Tuesday, July 29, 2014

America's Finest




















   In a typical case of  computer ignorance, I managed to eradicate a number of the comments from a few of my previous posts. My apologies to the folks who took the time to write. I mistakenly had hit the not spam button when I was trying to delete some spam, and anyway, in trying to fix it, I took out the spam and comments that mattered. Regardless of the saying that ignorance is bliss, there are times when it's real pain in the butt to be stupid about certain matters. Oh well. Now on to the primary reason for this post. Needless to say, I'm incredibly proud of my two sons. In an age where so many Americans are only too happy to deliver a mediocre performance on the job, as long as they receive a paycheck, these men have excelled in their chosen fields. It's not because of the pay either. The military is not one of the professions you step in to expecting to make the big bucks. They both have a chest full of medals and honors for excellence. Hell, when I was in the navy I was just hoping to make it through  my four years and getting on with my life. I don't think either of these fellows are planning to make the military a career, which makes the dedication and hard work all the more admirable to me. I find it incredible that in an age when America has more enemies than at any other time since it's founding as a country, we have an administration that fails to see the need for a strong military. Instead, they are cutting back the military to pre-world war two numbers. They have apparently subscribed to the idea that you can reason with terrorists and madmen. Ask the folks on the flight that was shot down over Ukraine how that worked, or perhaps you could reason with ISIS, or the Taliban or Hamas. I have friends who, when they ask about the boys and I mention their military service, kind of disapprove. How nice for them that they can continue on  with their comfortable lives without having to worry about having the bloody hell bombed out of them. It's because of men like those above, who have taken up the mantle of excellence in their willingness to defend this country that we Americans can sleep in safety at night. The men and women of my father's generation went to war, not because they wanted to, but to protect the freedoms that we as Americans hold so dearly. I have a license plate on the front of my truck that states what should be obvious to everyone. It states simply, Freedom isn't Free. It's bought by the blood and sacrifices made by those in our military and their families. It sure as hell isn't paid for by politicians who want to talk their way to peace. I hope that if you meet up with a member of our military, you'll shake their hand and say thanks. It's the least we can do for those who are fighting for our  country.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Jen's House of Chickens

















  For reasons unknown to dolts such as I am, there has been an upsurge of  interest in our fair town in the lowly chicken. I'm not quite certain who first started this latest fad, but there is a lady in town who apparently has something like a hundred of the blasted things, and seems to be gaining a few disciples who are like minded. I know the guy down the street had a coop built that would be suitable for living in yourself if there were a source of heat, a bed and perhaps a little entertainment. It's pretty much the deluxe version of chicken coops. Perhaps if these fancy homes for fowl catch on, there will be a special slot for them on H G TV. The guy with the fancy coop wasn't satisfied with just having chickens; in short order he decided to get some turkeys too. Hmmm... so far no problem...yet. Jen isn't so lucky. Her neighbor, Chicken Lady's mother, the big hen, rather liked the idea of having chickens as well, so  she's got a dozen of so running around. The problem is that her lawn is so overgrown that the birds can't move around, so naturally they gravitate to the path of least resistance, which in this case is my daughter Jennifer's yard. So far they've managed to peck out a handful of plants from her garden as well as dig hollows in the dirt so they can nest comfortably.  They also discovered her massive fir tree in the front yard and are using it to roost at night. Lovely. The thing that endears them to her the most though is that, like all mammals, they produce waste. She stepped out into her yard barefooted the other morning right into a half dozen droppings. She spoke to her neighbor once already, but so far to no avail. She did mention it to the local wildlife trooper as well, and while they may not be technically considered wildlife, they are running wild, and he said she should feel free to pop them with a pellet gun. I told her to buy a box of chicken wings from the Chipper Fish and go visit her neighbor while she munches down on the wings. Some people need a little more than a friendly reminder. Fortunately for the chickens she's too kind to do that. I, of course, am not that kind. I brought my fancy chicken hat over to Jen the other day to see if she could lure them back to their own yard, kind of like the Pied Piper of Hamlin. While they did seem to be somewhat entertained by the hat, they stayed firmly planted in her yard. It's so much nicer than theirs. Perhaps we should contact the fellows at Duck Dynasty to see if they make chicken calls. It might be a new lucrative market for them. While writing this post, I noticed that Jen appears to look somewhat like she is wearing a small war bonnet, much like the native Americans used to wear on the war path. No doubt if the natives had been wearing chicken hats such as the one modeled above, the white man would never have had a chance at conquering them. They would have been too busy laughing and would have been easy targets. Another lesson learned too late. Ah well.



Monday, July 7, 2014

Slim Pickin's


























  As I had mentioned earlier in the season, I have to actually do something (fishing) that in theory will make me a few bucks. As a result, I haven't had too much time or energy to donate to this blog. So sorry, but as I age I find myself with less and less stamina. At the end of the day, and especially if I've been out on the water all day, I'm really drained, so I don't have much to give to writing. However, it's been a few days since I last fished, so I thought I would take a few minutes and try to put something out for the faithful few who have been reading this. The summer king opening started on July 1, which meant that the outside coast was  open for fishing. The difference is like night and day between fishing out on the ocean and fishing on the inside in the bays and inlets of the Inside Passage. On June 30th, I started on my way out to the coast. I was fighting the tide all the way out, figuring I would make it to South Pass right about the time the tide started going out, thus avoiding all the current and tide rips that typically occur on the ebb tide at the Pass. The wind was supposed to be blowing out of the East at ten knots, which normally would be almost flat calm. Frankly, I don't know if the folks at the National Weather Service just throw dice at a board and announce whatever they happen to land on and call it a forecast or what, but it was NOT blowing ten easterly. I was watching the charter and whale watch boats trying to get back into the dock to pick up the next unlucky batch of landlubbers and most of them were burying their bows in the steep waves and whitecaps. I had the wind pushing me along, so it wasn't quite so bad, until I reached Point Adolphus. Then it was a white knuckle ride for the next thirty minutes of so. If my hair wasn't already white for the most part, it would have been by the time I was through that washing machine ride. Once I got on the back side of the point where the wind wasn't so much of a factor, the fog started in. Oh Joy! Fortunately the radar was working, as well as the GPS, which makes all the difference in the world when traveling in the fog. It can still be disorienting though. I made it to the Pass at just about the right time and was congratulating myself, figuring I deserved a hot cup of coffee. I poured a cup and went to fill up the coffee pot, but no water came out of the faucet. Damn! The ice that I picked up for ballast was actually colder than the usual slush that I get and it froze the water line leading to the sink. Of course the moment you can't have something, that's all you can think of. I wanted a drink of water desperately bad. I was starting to panic. What if I started choking on a cookie or something and I didn't have any water to charge the drain? I might choke to death! Fortunately Elfin Cove was right around the corner, so I pulled in and bought a case of bottled water. There were 35 bottles in the case, but it took two just to get enough water for a decent cup of coffee. Of course because I didn't have any other water to tap in to, my mind kept telling me I needed a drink of water every few minutes.At that rate I'd have to come back to the cove for another case before the night was over. After supper that first night I realized that I didn't have any water to do dishes with. Rats! I had to resort to using the salt water wash down hose to clean my dishes and then put the plug in the sink and sparingly pour a little fresh stuff to rinse them. What a pain. Then of course I needed some to brush my teeth. I thought about using some Powerade to brush with, but the idea kind of nauseated me. Vitamin Water wouldn't work either, even though there was a bottle of it in the cooler that was clear. I can't recall what the flavor was, but I doubt if the American Academy of dental hygienists would approve of using it as a rinse. Go figure.I did have a couple of refreshing Miller Lights in the cooler, but beer and Pepsodent probably wouldn't work either. I'd look like I was foaming at the mouth, and actually if I had resorted to such a thing, I would probably deserve to be put away. Anyway, I caught a fair number of King Salmon over the course of the four days I was out there and made it home safe and sound. Once I got in to port I decided to try the faucet one last time, even though all previous attempts had yielded not a drop. I may as well have been in the Sahara. Of course once I got tied up in port, the line had thawed and copious amounts of that liquid delight gushed forth like a Texas oil well. Was I surprised? Of course not! I wouldn't have expected anything different.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Fish, Fish Everywhere and Not a One to Catch

















  Remember that saying, water, water everywhere and not a drop to drink? Well it's been kind of like that in the fishing realm here this past few weeks. The troll fleet from Sitka, Wrangell, Ketchikan, Yakutat and other spots around Southeast Alaska have amassed here in anticipation of the June run of Chum Salmon that normally makes there way through Icy Strait on their way to the hatchery from which they came some years back, but so far it's been a dry run. I keep hoping that they'll get discouraged and leave and then the run will show and I and my fellow Hoonah fishermen will clean house, smiling all the way to the bank. So far though, no one is smiling, well, except maybe the eagles. It's really kind of hard to tell if they are or not. They're pretty intent birds. They should be happy though. As you can see, the herring have moved in to the harbor en mass. Every stall has multitudes hanging around, as well as under the ramps that  lead to the floats. They aren't spawning, just hanging out. It was probably a necessary move in order to preserve their lives. For the past few years the Humpback Whales have been congregating in the bay chowing down on them. One whale can engulf hundreds of the little tykes in one fell swoop, and they never stop at one mouthful. When there is a whole pod of whales present Lord knows how much herring is consumed, but it's a lot! I know that a lot of folks really get into watching the whales and sea lions and sea otters, but things are out of balance now. The animal rights groups have raised so much havoc with lawmakers that now all these predators are protected and running amok. Similar to the same types of groups who oppose any logging, they are short sighted, not realizing that what they think is a good thing is to the detriment of the resource. Out west where large swaths of government lands were off limits to logging, there have been terrible wild fires, causing much more damage than if logging had been permitted. I'm not advocating the large scale removal of entire hillsides of trees, but a balanced approach where areas are logged. It's good for the economy and good for the forests. If a fire breaks out it will run out of fuel if it runs into a clear cut area and only part of the forest will suffer instead of losing tens of thousands of acres at once. It's the same with the whales and sea lions and otters. They're nice to see if you're a tourist, but left to their own devices, they'll eat themselves out of house and home.  People who come for a visit don't realize that it can happen, but it can. It wasn't all that long ago, just a few years ago, that when I passed by Point Adolphus on my way to the outside coast, the color video sounder would show feed, probably krill, from the bottom all the way to the top, solid. I would be in thirty fathoms of water, one hundred and eighty feet deep, and it would be hard to tell the bottom from the top because they were so thick. The whales have congregated there for years, but now when I go by, no sign of feed. The whale watch boats are having to go much further to sight any groups of them even though there are more whales now than ever. Eventually nature will thin out the herd. If there's no food, there will be no animals. Personally, I'd like to see hunting of some of these marine mammals so that the herd stays healthy. Of course that will be an uphill battle. Hopefully those in control will come to some degree of common sense and find a balanced approach in dealing with the predator population before it's too late.

Monday, June 9, 2014

UH - OH

















   Hmmm... welllll... it would appear that there was a slight miscalculation on the way to the grid iron the other night. Houston, we have a problem. When I see something like this, I think, there, by the grace of God go I. Anyone who has spent any time on a boat is bound to have an unfortunate incident of some kind or another. A few years ago the guy on the Antares was doing something or other- covering the ice with ice blankets or grabbing coffee or whatever, but in any event, he grounded his boat on Graveyard Island. Fortunately the Antares is a  big fiberglass boat, and it didn't hit all that hard, so the most damage done was to his ego, as every boat going to or from the harbor passed by it, plus all the boats docked at the cold storage. I think I would have gone up forward and to the aft where the name is displayed and covered it with a tarp to try and save a little face. I distinctly recall one morning some years ago when I was charging out of Flynn Cove on my way over to Homeshore when I heard the guy on the Williwaw calling a seine boat that was steaming towards the rocks on Spasski Island. He tried to raise the captain multiple times, with no response. Finally after about five minutes, you heard the captain of the seine boat calling the coast guard declaring that he had run aground on Spasski Island. Unfortunately he fell asleep at the wheel. The boat was able to be salvaged, but I'm not sure about the captains job. I fondly remember using my fourteen foot fiberglass skiff as an icebreaker one February day. I was trying to make way into the logging camp via the bay which was frozen over with what I thought was skim ice. However, as I got further into the bay the ice kept getting thicker. I remember thinking how tough my boat was and was filled with an uncommon sense of good will until I looked down at the front of the boat and saw water pouring into the bow. Needless to say, the prospect of having your boat sink in water that is literally freezing cold can be unnerving at best. I was glad that I had visited the outhouse that morning or there may have been additional issues to deal with. Obviously I made it out OK, and so did the boat, and after a little fiberglass repair job it was almost good as new. However, any thoughts I may have entertained about naming the boat The Invincible quickly became replaced with The Not So Tough- kind of like me.  Nothing like some real life situations to give you a better perspective on your place in the universe. I'm glad to report that the boat in the above pictures was able to be yarded off the bar with the help of the high tide and a rather large loader. Although the boat is spelled differently, Webster's defines the word mirth as gaiety or jollity, especially when accompanied by laughter. I would imagine when the captain felt the boat ground to a halt on that bar, there wasn't much laughter going on. At times like those, Pucker Factor might be a more appropriate boat name.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

The Clown Ship

















   I was heading out fishing this morning when I noticed that some of the whale watch boats were already leaving with their passengers. I looked down towards the cannery where the ships have been anchoring and saw nothing, although there were some lightering boats running to the cannery from around the corner. When I got around the bend myself, I could see that for whatever reason the captain decided to anchor on the other side of cannery point. There has been quite a large amount of conflict over the cruise ship dock and it's location. Icy Strait Point wants it built on their property, using state money, and the city says no they can't for that very reason. Unfortunately, one of the city council members has been pushing the ISP location, even though there is a conflict of interest and it has really divided the city. What a pain. I assume the captain docked where he did to make a point, I don't know, but in any event it was a nuisance to try and troll around him tonight when I was coming in. This particular ship is the Norwegian Sun, part of the Norwegian Cruise Line. I don't know why they take a perfectly good ship and paint this ridiculous design on it. It's so out of character for the location. Here we have this beautiful location, with the clean, clear water and mountains and woods and here comes this ship looking like a pimp on a holiday. It's kind of like inviting a clown to your wedding- it just seems out of place. As my old friend Uncle Bill would say, " That looks like a scab on a Polar Bear's behind!" I couldn't agree more.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Wiener Dog

















     When it comes to the life of Riley in the animal kingdom, few pets can rival our dachshund, Rigby. Dachshund, in German literally means badger dog. They were bred to go into holes after badgers and other burrowing animals. I believe that badgers can be ferocious, but these dogs were up to the task. They're ears are purposely long to keep out the dirt, leaves and grass that would enter otherwise and they have large paws for digging. The long snout helps to sniff out prey and they're large chest gives them a capacity to keep at the task at hand without getting winded.I read that the tail was bred to be curved so that they could be pulled out by it in case they got stuck in a hole. Apparently they're known for being stubborn, a fact that I can attest to.  Author E.B. White who owned a dachshund wrote, " whenever I address Fred I never have to raise my voice or my hopes. He even disobeys me when I instruct him in something he wants to do." He sure hit the nail on the head there. About the only way I can get Rigby to do what I want him to, when he is engaged in doing what he wants, is to entice him with the promise of food, and even then he takes his time, making sure that I know that he's only obeying because there is something in it for him. I guess I could just pick him up and force him into obedience. I am, after all, much bigger, but hope springs eternal, and I keep thinking that some day he will willingly comply with my commands. Actually, I think that the tables are turned. I usually comply with his wishes. With a little whining or crying he can make me take  him outside where he will strain against his leash until I follow him to wherever he wants to go.While he never voices an opinion one way or another, I guess he just assumes we'll grab a bag and clean up after him. It's kind of like having a servant follow you around to flush the toilet when you're finished.With a few loud barks he will let me know that he wants some of the salad I'm making or a few pieces of the banana that I'm having for breakfast. When we purchased the new couch, Jan and I agreed that the dog, or perhaps I should say the king, wouldn't be allowed on it. That lasted for about fifteen minutes. That's how long it took for him to sniff it and decide it would be a satisfactory place in which to look out at his kingdom and let passers by know that he didn't appreciate the interruption of having them walking by on the street. As you can see, he's become quite enamored with the couch and matching pillows. It's a resting spot fit for a king. I see the king has left his throne and is presently in bothering me with an annoying sound, much like a cross between a groan and a whine. It's not time for his noon snack, and he's already had his cereal and milk- Multi-grain Cheerios with 2% milk, so he must want to go out. Guess I better stop what I'm doing and obey the master or there will be no rest for me.