It is the end of the day. No wind or rain so we try and paint one more thing before heading home. There is a 20 foot forged piece of iron that runs the length of the stem. Like everything else it’s gets a couple coats of paint every year.
It was an early morning, before school, haulout. Uneventful until they tried to drive the lift onto the road and realized there wasn’t enough clearance. The port had a problem with the lift we usually use so we were in one just a bit smaller. What to do? The borrowed cordless sawzall saved the day. Unfortunately Joe had to cut down the aluminum rails on the top of the bait shed. By the time Ocean had a just baked, oven hot, blueberry muffin from the cafe Caribou was back on the road.
Can you see the snowflakes? I have been working hard to get as much spring painting done before we haul out. I was all set, deck clean, edges taped, sun shining…. Well the sun wasn’t shining anymore and that big black cloud was spitting rain. By the time I had considered my options it was snowing. Beautiful but not paint friendly. On to plan B.
Does this email link still work?
April Rodeghier Smith
Now that we are on the other side of the 2016 king salmon opening we can see it all a little more clearly. The rush to get out of town. The nervousness in the pit of the stomach. The anxiety of all of it. And the excitement. Meeting people in town before hand, planning, scheming, everybody trying to find the fish. Getting the boat as ready as it can be. Then the looking for fish. Then first light on July first arrives, time to have gear in the water.
We spent June 30 in a small windy bay. We were the only boat there which wasn’t surprising with the weather. We had seen other boats around in the day and there are lots of places to tuck away in that area. At first light it was still blustery in the anchorage and even rougher out and around where we wanted to fish. We were the only boat there for a little while, the weather kept some boats upwind and the Cape kept only a few of the hardiest from coming around the other way. It was a good feeling to catch fish right away in the place we had wanted them to be.
After the excitement of the first day it is all a bit of a blur in my mind. We had a few days of good fishing and a few days of poor fishing, good weather and bad. We had 2 all night runs, one to change areas, one to get back to town to sell. We saw flocks of birds, whales, herring boiling at the surface, and fat, shiny king salmon. We drove all night when it was clear and calm and it didn’t get dark. We drifted one night, just shut off the engine in the fishing area and went to sleep for a few hours.
It isn’t all porpoises and sunsets. It is often really challenging. Joe has to make important decisions despite the lack of sleep and hard work that make us money and keep us safe. He has to keep the boat fishing every minute, when we lost the line, he had to make another one happen right away. When the gurdies wouldn’t haul in the gear, he had to figure out why. It is about all I can do to keep up my part of the job, cleaning and icing the fish, making food every once in awhile and taking care of Ocean.
We arrived back in Sitka town at 5 in the morning after the closure on midnight of the 5th day. Our timing was good and the all night run to town paid off because we didn’t have to wait to unload our fish. By the time we were done there was a list 25 boats long. We were totally exhausted. When someone asked Ocean what he did in the day he said that he went to the showers with his dad while his mom slept then went to the showers again while his dad slept. He didn’t mind going to the showers twice because they have internet there and he could do all kinds of Pokemon research. That evening we went out to dinner with other fishing friends, all of the older fishermen were exhausted, couldn’t read the menu and ordered the default hamburger. Ocean was alert enough to listen to the waitress, hear it was bbq night, and order a big plate of ribs for himself and two sides of fried pickles to share. A good ending to the official start of the 2016 trolling season.
The July first king opening is an important one. Kings are much more valuable than coho. Most people, given a choice, will choose a king salmon over a coho. They are big tasty fish. With a prospects of a decent price and good weather, anyone with any kind of boat and a power troll permit will be out fishing on July first. The opening might last 5 days, maybe a couple days longer. There is a certain number of fish that the regulators are allowing all the power trollers as a fleet to catch. It is our goal to get as many of those as possible into the hold of the Caribou. Picking the right place to start on the first day is pretty important. We can have our pick of any spot between Dixon entrance and Yakutat. You can fish right next to the rocky shoreline. Or 7 miles off shore. You can even go 60 miles offshore to the fairweather grounds. Lots of fish have been caught in almost any area. Popular spots have their own local names, the mushroom or the double 40s. Both named for what the contour lines on the chart look like. Some fishermen go right to their favorite spots. Some fishermen like us, without years of experience and confidence, spend a couple days looking for a place that looks fishy. This looking around has its own challenges and uncertainty. A lot of area, a ticking clock, and we are looking for something we can’t see.
We arrived in Sitka 48 hours ago. Our trip up from PA was pretty sloppy, we were running with a 20-25 knot southerly, not a lot of weather but after a bucolic month in Chatham we needed to get our sea legs back. The Bonine really helps, even Monkey gets Bonine these days. 7:30 pm. We arrived at Sitka just in time for the cheap tie up at the fuel dock. They were closed and we needed fuel in the morning. They don’t seem to notice you spend the night there if you spend a few thousand dollars on fuel the next morning.
8 pm. Happy time on the Duna. Calm night on the back deck to catch up with friends and eat Duna snacks. It feels good after a day of rolling around on the ocean.
10 pm. Make it to the grocery store in time to get the traditional back to town ice cream.
11 pm. Bed time. Whew.
5:30 am!! The fuel dock attendant is knocking on the side of the boat with the fuel nozzle in hand. Whoops. We thought they opened at 8.
8 am. Tied to the real dock. Time to start shoveling the ice out of the hold. Joe gets on the phone to find the part we need for the autopilot.
12:30. Still shoveling, at my own pace.
2:00. Ocean visits with some friends his own age from the Sea Lion. Lego playing happening.
3:00 Sea trial the auto pilot. Working!
6:00. Get the boat filled with nice cold town ice.
8:00. Hurry out for dinner. The streets roll up early around here.
9:30. Showers at the SPC fish plant.
I am exhausted. I walk back to Caribou myself. Leave Joe and Ocean to research Pokemon and the weather on the Internet. Tomorrow is bound to be just as busy with grocery shopping and the gear store. We might see cousins Finn and Odin and Kaiti as they pass through Sitka on their way from California to Port Alexander.