I took my nephew to our cabin for the second time this week. Yes, he’s on his electronic game or whatever it is all the time he’s in the house. But when it’s time to go outside – to the cabin, fishing, etc – he leaves them at home and doesn’t go through withdrawals without them.

We pulled the king crab pot we’d set down Chatham but no luck. We caught a couple of undersized tanner crab and the door was partially open on the pot. We fished for a couple hours and no salmon. When we got to the cabin anchorage and checked our dungy pots, we had one. So at least the dinner menu for Eaton was decided.

We walked in and I put the crab on to steam. Eaton was immediately at home at the cabin now. The outhouse doesn’t phase him. Nor lack of electronics.  He inhales half the crab, as he’s now much quicker at picking the meat out of the shell.

He asks me if I’ll give him the cabin when I die. Maybe, I say. It’s not just up to me.  He understands about marriage and decisions and all. Then he starts counting out loud about how old I’ll probably be when I kick the bucket and how old he’ll be when he gets the cabin. It’s kinda creepy.

What do you want to do on your last day in town tomorrow,  I ask him. All the fun stuff to do, he says. Like what, I ask. Swimming. Check the crab pots. Maybe fishing.  An easy kid to have along. He tells you when he’s hungry.  You ask what he wants to do and he actually thinks about it and gives an answer other than “I don’t care” or “I don’t know”. He wants to be here.

I get up early the next morning and start picking berries. When I return after a half hour of picking for some coffee, Eaton is up and making pancakes. This is his first time cooking them, and they are perfect.  We put lots of Dul’s maple syrup from Bolivar, NY on them. Then Eaton says he wants to make blueberry jam for his dad, so we go back out and pick more berries.

We check the dungy pots on our way out and have one more keeper. Then we fish for an hour and a half and get one bright chum salmon. When we get home, I have a couple king salmon from Chris to butcher. One is for Ron and one to send home with Eaton.

That night, we made the jam. Blueberry jam is simple: crushed berries and sugar. Blueberries have enough pectin to jell the jam. We were out of sugar. I ask Eaton if he wanted to go and he said “nah”. Then I said there was ice cream involved, and he was soon ready. We got our sugar and ice cream at Costco. I put the food processor together and we fed the berries in to crush them. Eaton measured the mash. Then we did the math of how much sugar we needed based on the ratio in the recipe, and he measured the sugar and added it to the pot with the berries. I read him the part of the recipe about stirring constantly to keep the jam from scorching, and Eaton stirred the jam until his arm hurt.

He tasted the jam as it thickened, and each time got more excited because it tasted so good. He knew his dad would love it. When it was finally ready, we poured it into the half pint jars. He cleaned the jar mouth, and put on the lids and rims. While the boiling bath was heating, we made another smaller batch of jam with the red huckleberries, and by the time that was done, the boiling bath was about ready.  We were able to can the 10 half pints in one batch, and Eaton was pleased with the result. He put each jar in a ziploc bag, then wrapped it in a piece of clothing in his suitcase for the trip home.

A Hard Act to Follow

I picked my youngest nephew (10 years old) up from his first flight traveling solo at 8:30am. His mother – my youngest sister – traveled with him from Rochester, NY, and put him on the plane from Seattle, and she traveled to Portland for a meeting. By 11am we were on the water. We set dungy crab pots at our cabin anchorage, then ran down Chatham Strait and set a king crab pot I’d bought the night before from a friend of a friend. Then we went fishing. We had a few strikes and caught a pink salmon. Then we got a nice coho, and Eaton played it just right and landed it – his first salmon.

Just as I put the gear back in the water, I looked behind the boat to see a line of smokestacks. Nine adult humpback whales were headed our way side by side. We got out of their way, and watched them bubble net feed up the shore line for the next hour.  We headed back to spend the night at the cabin, and as we got to our anchorage, I saw a bear feeding on grass on Admiralty Island. Eaton was fast asleep but I finally shook him awake, but he was not as impressed as I’d hoped.

We pulled one of the pots and got one keeper – enough for dinner. He thought he could eat a whole crab but he didn’t quite make it so I finished it off. We slept hard that night. Eaton was so quiet I couldn’t even tell which of the top bunks he was in. The next morning we picked blueberries, blue huckleberries and red huckleberries around the cabin for putting in our pancakes.  After breakfast, we left for town, as I needed to get a part for my outboard because it wasn’t charging the battery. As we motored over to check the crab pots again, there were porpoises in the little bay. All around us. Right next to the boat. We pulled the pots and caught 3 keepers.

When we got home, Eaton was happy to have crab for lunch as I called around town for the part I needed, and then around the region, and finally found it at Rocky’s in Petersburg. He’s sending the part up on the morning jet. Eaton’s first 24 hours in town will be hard to beat.

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.