Sunday, August 16, 2015

I think our boats hate us




















  Way back in 1990, I had the genius idea that if I had a bigger boat, I would catch more fish, which for any fisherman, is the ultimate goal. I still had a bunch of kids at home at the time, and could only afford a wooden boat, which I knew would be a lot of work. However, the Bonnie J had a fairly new Isuzu diesel engine in it, and the boat looked sound enough, and the price was right, so I procured a loan and low and behold, I was the owner of a wooden troller. Twenty five years later, I hate to think of the money I've poured into the old gal. Just recently I was hauled out of the water for four months getting some planks replaced on the port side. Lord knows how much that's going to cost. I haven't gotten the bill for the labor yet, and I'm kind of afraid to see it. By the time I finally launched the boat (for the second time) the king salmon season was over. Cohos hadn't really started in yet, and the only thing biting was humpies, which were worth only 25 cents a pound. At least they didn't have to be cleaned. With all the competition for the halibut now, I thought I had better go get my quota before it got too much later in the year. They start to move into deeper water as the season progresses, and the weather only gets worse as fall nears. I took a couple of friends out with me to fish for the halibut. We went up into the bay and had just started to make the first set. We put out about thirty hooks of the 150 or so we were going to set when the hydraulic motor started leaking. I couldn't continue on like that, so we cut the set short and ran back in to town, about an hour and a half away. Seven hundred and some dollars later, I had a new motor. I saw my friend Jeff from the F/V Bifrost and told him about the motor. He got a disgusted look on his face and swore. Then he said, "I think our boats hate us Tom!" He might be on to something there. He spent the last fall having his engine rebuilt, as well as having planks, deck work and I don't know what all else done. It was an enormous amount of money to spend on the boat though, and when it comes time to sell, he'll most certainly only receive a fraction of what he spent for it. The thing is, he'll probably be like most boat owners and gladly take what is offered. Like the saying goes, the two happiest days of your life are the day you buy your boat and the day you sell it.  Lord knows I've had more than my share of boat fun this year. First it was the hydraulic motor. Then the chain that controls the long line drum had to be replaced. Then the engine overheated on the way in from halibut fishing. The thermostat that I just replaced a year or two before gave up  the ghost. Then the other day I was on my way out to pick another halibut set. It was foggy, so I figured I'd turn on the radar. Well, it wouldn't come on. No power. SOOOOOO.... I replaced the fuse. Now I had power, but there was a message on the radar screen that said - no heading pulse, no bearing pulse. I got out the manual that came with the radar and did what it said to do when that happened, but to no avail, so I guess I'll contact the fix it shop tomorrow and go from there. I'm going to have to get another job just to afford my fishing habit. I'm beginning to think that Jeff may have been right- our boats do hate us; and after all we've done for them too. Go figure.

Monday, August 3, 2015

Help Me, I've Been Humpy'd






















 It's sunny and windy today, two weather events that I don't care for very much when I'm out trying to fish. They actually go hand in hand. Most sunny days around here are accompanied by the wind. It makes for a miserable day out on the water. On the one hand, if there wasn't any wind, the heat would be almost unbearable. On the other, the wind makes it so difficult to control the boat,and it almost always gets lumpy and very uncomfortable. Sooooo, I took care of some projects on the boat and I'm working on getting some stuff done around the house so that maybe tomorrow I can go out and catch a fish or two. What you see in the pictures above are almost all Pink salmon, or Humpbacks, or as they are so affectionately known by the fishermen, Humpies. They are the smallest of the salmon, averaging around three and a half pounds more or less. This year the processors are only paying a quarter a pound for them, so a lot of them aren't even worth a dollar each. It's really kind of depressing to have to deal with them for so little money. The upside is, if there is one, is that this year is a record year for them. You can catch as many as you can hold in a day, or as many as you want to catch. They just keep on biting. On the one hand, it's kind of nice, with a fish on almost every hook, you're making money. The bad part is, you have to do the same amount of work as if you were catching something worth six or eight times as much. Humpies are a really squirrely fish. From the moment they bite they are fighting tooth and nail to get off the line. When they come aboard they flap about violently and almost always sling blood everywhere. If you have twenty or more flopping around at once, it looks like a war zone. You have to spend  half your time just hosing off the deck or the blood will dry on it and make a hell of a mess. Fortunately the cold storage is buying the fish in the round, meaning we don't have to clean them. That's nice. However, because I needed some to sell for sport fishing bait as Tom's Halibaits, those that we caught one day had to be cleaned. I think we had 175 of the bloody little buggers, which meant they all had to be gilled and gutted. What fun! Fortunately my daughter Jen is one of the maybe handful of people in the whole world who like to clean fish. She really gets into it. I have no idea what is so great about cleaning a bunch of Humpies, but I"m glad she likes doing it. It really simplifies my life. I enjoy the catching part of fishing and she enjoys the cleaning part, so we make a good pair. I went out by myself on Saturday and in half a day I think I ended up with around 700 plus pounds of Pinks. If I had gotten there early and spent the whole day I'm sure I could have easily doubled my score, however, the slush bags that I use were temporarily out of commission and I had to resort to using the half totes, which don't hold very much. Oh well. I'm hoping that the Humpie run will gradually subside and the cohos will come in to replace them. As it is, any other fish in the area doesn't stand a chance to grab the bait. Too much competition.  It would be like living in China at a Chow Mein Noodle factory. God forbid you should stand in the way at lunch time. Anyway, I'll just keep grinding away and hope for the best. About the time I have a day when I go out and don't catch anything, I'll long for the days when I couldn't keep the Humpies off my line.

Monday, July 27, 2015

Back in the Stall Again



















  It runs in my mind that there is an old western song that talks about being back in the saddle again. I'm not sure, but  I assume it's because whoever was singing it was away from their  horse for awhile and had finally returned. I can really relate. Back on March 29th, when I hauled out the boat for some plank work, I had no idea that I wouldn't be returning the Bonnie J back to her assigned stall for almost four months. It's been years since I've missed this much time during the fishing season. I've been chomping at the bit to get out for quite some time. Unfortunately I missed the king salmon season and though historically there is a little mop up for the remaining quota in August, this year there will be no mop up. Part of it is politics and part science I guess. I won't be able to catch another king this year until the winter season starts on October 11. I may be down south then, so chances are I won't catch any kings this year at all. Bummer. If there is any silver lining at all, it's that the season hasn't been very good. The prices are low and there aren't many fish around, with the exception of Humpies. That's fine with me, I need some for halibut bait and to sell to the two stores in town who carry Tom's Halibaits for sport's fishermen. Personally, I think salmon is one of the best baits a person can use for halibut. It stays on the hook well, and has enough scent to attract them. Even with all the work I've done, I'm still dealing with a small leak around the rudder post. I thought I had it fixed, but this morning when I launched, my friend, Vince, said it was leaking. He put an extra strand of packing in the packing nut, but then he couldn't get it to tighten down. Right now I'm not too concerned about it, but I may take a little time and deal with it tomorrow. Little problems have a way of becoming big problems if you don't deal with them, especially on a boat. The time to take care of a problem is when you're tied up at your stall- not when you're battling six foot seas. Having spent the last four months on dry land, the boat really dried out badly. The red bottom paint that is showing is testimony to how dry it got. I need to get some fuel tomorrow, and that will help to bring it down a little, and as the wood swells it will take on some water weight. I'm glad that the wood does swell, it helps to close the seams and make the boat water tight. I like that. I want to keep the water on the outside of the boat- much less stressful that way. Anyway, for those who may be following this blog, I just thought I'd let you know, she's back where she belongs. Hopefully when I go to check on her tomorrow I won't see  just the mast and poles sticking up out of the water.

Sunday, July 19, 2015

You Know You're Getting Old When....



















    There are certain things in life that are indicators that perhaps you've entered the "golden years". One is when you have a cupboard specifically designated for holding all of your medicines. I'm not talking about the medicine cabinet in the bathroom where the tweezers, band-aids and Neosporin are located. I'm talking about all the pills you need just to keep life at some semblance of normal. Things like blood pressure meds, prostate pills, thyroid medicine, calcium supplements, Vitamin D tablets and assorted and sundry other things. The container  that separates all of my pills into daily doses is so full that I can hardly close the lid anymore. Between my wife and I, we could probably open a pharmacy. We have pills, ointments and creams for everything from hemorrhoids to shingles; high blood pressure to Padget's disease. Holy cats! When we order our medicine from Juneau it comes in a bag the size of a small suitcase. One of the other more common issues that we of the older generation faces, is the inability to see very well without the aid of glasses. I'm fortunate in that I can still see without them for  things at a distance. The last time I had my eyes checked they were 20/15. Pretty good for an old guy. However, for reading and work that requires a little closer inspection,  I have to have glasses to see. This past Friday my oldest granddaughter got married- a sure sign that you're getting on in years, unless of course you were married when you were seven. Anyway, in all the rush to get ready for the wedding, or perhaps it was because the tie I was wearing was choking off blood to my brain, I forgot to grab a pair of glasses to take with me. I did remember the camera, but without any specs, I couldn't see the settings on the dial. Consequently, some of the pictures I took came out rather blurry. Otherwise I would have included more in this post. As further proof that I'm on the back side of life, my oldest son, Ben and his wife just had a baby. That makes eleven grand kids- I think. It's hard to keep up with them all. We'll have to get one of those reverse mortgages just to send a little cash for all the birthdays. I guess we'll never be able to retire. Oh well.

Thursday, July 9, 2015

The Surgery Was A Success?

























  Well, I just returned from Anchorage this morning. I wasn't sure I was going to make it home today. Last night when the jet was making the final approach to Juneau, it suddenly increased speed and started a rapid accent into the air. It was really foggy and rainy and we couldn't really see much out the windows. It's the kind of thing that makes the heart beat a little faster. Anyway, the captain explained that visibility wasn't good enough to land going that direction so we had to approach from the other end of the runway. Then today, it was still overcast with low hanging clouds and I wondered if I'd make it back or spend the day in Juneau. Fortunately it cleared up and we made it here.  I had gone up to Anchorage to have surgery on my prostate. As you recall, a few weeks ago I had written about not being able to pee after a urinary tract infection. I flew up to see what could be done at the Alaska Urological Institute  and met with Dr. Clark. Anyway, to make a long story short, I had to fly up on Sunday and had surgery yesterday at the clinic. It only took an hour or less. I'm peeing like a Russian race horse right now, although there is some pain associated with it, as one would expect after having a mini camera shoved up an orifice that is only supposed to flow in one direction, to say nothing of the tools necessary to perform the operation. Fortunately I was knocked out for the procedure, which was really good. I didn't want to suffer the humiliation of the remarks that I might have heard from the three females who were assisting Dr. Clark. There's nothing like introducing your genitals to a complete stranger of the opposite sex. However, as the saying goes, desperate times require desperate measures. Prior to the surgery, after the first visit, the doctor was asking what I was taking to relieve the swelling of the prostate. I told him Flo- Max and something else. He was surprised that I wasn't taking Rapa-flow, so he prescribed it, and it really helped, so much so that I almost cancelled the surgery, but thought better of it. The third med that I was taking didn't have a very cool name like Flo-max or Rapa-flow, and it had the unpleasant side effect of making one of my testicles sore. I was telling my friend, John, the shipwright about it while we were working on the boat. He happened to be mixing up a can of Dolphonite, a bedding compound to put on the guards of the boat to seal them. As he shoved the putty knife in the can and pulled it out he said the I should try Dr. John's Testicle Salve, which also happened to be the bedding compound. I guess it's multi- purpose. I declined but thanked him for opportunity to try a new ointment.Though it was tempting if it indeed offered relief of the pain, I opted to just stop taking the less glamorous sounding pills. Of course I can't very well share any pictures of the prostate surgery. Even if I had some, I think enough strangers have seen more than they could stomach, so instead I'm showing some pictures from a bridge up in Anchorage. The potted Begonias were hanging from holders made up to look like fishing rods. I was tempted to lower a few down and reel them back up. It would be the closest thing to fishing that I have done all year so far. I wanted to include a picture of my daughter Autumn who was so generous with her time, running me back and forth for multiple appointments, as well  as feeding and housing me in a grand manner. I don't have a picture of my other daughter, Liz who went out of her way, as always, to pick me up and house me in Juneau. It's at times like these that you realize how blessed it is to  have a loving family. In any event, it appears that everything is free flowing at the moment. One of the (hopefully) temporary side effects of the surgery is that when the urge to go hits, you can't ignore it- there's no putting it off, so if you see me rushing off for the nearest bathroom, please don't stand in my way, otherwise your shoes may get soaked.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Still Waiting



















  No doubt 2015 will go down for me as one of the most difficult and unpleasant years that I can remember. Not only have I had to deal with a number of physical ailments requiring multitudes of trips to and from Juneau, as well as Anchorage at a fair amount of expense, but I've been waiting for months to get the boat done so I can go fishing. As you can see from the above pictures, the shipwright finally got the planks all put on. That was accomplished on Sunday. I was able to finish painting it, and got it ready to launch on Monday. Unfortunately, as I had mentioned previously, we had a very hot, dry spring.Almost every day in May was hot, sunny and windy, as well as a good bit of June. Wood, being what it is, has a tendency to dry out when exposed to sunny, hot, dry weather, as evidenced by all the wild fires in Alaska and the north west. Well, the old Bonnie J is made of wood planks, with cotton caulking in between and sealed with cement on the bottom. There was a problem with cement falling out of some of the seams, so I was systematically going around and reefing out the old cement and re-caulking and sealing the seams where I saw the need. Unfortunately, the work that I did wasn't sufficient. When I launched the boat on Monday, water started pouring in like someone had turned on a fire hose. I had three bilge pumps going and still couldn't  keep up. Fortunately I was still in the slings of the hoist, so it was a simple matter of hauling me back out. I don't doubt that the city will of course charge me again for hauling me out, a tidy little five or six hundred dollar expense. Governments seem to think that it's citizens are there to support them instead of the other way around. There is little room for compassion or compromise. As of now, I'm in the process of trying to find all the leaks and plugging them with new caulking. Its a very time consuming and painful process that requires me to lay on my back looking up or kneeling on my arthritic knees and trying to drive in the cotton with a caulking iron and a mallet. So much fun! I'm not sure how anyone is doing out fishing- today is the first day of the summer king salmon season. I used to have night mares that I was missing opening day. Like Job said- what I feared has come upon me. Oh well, there's little that I can do about it. At this point I'm just hoping that I can find all the leaks and fix them in a timely manner so that I can possibly salvage this season. If there is a silver lining in all of this hoo- haw, it's that I have spent so much money on medical bills, and on the boat, that I may not owe any taxes this year! Wouldn't that be a kick in the pants!

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Two Steps Forward, One Step Back



















  2015 will be remembered by me as a year of trial and tribulation, a year when my patience has been stretched to the breaking point and seemingly beyond. We're half way through the month of June, and I'm still waiting for the remainder of the planks to be installed. A project that began at the end of March and was supposed to be finished over a month ago and has no finish date in sight. I'm pleased that we finally have some planks put back on the boat. It's progress that can be measured; however, the dog salmon are running and I'm not on the water taking advantage of them. The weather for the past six weeks has been hot dry and sunny, with an almost daily dose of wind. While it is nice to wake to sunny days, the unseasonably warm weather has melted almost all the snow on the surrounding mountains, which is a primary source of water for the streams that the salmon rely on to go up and spawn. Another ill effect of all this hot weather is that the wood on the boat is shrinking, so much so that the cement that covers the seams under the water line has dried out and is cracked and falling out, which means I have to go back through and caulk the seams again. I can't really blame the shipwright, he has a full time job that is taking almost all of his spare time. Nonetheless, I'm frustrated at the slow rate of progress and the money that seems to be flowing in the wrong direction. I can only hope that something is going to happen soon that will turn the tide and I'll be able to get back in the water and start fishing and hopefully start making some bucks. In the interim, all I can do is get the boat as ready as I can and pray that things will work out.