of us would grab the net and bring it over the side and into the cooler, untie the cod end, then dump the catch into the cooler.
Of course, we caught more than shrimp in the net.  The other sealife caught included eel pouts (the most numerous bycatch item), sculpin, moonfish, lumpsucker, starry flounder, other unidentified juvenile flatfish, crab, hooligan, pollock, rock shrimp, and small sea stars the size of Christmas cookies.  Basically, a marine biologist’s or 9 year old’s dream.
After returning the bycatch to the ocean, we got in a rhythm where Amanda would take over repeatedly rinsing the shrimp (side stripe, coon stripe, and pink shrimp), and Nick and I would get the net ready to fish again.
We made three or four tows for the day, and got plenty of shrimp.  Especially seeing as Nick didn’t want any because he still had shrimp from last year to eat.  We didn’t see any bears, so Amanda’s rifle stayed cased.  She and I headed shrimp while Nick drove the 40 minutes back to the dock in 60 degree weather and calm seas.
We barely made a dent processing all the shrimp by the time we pulled in to the ramp.  Once up the ramp, Amanda handed the cooler of shrimp down to me, and we each took a bucket of shrimp, then said our goodbyes after a wonderful day.  Nick told me he wanted to give me some surplus smoked black cod he’d just finished, and I said I’d be right over.  I ran home first to grab some gallon ziplocs.  I then went directly to the Salvation Army store to give Mike a gallon bag of shrimp before the store closed.  At Nick’s, I grabbed the smoked black cod and thanked him again, then ran just up the block to Kurt’s to give him the other gallon bag of shrimp and tell him all about the day over a beer.
Once I got home, Sara helped me head the shrimp, which was very welcome.  We saved the heads for Amanda, who was going to make stock with it.  I normally might do the same, but like Nick’s shrimp, my freezer has a ton of both venison and shrimp stock already so glad she will use them.  We put the tails into the fridge overnight, as Nick was told by a shrimp peeler machine manufacturer that leaving the tails overnight will allow something to happen that will make them easier to peel the next day.
I was sore when I got home.  Knees were stiff.  Hip a little sore.  And another day of feeling so lucky I live here and never wanting to leave.

 




Wash down pump project.

I’ve been working on installing a wash down pump for about a month, now.  I’ve been thinking about it for a couple years.  I tried using a dc pump that I just lowered over the side, and it was sort of okay but not really convenient, as it took a long run of wires to power it.  
After online research of message boards and equipment and getting advice from Kurt, I finally ordered what the materials (pump and hose) I’d need to install a washdown pump, using the intake line to my boat toilet (aka, head) for the water intake.   I’d seen this as a viable option on boat message boards, as it means you don’t have to put a new hole in your boat for a through hull fitting.  
The first thing I did was to get Dorothy to help me.  I needed a skinny body to drop down into my engine room and feed the 1/2 inch hose from the rear of the boat though the engine room and up to the bathroom, where the 3/4 inch line leading to the head was available for splicing in to.  We completed this task and some other little things in an hour, and that got her lunch at McDonalds and twenty bucks from Uncle Mark.
The 3/4 inch line coming up from the through hull fitting ran under the bathroom sink counter, and that’s where I figured I could splice into it with a 3/4 inch to 1/2 inch tee to divert water to the pump via a 1/2 inch line.  Under the counter was also a convenient, accessible, and out of the way location to mount the pump.  On my hands and knees, I could look through the cabinet doors under the sink and see the intake line in there about 3 feet away under the sink counter along the starbard hull.  I could also see the line from above when I took out the counter drawer, which was right over it.  But I had my doubts about actually getting to the hose in the narrow area under the sink counter or the narrow drawer opening.  How would I get enough leverage to cut the hose and then install the tee hose barbs in such a tight space.  I could barely squeeze my shoulders in there to reach it from the side, and could only reach one arm through the drawer opening to reach it from above.  I even asked Bob about neatly cutting an access panel through the top of the bathroom cabinet that I could reinstall and not have it look like I butchered it. 
As I sat there wondering just how I was going to do all this, I saw it: the hose line coming up to the manual head pump was right there in front of me in plain sight!  All I had to do was loosed the hose clamp and hope it would pull down from the pump intake nipple, which it did surprisingly easily!  From there, I just pushed the hose down a bit, and put the tee in the end!  I walked up to Harri’s for a little piece of 3/4″ hose to connect from the other side of the tee back to the intake nipple.  I was in business.
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I drilled a hole through the cabinet.  Then I fed a piece of the 1/2 inch hose from the tee through the cabinet wall and clamped it to the fitting on the intake side of the pump.  Then, I clamped the hose coming in from the engine room to the outflow side of the pump.  Finally, I bolted the pump in place to the inside of the cabinet wall.  That part was done.
Now for the other end of the hose on the back deck. There are two teak steps attached to the back wall that are for climbing up onto the roof of the salon area.  Under one of the steps I’d installed the outlet for the freezer on the back deck last year.  I decided to install the spigot under the other step.  First, I had to run the hose through the salon cabinetry, then under the bench seating around the salon table, which didn’t require any drilling as there was ample space in holes where other lines were already installed.  I drilled a hole under the step from the outside wall, then fed the hose from the salon out the hole and clamped it to a fitting that would connect it to the hose bib I mounted under the step.  I used a continuous piece of hose from the outlet of the pump all the way to the outside of the back wall so that the only place the system could leak inside the boat was at the fittings on the pump under the bathroom sink – short of the hose line itself springing a leak somewhere, which is unlikely.   After I hooked up the hose to the spigot, I went back inside and neatly secured the hose with hanger straps down the inside wall of the salon and under the benches so it was out of the way.
Lastly came the wiring of the pump.  I considered several different circuits on the boat to run the pump through, as I didn’t want a direct connection to the battery, but rather wanted it to run through the fuse panel.  Then, again, I saw it – there’s a light on the ceiling of the bathroom!  I’d never noticed it before.  I threw the switch on for the lights in the forward berths, and flicked the switch on and off on the bathroom light.  Nothing happened.  I then removed the light’s globe glass, and dropped the fixture down.  I tested the wires with the battery meter.  Bingo.  12.3 volts.  When I removed the bulb and could see it was cloudy and likely no good.
My final problem was where to put in a switch for the pump.  Most DC switches nowadays are made for the very thin walls of aluminum or console board.  Not for thicker cabinet walls.  I had no switches with long enough necks to go through the wall, and in fact had had this same issue when I installed a wiper switch.  I knew these long neck switches were not available in town.  I had an appointment approaching in mid-afternoon, so I quit for the day about half way through the wiring.  
On the way home I had my final epiphany: just install another switch on the housing for the light!  The light housing is a thin piece of metal, and this made things very simple.  I put in the extra switch, then put in a new bulb and got the light working. After I installed the second switch, I tested it with the volt meter till I had the wiring to the right leads on the switch, then remounted the light fixture back in place.  I’d drilled a hole in the side of the light fixture mount to feed in the sheathed wiring. The wiring sheath is white, and matched the white color of the bathroom walls nicely.  I used white plastic wiring staples to neatly secure the wire from the light fixture along the ceiling, then down the wall through another hole drilled through the counter, and down to the pump.
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I connected the wiring to the pump, walked outside to open the spigot valve, and threw the switch at the light fixture.  I could hear the pump working and thought I heard something outside, but I could not see any water coming up the clear hose from the tee to the pump in front of me.  I thought the outside noise was just air moving through the system.  I tried jiggling the toilet valve to be sure it was closed and that I wasn’t sucking air, and felt around the pump fittings, but could not feel any air or water leaks.  Finally I went out to the spigot, and it was gushing water.  I couldn’t see the water moving through the hose, but it was moving alright!.  I finished my last task of the project by securing the wiring under the counter so it would be out of the way, and that was it!  Now for clean up and putting things away, which I’ll spread out over today and tomorrow.  
A satisfying last major project I wanted done on the boat for now to make it how I want it.  The wash down pump will replace the back breaking chore of throwing over a 6 gallon buck over the side to get water to clean fish or clean the deck, and make cleaning fish a lot easier and thorough.
wooded scene in Alaska

Time to Cut Firewood (The Thrill is Gone)

wooded scene in Alaska

I plan to spend most of the summer down in Craig, so it’s time to get my firewood in for the season so I have it done before I go. I cut down a big ass tree two years ago about 50 yards from our woodshed, and decided that would be my mission this season for firewood.

I got out the big boy saw, Stihl 041, that I bought from Ron when he left town. Bob sharpened the several chains I have for it. I filled the gas and oil, and as usual, after about 3 pulls, the saw fired up.

The tree spanned our little creek, and the part that was over the ground was held off the ground by its branches. I wasn’t sure how I was going to buck the whole thing, as the butt section spanned the creek and was about 7 feet above the creek bed. I started at the middle section of the tree, which was supported by a little berm on the butt end, and by numerous branches holding it up off the ground to the tree top. I used a 16 inch piece of ruler to mark the cut spots with chalk. I limbed and bucked rounds over the next 2 days, limiting my cutting day to one tank of gas. I’m not in a hurry and think doing a little a day will limit saw vibration injury to my arms.

The last two days, I was cutting the butt end that spanned the creek. I didn’t have a plan as how to safely do it, so I just cut from each end until all that was left was the section that spanned the creek. I knew I wanted to somehow get the section down onto the creek bed so it was on the ground. I was able to roll it a half turn with the peevee, but not all the way off the bank and into the creek. Then I saw it had rolled onto a root wad sticking up from the creek not far from one bank. That allowed me to cut some rounds from that bank to the root wad without pinching the saw. I was able to cut the root where the remaining log was held up, then roll it off the root and down into the creek bed. Perfect. I bucked up the section in the creek. Now I had the tree all bucked up into rounds, in addition to some other small logs I cut that I’d pulled down the hill last year.

On day 5, I got started splitting. I began with the wood in the creek bed. The butt ends were maybe 2.5 to 3 feet diameter, and split easily with the maul since they had few knots. I had to lob the pieces up from the creek to the garage side of the creek. I will have to split the pieces again that won’t fit in the stove, and then haul them down to the woodshed. The lobbing motion from the stream bed seemed similar to snow shoveling, and that was the special tonic for my hip, so all the work was feeling like physical therapy as much as work.

On day 8, I’d split all of the bigger rounds, and chucked the pieces across the creek. I stopped splitting for now and would see if what I’d cut would fill the woodshed. I’d leave the rest of the rounds for next year if it did.

The next 3 days I hauled the wood in a Rubbermaid cart Bob and I found on the beach years ago when we went hooter hunting across from the cabin. It hauls a lot of wood and is easy to move with the big wheels. Today I finished the last load, probably about the 20th or so wheelbarrow load, with a few pieces of wood thrown across the creek still there, and many rounds still on the other side of the creek. So a head start on next year. I have to say this was more work than enjoyment this year, but the satisfaction was still there when the job was done. I’m calling this 64 wood, as it’ll be 4 years till I burn this wood, and I’ll be 64 then, if I make it.