There’s only one way to leave town. Fill the boat up with ice. Untie the lines. Idle out of the harbor and stow the fenders because we won’t be needing them for awhile. Put down the poles. Say goodbye to friends via text because it isn’t really goodbye but rather, “good luck to you and see you in a week.” Then it is finally time to decide, left or right and how far to go tonight.
We are all a little nervous. There are plenty of things to worry about. Where to fish? how to manage the upcoming weather? did we bring enough ice? did we bring enough food? what’s a young kid going to do? how’s an old dog going to do? how am I going to do? We are starting out on an important opening for king salmon and there are a lot of variables.
Now we are anchored in the lee of an island having a quick dinner and stowing the last minute things from Sitka before we go out on the ocean. Dinner of gourmet tuna loin, ore-ida onion rings and quick cooking white rice. Kind of weird but it was what we could get our hands on easily. And to be honest I’m not really tasting anything. Then it was a rush off to bed for me, rush to get a little sleep. Joe will get the boat going and run for a few hours. Then he will get me up (probably with a delicious hot cup of coffee) for the night watch. Summer fishing has started. Sleep will be scarce and the food will be weird but the 3 of us will keep this boat together and hopefully, gracefully, catch some fish.
We found a good patch of beach asparagus. It was fresh and not too much grass mixed in. We steamed it and smothered it with butter for dinner. No need to add salt, this was just about the high tide line on the beach.
We fished our first opening on Thursday and Friday. I’ll just get it over with, the fishing wasn’t a highlight for us. It was slow. The weather was the other low light. Wind and rough tidal chop drove us to anchor early the first day. Spring rain showers all day Friday. Joe reminded me that Little Port Walter, where we had anchored for the night, often records the most rainfall in North America
So the highlights. Just getting started is exciting. We got gear in the water and looked for fish. Day 2 was calm enough for us to enjoy life on board. I was able to really appreciate every fish I cleaned. The first one had a baby rockfish in its belly. The second one was definitely a hatchery fish with a clipped adipose fin. The Sixth was long and skinny. At number six we were feeling a little nervous then bing, bang, boom. We were up to nine. When you are trolling it is the little things that you really notice.
By the afternoon Ocean had dug into the “to do on a calm day” duffle. Out came the bead weaving kit from the Juneau Salvation Army. He spent the whole afternoon figuring out the complicated instructions and what was left of the hand me down kit. He started and finished a bracelet with his own beaded pattern of a sunset.
Larch Bay was our destination. It is on the ocean side of Baranof Island and a long brushy hike from PA. We got as far as the muskeg on the ridge, the west wind was blowing rain over from that side so we decided to stay on the Chatham side and beachcomb our way home. It was a tough decision because Larch is famous for collecting glass balls over the winter. We found a few interesting things as we walked slowly home on the beach, an otter skull, a couple of unique plastic floats, shards of a glass ball, a deer antler and a life ring from Panama.
We spent a few days being tourists in Juneau.
We went to the newly remodeled museum. Notable: it is shiny!! And not quite as cozy.
We took Joe to the library, he hadn’t been there before. Notable: luckily we had a kid with us and could go in the kids section because every chair was filled with wi-fi users just like us.
Saw a movie at the independent local theatre. Notable: good popcorn and bulk candy choices by the cup.
Joe and Ocean went to a party with a friend. Notable: Ocean played Alaskan party games like axe throwing and hammering nails into a stump faster than the other guy.
We did our provisioning. Notable: Costco really rolls out the red carpet in the free taster department on Saturday!
Last chance shopping for the freshest looking veggies. Notable: Delish americano at Coppa and yummy scone for Ocean.
Walked all around town with the cruiseship tourists. Notable: Juneau has some special places. Sometimes they are hard to appreciate but they have grown on me over the years.
Today we are traveling from Auke Bay to downtown Juneau. Towels are drying, the barbecue is out and long line gear is piled all over the deck. All signs of being between fisheries.
A few weeks ago my father-in-law asked me if I was looking forwards to the summer or if it just seemed like work and less of an adventure. We talked about how knowing what to expect makes it more efficient but also how every year it is another year older harder. I feel a few more body creaks. I can stay up a little less late than the summer before. There are things we do to compensate. We add onto our minimum sleep time. We don’t hesitate to leave dirty dishes for the morning. And yes, the excitement from the newness isn’t there to get us through the boring times. But the routine is so comfortingly familiar. We leave our winter home just when the days are getting warm. Ocean and I get on a jet and fly north to catch up with Joe. We notice the latitude, the days are a little longer but the grass hasn’t reached its as-fast-as-it-can growing yet. We get to see the spring flowers blooming for a second time. We put our cashmere sweaters back on. Our life routine is refreshingly different than it is down south. We follow the salmon and the northern lights. We are in our summer home.
Well it wasn’t funny for Ocean but it ended OK. We were hauled out over spring break, which could be a little boring for a kid. Of course Ocean made the best of it. He rode his bike around the port to visit people, he rode to the food co-op to get himself some lunch or for something we “needed”. One day he rode as far as the library. His bike was his independence. Today he rode to the boat from school and parked his bike on the dock. It was another WINDY day. When we looked out the bike was gone. Ocean was UPSET. Evidently Joe had been through this before because he knew just where the bike was. He fished for it with the grapple hook, Ocean rinsed it off, they oiled it up and Ocean is back on the road.
This moment never looks as good as it feels. It feels like old paint scraped off and fresh paint rolled on. It feels like being measured and fitted and dressed up for a few pieces of new wood. It feels like seeing a part of the boat for a few weeks that we take for granted the rest of the year. It feels like the beginning of another fishing season.
It is Thursday night, Joe is polishing the prop and will put on the hub zinc. These are the final steps before we go in the water. Fishermen have been going though this same spring ritual with Caribou for 65 years. It feels like 3 weeks of windy, rainy, boat work is forever but it is a little blip in the life of the boat and so important.
The are lots of areas on this 65 year old boat that need a little extra attention. A shipwright took the old caulking out of this topsides seam and put new cotton in. He left me with instructions to fix the broken plank end. “Make a dam with a yellow plastic spatula and block it in with wedges. Once the filler is dry sand it out and after it is painted it might look kind of like a plank.” As they say it is a long way from the heart.