Blog Archive

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Spring, at last...I think

It was an absolutely beautiful day today- the kind that you dream about all winter long. Actually, in the past week or so we've had a few great days, enough to make me think that maybe spring is finally here. We still have snow in our yards where it piled up after sliding off the roofs. Most of the houses here have metal roofs so that the snow will slide off. There are piles of snow along side of the roads too where it was plowed by the state vehicles, but it too is rapidly receding.
There was frost on my windshield today when I went to work, but by mid morning it had warmed up considerably, and by noon it was uncomfortably hot. I think the forecast was for the lower sixties, but it may have gotten up to seventy today- at least it sure felt like it. I know that doesn't sound very warm to most people, but we have so little air pollution here that we get the full force of the sun when it shines so that seventy here might feel like eighty elsewhere- maybe more.
The sandhill cranes have been making their annual migration north. Wave after noisy wave of them have been passing over for the past week or so. You can always hear them before you see them. The robins have shown too. When they first arrived I was a little concerned for them; most of the ground was still covered in snow, but the rapid melt has exposed enough area for them to find chow I guess.
I drove down past the boat harbor this afternoon and saw two fishing boats hauled out of the water- the Caroline, owned by Jim Erickson and the Coronation, owned by Jim Dybdahl. The weather is good enough to start painting! It sounds like the sport fishermen have been getting a few king salmon, so everyone wants to be ready for the big run.
This picture was actually taken about six weeks ago. Elephant mountain is in the backround and the large building in front is Hoonah Trading and Ace Hardware. They are the primary supplier of groceries and of course hardware, and fuel. At the time I took this I think it may have been quite awhile since we'd had any sun and I wanted to record it just in case we never saw it again. Sometimes living in a rain forest can give an individual a pessimistic attitude.

Monday, April 20, 2009

The Bonnie J

This is a picture of my boat, the Bonnie J. It's not all that much to look at- just an old wooden boat built back in the fourties, just after world war two, I believe. When I went shopping for a bigger boat back in 1990, I knew that I didn't really want a wooden boat,but it's all I could afford. Every year at a minimum you have to scrape and paint it, and if that's all that needed done, I'd feel fortunate. There is always the need to go on the grid iron or haul it out to replace the zincs and re-paint the bottom. The zincs are softer than the other metals in the boat and are considered sacrificial. Because of all the different metals, even in a wood boat, there's an electrical current that surrounds the boat- kind of like a battery. I don't understand all the in's and out's about it, but the current will attack the metal in the boat. If you don't replace the zincs when they need it, the current will eat the prop and keel cooler and eventually the screws that hold the planks on, so you can't be slack in that department. The bottom paint is critical too. There is a wood loving parasite called a Torrido worm that will do a great deal of damage if he is allowed access to untreated wood. The barnacles and mussles and some sort of marine algae take over too. So it's always a chore to get the boat prepped for painting every year.
That's only part of the maintenence issue. Every two hundred hours I have to change the oil and filters, and several times a season I change the fuel filters. Then there is all the unexpected stuff with hydraulics and electrical and mechanical. I'm sure over the years I've spent much more on the boat than it's worth, but I have to know that when I'm out on the water I'm going to make it back home.
When I bought the Bonnie J she came with a little bit of history. From what I can gather, the boat was a legend at Yakobi Island. One of the original owners, a man named Bob Smith was an airline pilot and he was a pretty savvy guy. Yakobi Island is filled with pinacles and high spots, but if a guy can learn to navigate around them, he can really catch the king salmon. Well this fellow, Bob, figured out the drag and used to come in with some incredible catches . I wish that he'd left instructions when he sold the boat- I could really use them. So, as I've known all along, but have been reluctant to acknowledge, it's the captain who catches the fish, not the boat-bummer!

Saturday, April 18, 2009

The New Boat Haulout

This is a picture of the new boat haul out that Hoonah is getting. I believe someone said it could handle a three hundred ton boat when it's completed. I think it will be a real asset to the community. Right now folks with larger boats have to travel to Wrangell or Sitka or maybe Juneau to get hauled out. With a facility like this here it should open up more job opportunities for the local folks, something that is badly needed.
I'm fortunate enought to be working with a crew who is going to be doing some or maybe all of the concrete work. The fellow who got the bid grew up at Game Creek at the farm where we lived for ten years.
In the immediate backround is the ramp that the state ferries pull up to. After they are tied up the ramp is lowered and all the vehicles and people disembark and wait for the new passengers to come aboard. The mountains in the backround have been all clearcut unfortunately. All that land is owned by one of the native corporations, Sealaska I believe. For eight or ten years the logging provided quite a few jobs here and Hoonah experienced a boom, but now most of the trees are gone and it will be another forty or so years before they are large enough to log again. The clear cut logging caused quite a bit of controversy here- everyone wanted the jobs, but no one wanted the end results. It's too bad that it wasn't profitable to just do a smaller scale operation. In the spring and summer when everything is green the clearcuts aren't as noticable, but when the snow flies, they stand out; as my good friend Uncle Bill would say, "Like a scab on a polar bear's behind."

Thursday, April 16, 2009

LIfe From Death

I was down at the cannery several weeks ago taking pictures for an article on hunting that I wanted to send to an online magazine. I had to walk the beach because the site where I wanted to go was closed to the public. The beach however is owned by the state. When I came around the corner I saw six or eight mature bald eagles crowded around this carcass. As I got closer they flew off, one by one. This guy was a little more brave or hungry though, so I was able to get a shot.
From what I could tell, this was a young deer. I assume it may have starved. We've had a lot of snow this year and he may not have been able to get around in the woods. When that happens the deer go to the beach and feed on kelp. I understand that it isn't good for them to eat too much of it. That may have been what happened to this one. Fortunately, in nature nothing goes to waste. The death of this deer will mean life to a number of eagles and maybe minks and martens. Who knows, a bear may even have a shot at the remains if the tide doesn't take it away.
Here in Hoonah starvation hasn't been the only cause of death for a number of deer. There have been six deer that I know of that have been killed by dogs. Several people have chosen to disregard the leash law and let their dogs run. When the snow is deep, the deer break through the snow and are unable to get away from the dogs, who, because of their larger, wider paws are able to stay on top of the snow. The dogs don't always kill the deer outright, but maim them and the deer are left to die a slow death. They don't want to eat them, it's just the sport of the chase, which always ends poorly for the deer. Four of the deer have been driven from a cliff just past the the ferrry terminal. Once a dog starts to chase deer, it doesn't stop.Hoonah has a history of living off the land and deer are an important part of the diet here, so I don't understand why anyone would choose to ignore the law and allow their dogs to run in the woods. I do know that two of the dogs were dispatched by the state troopers. Both dogs were owned by the same person. To the best of my knowlege no fine was imposed- too bad.
I have a dog that I love, and I hate to see anyone's dog killed because the owner was irresponsible, but at the same time it's not fair to the wildlife or the people that depend on it to suffer at the hands of those who refuse to follow the law.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Farewell to a Fisherman

This is the F/V Don A, an old wooden troller/longliner moored in the Hoonah harbor. Last night, its owner, Floyd Hunt, met with an untimely death when he fell into the harbor after a night of drinking. I'm not here to pass judgement on his behavior, we've all made poor choices from time to time. It's just unfortunate that his choice had such dire consequences.
I wish I had known Floyd better. I've seen him around the docks for years and we've spoken casually. He even did some work on my boat a number of years ago. What I do know about him is that he always seemed to be on a pretty even keel. He never seemed to get too excited about anything that I could tell. He was a good fisherman and a successful business man. To those who knew him well, I believe he was a good friend. Floyd seemed to fill the role of a surrogate father of sorts to some of the single fishermen who live on their boats. It seemed like every spring before the main season got started he provided some work as crew hands for the fellows who needed a little money. He was a shipwright who was in demand down at the docks and frequently let his own boat go so that he could work on someone elses.
I was actually planning on asking him if he would agree to do an interview with me for an upcoming book that I'm trying to get together on the local fishermen. I think he would have had some good stories to tell.
The fishermans lifestyle seemed to serve him well. He liked his independence and his friends and to come and go as he pleased. Though I didn't know him well, I'm going to miss him. So long Floyd.

Tomorrow is Easter

It's hard to believe, but tomorrow is Easter. This will be the thirty second one here in Alaska. It certainly wasn't my intention to spend most of my life here. I keep thinking that one of these days I'll go somewhere else- someplace where the sun shines more and you could have a little plot of land where you could grow tomatoes and cucumbers and maybe even sun flowers.
My friend, Buffalo Bob, keeps telling me I have to get out of here. Part of me really wants to go, but I don't know where to go and I don't know what I would do when I got there. Time is working against me. I'm getting older but apparently no wiser. I'm a prisoner to my thoughts. Every time I think that maybe I should check out this area or that area, I start thinking about all the things that might be wrong with it. Too much traffic. I'd have to pay property tax. (Something we don't have here in Hoonah) The neighbors might be jerks. No work. The list goes on and on. So, instead of making a move, I sit here stagnating- wishing I had the courage to grab the bull by the horns and just go for it. I'm playing it safe, but am I really living? I know that in this economy there are multitudes of people who would love to have what I have, but somehow that knowlege doesn't satisfy me. So here I am. Another holiday is upon me and I wonder how that is possible. Another year has gone by. I guess my greatest fear is that one day I'll look back and wonder what might have been if only I'd stretched my faith a little bit. Maybe I would fail, but maybe, just maybe I would discover something so wonderful that it would bogggle my mind and I would wonder what I was waiting for. I don't know what it is that will motivate me to make the move. Maybe it will be the need to be closer to a hospital or the unwillingness to shovel another scoop of snow or tolerate one more long, dark winter, but I'm certain that one day I'll be celebrating Easter and maybe a few other holidays elsewhere.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Back home

It's good to be home. For those of you who have never traveled in Southeast Alaska before, you don't know what you're missing. We had to be at the ferry terminal an hour before departure, which was supposed to be at 9:45 PM. We joined a whole slug of other cars, trucks, shipping vans and boats and waited. The ferry had to take on fuel, so that delayed the process by about an hour or so. When we finally got on board, we found a spot in the lounge and sat down. The chairs are supposed to recline, and they do up to a point. That point being the most uncomfortable position that you could ever hope to try and sleep in. Jan opted to try and sleep on the floor, which is just steel plates covered with a thin layer of carpet. I can only liken it to sleeping on the floor of a produce cooler. The upside is, there were no little kids running around and screaming as is usually the case on the smaller ferry. I could kick myself for not grabbing the four inch foam mattress that I had bought for my boat. At least she could have been comfortable, more or less. Ah well, you know what they say about hind sight.

Monday, April 6, 2009


I'm in Juneau right now. For those who may be unfamiliar with travel in Southeast Alaska, I had to take the ferry from Hoonah to get here. It beats flying. As I made mention of briefly in the book, I did survive an airplane accident back in February of 2000. Even though I still fly when I have to, I'd prefer not to. Because I'm using a computer I'm not familiar with, I'll save the story of the plane accident for a time when I'm at home and can mess up with a computer that I'm familiar with.
In any event I'm in Juneau to get a TWIC card- something that the government insists that I have if I should ever want to do any charter fishing. I have a fifty ton license that permits me to charge people ridiculous sums of money to go out with me and pee in a bucket (if you're a lady) and get seasick and ask silly questions, all the while searching for sealions, whales, Orcas and all other manner of sea creatures that inhabit the area. I wish I had pictures of said creatures, but I just got the camera this past Christmas and I haven't been out in the boat yet this year. Somewhere down the pike I'll get some pictures and post them. Till then, I'll bid you a good night. Tom

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Twighlight in Hoonah

One January evening I was out with the camera and was so impressed with the view down by the cold storage that I had to preserve it.
Fishing gear awaiting the spring season.