Mark fishing off Baruca

North Country

Late June to mid-July 2019

I went on an extended trip back east to a high school reunion, family reunion, and extended family trip to the Georgian Bay in Ontario. I must admit it’s my least favorite time of the year to travel there, as the weather is too hot for me. But the family reunion was when it was, and I didn’t want to miss it, and I was able to do a trip to my hometown and a trip to Canada on either side of the family reunion so that was a bonus. The weather was hot as usual in July. 80’s and 90’s everyday. I wore shorts when I could but for extended outdoor stays I had on long pants and long sleeve shirt to avoid sunburn. But Alaska wouldn’t have been an escape this year. It was in the 80’s in Juneau, and 90’s in Anchorage and Fairbanks.

The high school reunion in our town isn’t really graduating year specific. It’s called “alumni weekend” and occurs the weekend of the high school graduation, which is obsenely late in NY on the last weekend in June. Bolivar hasn’t changed much since I grew up there – except for the better in a few ways. There’s now a big convenience store, hardware store, and Dollar General store downtown, along with the grocery store, so you can get alot of what you need without traveling to Wellsville or Olean. My friends Kelly and Lois have spearheaded an oil field museum as well, as our town area was among the earliest oil production in the US. There’s only 2 bars left in town – within sight of each other (I guess about every business is in sight of each other, now that I think of it) – so you don’t have to go looking far to see who’s in town. What’s changed the most, of course, is that I used to know the occupants of most houses in my little town, and those have nearly all changed now as people move or pass on and a new generation takes over. The spirit of the town seems the same and that’s good. I saw one of my best friends growing up I’d not seen in some 30 years who lives on a hollow out of town in his grandparents house, along with several other school mates and their parents.

The family reunion had a pretty small turnout and sadly, many that lived in the area didn’t attend. When we had the first reunion about a decade ago, I remember thinking at that time that this was the reunion that would probably be the best attended in my lifetime, since many of the surviving siblings of my mother might not be around much longer, and I was right. My dad is the lone member of the siblings or their spouses now still living, and the cousins have less of a tie to each other than each of us did to our parents, aunts and uncles, I guess.

We went to Canada after the reunion. I went with a sister, niece, and nephew and a pile of first, second and third cousins. I brought along my little 5 hp outboard I leave with a sibling for just this trip, and took whoever wanted to go out fishing everyday in the leaky aluminum skiff that lives at the boat house near the cabin. My uncle and his brothers purchased the island and had a log cabin built on it about 70 years ago, and although it’s had repairs, the cabin is largely the original. There are propane lights, fridge, water heater, and cook stove, and we fill a water tank with bay water using a gasoline water pump to gravity feed a kitchen sink, bathroom sink, toilet and shower. Most everyone bathes in the bay. From the cabin, there’s not another cabin in sight. The islands are covered here and there with a thin soil and scraggly spruce and hemlock trees cling to an existence. The tallest ones may be centuries old but only 30 feet high and 16 inches in diameter. Literally hundreds of different extended family and their friends have been to this place over 7 decades.

Most don’t come to fish at all like I do, but to swim and ski and just enjoy the place. Sara loves going. She loves to swim and takes the kids swimming from island to island. She had to miss it this year as she’s now a state legislator and the legislature was still in session.

Mark fishing off Baruca

Fishing was good. We caught about 30 bass and a couple nice northern pike trolling with rapala-type floating lures. We kept a few for a fish fry my last evening and all 12 of us enjoyed the bounty from the bay.

The weather was sunny and hot most days, with a spectacular lightning show and shower my last evening. Mosquitoes come out at sunset, but few other biting flies like deer flies or horse flies were around this trip. The day before we left the island, I saw a mississagua rattlesnake on the trail with my cousin’s husband John the day before I left. May be the only rattler I’ve ever seen. It was about 3 feet long and as big around as my thumb. Not menacing at all. He gave us a few warning buzzes, never coiled, and we left him to go on his way. The last morning, after the storm, a black bear was rattling around the boat house where I was sleeping at sunrise, then looked over the sack of recycle trash and burn barrel up at the cabin. I was the only one to see him and only one other of the cabin dwellers heard him. People sleep pretty hard after a full day of fishing, water skiing, boat driving, cooking, and dish washing. We also saw a couple mink, a beaver, Canadian geese, ducks, and vultures. I also saw one sand hill crane, and heard others croaking their unique call in the distance everyday.

I met several new cousins this trip – offspring of my first cousins (and their offspring). One was even married to a chef who was the winner of some tv show called Hell’s Kitchen. Another was a learned-it-on-the-job cook who taught my nephew how to fry the fish we caught.

A big event in the area happened this past year, when about 90 huge windmills went up in the Henvey Inlet, and they now dominate the landscape when you look up the inlet. It’s right out of a science fiction movie. They seem to bother some people but they didn’t bother me much and we got used to them quickly. They are inert objects towing above the little patch of wilderness between the Key River and Byng Inlet areas. They helped me navigate on the water as I could use them as land marks. They weren’t turning when we were there but I suspect it will be quite a spectacle when all 90 of them are turning.

The water in the Georgian Bay was also very high over the previous few decades from what I was told. Something about how much water is allowed out the St Lawrence Seaway was dictating how much water was held in the Bay. The water seemed a bit tannic in color, but was not muddy. The high water seemed to concern some people – mostly cottage owners near the water I guess – but more water means more fish so that seemed good to me.

This remote spectacular property is now owned collectively by my uncle’s daughters (my cousins), all of who are regular people with regular jobs like teachers and nurses and hot dog cart owners and salespeople for the local Cutco knife company in Olean. Not the kind of property regular people own anymore. I always felt privileged and just damn lucky to be allowed to use it as extended family because people like us don’t own places like this. I hope the property never leaves the family. Then rich people will own ALL the cool stuff. It’s the only place outside of Alaska I’ll make a point of going to, and now that I’m mostly retired I hope to get back there for some extended stays. I’d love to go there in the winter – no family ever has to my knowledge – to do some skiing and cross country skiing and see if I can keep warm somehow in the cabin with some sort of wood stove I’d need to pack in where I could run stove pipe up the fireplace chimney.   Our marine taxi service captain who also owned the little resort where we launch from and park has a cousin up our way in Carcross, over the Yukon Territory border from Skagway, and he visited him 30 years ago. I suspect now that I have his name, I’ll run into him sometime in my travels around Southeast Alaska. The captain shared a bit of his fish knowledge with me of the area on our way back to his resort, and I hope to go fishing with him next time I return and hope he gets to come visit us some day to fish near Juneau.

Mark's Life in Alaska Blog with bear on the water scene

End of May

May 27

Walked before the crew showed up. Found an eyeglass bungee head holder, a zip tie and a washer nut along the road. A gorgeous morning of blue skies and calm winds. The crew wanted to stay out an extra half hour today, which was great by me. I got to the fishing hole, and fished all morning and into the afternoon using Dave’s method. About 115 pm I switched back to a herring behind a flasher and got a fish about 145 pm. Same as most of the others – 29 to 30 inches.

May 28

Didn’t sleep well after too much food at a beach barbecue at B. Crew was right on time and a flat calm morning of fog and mist. I dropped the crew off and headed to the fishing hole. I had the spot to myself most of the day. A couple boats came in at different times and soon left. I got a salmon on about noon, and it made several runs and took lots of drag. I finally got it to the boat had it half way in the net, and it slipped out. Then it spit the hook, but I think it was undersized so didn’t feel bad.  About 2 the rod went off without pause, indicating a good fish. I gunned the engine to set the hook, then grabbed the rod. I had to reel hard to keep up with the fish, and was thinking it was another smaller fish. It soon tired and was under the boat. I reeled up the line from under the boat. The flasher broke the surface and I still couldn’t see the fish but had the net at the ready. When I did see it, I was surprised at how big it was, and was relieved to get it in the net. I conked the fish, broke a gill, and put the fish head down in a bucket of water. Another great day. I ran back to the crew site cove, anchored up, and cleaned the fish. Only one more day on the job, and I’m sad for that but excited about becoming a better king salmon fishermen and starting a new business and enjoying a skiff that works so well.

May 29

Last day on the job. Another bluebird day. No salmon today. Wind drove me out of my spot. I tried fishing at the crew drop cove, got hung up on the bottom a couple times, and the last time, the top of my brand new rod came off and went all the way down to the kelp my spoon was snagged on and after several tries trying to drive up to it in the boat then run out and free the snag, the line broke, and there went the end of my rod. I did get a ling cod in the crew cove. Great group of guys to work for and hope to work for them again.

May 30

Up early to move the toyo heater. I put it in, but now realize I needed to move it if I wanted to put in another futon or couch so more than one person can sleep here without it being on the floor. I considered different spots for it all week, and decided to stuff it in the corner of the bathroom under the 7 gallon on-demand heater. The wall is one side of the heater, the toilet on the other, and the sink in front of it. So it will always be warm when you step out of the shower. Took me the morning to unhook it from the current spot, remove the exhaust and fuel line, but new holes in the inner and outer walls, and reinstall. Another epiphany: just because an exhaust is round, the hole it goes through can be a rectangle, as long as the cowling covers the rectangle. Took me no time to trace the round exhaust pipe, put straight lines along four sides of the circle, then cut the square out with ease with the cutting wheel on the grinder. Still used the hole saws on the drywall inside. Took my time to properly flare the copper tubing, put dope on the threads at the unions and when I hooked it all up, no leaks. Then on to oil change for the outboard. What should have been an hour job turned in to all afternoon when I didn’t have this tool or that and had to run to town. Finally hooked up with the welder and got the steel window frames for the container I don’t actually need right now and painting them tonight to keep them from rusting.

May 31

Cleaned up the place and got ready to leave on the evening plane. B took me to the airport, and the flight got cancelled due to fog. Better safe than sorry. Lots of air accidents in May this year. Met a coworker of a friend in Juneau and gave her a ride back to her lodging. Within an hour of the cancellation we were back out fishing near town. Had what seemed like a nice one on, and it broke off.

June 1

Left on the morning plane and back in Juneau in 2 hours including a stop in Sitka. Immediately went to work vac packing fish I’d wrapped in plastic and paper. I’d cut the king salmon into 2 or 3 pieces in Craig, and now cut these into steaks first with an electric skill saw through the top, and finished the cut through with a hand meat saw. Then took fish to Brian down the street who  hired me for the boat work, and on to Samuels with fish and to check in on his month and scouts and life in general. Good to be home. Lawn needs a shave and gotta pick some rhubarb. The rhubarb I transplanted has taken hold as well. Gotta get a better mattress in Craig.

Mark's Life in Alaska Blog with bear on the water scene

May in Craig

Put the new used boat on the ferry April 30 and flew to Ketchikan to meet it May 1. Bill Whicker moved it off the state ferry and onto the IFA ferry with his truck, and E and B dropped my truck in Hollis to pull it off. I had the boat loaded with Costco orders from friends in Craig, and a hideabed couch was in the bow. B and E met me in town to help me off load so nothing got wet. Turns out a hideabed is too wide to pull out in the container, but I made it sort of work by pulling it only half way out and putting my sleeping pad on it. It’s still better than the cot.

Everything was in order in the container house. The vents I added last time looked to have cured the sweating around the window frames that looked like leaks. I turned on the power. I opened the fuel valve and started the Toyo stove. Then opened the water main and plugged in the 7 gallon 110 v water heater that has worked great. Only problem was the septic. The aerator kicked on when I put the power on and wow. My shit does stink. So I’ll need to leave that on cycle when I leave again.

May 2

First thing May 2 I went with B to check the dungeness crab pots. They set their pots in 300 feet of water. I’d never fish that deep in Juneau. We did okay on the crab, and Brian said we’d eat them tomorrow.

I spent the rest of the day getting everything off the boat I didn’t need, putting the container and shed in order, and then started getting the boat together the rest of the day. I put all the new Type 1 life jackets in their locker. I towed the boat to the gas station and fueled both the truck and the boat. Tried coming into the driveway truck first thinking I could turn around, and that wasn’t a good move. MB stopped by and he helped me get turned around, but it took a lot of doing. Will leave the boat up on the road when I’m coming and going during the job to keep it easy. I also went to the boat launch at Petro to see what that looked like, and it was nice. Doesn’t look much used, and will be handy at the end of the day to fuel up and then idle over and pull the boat out. Mike thought the heater should go where there’s a place that was never cut for a glove box on the passenger side of the boat, and I thought that sounded good to me.  I walked the 3 mile round trip to the highway and back and Brian stopped with a load of barrels full of some liquid and said to bring some meat over at 6 pm as he’d got steaks in Thorne Bay for him and E I headed over to their house about 6 pm with some deer back strap. When I got down the driveway by the house, I saw 3 barrels laying on their side. Musta fallen off when Brian came through. I went down and stood them upright. When I got to the house, Ellen was less than happy. B had stopped with the steaks, put them on the counter, then took the barrels to their owner. Two dogs were alone in the house with steak on the counter. What could go wrong? E arrived home after B, and didn’t know anything about his plans for eating steak until she saw the wrapper on the floor. Along with the butter dish that was shiny clean. She sent B pictures of the ordeal, and the dogs got a talking to and more from B when he got home, after B got a talking to by E. We ate my backstrap for dinner.

May 3

On May 3, I bolted down the downrigger mounts, and got to work on the diesel heater for the boat. I used Mike’s suggestion on the location, and began fabricating a mount out of one of the old signs my buddy Jeff told me were in the dumpster at his work. These aluminum signs used for parking lots and whatever are about the handiest thing I ever got. I got them at least 10 years ago and still use them. They are easy to cut, drill and bend for making mounts for items, and yet the aluminum is strong enough for the job. Of course, I didn’t have the size hole saw I needed so had to buy another one at JS. By the time I got some of the holes drilled it was getting on dinner so I showered and headed over to Brian’s for the crab feed with about a dozen friends and family.

May 4

I was up early and got on the heater install. I quit drinking a couple weeks ago and so sleeping better and up earlier in the morning. Having to pee so much at night takes a lot of the fun out of drinking. I sized up my holes from the day before, and realized I’d put them in the wrong direction. The next set I drilled were a little too far to one side. The third set was good. I then had to remove the heater from the mount and do some finagling to pre-drill holes to screw down the mount. I put the heater back in the mount, then screwed in the mount. I then drilled a hole out the side of the cabin for the exhaust pipe, and then one for the fuel line. I went to the station for a gallon of diesel to try the heater out before I mounted the tank. It took a few tries for the fuel pump to get the fuel to the unit, but then it fired up and worked just like I hoped. S was across the driveway at H’s, so I went over to ask them where they thought I should mount the tank. I originally thought I was going to screw it to the side of the cabin, but then thought I didn’t know if it could withstand a pounding in the ocean. They came over and looked and we decided the best place was at the stern. Of course, now I didn’t have enough fuel line, so back to the store for more. H and S wanted to see the unit work, so I fired it up and they both were duly impressed. I mounted the tank, and all that was left was to hang the wiring neat in the cabin and put a switch in for the unit. I was kind of rummy by 530 so called it a day and will try to finish tomorrow.

May 5

I finished the heater. After moose sausage, eggs, toast, jam and coffee for breakfast, I got to it. I installed a switch so I could shut power off to the heater altogether. I saw a little knob sticking out of the control box, and though this was a tab I needed to depress to take apart the unit. I wanted to see if the wiring would allow me to disconnect it inside so I could run those wires through a hole in the dash since the connector at the other end was bigger than any drill bits I had. I realized that the knob I pressed wasn’t what I thought it was after it stayed down when I pressed on it. I thought – maybe that’s a thermostat for the unit. And I hope I didn’t break it. I too apart the control box, and straightened up the thermostat. I then wanted to hook everything up to be sure I hadn’t broken the control box. I switched the shut off power switch both ways- I didn’t know which was on and which was off yet – and the control box would not power up.  Panic started to set in. Nothing looked broken to the eye. Then I thought- that switch looked pretty old. So I took off the connections from the switch, and put a piece of scrap wire between the connectors. Bingo. The unit lit up! It was the switch. Relieved, I carefully reassembled the control box, then ran to town to see if Log Cabin had a switch as they are the only place open that might have them on Sundays. Turns out they did. I also got some new downrigger line to spool the two down riggers. They also had a half price sale on Chilly Willy gloves, so I got 2 pair of camo XLs.

I returned to the boat, and got the wiring in order under the dash, tying into bundles surplus wiring, and then drilling holes where needed so I could attach wire ties to hold the wiring in place and away from the exhaust pipe.

I used flex tape to cover the wiring strung on the wall back to the battery, and from the control box wire that ran down the dash. At first it wasn’t sticking well. Then I remembered what Bob Bang had taught me to prep an area for stuff like this. I wire brushed it, cleaned it with iso alcohol, then dried it with a paper towel, and then it would stick nice. I also made a heat shield of the heater exhaust pipe from a piece of metal roofing I found on the road. I covered the edges of the roofing with tape to prevent cutting someone. There. All done and a pretty neat job. Easier and easier to take my time on jobs since I retired. Lots of times it think about a job for a day or two and that helps save time when I get to it. For this one, I still might change the location of the fuel tank, and use a small outboard can instead of the plastic one sent with the unit, but we’ll leave it as is for now.

After the heater was complete, I realized I’d forgot to get some stainless hardware to mount a pole holder and some herring at Log Cabin. Plus, those half price gloves were burning a hole in my pocket. So I went back and got some herring and a pile more gloves, but they didn’t have the hardware. I ran to the other store open on Sunday – the grocery store – and got a 12 pack of diet Shasta cola. I mounted the pole holder with some sheet metal screws that were in the shower stall kit that I didn’t find til after I’d installed the shower kit. Then I took off the stainless wire that was on the downriggers when I bought them on Craigslist and replaced it with braided line. I took some boxes to the fire pit, then hooked up the boat and moved it away from in front of the container so I could see out to the water again. Today is the last day of a 4 day troll opening this week and several of the fishermen have been hitting it hard. I heard they were getting $12.50/lb so it only takes a few fish to keep a guy going.

Last thing to do on the boat is hook up the easy steer that connects the big motor to the kicker so you can troll with the kicker and use the wheel that’s connected to the big motor to steer. I need some more stainless hose clamp straps as the easy steer I brought down was for the smaller engines I had and would not go around the 225.

After that, the boat is ready to get out fishing. Tomorrow or Tuesday is the plan.

May 6

Nani and Wyatt came to town and got a couple bears on Sunday so I helped them take care of them on Monday.  I then hooked up the easy steer. I had some strap pieces in the boat so I sewed these into sleeves for the hose clamps as the stainless steel tends to scratch the outboard paint. The hook up for the kicker was as is, but the big motor was not right. Napa had 7 inch diameter clamps. Two of them were just a tad too big, as these clamps only have the slotted openings for a short portion of the clamp end. Once the screw reaches the last slot, it won’t tighten further. I went back to see if they had any slightly smaller clamps, but they did not. I tried to jam garden hose pieces under the clamp but it quickly fell out when I ran the boat. Oh well. I put a double fold in the clamp to shorten it, and then drilled a hole and put wire through the hole and around the folds so they would not unfold. That should work. We went fishing that night and got a couple nice kings along the Craig-Klawock highway.

May 7

H suggested I take my boat out in front of our houses before I run it all the way out to Sumez, and that sounded like a good idea. First I loaded new line on the downriggers, and they seem to work well. When I got out on the water, I tried starting the kicker. It would fire on choke, and then die. Just like it did before Brad took it to the mechanic. It’s still not right. I also tried the shifter and broke it, but Chet had the part and that, at least, was an easy fix. I took out the drain plug to the carb and tried starting the motor to flush out any gunk, and it immediately started. Now it will start up just fine, except it won’t idle. Apparently that’s a common issue with these outboards and it has do do with an idle valve or something like that. I think the boat may be too big to troll on the kicker, but I must know the kicker will run if called upon to get us to the beach should something come up with the big motor.

May 8

Left for Santa Cruz at 7 am. B, Nani and Wyatt were in B’s boat. They were going to fish, but also look for more bears and do some bottom fishing.  I gauged the time and fuel consumption down to the bay where the timber cruisers will go. The boat runs great and the more I run it, the more I like it. I trolled from 8 to 230 and didn’t catch any salmon. I got a couple rockfish and a ling cod and the fishing gear works great. Like Dave’s boat, the rod is right in front of me so I don’t have to be looking to the rear all the time. I saw a sow with 2 big cubs on a beach and watched them for awhile. The kids saw a bear on the opposite side of the bay but it walked off before they could try for it. Not sure if I’ll got back to Santa Cruz before the job begins as I’ll be there for 3 weeks straight once we begin so lots of time to be there. Mounted the XM antenna on the container roof and ran the wire through a hole drilled in the window frame.

May 9

Sunny and in the 60’s today. Wired the shed and mounted a speaker in the boat for the XM radio.  Put a clear plexiglass window to replace the clouded one I put in when I bought Charlie’s truck. What a difference. I used a cutting wheel on the 4 inch grinder, and carefully traced and retraced my lines until the wheel cut through. Then ran 2 big beads of caulk on the old window, pressed the new window onto the old one, then put a few screws in to hold it in place. Had one of the rockfish I caught yesterday for lunch. Fried two fillets and made a sandwhich with mayo. Really good. I also had to put another bushing in the kicker as the handle was a little too loose. Got the easy steer fixed, too.

May 10

Started working on putting fans in the container. While looking at various ducting – all of which was round and too big a diameter to neatly cut into the container – I stumbled onto a solution:  aluminum rain gutter. It’s 2 inches wide, so will fit on a flat side of the container contours. I just have to figure out how to adapt a flexible round duct to it, which may be as simple as just putting the duct over the gutter end and cranking down a hose clamp around it.  I also put up some shelves I’d envisioned over the windows. I bought some skookum 20 inch long steel shelf braces at JS, and found some 1 x 8 inch planks at the burn pile for the shelving. I put one up, liked it, and put 2 more up. They are mounted over the windows, and I can just reach up there to put things on them. Might be we need a step stool to make it easy to put things up there, but the shelves are high enough to be out of the way but still reachable and will hold alot of things I don’t otherwise have room for right now, like clothes. I finished organizing the shed, and now have a place to work out of the weather, to cook on a larger scale than the single double burner electric hot plate in the house, and a potential place for more people to sleep. We had dinner at Michelle and Howard’s next door and it was a lot of fun. I realize from these gatherings I’m not much of a vocal storyteller, but love to listen to them, and they help me to perhaps be a better storyteller in writing.

May 11

Up early and got after things. I cut boards to finish the big shelves over the windows. Then I got to work on the stove hood fan. It worked out great using the rain gutter spout tubes for exiting to the outside of the container. Got that in and working, then started on the bathroom fan, which was going to be a little more difficult. I found the edge of a wall stud to mount the fan and everything was going well. I traced the fan box, and cut out a fairly neat box of sheet rock. Underwhich, I found the sewer stack! And it was in the way so had to move over a stud. Things went better on that one. And a good thing I got out of it was when I opened up the wall to put in the outside wall fitting, I found I was near to one of the air vents. That’s when I realized that the vents don’t cover a square hole cut by some device. They cover a series of drilled holes. Which I somehow never thought of. That will make putting in the vents alot easier. I got a good start on the bathroom fan when I had to run to meet the ferry in Hollis, as Lew was bringing over the futon from Ketchikan. I got it and had a nice chat with Lew, who is the person who helped me get my job on the north slope. When I got back, I unloaded the futon from the truck, then loaded up the hide a bed and took it over to Jen and Bill’s, then dropped off some sourdough starter Jen sent over for E. Back home, I put the futon together, and it was dreamy. This is what I need. As a couch it’s comfy, and as a bed the same. I bought a pizza at the AC in Klawock on the way home and cooked half of it in the toaster oven with some left over moose meat. Turned on the hood fan and heard the satisfying blast of air to the outside.

May 12

Finished up the bathroom fan. Then started on the vents in the outside walls. I initially thought drilling holes instead of cutting a square opening would be quicker, but after drilling one difficult hole in the steel, I switched to the cut off blade on the grinder and that worked much quicker. I installed 11 of the vents near the top on the sides at the same height as the vents installed by the factory in the corners. The cut off wheel makes so much heat cutting through that it made the insulation inside smolder. I also got out what I think was mainly steam from some of the holes, confirming the need for the additional vents. I think the vents will be a major improvement in reducing moisture on the inner wall of the container. Went fishing at the cliffs in the evening. Finally got a king on in my new boat. Then it broke off. But seems like I got the fever now.

May 13

Went back to the cliffs at 430 am. Then saw a text from Brian about going fishing at Santa Cruz at 730 am. FIshed for a couple hours. Lots of feed but no strikes. Got back in time to go with H and B. We got a nice king. They gave me half, which I butchered and later sent to Sara in Juneau on the plane. I put flex tape around the sewer stack gasket. Built a little rack in the shed and moved the fridge to sit on. Planned to go fishing first thing in the morning at the cliffs.

May 14

It always sounds like a good idea to go fishing at 4 am until you get up at 3 and don’t feel like it. This new futon is a game changer and easy to stay sleeping.

May 15

Took B, E, H and M out bear hunting in the evening. I’d wanted to load the boat up and see how it handled. My trim tabs had been acting up, and it showed when we’d take off from an idle. The trim tabs would be critical in getting on step with a crew so I knew I had to address that tomorrow. We didn’t see any bears, which I think was their first bear cruise to not see any. It had been about 70 today, so the bears might have been waiting til it cooled off some more before coming to the beach to eat.

May 16

Roy is in town to timber cruise. He called when he came over to get the boat from fish and game as I was working on the boat trying to make they hydraulic trim tabs work properly. They were not working right. I tried a few things that didn’t work, and so took Chet’s advice and ;bought a conversion kit to switch them to all electric. I got all the outside hydraulic lines and the trim tab actuators off, and put the new actuators in and threaded their electric lines though the hull where the hydraulic lines went. I checked my phone to see that Roy had left a message. They made it to Hollis with the boat, but they blew a trailer wheel bearing. I had a spare hub in my truck, so I loaded up tools we’d need from my stash and Brian’s, stopped at Black Bear store for a monster coffee, and headed to Hollis. Saw 16 deer on the way over. We tried my hub, but it was too small. So, they’d have to come to Craig the next day to get the right one from Chet.

May 17

Up early and started on the electric hook up for the trim tabs. Got everything done and down to the 12th screw connection on the switch, when I dropped the little brass screw. I’d dropped others and found them all, but this one either went down a hole or flew somewhere where it got hung up in wiring or something, and I couldn’t find it. Roy showed up right then, so we went to town to get a hub and talk to the fish and game biologist Roy borrowed the boat from. Sal at Chet’s was able to find a screw to work, and that was a relief. Chet set us up with the parts we’d need, and told us a grinder may be needed. I ran home and grabbed one, and installed the screw to finish the wiring. I quickly tried the tabs and could hear them working. Then back to Craig to meet Roy and his co-worker Dallas. We stopped for free coffee Friday at Black Bear, and the on to Hollis. We got off the old metal from the ruined hub, but couldn’t seem to get the new hub on. They’re just supposed to slide on and you put the nut back on the axle. DJ pulled in next door. Turns out he’s got a new business in Hollis, and was at his storage. He came over to help, and he ran his hands on the underside of the axle and found the problem. The old bearing had gouged a trough on the bottom of the axle that we didn’t see. It needed to be smoothed out. Thank goodness I took Chet’s advice and took the grinder. I smoothed out the edges of the trough, and the hub slid right on. We were in business. We took off for Craig, and I followed Roy hoping for the best. We made it to Craig without incident, got the boat launched, and parted ways. A fun project to get the trailer repaired. Roy had brought me a dozen eggs from his ducks in Haines, so I dropped those off to E when I returned B’s tools. Then I got to work finishing the trim tab project, securing the wiring as needed, and securing the switch back to the dash.

May 18

Up early. Overnight, I thought I’d better move the trim tabs to its own switch on the fuse box so I don’t lose my radio and plotter if the trim tabs blow a fuse. Took care of that, and set out to finish trimming out things in the container. After that was done, I was caught up with my list and decided to try again to get the passenger side window unstuck. I’d pulled off the handle, and couldn’t make another stick on there long enough for me to move the window again before it would pull off. Then I had an epiphany: get a suction cup like they use for putting in windshields. The closest I found was a single one that was a dent puller. I tried it out on several surfaces in the store before I bought it, and took it home along with a tube of silicone grease to lube the window tracks. The first try, the suction cup pulled off before the window moved. I moved the cup and tried again and bingo- the window moved. I lubed up the track all around, and got it working like almost new, then lubed the captain’s window as well. Then I cut and fit some charts of the area and maps of the region and a map of Alaska around the container walls to fit between the windows or other spots. B invited me to dinner, and we had some steamed smoked king salmon Mike D gave B. Incredible. After dinner, I went with B to retrieve some bear skulls he’d put in an onion bag and sent down 600 feet of water with an anchor to let the sand fleas work on it. And work they did. The skulls came up clean as a whistle and ready for whatever they are going to do with them. We tried fishing a spot on the way home. Tons of feed feeding at the surface, and a humpback whale feeding in front of us, but we didn’t get a strike.  As I walked home, I thought of one more little job to seal a leak along the gunnel of the boat. Got fishing scheduled for tomorrow to test out the new trim tabs, and Monday I start my new job.

May 19

Ran to a new spot fishing for me today with B and E. We caught 2 in the first hour, then fished several hours for nothing more. We saw Mike earlier on a beach on the way out looking for black kelp, and he told us about another nearby spot to try. So we trolled around the point from the cove we were in to the adjoining cove, and when we got to the rock where Mike said he’d caught fish, we got a third fish. That was our limit, so we headed back to town. We looked for bears on the way home, and saw one. We went out of sight of the bear, and E climbed onto shore with her gun to check out the bear. As she crept around the corner, another boat we’d passed that was fishing had decided to run. It seemed to see the bear as well and swung near the shore, and that probably scared the bear into the woods, as it was gone by the time E got there.

May 20

First day in the black in Craig. Made my first trip transporting the timber cruisers. I was up just after 5 as I was anxious on the first day. Got to the harbor a half hour early to look over everything one last time. The timber cruisers are a great bunch. They indicated everything was okay on the boat and that made me feel good. Took a while to get on step with all 7 of us aboard, but we made it. Need more weight in the bow. I dropped them off at their spots, then went fishing for the day. Lost a king salmon. I saw it hit, and couldn’t seem to open the cabin door and by the time I grabbed the rod it was gone. I did get rockfish and lingcod. Been eating rockfish everyday now. Just fried in olive oil with some salt and pepper, with some camelized onions and a little cheese in a sandwhich with mayo. Can’t beat it.

May 21

Pulled the pot puller and davit, and filled the fuel tank. I figure with the tank in the bow, if it’s not full, the fuel will slosh to the rear, and make it harder to get on step. The puller is about mid-ships, so less weight there is better. We got on step alot faster this morning. I dropped the crew off at their spots then headed directly to the fishing bay. Again, I was the only boat in this often times crowded bay. There was a pretty decent ocean swell, so I put my gear down and tucked inside the bay to start. I fished for a couple hours, when, near the spot where I lost one yesterday, I see a red blip on my sonar that starts at the surface and then descended to the depths. I thought I wonder what that i…….whamo! Big king on. I got out the door cleanly this time and set the hook. I correctly didn’t take it out of gear this time, but the next thing I know the boat is going towards Craig and the fish towards Sitka. I put the boat in neutral, and the fish swung the boat towards it. As always with kings, I’m fearful of a break off or that it will come loose. This one went up to the surface well away from the boat, and that makes the apprehension worse when the flasher is way out there, out of the water. Plus, I’m right along some wash rocks that could pummel the boat if I got sloshed into them, but I was being pushed into the bay, which was perfect. The fish soon tired, and I got it to the net. A dandy. The limit is one king salmon and I don’t catch and release king salmon, so I put the king on a stringer, broke a gill, and put it over the side into the water to bleed. I pulled my gear and idled over to an anchorage behind an island and out of the swell. There I cleaned the king salmon and a rockfish, and iced them down. What a day, and only noon. I took a quick nap in the anchorage, then headed back to the bay the timber workers were. I anchored behind an island in the area where about half a dozen sea otters were swimming. They did not like the boat and soon went elsewhere, but the seals swimming nearby seemed less afraid. Turns out this job may be cut short because there’s not as much timber as was hoped for in the stand where the workers are laying out boundaries and roads. So, it will just be a day at a time and hopefully some other jobs may come up in the meantime. I dropped the crew off back in town, and refueled the boat. About 20 gallons burned today. Not bad at all hauling 6 passengers round trip.

May 22

No salmon today but put  three rockfish and a lingcod in the freezer. Really sloppy at the fishing hole today with the wind and ocean swell. I’ll fish closer to town the next few days until the winds lay down. Third day of job and now becoming routine.

May 23

Supposed to blow today, but ended up being the flatest trip both ways since I started the transports. I dropped the crew by 9 and quickly headed to the fishing hole. K was there, and said he’d already caught 4 small ones but trying for a bigger one. I fished the drag one way with K behind me and near the turn around he got one. I was on the back tack when I got one. 30 inches. Big enough and my king salmon fishing day was over. I then took the bear skull to the 100 fathom spot, and sent it to the bottom in an onion bag with an anchor. It will soak there a week to let the sand fleas do their magic. I tried finding some black rockfish. Caught a china rockfish, then a tiny black rockfish that I threw back. Then another yellow colored rockfish, which I had to return as limit for these kind are only 1. I quit fishing so I wouldn’t be releasing rockfish all day and know some would die. So, it was on to beach combing. I saw something blue and plastic from the boat, and with the tide flooding, it was easy to run up and check what it was without worry about the boat going dry. It was half a blue plastic 55 gallon drum, which guys use for holding long line gear.  So that went back with me. The return trip was flat, but the anticipated wind picked up an hour later. We’ll see what it looks like in the morning.

May 24

Day 5 was lumpy out and lumpier back. After I dropped the crew, I went out to the fishing hole. Bad choice. A big swell and wind. I beat my way out there, then turned to go downwind, and put out the gear. Things looked good early on. I got one in the first 15 minutes. But it was a shaker (undersized fish) and I released it. From there on in, I lost gear, got the fishing line in the prop, and just all around beat up myself. I beat it back to the job site, found a good anchorage, and did some little chores on the boat til pick up. A doe and yearling came out on the beach behind me. The ride back was lumpy and must be tough on the foresters after hiking all day. More of the same tomorrow then it’s supposed to lay down a bit.

May 25

Beautiful day. Winds laid down overnight so pretty smooth ride out. Got to the ramp early, launched the boat, then took a morning walk. Went to the fishing hole after dropping the crew off, and it was a big change from yesterday, with pretty calm seas and a slight swell. Not much showing on the sonar. I decided to switch from a herring behind a flasher to a flasher on the cannon ball and a herring clipped off the downrigger line a few feet above. Dave in Wrangell showed me how to fish this way. I got a fish on just before noon and it was another small keeper like the one 2 days ago. I cleaned the fish and went back to the crew site and anchored up for the afternoon. I called Jeffy and said I’d send the fish back tonight on the plane for Memorial Day. He and those who will share in it are the ones who take care of Sara when I’m out of town, and they will surely appreciate it since king fishing is closed there.

May 26

Day off. Greased some fittings on the outboard, checked oils on the outboard and truck, cleaned the house, and bought so

Mark's Life in Alaska Blog with bear on the water scene

Sam’s first hunt

I promised Sam I’d take him hunting when he got his hunter ed card. In Juneau, every 6th grader has the opportunity to do so through a program with the school district. Of course, the kids have to pass the written exam and shooting test to get the card, and most do. Sam got his card a few weeks ago.

I talked with Jeff and he relayed about a couple of friends getting cancer treatment. Friends who I consider in good shape. No more excuses to not go hooter hunting. I’m retired for God’s sake.  The forecast for Sunday looked decent, so I texted Andrew and said if Sam wanted to go with me hunting on Sunday, I’d take him. His dad replied he would like to go.

I originally schedule to pick him up at 9 am. But, I got up early to watch the Masters golf tourney (started 5 am our time) and it was close – plus it was still near freezing at 8 am, so I rescheduled to pick Sam up at 11 am and hopefully give him some more sleep time.

When I picked him up, he was ready to go. He had a ski jacket on, jeans and sneakers. I let the clothes be but said he needed boots, and these he changed into. He said he didn’t need a bottle of water or a pack. Okay, I said. I’m all about experiential learning.  As we left in the car, I could tell he was grum……..pee……..  “I thought you said we were going next week?” he said. I replied that I thought he wanted to go and that’s why I’m taking him. He said no – his dad wanted him to go. Away we went.

I drove out the road past our house about 6 miles. I stopped once, rolled down the window to listen and … nothing. We moved on another 2 miles and did the same thing. The hooters were calling up the mountain here. We pulled over,  I shouldered my pack with the .22 in it., and up the hill we went. Samuel was reluctantly following, but moving along steadily.

Sam now swims some 40+ laps a day 3 days a week in the swim club. He’s lost most of his gut as he gets taller.  I heard the bird and was moving up the hill, with Sam grumpily following behind. I kept up a fair pace, and would wait when I needed to if he called or I needed to see his orange coat following behind me. Up the hill we went. We went up about 4 benches, including two pretty sheer cliffs that had a little gully we could get up. It was find-a-hand-hold, find-a-foot-hold climb in a few places. When we finally got near the trees the bird was in, I made the last 50 yards but Sam said he was done. I said that was okay – he would be in the landing zone to collect the bird or see if I clipped a bird that flew downhill. That made him happy, and I could hear him wacking sticks against trees. 11 year olds really need no toys other than what they can pick up in the woods. Video game addictions or not – I’ve seen it too many times in scouts. The woods is it’s own playground.

I zeroed in on the group of trees I though the bird was in. There were two hemlocks growing right next to each other, with a third tree at a 45 degree crosswise behind them. I got up as high behind the trees as I could see, and side-hilled from one side of the trees to another. Sam shouted out words of encouragement from below, like “can we go now”, “are you done yet”, “I hear more birds below us”, “it’s starting to rain”, and “I’m going back to the car” (of course, he didn’t). I looked for over an hour for the bird, and could just not find an angle to see it. It hasn’t happened often, but most often in this stand of woods we were in for some reason.  And while we seemed to hear lots of birds calling on the way up, we couldn’t hear another bird now.

I finally gave up. Sam was happy we were heading back, but worried we’d have to descend some of the same cliff areas we went up. I told him he was the guide going out and he could go around the cliffs. He led the way, cheery now to be on the way home. He asked for some water, and I said sure. But it would be $10 a drink. He said he could wait till he got home. Again, it’s all about experiential learning.   About half way back, I realized I hadn’t given Sam a chance to shoot since we never saw the bird. I asked if he wanted to shoot, and he said sure.

I asked him where a good place would be to set up a target, and said that a little hill,  downhill from us, would work since the bullets would go into the hill.  I took out a plastic bag and put the top of a skunk cabbage flower in it as a bulls eye.

He asked if the gun would be loud since he shot an air rifle for his hunter ed card, and I said it would not. I asked him if he wanted me to take a shot first to show him how it worked, and he agreed. I showed him how to load the clip, how to work the bolt to load a shell into the magazine, and how to work the safety. I took a shot, and Sam was ready. He shot 4 rounds.  Wanna shoot some more I asked?  Sure, he said. He shot another 5 rounds then thought we’d better get back to the car.

We busted alot of brush on the way down. At one point, I gave him the compass as he was the leader, and we worked it so he could line up the arrow on north, and then keep us traveling east, which was the way to the road.

I asked him on the car ride home if he had a good time on his first hunt, and he said no. I asked why. He said we spent 4 hours and didn’t get any birds. I asked him if any part of it was fun and he said yes, he liked the shooting. I’ll take any win I can get.

I’ve been diligently skiing or walking since I retired, and Sam has been swimming diligently after a month or so of struggling to get him to make practice every time in January after he came back from Sierra Leone, where he got out of shape when he wasn’t swimming. Today, we both made it in and out with out too much whining so I count that a good day.

I think he’ll be willing to go again, and I’ll count that as an accomplishment.

March in Craig

Arrived in Craig mid-day on Monday March 4. I flew with Alaska Seaplanes for my first time on this route. We flew to Sitka for a short stop and on to Craig. The weather was so nice with blue skies and light winds that we flew right over the mountains to Sitka and same to Craig and arrived almost an hour early to Craig.

Howard picked me up and took me to my place. Things were sort of as expected. The truck battery was dead, and Howard loaned me his battery pack and the truck started right up. When I turned on the water, I discovered the valve had cracked from being frozen. Not sure how it didn’t free flow after cracking but somehow it was right under the ball of the valve. So, find a pipe wrench and a couple crescent wrenches and get to work. I shut off the water at the main, then off with the old valve and to the hardware store. Of course, they were out of my size of ball valves so I reluctantly bought a gate valve and put the plumbing back together and now I had water again.

Brian showed up not long after and said Mike was looking for someone to go out to set his new shrimp trawl with him. I had to talk to Matt the next morning to see when welders could install the window frames, and if it wasn’t right away, I’d go with Mike. Matt said their welders were off to Steamboat Bay to work out there, so I got ahold of Mike right away and luckily he had not left yet. I dressed quickly for the boat and met him in the harbor.

We tried three different spots around Craig. We got a few spot prawns, but not all that much according to Mike. Plus, he was looking for side stripes prawns, which I found out are vegetarians so you rarely catch them in baited pots. Mike wanted to try a spot a good run north of town on Wednesday, and we agreed to meet at 8 am. He told me to take the shrimp, with I gladly did.

I stopped at the library and looked up a recipe for prawns on the recipe as I didn’t really think I had enough to feed several of us, and settled on an easy one with rice, green onions, garlic, parsley, and Parmesan cheese. I stopped at the store to buy ingredients, then on to the house. I cleaned the prawns which is done by simply pinching off the tails where the meat is. I put the tails in a pot to steam, and put the heads in a pot with some water to make stock. I put rice in the rice cooker. When the tails were done, I peeled the shell and put a couple handfuls of tails into the frying pan with butter and olive oil, the onions and garlic. When the rice was done, I put some rice in a pot with some of the stock from the heads, and mixed in the shrimp, etc. and stirred it for about a minute. I shut off the heat, and folded in handfuls of shredded cheese and parsley. Ended up it was only Ellen and I for dinner, so we had plenty.

The next day was clear and about 30 degrees at 8 am as we motored north. We wove our way through islands and submerged rocks. About an hour into the trip, Mike slowed down and got a piece of dried fish from his bag. He then pointed to the a little island we were approaching. There stood two figures carved from spruce (I think) that were about 7 feet tall and separated by about 15 feet. Between them was a sort of log cabin style box about 5 feet high that was old and falling down. Mike said this was the grave of the last shaman in the area, and he threw the offering of the piece of dried fish in the current that rushed by the island below the grave as a sign of respect. The two watchmen were now bleached but Mike said they were painted brown when he was young. He said he thought the shaman had died at least 100 years ago. Wow. I was not expecting this. I’m sure someone in the government is aware of the site, and I was thankful they hadn’t tried to ruin it by putting up some interpretive sign with a man-made trail leading up to it. As we motored still further, Mike pointed out old abandoned village sites, one of which was where his great grandmother had lived. Mike is 70, and I could sense this place was special to him as being the area of his mother’s side of the family.

Another half hour and we were at the spot. I knew what to do from our short trip yesterday. Mike got the net ready to deploy and when he was ready, told me to put the boat in gear and as we motored along, Mike dumped over the otter boards and fed the bridle out the back. When he came to the towline hooked to the bridle, he pointed for a spot in the distance for me to set course to, he adjusted the speed to his liking, then took a wrap around his tow bar and fed out the line. It took about 5 minutes to feed out 900 feet of line, and near the end, he secured it to the tow bar and I handed the helm to him and we were on our way.

We towed the net at about 1.3 to 1.5 knots. We talked about the state of affairs in town, the state, and the country. In the distance, I saw a humpback whale blow. The first I’ve seen on this trip, and the first in quite awhile as the whale I’d seen in the past few winters that was parked about half way to the cabin back in Juneau was not there this year.

We towed the net for about half an hour. Mike then turned the boat a hard right so the tow line came around the starboard side of the boat, and he started the pot puller – a honda motor with a capstan on the side. He started pulling the line in, coiling the line in a tub below him, and had me turn the engine hard to the left so it would provide a little tension on the net as he pulled and not allow there slack in the net allowing the shrimp to escape

We didn’t get but a few bottom fish the first haul. The bottom fish brought up in the trawl were very interesting. There were a few types of flatfish with tiny mouths that you’d never catch on a hook if you were fishing for halibut or other bottom fish. There were also some eel looking fish that weren’t eels but some kind of blennie or eel pout, I think. We got some sculpins too – a few of which were a beautiful red and gray blotch pattern.

We turned around and repeated the tow. This time, we did well. Mike’s fished his whole life, but this was something new and he was giddy when we hit the jackpot. The next tow, as we were towing, we stopped when we snagged on something. Going so slow, it’s not dangerous. You just feel the boat sort of stop as you aren’t going fast enough that the snagged net could pull the stern under. You just stop. We retrieved the net without incident. It looked like it let go of whatever it snagged on and looked like maybe the doors tangled. Mike asked if I wanted to make another tow – I guess making sure I didn’t need to get back for something. I assured him we could make as many tows as he wanted, and we reset the net. The last set we hit the jackpot again, and called it a day. I’m sure we could catch shrimp there all day, but we had plenty, and processing shrimp takes alot of time.

We head back to town. We stop again at the grave just for a moment, and then move on. It was a cool ride up this morning and I was glad I’d put my wool pants on, especially since I forgot my rain pants. But now it was in the 40’s and we’d been active all day and we were both warm and enjoyed the sunny ride home. We passed a group of three whales, along with the hundred sea otters we’d passed on the way out. They are everywhere.

When we got back, we loaded the shrimp into Mike’s truck at the ramp. We both were pretty sure there was no volume limit on shrimp, but not sure enough that we wanted someone to see our catch. Of course, I got the regulation book the next day and was relieved to confirm we were right on the catch limit, of which there is none.

Mike asked if I wanted two or 3 buckets of the shrimp, and when I said I’d be happy to take 3, he was a little relieved. He had that and more to deal with himself. Processing shrimp is a tedious process. He likes to ice his for a day or two before processing as he said it makes the meat more tender. I’d never heard this, so cataloged that for next time. I didn’t think I had the schedule to ice the shrimp, so I immediately started processing when I got home. I called Howard to come get some, as he said he’d love to take any extra. He cleaned one of the buckets and took what he wanted of tails home with him. I processed the other two buckets. As I filled a pot with tails, I put it on the stove. I had two small pots that I heated on an electric hot plate, along with an electric frying pan. It works pretty good. As I get the pots filled and on the stove, by the time I have more ready to go on the stove, those on the stove are cooked. When the tails are ready, I drain off the hot water, and run cold water over the tails until they cool down. Otherwise, they will continue to cook and overcook.

I processed the tails all evening, and when I got the last batch of tails onto the stove to cook, I started to peel the tails. My back soon got sore, and I tried to change positions but I knew it was gonna be achy back night. I had about 5 gallons of tails to peel. When I finally finished those, I got the vac packer out to pack them. This packer had always given me trouble but I learned to fix the problems and was smart enough to write these down last time and put the instructions in the packer so for the first time, packing went off without much trouble. I like to pack crab meat in about 2 cup portions, so did the same with the prawn tails. All that work for what doesn’t look like all that much meat, but that’s shrimping. Better to eat it fresh from the pot as you peel when you can, but good to put it up like this when you don’t get shrimp all the time as is our case in Juneau.

I put 2 buckets of shrimp heads in the cooler to make stock in the morning. It, too, is somewhat tedious work since I only have the small pots. After I got done with one bucket, I called it good and gave one bucket of cooked heads and one bucket of raw heads to the birds on the beach. I strained out the stock into quart plastic containers and put them into the freezer with last nights tail meat, now nicely frozen.

After making stock, I decided to try to move my shed. Brian gave me a nice shed we used to process deer in, and it has been parked on the corner of our property for years. We sold that corner to Howard, though, and I wanted to move the shed so he could have room for his boat. The local Native Corporation had cut down a couple stands of alder near their trailer court just down the road. Some of the alder was between 3 and 8 inches, and cut to in about 10 foot lengths, which is what I was looking for. I called to ask if I could borrow or take 10 of them and they said sure. I had to go to town to buy a strainer for the shrimp stock and steel wool pads to clean the pots, so I got the logs on the return trip.

I bought a 3 ton aluminum floor jack at Costco a few years ago, and then bought a second as they are so handy and much lighter than the steel versions. I brought one down here and use it all the time. I jacked up one skid of the shed and put one end of a log under it. I moved to the other end of the skid and jacked it up and slid the other end of the log under it. I let the shed down on the log. I tied either end of a purse seine line to the end of each skid, and put the middle of the bridle over the 2 inch ball on my trailer hitch. I put the truck in low four wheel drive, and eased it forward. The shed skid up on the log, just like it was supposed to. I put another log under the front of the skid, and kept inching forward and putting logs under the skids. Soon, I could get logs that the shed had slid all the way over and move them to the front. In no time at all, the shed was skidded on the log rollers over the property line.

I cleaned out Mike’s buckets and returned them to his skiff in the harbor. Then I went to the library to check my email as I have no internet at the house. I then headed for the house for a little relaxation until I’d go hiking later in the afternoon. I rounded a corner about a half mile from the house, and I could see something in the middle of the road. As I got closer, I saw it was a dog someone must be walking that had wandered out in the road. Then I saw it. That dog’s twin, already across the road. WOLVES! Two wolves, right there in the road, big as life, heading from the beach, crossing the road and heading up the hill. Wow. They piled into the alders and by the time I got to where they crossed, I could only see a few feet into the thick stand of young alder. Wow.
I came down this trip to fix the windows leaking once and for all. I just could not get them to not leak around the top window frame. The last thing I did was to run some rubber tape along the top edge and then spray rubber sealant over it, and still 2 of the windows leaked. When I got here, the weather had been dry for about a month. No rain. Yet in the morning, as the temperatures rose from below to above freezing, the windows appeared to leak again. First I thought maybe it was frozen condensation on the outside of the building running down the side and in above the top window frame. Then I studied the 3 windows. Only 2 dripped. The one that didn’t looked fully sealed on the inside with insulation and vapor barrier, but the other two only had insulation and no vapor barrier.

A big blow and rain was forecast for the next day, so I got busy. I pulled the framing and insulation out above each leaky window, and there was condensation on the inside of the wall. Had the contractor put in spray foam like he said he would, this wouldn’t be an issue. So, I put the insulation back in and carefully put plastic all across the insulation to the wood framing, and taped any overlaps of plastic and used lots of staples to make it tight. By the next morning, it had rained hard for 12 hours. And no leaks. I could now now worry about getting the steel frames I had made welded in right away and save them till I needed them, and chalk their cost up to more life skills tuition.

On and off rain on Monday, but mostly nice. I knew I needed to tackle putting in the toyo stove, but thought I’d start off with an easy project – filling openings in the back wall of the container originally meant for windows, which I decided not to install. After I prepped the hole by cutting back the sheet rock so I had some stud to screw in the plywood, I went to the shed to get the sheet of plywood. I heard some puffs of breath at sea and saw a couple sea lions near the beach. As I walked further I heard what wounded like someone pitching a pitcher of water in to the ocean. When I looked I could see the dimples in the water. Then up come the sea lions again. They were chasing herring. As I put the sheet on the tailgate to measure out two rectangles, I hear a blow. Here comes a humpback into the cove after the same herring as the sea lions. The whale made a big circle of shallow dives as it fed.

It didn’t take long to install the wall patches, and it was on to the toyo stove installation. I got it at a garage sale from a couple in Juneau who said their father refurbished these stoves and it was “running when we took it out”. I was missing a part that held the exhaust pipes together. And the pipes sure didn’t look like they went together all that well. Luckily, there’s a toyo repair shop in Juneau. On my first trip, the old timer dug around in his box of parts and gave me the pipe clip and a couple hose clamps. “Now run, quick!” he said, meaning he wasn’t charging me for the parts. Before I got a couple blocks, I realized I needed a drip tray for the stove. He found the one I needed and said he’d send me a bill to Brian’s address. I thought that wasn’t likely, but agreed. When I tried putting the pipes together, they just wouldn’t fit right. I went to see a stove of Brian’s and thought I had a wrong pipe. When I went back to the shop, a worker for the old timer was now in. He told me I had the wrong pipe. I had a Monitor stove exhaust, and that wouldn’t work with a Toyo stove. He found the exhaust kit I needed, and about $200 later, I was on the road with the right parts. I’m a one man economic stimulus for this island.

I talked to Brian about putting the stove under the fuse box, since it would take out the same vertical space. He thought all the wiring would be under the box, but turns out they ran the wires out the top of the box. So it looked good. I eyeballed where the exhaust should be on the wall, and with the hole saw, cut just through the sheet rock. Luckily, no wires or a stud in the way. I then drilled a pilot hole in the outer wall slightly lower than the inside whole per the instructions so any moisture would run outside.

When I around to the outside to drill the full hole with the hole saw, I saw my exhaust was precisely between the conduit feeding the wire to the box and another conduit feeding wire from the box to the septic tank. Really, the only obstruction in the whole container and I found it. Oh well. There was plenty of flex in the conduit to move it apart so the exhaust wouldn’t burn it. I got the exhaust together. The fuel tank was next. David had given me a ~50 gallon tank that a customer didn’t like because it creaked when you walked on it, and I was going to install it vertically against the container. There were two pockets welded to the bottom of the tank that I could run straps of aluminum through and bolt the straps to the container.

I hooked up the toyo stove and got an error message. I called the toyo guy again, and he said it was probably the blower motor on the inside of the unit. He told me how to access it and see if it was seized up or just needed a little coaxing to work. It was mostly seized. Time for a new heater, I thought. Of course, he had none in stock. Only rebuilt Monitor stoves! I’d either have to pull the exhaust for the toyo I spent a good chunk of the day and put in the Monitor exhaust, or get a new toyo. I decided to try to find a toyo.

On Tuesday, I thought I’d try to move the shed to the other end of the container so the door on the shed would be facing the door on the container and so easy to move things back and forth. I was able to maneuver the shed down 60 feet of driveway. Once I got it that far, I’d have Brian bring the skid steer and turn the shed 90 degrees, then move it towards the road bank. Brian had to help Mike move some logs with the skid steer, and I told him to come help me after.

By the time I got the shed moved, the rain had come in and I was soaking wet. Brian was still at Mike’s and so I figured we’d do it the next day.

On Wednesday morning, it was windy and dry. Brian had a date with Fred to cut lumber at Fred’s mill, so I thought I’d try to move the shed myself with the truck. That was going to take some longer line, which I got from Brian. By trial and error, I got the shed turned 90 degrees. Then I drove up the driveway and backed the truck perpendicular to the road surface, hooked about 50 feet of line from the truck down to a bridle I rigged on the shed, and inched it forward over the logs I’d spaced out. Hopefully, I could pull the shed all the way to the bank without having to go back down to adjust the logs. I took my time and pulled on the bridle first towards the left and then to the right as needed. The shed ended up as perfect as I could have done it with the skid steer. I jacked up each corner of the shed with the floor jack and used bricks and rocks to level the shed. Then the wind really picked up, along with the rain. The last order of business was to make a door in the shed. Heretofore the door was just a 6’ by 7’ opening. I decided to make a 4 x 8 sheet of plywood door that would slide in a guide at the top and bottom. The rest of the hole I’d cover with some studs and plywood. Back to Brian’s, where I scavenged some scrap 2 x 6’s that had been part of some kind of float arrangement. Brian sounded happy to part with it. Then to the hardware store for a couple 30 dollar sheets of ½ inch plywood. I soon had the wall studs cut, the plywood cut to fill the opening, and another of the 2×6’s horizontally along the bottom of the opening as the bottom guide for the door. I needed to attach a ¾ inch board across the top of the door to create space for it to slide, and then hang a 2×6 to that to form the top guide. Luckily, I’d brought home a piece 10 foot piece of ¾ inch board I’d found along the road. Soon, I had the new door in. I made some steps with a crate I’d once grabbed from the burn pit, and just as I finished the step, the rain really came with more wind, and I retreated to the house, cranked up the heat, and made coffee and a pbj sandwhich. A full day.

I also had two job offers today. One to run crews of timber cruisers in a boat to their work locations, and another to do some fishery assessment work for a fish organization. I turned the assessment work down as I didn’t have time for it now nor could I bear the thought of again going to a box and looking into a box for hours a day. The charter work interested me so I’ll wait to get more info about it. Looking out on ocean, it’s 3 foot seas and raining sideways. Just as nice to look out and see this as it is the calm sunny days.

I also think I figured out why just the one window near the end of the container is still dripping from condensation. I think when they built the wall, they covered up the vent on the end of the unit with the wall corner studs. Now to add some more vents and hopefully that will cure it.

Already it’s Thursday. Installed the doors to the shower stall, after making do with a rod and shower curtain that didn’t work very well. Had the stall for a couple years and finally put it in but of course lost the box of screws and braces so looks like a Stopha job when it was done for sure. I later found the braces and replaced the makeshift braces and it looks alot better. Found a Toyo stove for sale in Ketchikan and the seller sent it over on the plane. When I got to the seaplane dock, a guy off loading a van said they were closed, and I said I was there to pick up my freight. He said it was in the front of the van he was unloading from the back, and it wouldn’t be available til tomorrow. I could have had Doug bring it back for free on the ferry and had it today! Oh well. Another day won’t matter. Just hope the heater works as advertised.

Friday morning and no dripping from the last window giving me trouble. I installed two little soffet vents on the outside wall above the window. Hard to believe it was that simple but looks like it was.

I went to get the heater unit, which the seller said “worked like brand new. Bought in 2017 and recently serviced”. What I saw was not that description. And, the temperature sensor had been cut off. Seller said it was there when he shipped it, so if it was, it wasn’t secured very well to the unit. I scavenged the sensor of the non-working unit. Then started taking apart the unit to clean it. The back fan was covered in dust and pet hair, which I spent considerable time wire brushing in the stiff wind to get off. Same crap on the fan. When I removed the front cover, there was candy, cheetos, and a chicken bone inside. A day later when I was swapping more parts, two fire crackers fell out. I’m not kidding. He said the kids had sort of tattered the unit. He underestimated his offspring. The front grill was so nasty I swapped out the front grill from my broken unit and the control board. More cleaning as best I could to the inside. When I finally hooked it up and started the fuel flowing, I was holding my breath, and luckily, it worked. I tried calling the seller and he didn’t answer. I sent an angry text asking for a partial refund as the unit wasn’t as advertised, and later recanted the request as it was my fault I hadn’t had someone lay eyes on it in person in Ketchikan before I bought it. Anyone I know would have told me to pass on it for what he paid. I chalked it up to more life lesson tuition. Now I know alot more about toyo stoves.

Saturday, the stove was giving off some fumes. Didn’t set off the CO2 monitor, but worrisome. I took the stove exhaust and adjusted things. Saw I was missing a gasket on one pipe. When I got it back together it was alot better but still some fumes now and then.

The next project was to put an outdoor electric outlet so I could run an extension cord to the shed and move the freezer up there. That took most of the day. When the blowing and rain stopped and the sun came out, I tried to put some more soffit vents in over the windows. I bent two drill bits with the hole saw putting in the first one. I tried a cutting blade on the grinder for the second one, but that didn’t work very well either. Just too hard to put a hole in this steel. Then I got the bright idea to look up and see if someone sells the rectangular vents in the containers. Turns out, they do. I ordered 10 and will put them in next time. I had dinner with Brian then watched him put together Ellen’s smoker. I gave a suggestion about a fan in the ceiling like my refrigerator smoker, and he liked that and installed one. He’s going to put in a light, too.

Sunday I put the freezer in the shed, and swapped more parts between the crappy looking toyo that works and the good looking one that doesn’t. Helped Brian put the roof on the smoker. Then cleaned the bathroom and floors and tidied up to leave tomorrow for home. Two weeks here went by like a long weekend. Next time down I’ll work on siding the shed and figuring out how to install and exhaust fan for the shed and or the kitchen.

Juneau Paradise

Late winter paradise here in Juneau. And mostly just us locals here to enjoy it, along with legislative staffers. Temperature down to the 20’s or lower overnight, then in the high 30’s during the day, with blue skies and sun and increasing day length.  The Juneau Nordic Ski Club groomers have set a 10 kilometer track around Mendenhall Lake, plus grooming the adjoining Mendenhall campground, for a total ski of some 6 to 7 miles. The cross country skiing is glorious. After skiing the campground and busting out onto the lake, you see  the Mendenhall Glacier in the distance. As you approach the half way point of the loop, you can also hear the Nugget Falls that you can see in the distance. The first day I skied it all I really felt the ski distance.  Today it felt like I was skiing downhill all day with little effort and perfect weather. We’ll see how many more days it can last.