Blog Archive

Sunday, September 15, 2019

On The Anchor

    Last week I was fishing at Homeshore for cohos, along with a number of other boats. Fortunately it's a big area so it doesn't get too crowded, unless the fish are all being caught at one end or the other, in which case it's like throwing a single lifesaver on the floor in an old folks home and watching the elderly people scramble for it. On the night that I took these pictures, it was calm and relaxing. It's the kind of weather that you long for. This year has been uncommonly windy, with day after day of westerly winds blowing. Finally, as we approach the end of the season there's  been a stretch of calm weather, which is greatly appreciated. Unfortunately I was lulled into believing the National Weather Service was going to be correct after they correctly predicted good weather for about a week. Several nights after these photos were taken I anchored in the same spot. I was a little surprised that no other boats were around me, but that was fine. I don't like to be hemmed in. After I had set the anchor and cleaned up the boat, I noticed that the wind seemed to be freshening. That happens sometimes when the tide changes. The forecast was for ten knots out of the east, good for anchoring where I was. As the evening wore on though, the wind picked up, as well as the wave height. Not only that, but the easterly that it was supposed to blowing was not easterly at all, but westerly, and the ten knots that was predicted turned out to be twenty, and the two foot or less seas were four feet and above.By then it was dark and too late to run for a protected place. I didn't want to take a chance on going out onto the deck to pull the anchor and falling overboard. I turned on a light and proceeded to do a crossword puzzle. I choose the easy ones, and even then I sometimes have to look in the back for the answers. I'm trying to keep by brain from atrophying from lack of use, but I don't want to get totally frustrated by not being able to answer any of the questions. While I was sitting there getting rolled and bounced by a never ending series of waves, my friend Doug called. At the time I was still hot from being baked all day by a scorching sun streaming through the windows and the diesel engine cranking out about 800 degrees through the exhaust which runs right through the cabin, so I had opened my windows and door. Unfortunately the unseasonably warm weather must have started a new strain of irritating little fly to hatch, and they were all over the place. Doug had called, as he often does, because he was having a less than stellar day, and he knows that however bad his day has been, mine will have been worse. He was certainly correct about that. While we were talking, I had another great idea. As you may know if you've followed my blog for any length of time, I have a chicken hat, and a turkey hat. They are of course just replica's of the animals they represent. What I think I should have, as I told Doug, is a bat hat. Unlike the chicken and turkey hats though, this would employ a live bat. It would have to have a line connected to the leg of the bat and the center of the hat. Probably some spring loaded retractable device which would allow the bat to venture out in search of the bugs that were tormenting you, and yet not get too far away to where he was eating insects that were at the outer limits while leaving you exposed to painful bites and aggravation. Of course a bat that eats it's weight in bugs every night is going to have to eliminate the waste. I'm not sure how that would work. I suppose a disposable plastic tray that was molded to fit the design of the hat could be used for collection. Even if  the bat had an accident inside, it would probably worth a little elbow grease to clean up after him to avoid the irritation of bugs. Anyone who has ever been in that twilight time right before you drop off the sleep only to hear the unmistakable whine of a mosquito enter your sleeping space will understand the need for the BAT HAT. Fishing season is almost over, so I should be having a little more time to research bats, hats and bugs. I should probably talk to the good folks at PetCo to see if they would be interested in supplying bats for the summer season. As Martha Stewart would say- it's a good thing.

Monday, September 2, 2019

Where Would We Be Without Music?

   As I sit here writing this post, I'm listening to the hauntingly beautiful sounds of the flute and synthesizer that were used in the song La Folie 2  by New Age artist Deuter. It's one of several songs I've downloaded by this artist. He's so incredibly talented. I was looking on my Ipod and see that I have 686 songs downloaded onto it. Frankly, there have been a few that I wish I hadn't downloaded, but for the most part I'm delighted by them all. I was thinking of how much a part of our every day lives music is, and I wondered, where would we be without it? It would be like strolling through  a garden without color or scent. My musical tastes are quite diverse.  In the past six months I've downloaded songs ranging from the deep twangy voice of Johnny Cash to the mellow Charlie Rich in the country venue, new age music from John Adorney, Deuter, and the husband, wife and daughter team that make up the group 2002.I've got a song titled Release Me by the heart throb of every middle aged housewife in America at the time, Engelbert Humperdink. I honestly don't know if that's his real name or not, but he had a voice that was impressive and looks to match. I've ordered songs that I've heard on Sirius radio on their Sixties on 6 program with Cousin Brucie. In fact, about two weeks ago a fellow called and asked to hear a song by a sixties group called The Nightcrawlers. They sang a song that Brucie claims didn't even make it onto the charts called The Little Black Egg. I remembered the song though from the radio back in "67". It's quite a catchy tune, so I don't know how it didn't make it into the top 100, except that it was competing with so much good music of the time. I've got several songs by Tony Orlando and Dawn. They sang a song called Knock Three Times that was very popular back in my hometown in the late sixties at the local roller skating rink. It's funny, a song can come on and you will be instantly transported back in time to whatever was happening when you heard it originally. What would Hollywood do without great composers setting the stage for what was happening. I'm listening to the end credits from the movie Castaway with Tom Hanks. It's the same music that was playing when he got off the island in a raft and the volleyball he had named Wilson drifted off. He was devastated, and it made me cry as well. Hearing the song I can vividly recall the scene. I've got songs from Ennio Morricone, the Italian composer who provided the music for so many spaghetti westerns like A Fistful of Dollars, and Once Upon a Time in the West. Who can forget the opening scene with Charles Bronson having a shootout at the train station when you hear that harmonica start playing. A few months back I had a memory of a song called Sing Along by a band leader named Mitch Miller. He had a program on TV years ago when I was a boy. It was called Sing Along With Mitch. When my grandma used to visit I had to watch it, which at the time I hated. Mitch had a goatee and when he conducted he used to move his arms just a few inches, which was comical to watch. The show displayed the words to whatever song was being sung at the time and there was a yellow bouncing ball that moved under each word so you could sing if you wanted to. Of course I never wanted to, but I think Grandma couldn't contain herself sometimes. Television commercials have made great use of music. Alka Seltzer had a popular commercial back in the sixties which showed all manner of stomachs. The slogan was -Alka Seltzer, for whatever shape your stomach is in. Anyway, the music that went with it was so popular that they made a recording of it. I listened to that on Cousin Brucies show a few weeks back. What memories. In any event, music is just such a blessing to enjoy. I can't imagine being unable to hear. I hope that you'll take some time to reflect on a favorite song, and hopefully it will bring back a pleasant memory for you as well.

Sunday, August 25, 2019

Care For a Little Wine With That Cheese?

A few weeks ago we had the pleasure of watching our friends dog, Rabano, again. They ran down south for a few days, and when they returned, they brought back a shirt for Jan, and some cheese for me. I happen to love Beechers Flagship cheese. My friend Mark introduced me to it a little over a year ago. Unfortunately, or perhaps fortunately, I'm unable to get it here in Hoonah. The closest place I know of is the Costco store in Juneau. It's a little spendy, but well worth the cost. I'm afraid I can't adequately describe the flavor. It's sharp,with a bit of a salty tang that is so satisfying. If you look closely, you can see that I'm holding two blocks of cheese. One is an eight pound behemoth, and the other is about a three ounce sampler. I'm sorry to say that even though Mark and Sarah appreciated the dog sitting, the eight pound block is Marks. However, in all fairness, I must mention that Mark was good enough to order my favorite soft drink, Vernors, and was generous in his sharing with me. I should also point out that he brought some of his Beecher's to the house for a gathering, so he's not in the least stingy. Beechers cheese is so popular that they have an entire store in the Sea-Tac airport, and every time I've been by there, there's been a line to get in. If you've never tried it, you owe it to yourself to do so. Perhaps you finished a project ahead of time at work, or went out of your way to be kind to a neighbor, or helped out your spouse with an unpleasant chore. Reward yourself with a block of Beecher's Premium Flagship cheese. I'd like to mention that Beecher's is handmade from Jersey and Holstein cows milk. I'm quite certain the cows don't make the cheese, they just provide the main ingredient. It should also be noted that it's additive free, and aged for fifteen months. I don't really understand what aging does to cheese, I guess the time it ages affects the sharpness of it. I would think that after ingesting an eight pound block of cheese, one might be looking for a strong laxative. It would seem like that much protein could play havoc on the old digestive system. Frankly, I didn't even know that they made blocks of cheese that big for the average consumer. Maybe for a restaurant, but not for the average Joe on the street. Mark was quite impressed with the label too. He mentioned buying a triangle picture frame, the kind that you might display a folded flag in for his label. He could star in his own Alka- Seltzer commercial. Years ago I believe there was one where people were saying "I can't believe I ate the whole thing." You never see cheese eating contests at state fairs. I think there should be. I wonder how much wine you would need to accompany an eight pound block of cheese. Perhaps a whole vat, I don't know. In any event, if you should find yourself in the Sea Tac airport or wherever fine cheeses are sold, I hope you'll avail yourself of the opportunity and purchase some. You'll be glad you did.

Saturday, August 10, 2019

Tools of the Trade

  For six days there has been a troll closure for all salmon here in Southeast Alaska. It doesn't impact the sport boys or the charter guys, but it shuts us right down. The theory is that it will give the coho salmon more of a chance to get into the streams and rivers. I find it interesting that in the past, the closure has always coincided with the Golden North Salmon Derby in Juneau. The fact is though, there seems to be less salmon being caught this year than in recent years. How much that has to do with all the hot, sunny weather we've had and the warmer water temps and what percentage can be attributed to the fact that there are more and more lodges and charter outfits targeting all the species of salmon as well as halibut, rockfish, ling cod and whatever else is swimming in these waters is a matter of speculation. I suspect that if something doesn't change soon, fishermen, lodges, charter companies and residents are going to find themselves with nothing. However, in the interim, things go on as usual. I was out fishing last week and looked around my boat cabin and realized how much things have changed for me since 1978, when I first found out that people would pay me to catch fish. From fishing with two rods and pink lady divers out of an open skiff, I graduated to using Penn downriggers, first with that same 14 foot Hi- Laker, and then later in a 22 foot Larson Commander. Eventually I got gurdies, which required that I have a depth sounder to keep the gear off the bottom.It didn't always work, but that was operator error.At the time a VHF radio and a CB radio rounded out my compliment of tech gadgets. Eventually I bought the Bonnie J, the old wooden troller that I have now. It's hard to believe, but I purchased it in 1990. It was built in 1945 and has undergone so many changes since I've owned it that I doubt that the original owner would recognize it. In my opinion, without a doubt, one of the greatest inventions ever created and used by the fishing industry has been the GPS. Though it wasn't created for the fishing industry, we have nontheless put it to great use. I have a Nobeltec program for my lap top, and I'd be lost without it, sometimes literally. It's guided me through the fog in Cross Sound, and kept me off the rocks in Port Frederick. With it I can mark the beginning and end of a halibut set and expect to find my buoys the next day. I can mark crab pots and high spots in an effort to avoid them, and if the fish are in a particular spot I can mark that as well. If a crew hand drops a gaff overboard, or if they fall overboard, I can put a mark on the spot. It tells me my speed over ground, what direction I'm going in and where I've been. It's been one of the best investments I've ever made. I wish I'd had it years earlier. Of course a depth sounder is absolutely necessary to for fishing and navigation, and it shows fish and feed as well as the bottom depth and type. Beside the fire extenguisher hanging on the wall is a container holding a flare gun and flares, should I find myself in distress and needing to signal someone. It seems kind of old fashioned in this day and age, but if you were somewhere without cell service, or you lost your battery and couldn't use the radio, you'd be glad you had the flares, assuming any passing boats weren't on their cell phones playing games or some such thing. Finally I have a twelve mile Furuno radar. I don't really need a twelve mile radar, I'm never that far from land, and I don't really think I'm going to run into another boat twelve miles away, but when it's foggy outside, which is going to become more commonplace soon, as the weather (hopefully) starts to cool down and we transition into fall, it's an invaluable piece of equipment. While the GPS can tell me where I am, it can't tell me if there is another boat in front of me, hence the need for the radar. By comparison, my boat is fairly elementary, but I'm a fairly simple guy and the equipment I have seems to get the job done. Hopefully it will all continue to work as we start trolling again on Tuesday. If it fails for some reason, I'll let you know.

Friday, August 2, 2019

Dog Sitting

  A few weeks ago we had the opportunity to be surrogate parents to our friends Mark and Sarah's dog, Ra'bano. After losing our dog Rigby, it was nice to have the chance to have one of our furry friends come by for a few days. I can only recall once when he kind of whined a little bit. As hard as it can be for people to be in unfamiliar places and uncomfortable situations, I can only imagine what it must be like for our pets. I know that not everyone has the luxury of leaving a beloved pet with a friend or neighbor when they have to leave for one reason or another. I just hate the idea of having to board your pet at a vet or animal shelter. Maybe I'm full of hoo-ha, but I feel like as much as possible they need to be in a loving environment while their owners are away. As you can see, Ra'bano (which means radish in Spanish) is feeling quite at home on our couch. He's really well trained, and though the food right there before him is enticing, he didn't once make a grab for the plate. Sarah feeds him a big meal in the morning, and gives him treats during the day, but he only gets the one meal. It's a custom made one though, usually consisting of a chicken thigh, rice, veggies and a gravy of sorts. I suppose she must change it up some times, but the thing is, it's more than just a bowl of commercial dog food. We had a hard time not feeding him the whole time he was here, and we did sneak him a little bit now and then from our plates. How could we not? Look at that face! He is such a sweet dog, and as you can see, he's no small dog. He made our couch his resting place, so before bed at night we put his favorite blang on it. He is tall enough that he could sit on the couch and rest his front legs on the back of it and look out the window. He only barked once one night around 1:00 AM. I guess it was because someone was being noisy walking down the street out front. It didn't take him long to claim it as his own and he didn't appreciate noisy carrying on when decent folks are inside sleeping. It was comforting to know that he was on watch while we slept. He's incredibly powerful, and unlike Rigby, he liked going for rides in the truck. It was all I could do to keep him in check when I took him out for a spin around the park at the end of the day. Thankfully he didn't spot another dog or cat while we were out. I'm looking forward to having him come for a stay again in the future. Another friend had to leave town recently, and their little daschund who is old and frail was dropped off at a neighbors house to keep an eye on. His name is Sarge, and he's the only blond wiener dog I've ever seen.  I let his owners know that should the occasion arise again where they needed to leave him behind, we'd be available. As much as I miss Rigby, I don't think I ever want another dog. There are so many around that need some love and attention that I'm sure I can meet my need and theirs on a regular basis.

Thursday, July 11, 2019

Smoke on the Water

  For the past three weeks or maybe a month we've had unusually hot temperatures here in Southeast Alaska. Actually it's been happening all over the state I believe. I know that eighty plus degrees doesn't sound so hot to some folks, but here, where the average temperatures range in the mid sixties to mid seventies in the summer, having the temps soar to the upper eighties was quite uncomfortable. No, it wasn't just uncomfortable, it was outright miserable, truth be known. Much like last year, there hasn't been any rain since the beginning of June, so the grass around the house was starting to dry out and turn yellow, and the creeks are exceptionally low. Not something you want to see right before the salmon show up to do their annual spawning run up the creeks and rivers. For some reason the horseflies seem to thrive on this hot, dry weather, and they were out in droves. I was fishing up the bay for King Salmon last week and the flies like to drove me nuts. I was knocking them down outside with my salt water wash down hose, and killing them by the dozens inside the cabin of the boat where they tormented me non stop. I hosed some of them right out through the scuppers and into the bay, but those sapsuckers took right off and came around for another bout with me.  I'd love to have an electric suit that I could put on and just stand out on the deck of my boat. When the horseflies landed on me, they'd fry like bacon in a hot skillet. That would be so satisfying least until I splashed some water on me or it started to rain.This hot dry weather has messed up the fishing as well. I understand that the runs are several weeks late in some parts of the state, and I know that trying to catch dog salmon a few weeks ago was almost impossible unless you could get your gear down to almost 240 feet. The water temperatures are above normal, so I guess they're running deep where the temp is more to their liking. Day after day we woke up to bright sunny weather, which was refreshing on the one hand until about ten in morning when the heat would start to rev up. Then the fires up north started in. It's an annual thing for thousands of acres of forests to burn up in the interior, usually caused by lightning strikes. It appears that over in British Columbia there are forest fires too, because we've been inundated with smoke from the fires, so much so that there were unhealthy air advisories on the news. They were recommending that folks with respiratory problems remain indoors. It looked like parts of China around here, it might have made some of the tourists feel right at home. For the first time in all the years that I've lived  here, the July 4th fireworks display was cancelled. It was too dangerous. The NOAA weather station kept predicting rain and clouds and cooler weather, but time and again they would revise it for a few days later. It was all very frustrating. However, today I awoke to clouds (and smoke) and it actually sprinkled a little. When I passed by the information sign at the school the temperature was a very pleasant 65 degrees, much more to my liking. Everyone keeps asking me how I'm going to make it in Idaho if I can't handle the weather here. Believe me, I've wondered that myself, and lately I've been starting to lose a little sleep thinking about it. I guess the answer is air conditioning. We'll see.

Wednesday, June 26, 2019

Where the Rainbow Ends

 I was coming in from fishing a few days ago and was a little surprised to see this rainbow. For the past week or so we've had a lot  of sunshine. It seems like it's been much longer than that though. I've mentioned before that when the sun comes out here in the summer, it can get brutally hot. Today the electronic sign at the school stated that it was eighty one degrees. Frankly, it felt even hotter. I'm looking at the clouds in this picture and wishing I could seed them and spark a thunder storm, or at the very least an all night cloud burst. I like the sunshine as much as anyone else. When you wake up in the morning and its sunny out, it makes a person feel pretty good. The bad feelings don't start until about ten in the morning when it becomes blatantly apparent that it's going to get blazing hot. I believe sweltering is a good word. When I lived in Charleston South Carolina, I expected it to get hot and muggy, but good Lord, this is Alaska for crying out loud. I dropped up  to the post office today and ran across two other people who ventured out of the comfort of their homes. One was a lady who lives in Anchorage. Her and her husband are here on a sailboat. She echoed the very words I'd spoken not ten minutes before. She said, " When it gets above 65 degrees around here, it's unbearable." No truer words were ever spoken. Then another fellow came in who had been driving some tourists around in a van sight seeing. They may have been out looking for bears. I suspect the bears are too smart to come out into the sunshine. Can you imagine how miserable they must be, living with that three or four inch long fur in this heat? To make matters worse, they stink, which attracts biting flies. That was something the man mentioned. The horse flies were atrocious. They happen to love this hot, sunny weather. Go figure. Anyway the fellow mentioned that several of his customers were from Arizona, and they were bundled up in jackets. They asked him not to open the windows too far because they were chilly. The poor guy was a retired meat cutter and was used to working in 45 degree temps, so to say he was uncomfortable was an understatement. To make matters worse, he's growing out his hair as part of a charitable act for children's cancer, so he had a six or eight inch pony tail hanging down his back. Now that's a sacrifice. One other disadvantage of these hot sunny days is that the wind blows like all forty. I  haven't been fishing for several days because the only area open is nine miles away across open water,so that even if the seas are calm early in the morning, by evening they can get upwards of five feet. Not my cup of tea.  I don't believe the fish much care for the sun and heat either. Most of the dog salmon being caught are between thirty and forty fathoms down. I suspect the water is cooler down there, and they aren't bothered by the glare of the sun. It looks like I'll be stuck in the harbor again tomorrow- the forecast is for more of the same- hot and sunny. Yippee. Perhaps I should be a good business man and start an air conditioning business. If things keep going this way, I think I'd do pretty good. As far as where the rainbow ends I guess it ends behind the Hoonah harbor. If there was a pot of gold there I didn't see it. Probably someone else got to it before me and bought themselves a ticket to somewhere cooler.