Fit for Human Consumption

Spent 1030 am to 530 pm butchering the 200 lbs of moose meat I picked up from Alaska Air Cargo. The meat has nice and cool and in great shape.

I dropped off some meat to Chris and the fish plant, and we talked for awhile about this coming summer’s sale plans.

I took 50+ lbs of frozen moose meat from last year to the Sierra Leoneons as I know it will get used up soon. When I put it in their freezer, I was even happier, as they were low on fish and game. There weren’t very many salmon to be had from the beach last summer, and the 2 bears I sent up from Craig were gone, too. I felt even better when I left.  I talked with Sam and Dorothy about school. Dorothy is growing fast.

When I got home, I texted several friends to come get some meat, and got to processing. I sent meat with Sara to work for her staff and Colette.

For jobs like this, it’s all about getting started, I think. Once I got going, it was easy to keep going. Lots to be thankful for, and one is not taking another moose!  Part of one is plenty enough.

Friends stopped by during the day, and I told them the story of the trip to Bethel. Naomi stopped by, and brought with her berries and cherries for us. Bob stopped by. Then Max, who relived his catching a 20 lb king off the beach when fishing for dollies, and then the pain in having to release it since the season is closed!  The Ukranians stopped by, excited to try something new, and asked how to cook it. Keith stopped by just as I finished with the butchering, and we got caught up on the scout troop and my old work place. When I ran to the valley to pay for the Empty Bowls fundraiser for the Glory Hall, my friend Mariya was there, and I gave her some moose, too. Finally, the eldest child from next door came by, and got me caught up on her joining all kinds of dance groups in town. I told her to be sure to hit us up for money when they are fund raising.

I took out some fresh moose, and sliced it into pieces. I put them in some hot olive oil, then salt, pepper and garlic powder. While they were frying, I got out some greens from our CSA, and cut it up for a salad. I put some salad left overs from Sara’s dinner container from some function I was lucky not to have had to attend last night. I turned over the pieces of moose, and turned off the heat so to just brown the other side and leave the moose rare in the middle. I let the moose rest a few minutes while I put a dressing I made from some home made blueberry salsa, mayo, mustard, olive oil and vinegar. I put the moose on the salad, and ate in satisfaction after a day of processing.

That was yesterday. Today is vac packing, burger grinding, and more vac packing day. First thing this morning, I took 50 lbs of burger meat and 5 pounds of organic pork fat to Jerry’s meats for them to make us brauts, louisiana hot links, and summer sausage. I took some meat to Scott, the owner, for himself, and dropped off more meat to Jeffy at Dick’s. Sara took in some meat to Maridon.

The moose meat looks so good, as it was butchered in the snow in the winter, so never gets much of a chance to get dirty or warm.

Now to the finish with packaging and on to readying for a boat trip to Craig.

Spring Picnic

I took the moose meat to air cargo this morning to send to Juneau. It took an hour and a half to get it booked. not that I was in a hurry.

Pro Tip: AK Air club 49 members can send up to 100 lbs of cargo anywhere AK Air flies in the state for $49.

I was slightly over 100 lbs because we used a luggage scale that obviously wasn’t precise and that created problems charging for the first 100 lbs at the special rate and the 7 extra pounds at regular rate.
Next time, I’ll put the meat on the scales at airfreight and then add or take out meat to get it to 99 lbs and that will make it easier on everyone.

Doug, Ashley, Val and I left for a picnic an hour later.  We ran snow machines upriver about 20 miles to a tributary of the Kuskokwim River and had lunch there. We cooked moose brauts and reheated pizza over a birch fire for lunch, with a PBR. Then I took a nap in the sun. A perfect afternoon.

Big day in the Paris on the Kuskokwim

On the way home from the Jamaica trip, as I landed in Seattle, I had a text from Dougie: if you can get her this week, we’re making a last trip to the Yukon for moose.

So, on Monday, Kurt said he could meet the heat pump guy on Tue, I checked on the boat, and made reservations with mileage to Bethel.

I got to Bethel just before noon. Val was heading to Anchorage for a couple days on this same plane, so it would be me and Dougie fending for ourselves. On the Anchorage to Bethel flight, I met a woman from King Cove who was married to a Sand Pointer, and who knew of Val. So Alaska.

This morning, we met Pat at 530 at his house, and headed to the Yukon. It was about 10 degrees. We spent the first hour or so on our headlights as dawn came, and then a beautiful sunrise with a blood orange sky. Lots of snow on the trail, and the riding was decent. We saw some ptarmigan flocks and a fox along the way.

We got to the Yukon River about 830, and started looking for moose on Willow Island. Pat pointed one out to me right away, but it was in the taller willows and was spooked and not a good shot. This is my 3rd year here now, and I know from experience that I don’t have to rush a shot or shoot the first moose I see. There were tons of tracks in the willows and lots of gut piles. There’s plenty of moose here. Just be patient. And there’s 15 hours of daylight now in April out here.

We moved down river along the island, and saw one more moose, but again, not a chance for a good shot. Pat got out to the edge of the island, and across a side channel on a little island, there were half a dozen moose. He said to get ready, and motor over there and try to get a shot. I chambered a round in the 30.06. It would be a single shot today, as I’d forgot to bring the magazines!

I idled across the side channel. Five moose scattered, but one remained. I lined it up with a root wad about 70 yards from the moose, and turned the snow machine straight towards the root wad to somewhat conceal myself. I got to about 20 yards from the root wad, and the moose was still standing there, so I stopped, shut off the engine, and hunched down low to keep myself below the height of the root wad. I put on my ear muffs, and walked up til I was at the root wad, and the moose hadn’t moved.

I got a good rest on a piece of the wad, then calmed my breathing, and put when I got a decently steady cross hairs behind the shoulder, I squeezed off a round. The moose went down to it’s knees, got up, backed up a few steps, and tipped over. No need for a second shot. Pat came over from the other side of the river, and we waited a few minutes for the moose to expire. It was 9 am.

Doug joined us, and after a couple photos, we got to butchering the moose. Pat has butchered more moose this season than many Alaskan moose hunters will do in a lifetime. I stomped down the snow around the moose, then he and I tipped the moose on her back, and he started the process. Doug and I started in as well, skinning the hide from the carcass. Pat soon had the breast plate off so fast I didn’t even notice him do it. After he took out the full formed fetus calf in it’s sac out, we rolled out the guts, and then started helping each other get the quarters off, with one person pulling on a leg and the other cutting. Once the quarters were off, Doug started sawing off the hocks while I helped Pat with removing the ribs from the torso.

By 10 o’clock, we had the moose parts on the sled, and were eating our lunches, which were musk ox sandwiches for Doug and I. We soon were headed back to Bethel with this big cow moose and a sunny day and temperatures climbing to about 30. We saw several flocks of about 100 ptarmigan. One flock flushed and then landed high in a tall cottonwood (?) tree, which was spectacular. I’ve never seen ptarmigan or grouse all land in a tree like that.

We got back to town about 2 pm, left Pat at his house, and had all the meat hung up in Doug’s shed by 230 pm. What a day.

I was still on borrowed sleep from my Jamaica trip, so took a nap while Doug tidied up his sled and the sno gos. At 445, we picked up Doug and Val’s friend Marie, who is from a nearby town and working at the college and studying to be a nurse. We were headed to a procession for Robert Sundown, the head pilot for the refuge here, who died a few days ago out moose hunting where we were. He had taken a moose with a friend of his and was on his way home when he had an apparent heart attack and passed away. Just like that. In his early 50’s I think. Today, his body was being flown to Anchorage, and the town was giving him a sort of send off. We got in the line of vehicles that followed the truck carrying his coffin. After his body was dropped off to the airport, we parked along the side of the road where the airport runway ends, perpendicular to the road. A procession of local planes did flyovers in Robert’s honor.  Small town Alaska at it’s best.

After the flyovers, we headed down river on the ice road in Doug’s truck. Below the town of Oscarville, we found a couple groups of about a dozen vehicles of all shapes and sizes:  pike fishermen. Mostly women. We joined one, and when Doug saw some of his cronies, we got out and hung out with them for awhile. Everyone had a few pike laying next to their fishing holes. Everyone’s gear was the similar: a stick about 2 feet long, with some kind of twine wrapped around it, and the end if it down the ice fishing hole. Everyone jerked their stick up every little bit as they yaked and yaked and yaked. What fun. I need to write a story about this for the ADFG magazine.

We headed back to Bethel to the late evening sunshine. Pretty full day in Bethel City.

large cooler of fish

Jamaica Trip

Day 1-2 Sat-Sun.

Trip to Kingston went okay. Had to sleep overnight in the Seattle Airport. I could have got a hotel, but by the time I’d get to a bed in a hotel, I’d have about 4 hours to sleep before I had to get up again, and in my experience that’s never a good sleep, having to worry about oversleeping.

A two hour delay out of Seattle due to a leak in the wheel brake on the plane made things really tight to make my connection to Kingston in Atlanta, but luckily my flight out of Atlanta was delayed by 30 minutes, so I made it in plenty of time. And glad to, as somehow I’d been upgraded to first class.

On the ride to Atlanta, I watched the NCAA Women’s final. Iowa, with their phenom Caitlyn Clark, stayed with LSU for much of the game, but could never get back to even, and LSU beat t

hem handily. The flashy Clark, who made a habit of using hand signs to taunt other players, got a taste of her own medicine from one or two of the LSU stars.

The travel through the Kingston Airport took a bit of time getting my luggage and getting through customs, but soon I was outside the airport security and saw the driver with my name on a sign, and I was off to the hotel.

Day 3

Monday. Got up and headed to the hotel first thing on Monday. We were leaving for Alligator Pond right away. I returned to get my things packed, checked out of the hotel, and with Damar Wilson, my staff companion, and Tyler Richards, another volunteer here for bee keeping, we were off in the standard vehicle for these agencies, the diesel Toyota Hilux truck.

We stopped for a short visit with some fish mongers selling live red tilapia out of concrete tanks with aerators near our destination to drop off Tyler on the outskirts of Kingston. After the fish sellers understood I was an Alaskan fisherman and not there to buy fish, they stopped trying to sell me fish and allowed me to ask some questions. One of the sellers said they had a hard time selling their fish because people and restaurants preferred ocean fish, and found their tilapia “muddy” tasting. A pound. of life tilapia was 650 Jamaican Dollars (JD) or $4.50/lb – which is a high value to me!  The fish looked beautiful.

Damar stopped for lunch at a cook shop – a small restaurant on the side of the road, with no or very limited seating. We had jerk chicken. It was excellent.

We got to our hotel, Tropics View,  in Mandeville, got our rooms, then continued on to Alligator Pond, just to see the beach site. It was a surprisingly small stretch of beach where the boats came in, with several little huts I assumed were fish selling sites. We got to see a few men and women processing some fresh fish from a cooler. The fish looked good. I think the going price is about JD 1,100 or $7.33/lb!  Again, a surprisingly high value. Maybe these fishers have more to teach me than I have to teach them.

I know I’ve only been through a slice of Jamaica, but the standard of living here seems very nice. I can tell there’s a large middle class because of the abundance of nice cars in good condition, and the sparsity of motorcycles – I’ve only seen a few since I’ve been here. And only 1 bicycle. The houses are well built and well kept and painted bright pastel colors.. The roads, while narrow and older, are in decent repair. There are many bars and cook shops, indicating to me expendable income. Ubiquitous electricity. Not sure about water and sewer.   I’ve seen very few people I believe are tourists, indicating the economy where I’ve been is largely supported by residents. No one seems to notice me as out of the ordinary, and I haven’t had anyone run up to beg from me. Really, it feels like I’m in my own country. One thing in particular is when Jamaicans speak English, it is unusually understandable, to my ears anyway.

The road to and from Alligator Pond (AP) is a long, narrow windy road down a steep hill. The driving is on the left here, and that sure takes some getting used to. We didn’t spend much time at AP as we wanted to get back up the windy narrow dangerous road before sunset.

Day 4

Tuesday. Today we went to meet the hosts. James and Rona. They are a retired couple who are Jamaican nationals who (I think) were raised in Massachusetts, worked there until retirement, then retired to Jamaica to run a little Inn and meeting place for events, which they are slowly developing.   They quizzed me on what I was there to offer. As the morning wore on, I realized that nothing was planned. James was interested in doing some sort of ocean aquaculture, which I wasn’t going to be much help with, but we had a long discussion on his plans and the potential. He’s a retired electrician who lived in Boston, and seems to have done quite a bit of research – both on the ground and through reading – so he knew more than I did about the project and hopeful potential.

James realized, as I did, that I was there to do what I said I could – talk to fishermen about fish quality and marketing – and he didn’t seem aware of that, nor that he was to arrange the program. I think he just volunteered to help out as he could, but not set up a program. So, with both of us now understanding the situation, we sort of bonded over it and said we’d do the best we could. I think about this time that Damar also realized there was nothing organized to do, and so he, too, sort of pitched in all the harder to help make something happen.

We got back to the hotel, and went to town to get a meal. We checked out the fish selections in a couple grocery stores. There was some nice looking about 1 lb each red colored snapper shaped fish that were whole, dressed and scaled and nicely vac packed. I couldn’t tell what country they were from. I also saw good looking salmon from Chile, small ocean fish from Guyana, and even some pickled fish from Jamaica. Even pink salmon fillets from Alaska. The case was almost all imported fish, and Rainforest was a name brand that was also the company where the fish I ate from the cook house was sourced.

The clerk at the cook house said the fish was “trout fish” but I’m not sure it could have been trout since one of the pieces was a large, cross-cut steak, unless they  were big trout. The frozen fish and shrimp in the case were in better shape than the fish in either Ecuador or Madagascar, with little sign of freezer burn. I bought Lorraine the Jerk seasoning she wanted. How did we select which one to buy?  Damar said by the one that has the least on the shelf as it’s the most popular….Genius!  I also bought a pound of Blue Mountain Jamaican coffee. $30!  I had to do the math several times to believe that that was the price. I got another one for Kurt. Hopefully they’ll notice it’s something special.. Last on the list is some rum for Lorraine. I tried the “overproof” Jamaican rum I’d seen on billboards, and it’s high alcohol firewater.   Not sure they’ll like that one. I’ll look for another.

Day 5

Wednesday. I had some pumpkin soup for lunch at the hotel, and it was excellent. They have big big packaged muffins here. I had a “coconut roll’ a few days ago, which was decadently good. The spiced bun I had after lunch was good, too.

We headed out to AP at 230 pm to wait for the fishermen. They were coming in to a tiny little piece of beach owned by the biggest goat farmer in the area, as they are friends of him and friends of James and Rona. They pulled into the beach with the surf, then the 5 crew and some of us on the beach helped pull the boat up above the tide line using big pieces of ABS pipe cut in half for skid rollers. When the boat proved a little too heavy, the boat crew took out about 4 gillnets that were stuffed in rice bags to reduce the weight, and we got the boat all the way out. Some of the crew put a stick in the boat on either side of the long skinny boat (~28` long) to keep it from tipping over, and began unloading their spear guns.

When the chatter settled down, James introduced me to the group. Not as a USAID volunteer, but simply a fisherman from Alaska who was here to see what he could show them, and what they could show him. A great introduction, really. Then the boat crew and I sort of lost ourselves in fish talk, from fishing gear to fish species to dock prices to middle men to the market chains, to fish stock status, as fishermen from anywhere will do, talking their universal language. What a privilege to do these assignments. I asked them what I could bring the next day, and they said “snacks”, so I stopped and bought a loaf of bread, some big wedges of orange cheese out for the traditional Easter meal, and a coconut bun. That should be plenty for me, I thought.

Day 6

Today I went fishing with Leon and Junior (Elvis) Wilson and Tony and 2 other guys. I put on my long sleeve shirt and overalls, crocs, bucket hat, and lathered up the top of my

hands, face, ears, head and neck with SPF30. I made a monster cup of coffee, and we headed to AP.

We loaded the boat when the fishing crew arrived, and headed off shore in their 28’ sort of narrow canoe-like boat with a spotless 40 hp Yamaha Enduro outboard. There was a 2 to 3 foot chop, and swells up to 10 feet. It was pretty lumpy. The smell of the two stroke brought back memories of fish guiding on the Nushagak River.

We ran about 40 minutes in the chop. They put me in the middle seat – exactly where the spray comes over the side. I was wet and that turned to being soaked by the time they go to where they would fish first. But it didn’t feel bad at all, and cooled me down if anything. When we stopped to fish, I kidded them that they knew exactly what they were doing to use me as a spray block, and they thought that was hilarious.

They fish on shallow reef areas as far as I can tell. The Wilson brothers and one of the others dive using a three air line hookah set up from an Ingersoll Rand air compressor powered by a Honda gas motor.   One of the Wilson brothers does the boat driving until they go underwater, and then the youngest of the group takes the tiller. He has to keep the lines from getting into the prop and keep the lines slacked for the divers below. Tony, who is the eldest in the group I think, in his early 60s maybe, starts and tends the Honda motor and air compressor.

After they got set up, the divers went over one at a time, each with a spear gun. Leon also took with him an empty soda bottle with the cap on.   When he was in a spot on the reef for setting their gill nets, he let go of the soda bottle, and when Tony saw it, we motored over near the bottle and Tony threw over one of the gillnets in the rice bags. The corks are small on the net, and so the bag of net sunk where he threw it, and a diver grabbed it. We threw over two more nets awhile later.

If I understand the process correctly, the divers anchor two of the nets across from each other on the reef to act as a funnel, leading to a third net that is across the back of the opening of the funnel.   Then the divers got back in the boat, and we took them to the other end of the reef. They reentered the water again, and the three of them swam towards the nets, trying to herd the fish to the nets.   They also fished with their spear guns.

While waiting in the boat,  we saw a couple porpoises – larger than anything I’ve ever seen. Turns out they are like the sea lion or killer whale of the salmon grounds. The porpoises chased the fish away from the nets. Fish that got into the nets were plucked by the porpoises. When we pulled the nets, there were about 35 fish. We fished several other reefs, and got fewer fish, although the non-Wilson diver got a decent bag of fish at one site. The porpoises just followed us from reef to reef!

Junior moved to the bow and started picking fish from the net. They only brought one cooler today since there was not room with me in the boat for the normal 2 coolers, and the cooler we brought was in the stern. I made myself useful and grabbed a dive bag that Junior tossed the fish into, and then we slung the bag of fish to the rear.

They keep their fish on block ice, which isn’t perfect but it certainly works. And I was glad to see the ice was hardly melted when we got in, indicating the cooler insulation was good. They didn’t bleed nor clean their fish on board, which is possible but not very practical  given the space and number of crew and small size of the fish. I assume the fish taken by spear may already have bled. I don’t believe bleeding and on board cleaning  are as critical to fish quality when the fish will be sold fresh within 24 hours and eaten within a few days. Especially when they are kept in a cooler with ice fairly soon after they are caught. If they were going to freeze or vac pack the fish, then I’d recommend bleeding for sure, and dressing if practical. I’d also recommend they try using frozen water bottles and then filling up the cooler when it’s full with water to chill the fish quicker, but I’m not sure if it might be counter productive if the water is 80 degrees and maybe too warm, as our water is closer to the high 40s or 50. A fish delivery route once a week in Mandeville might also be a viable option for one of the family members of the crew, perhaps. Mandeville has about 40,000 people, so larger than Juneau, and we never did see fresh ocean fish for sale there.

The Wilsons are interested in setting up a marine reserve near the Caye not far offshore from AP and right near where we were fishing.

When I saw the divers taking off their gear and stowing it after the 4th reef or so, I knew we were headed in. All of a sudden, Junior said to pass up the snacks from the bow. I looked around for one of their bags of food or something, until I realized they meant….MY snacks!  I had taken a piece of bread from the end of the loaf, but hadn’t touched it, the cheese or coconut roll the rest of the day. With all the wallowing around in the waves and swell, I was a tad queasy, and just concentrated on drinking lots of water. I handed up the bag of goodies like I knew I’d brought it for everyone, and was happy now I’d got the extra cheese at checkout yesterday!  The hungry fishermen soon were cutting up cheese and bread and made quick work of the food.

I talked to Tony while waiting on the divers. He said he worked in construction on one of the Bahamas islands for 10 years. He’d go fishing on Saturdays and sell his catch on Sundays. He said he had a list of people who bought fish and they didn’t always catch enough for everyone. When I asked him about direct selling here in Jamaica, he explained that they do have some direct market customers, who they give a small discount from what the customer would pay at the market, but more than the fishermen get from the market ladies. The rest he sells to the market ladies. He said they do that as they need to keep the market ladies in business since they don’t want to have to be selling fish the day after they come in, but be back out fishing, and they need to sell to the market ladies so that they will always buy from them.   It made good sense. And from the cars they were driving and the houses they lived in, it looked like they were making a decent living.

I talked to Junior on the way back to town, and he told me the same thing – everyone needs to make money.   It was a great day being out with fishermen who love what they are doing and so comfortable in the boat and in the water. Right in front of their hometown, where their dad fished. Junior said his 14 year old boy liked to fish, and was already a diver, and that made me happy. This was my best day ever working these volunteer assignments, even though I don’t have much to offer on advice to improve their operation.

I can’t remember exactly when and who in crew I talked to, but they also make artificial reefs out on their fishing grounds. I was surprised that it took months, not years, for the fish to be attracted to the reefs.

My staff companion Damar does not eat seafood, but he caught a barracuda by accident once fishing, when he had a small fish on his line and was playing with it in the water. The barracuda took it and he landed the barracuda. He told me those with him fed a piece of the barracuda to ants. If they ate it, the barracuda was safe to eat. If not, it was not safe. I did not know that barracuda carry a ciguatera toxin that sounds like paralytic shellfish poisoning in that it can cause paralysis or death!

When we got back to the goat farmer’s beach, we hauled the boat up. Leon got a bucket of freshwater and washed the outside and inside of the outboard – no wonder it looks brand new. Some of the catch was pulled out for the crew and friends, and one of the market ladies from the day before arrived to buy the rest.

When I got to the hotel and got out of my saltwater clothes and got into the shower, I saw that the tops of my hands were sunburned, and there were red spots on my feet that I initially thought were bug bites or something, then realized they were the hole pattern of my crocs!  My head fared much better, and I definitely felt cooler in my new bucket hat having shade all around my head instead of just my forehead with a baseball cap.

Day 7

Friday. Got up for 7 am breakfast. I was the first there, and first served. Boiled yams, bananas, chicken stew, bok choy greens, and sweet bread and cheese. James and Rona invited us to a family in the afternoon. An Easter weekend thing, I think. They are generous and accommodating. I watched pelicans dive from the sky fishing. We had fried chicken and fish, fried plantain, and some fried dough type things.

Day 8

Saturday. Stayed at hotel. Studied marine preserves and Jamaican fisheries in preparation for the next meeting in AP. It rained here pretty good this afternoon. The biggest downpour since I’ve been here.

Day 9

Sunday. We met some Jamaican Ministry people today at James and Rona’s. They had gone out with the Wilson brothers to see the area the Wilson’s want to get designated a sanctuary so the seine and trawl net fishermen don’t fish there and ruin the coral and harvest juvenile fish. Rona made some excellent “steamed fish”, which was fish that was first coated and fried, and then steamed in coconut milk thickened with crackers and come cassava flour. The best fish I’ve had here.

One of the items they touched on while discussing the project was to have alternatives for the net fishermen they wanted not to fish there. I wasn’t called on, so I didn’t interject. It was a very interesting discussion. Very sophisticated in trying to discuss all angles to make the project work, such as getting local buy-in, and making sure everyone knows what’s going on, from the ministry people to the local community.

I talked to one of the Ministry officials named Junior (didn’t get a last name) afterward, and told him the government in Alaska offered job training to fishermen that were not making enough money when salmon prices plummeted. I told them if fishermen got trained as diesel, outboard, or auto mechanics, etc., , they could still benefit the fishing community by providing a needed service and gain a useful job skill.

I went over the basics of canning smoked fish with Rona.   Most homes have a pressure cooker in Jamaica, according to Rona. The difficulty is getting 2 piece canning lids for pressure cooking. I could not find them in the store here – only the jars with one piece lids I’ve seen elsewhere outside the US that don’t have safety standards for pressure cooking for them. I’m guessing she can get the lids and rings from the US.

We stopped at the nearby Hole River on the way home. We’d heard it was a popular holiday spot. There were maybe 200 Jamaicans swimming in the river or the ocean, cooking, and just having a good time, with lots of kids in swimming suits having fun. What a great local hangout.

I got a good look at a mongoose crossing the road on the way home. They look alot like a larger squirrel species from a distance, but up close I see they are more muscular and maybe look more like a marten. I asked Damar if they bother chickens, and he said they do. He said people who keep chickens in their backyard will keep a radio on a talk station playing where the chickens are, and this will keep the mongoose away as they think people are present. Smart!

One thing that’s not smart is the too popular (for me) gangster pants look, where young men wear their pants halfway down to their knees with their underwear and full butt showing. Who thinks this is a good look?  Haven’t heard a single person say it is. Ever. I don’t get it.

Another funny story Damar told me was about Damien Marley, Bob’s son and a reggae singer. He said his dreadlocks reach the floor, and if he plays soccer, he has to wear a backpack to hold his hair. That’s good stuff!

Another cool thing here: a neighborhood ice cream van!  Complete with loud music.

Day 10

Easter Monday. A big holiday here, with most businesses shut down. I watched movies all day. If I see one movie a year, that’s alot for me, so this was kinda fun. Then college golf and MLB baseball in the evening. Had another chicken dish that was actually almost too hot for me.

Day 11

Tuesday. The Wilson brothers were supposed to come up to see my slide presentation, but they didn’t make it as one of the brothers was ill. So, I went through my slides and added more detailed descriptions to the slides so we could send it to them.

Day 12

Wednesday. We left right after breakfast for Kingston. We took the road that leads to the north coast so we could go by Bob Marley’s home and mausoleum in the little town of Nine Mile, and check out fish on the North Coast.

There weren’t alot of big billboards announcing Marley’s place. Just some little of the half moon type of signs you might see directing you to a church in the states.

The museum was well done. You pay $30 US, and you are given a guide. We went to see Bob Marley’s mother’s house, his little one room house right near it that he sings about in “Is this Love”, the church his mother built next to the one room house for Marley’s mausoleum. His niece (I think) is buried under him in the marble tomb. She died of cancer at age 11, I think  There’s another building with the mother’s remains, and Marley’s nephew, who died a few months ago in Florida of asthma. (I thought: who dies in the US of asthma?- he was only 31, I think). The guide told us to take off our shoes, and not to take photos or smoke cigarettes when you visit the tombs, but you can smoke pot if you want to. There were several butts of doobies on the grounds.

I don’t think I’ve been to a more – “important?”- “solemn?”- “sacred?”- not sure what to call it – place in my life. Marley is one of the most important figures in the countries I’ve worked in. A 14 year old in Liberia or Sierra Leone or Mali or Haiti, or Madagascar probably won’t know who the Beatles or Elvis or Bob Dylan are, but they sure as hell know who Bob Marley is. I guess I’m not sure about Ecuador, but guessing more would know Marley than the Fab 4.

We stopped at the beach at St. Anns on the north coast. I saw clear water and a white sand beach, and uncharacteristically for me, I said I’m going swimming. As we walked the shore to a place for me to go in, we saw long fish cruising the shallows. They looked barracuda shaped, but Damar didn’t think they were barracuda. Then one rolled, and I saw a large scale on it, and knew that wasn’t characteristic of barracuda. I found a spot to go out swimming, and saw one of them from the side. Sure looked like a tarpon to me. The fish were about 3 foot long and maybe 20 lbs, so not big for tarpon, if that’s what they were. And I gotta believe Jamaicans don’t eat them if no one was fishing for them in plain sight. I waded out into the warm water in my swim trunks, took a dunk underwater, and that was all I needed. I headed back to the beach. Not going to get sun burned!

We saw one or two people selling smaller fish on the beach, and several selling fish on the road. No one had them on ice. That was sad.

Changed hotels to Liguanea Club, not far from the Altamont Hotel and office. A James Bond movie scene was shot here in 1962, according to  a poster in the lobby. Seems like an old hotel with wooden floors and no elevator. It’s a tennis club from what I can see. I like it. Staff, as it has been everywhere, are very nice.

Day 13

Thursday. Had Jamaican breakfast in the hotel and it was good. Did some hand laundry in the sink and it was dried by noon. Glad there’s ac here as the ceiling fan doesn’t move much air. I sent in my report today.

Ventured out to the grocery store about 4 blocks from here this evening. Got back and ordered some fries and salad to go at the hotel restaurant. Luckily, Tyler, the volunteer I met the first day, was there, so we talked for at least an hour before my food was done. We made plans to go to the fish market, and maybe some other stuff the next couple days, as we leave on Sunday. Glad to have someone to play with.

Day 14

Friday:  Tyler and I went to the Red Rose fish market in downtown Kingston this morning to check it out. Not much fish at the fish market. Vendors said because not many fish are being caught now.

Had my exit interview with the director of the NGO that brought me here. They seemed happy with my observations and recommendations. This ain’t rocket science.

Spring Day

View of mountains with trees, beach and water in the foreground

Kurt and I fished around the low tide today. We went around the corner at the end of the channel in Juneau to Taku Inlet,  I remembered I needed an orange throw ring, and remembered I’d seen one on a beach here. And there it was. It was a bluebird day in the 40’s, sunny and light winds.

So, I told Kurt I’d go get it in the punt. It would be good to run the little outboard that goes on the punt, too. We untied the punt held up on the swim step. Then I got down on the swim step and put the little kicker on the punt and tightened the bolts onto the transom.

I piled into the punt when Kurt took the tug out of gear, and I drifted back from the boat. Kurt put the boat in gear and would continue fishing to Pt Bishop and back while I went to the beach. He spotted a boat bumper buoy on a beach as well, so I’d go get that, too.

I pulled and pulled on the pull start, but the kicker wouldn’t fire. I looked in the tank and saw the fuel was low, but there was fuel. I pulled off the cover a couple times to see that the choke and throttle were functioning, which they were. After pulling and pulling on the pull start, I finally saw the problem – I had to move the lever in the back of the outboard from off to on to allow fuel to get to the carb. The little honda outboard started right up.

I cruised towards the distant beach with the throw ring, then thought – I should go to the closer beach to get the buoy, just in case. Then the outboard quit. I pulled and pulled and it wouldn’t start. It’s an air cooled engine, so shouldn’t be overheating. I’d put new oil in last fall so it shouldn’t be that. I must be out of fuel.

Luckily, I’d thrown in a paddle, so I paddled to shore. And in no hurry.  My God, what country we live in. Mountains all around. The ocean calm, and the light breeze was at my back. I leisurely paddled my way to the beach, then pulled the punt up the beach. The tide was coming in, so I pulled it up the beach high enough that I could get the nearby buoy, then walk the 1/2 to 3/4 mile round trip to get the throw ring before the tide would get up to the punt.

The buoy was practically new. And no name on it. The buoy was too small to use on the tug, but a great size for Kurt and Jeff’s boat. I started the trek down to the throw ring. I had to climb around some rocks on the beach to get there, and the exercise felt good. This was more like deer hunting hiking, and I was glad I could do it.

The throw ring was in poor condition, and not useable. I headed back to the punt. I walked along the storm tide line to see if I could find any treasures behind the drift wood. I came to a couple creeks flowing from the mountain. The streams ended in a pool that was behind the berm at the top of the tide line on the beach. The water from the creeks simply ended in the pool above the tide line, and apparently just seeped into the beach gravel. I could see no detectable spots where it weeped out. This was cool stuff I’d never seen before.

I humped it back to the boat. Kurt was well down the beach in the tug, so I was in no hurry. A day in the 40’s, sunny, and no wind. Surrounded by snow covered mountains in every direction. Southeast Alaska beauty. Another of the best times to be here, when spring is on its way, but the town hasn’t yet sold it’s soul to the hustle and bustle of summer tourist season, and before the commercial salmon season for gillnetters starts right where we’re all by ourselves at this moment.

I rowed out into deep water and Kurt idled up. It took awhile to maneuver the punt to pull it up on its side on the swim step. I needed to make more adjustments to make this easier.

Kurt took the helm and started us toward town. I put the fishing gear back out. We fished another 30 minutes towards town. I pulled up the gear, gave Kurt the all good nod, and he inched the throttle forward to cruising speed.

I went to work adjusting the attachments to the punt on the swim step to make it easier in the future. Then I put more fuel in the kicker to be sure that was the issue when it quit.  A few pulls, and it started right up.

Everything running well now going into the spring.

Moose hunt postponed

Dougie emailed early this morning. Said it looked like the weather would not work to travel from Bethel to the Yukon River for moose hunting. Luckily, I booked the tickets with mileage, so easy to get the miles refunded, which I think was Doug’s biggest worry.

We chatted awhile about maybe hunting next week, so we’ll see. My April 1 departure date for my next USAID assignment in Jamaica is looming, so might not get to go moose hunting this winter. Not to worry. We’ve got plenty in the freezer from last year.

I’m glad now that, when I asked Andrew yesterday if he had some of the salmon I gave him to trade for moose from this trip so I could send some salmon to my sister, he replied they’d already eaten all the fish I gave him. Andrew is in heaven with so much fish and bear meat. I’m sure he feels guilty with family back in Sierra Leone living day to day and never really knowing if they’ll have fish or meat today.

With the moose hunt postponed, I got to work on my first world problem at hand: how to mount a second rod holder on each side of the boat so we could fish four rods.  I’d tried strapping a piece of schedule 80 to the aluminum rail on either side of the stern, but it didn’t work. I had to tie the bottom of the rod holders so they wouldn’t flop forward, and also put a safety line above the reel as the rods didn’t look very secure in the pipe.

I thought about how to add better rod holders overnight, and into this morning. When I got the word that moose hunting was postponed, my plans to pack for the trip went out the window. I put my ski clothes on and headed to the trail at Eaglecrest in the morning fog. I got to the car intending to take right off to ski, but thought I’d better look to see what kind of odds and ends I had to make rod holders so I could work on them when I got back.

I found rod holder mounts in my fishing drawers. I pulled the rod holders from the skiff, and found the mounts that matched the rod holders. Now, how to affix them to something in the stern of the tug. I spied a 3 sided box I’d cut from an old aluminum fuel tank from the Sea Lion in the yard. That’s it!  I cut two pieces of angle off a side of the box. I screwed the rod holder mount into one side, and found fasteners to mount the other side to the aluminum plate on the boat that I got at Paul’s in Petersburg on my trip for the Superbowl. Superb!

I mounted the rod holders after skiing. Jeff and Kurt are already signed up as crew tomorrow for a noon departure to fish the high tide at 2

;30 pm.