Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Boat? Boat.

Boat. BoatBoatBoat. Boat! Boat-Boat Boat. Boat? BoatBoat: Boat. Boat Boat Boat Boat; Boat.

My ever-hilarious husband told me yesterday, "And you thought we'd run out of things to talk about after we finished the house." Ha. Joke's on him. The house isn't done. My life is SO FUNNY and full of unfinished, expensive projects.

The Boat has taken over our lives. That floating clinker is the only topic of conversation. Do we register it in Alaska? How do we transfer California commercial dungeness permits? Where can we find 7x19 steel rope for less than $2.75/foot? Neat! Forfjord anchors are made in Seattle. Shit. They cost $900.

$1000 is a magical price point for boats. Everything seems to cost a grand. You start feeling pretty good about only spending $400 on a thing. Like you're winning the lottery except that little item needs a bunch of other stuff to make it work, bringing the total up to the magical grand. In the interest of self preservation I have stopped paying attention to the cost of things. It's my ostrich-like survival instinct.

What's a girl to do? This girl has focused on the color scheme and how tidy the deck will be. We have decided on light grey for the body with black accents. Grey is considered a hiding color, it disappears against the water and clouds. It's about as stealth as you can get in a 40-foot boat.

We're thinking of what to paint on our fly bridge. What do you think of this? I like how it captures the essence of life at sea. All that's missing is an Orca.

Gah. Sorry for the whine. This really is a good thing, but it's a huge project and my husband, my best friend in the whole world, has to move into his parents house for 3 months to fix Axel. I get to stay here an work to pay for everything. Short term sacrifices for long-term gain, right?

I can focus, too, on the fish we're going to have in a few short months. Last night we ate the last chunk of white king we froze last summer. I can look forward to all the white king I can eat, once Axel is seaworthy and up here. Soon, it will be Fish? Fish. FishyFishFish. Fish.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Our Big News

We bought a boat. It's a big, old, steel crabber that we're turning into a troller. I know I've talked about fishing and boat shopping before, but it wasn't real until I send a check with several zeros off to a Broker. The paperwork was final on Friday. We got her for a song.

Her name is Axel. All GnR jokes are welcome as well as any other Axel related humor. We are going to need it in the coming months. She was built in 1978 in Portland Oregon to be a halibut dragger. She spent time as a troller and a crabber. We found the builder and talked to him--he built the boat from some Ed Monk Jr. designs.

She needs a complete overhaul. You can see daylight through the wheelhouse roof, the deck has holes, and there are at least 3 abandoned hydraulic systems lurking around the bilge. She is rusty, filthy, and held together by duct tape. The hull is sound and the motor runs like a top. Although it's a Detroit 4-71 also known as a "Screaming Jimmy." Detroits are notoriously loud and leaky. The galley is topside, in the wheelhouse, so that will make my life easier than on the Leona. Axel boasts at least 3 places to sit. I am sighing in anticipation of that luxury.

Boat stands for "Bust Out Another Thousand." We need more of those fun little acronyms too. We spent at least that yesterday buying a Racor and GPS. I now know what a Racor does. It separates water from diesel and filters the fuel. I can die a happy woman.

This purchase is the next phase of our life. Our fishing life. Our food-producing life. Our hemorrhaging money into outfitting a boat life. Our selling salmon off the Axel to the public life. Our oh-holy-shit-I-own-a 40-foot-steel-boat life.

I coined a new phrase through this whole mess: "Winning the Alaskan Lottery" is defined as marrying a woman with a government job.

Friday, December 10, 2010


We have something very big happening in our lives right now. So big that I can't even overshare on the internet about it. (It is not a kid, so stop that right now.) I want to talk about it but I keep myself from doing so out of fairness to my husband and my inability to eat crow. Not a huge fan of the whole mea culpa game. I prefer to avoid the whole mess altogether.

I don't really like the roller coaster that major life decisions take you on. Remember that scene in Parenthood where Steve Martin is on a life roller coaster at his kids' play? That scene is awful and scary and gross. I wish my life were a sunny day, walking the gentle slopes, and nothing more surprising than an eagle calling to its mate. If I had my way, life would be boring and predictable and I could plan for every contingency.

So I've been living my life with fingers crossed, avoiding cracks, and not spilling salt. I don't want to jinx this very big thing, and I'm running out of "good vibe" euphemisms to throw at it. It's time to avoid thinking about it because I so don't have control over any of it.

On a more positive note, I ran 2 miles yesterday and am pain-free today. The library got a slew of new music in so I've been bopping along to Cat Power and a swear-free Kanye West. I have been referring (in my head) to the swear free music as neutered. Actually, castrated would be a better choice.

If I have no control over many major life things, I can at least listen to music that has swears.

Thursday, December 9, 2010


My musical taste, much like my fashion sense, has not really evolved since High School. Normally, it doesn't really bother me. I like whiny, indie, alterna humor music. It fits in perfectly in my fractured, technicolor mind. Except (you knew that was coming, didn't you Internet) for when I'm running.

I have proudly run every other day for two whole weeks now. My shin splints are gone but the same old shit on my ipod isn't cutting it anymore. I recently discovered the Decemberists and love love LOVE them. Just last night I was laying on my floor reveling in Picaresque. Today, out running it wasn't working. I can't listen to songs about shape-shifting lovers and infanticidal Rakes while pounding the asphalt. I am finding myself skipping through the bulk of my music because it is too slow to distract me from my task.

What does manage to work shouldn't be surprising to anybody. It's music that makes you want to shake your ass. I skip They Might be Giants to listen to Blackalicious. I avoid the Eels in favor of a raucous Gogol Bordello tune. Mr. Bungle is still working out ok, but I need something else. Salt 'n Peppa is in heavy rotation after scoring Very Necessary at a garage sale. (Ok, yes there is a whole world of music online. I am not online at my house yet. I KNOW what this makes me. A cheap-ass luddite who still buys cds. Working on a remedy.)

Running while listening to music gets me out of my head for a small 30 to 45 minutes every other day. It is a break that I sorely need, but I need new music to pull me upward and out. Where should I start looking?

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

The five fortunes on my office wall

A four-wheeled adventure will soon bring you happiness.

You will go far, but be sure to come back.

Your positive attitude this month will improve your present problem.

Someone will give you something.

You may attend a party where strange customs prevail.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Mid-90's Country songs for Engineers

I am proud that my partner is from America .
(American Made--Oakridge Boys)

I came of age near a river named the Chattahoochee, where I drank heavily.
(Chattahoochee--Alan Jackson)

We are from the southern region of America. We like yams and silence.
(Song of the South--Alabama)

In the event of my death I want to be taxidermied and left in a drinking establishment near the jukebox.
(Prop Me Up Beside the Jukebox--Joe Diffie)

A woman's life is hard. Before it was hard, she signed her letters in a cutsey way. This woman is going to find success in her father's world but has a desire to emulate her mother.
(XXXs and OOOs--Tricia Yearwood)

People have fun in an area zoned for agriculture.
(Getting Down on the Farm--Tim McGraw)

It is evident you are unfaithful. Your boots have been under several women's beds. QED
(Whose Bed HAve your Boots been under--Shania Twain)

I live in Tennessee because I make poor choices related to dating.
(All my Exes Live in Texas--George Strait)

I ignored every one's advice and followed my instincts. Now Dwight Yoakam and Lyle Lovett are fighting over me.
(I Feel Lucky--Mary Chapin Carpenter)

I am an alcoholic. I rationalize ruining your wedding by drinking with other alcoholics at a dive bar.
(Friends in Low Places--Garth Brooks)

I make really good gravy.
(Good Brown Gravy--Joe Diffie)

Did you Guess them? Come up with more! It's pretty fun.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

feeling every bit of 31

So I started running this week. This is my annual attempt to become a regular runner. I get about 3 sessions in, develop debilitating shin splints and stop. I have repeated this pattern for the past 7 years. I am insanely predictable.
What brought this bout of fitness on? Age. I know I am not that old, but I know that a lifetime of problems can be circumvented through regular exercise. Also, I'm finding it harder to go from the no-exercise winter into hard core field work in the summer. The old corps doesn't bounce back like it used to.

Running is something I used to enjoy and would like to again. Some of the best worst days in high school were doing liners or wind sprints after soccer practice. I managed 1 liner today and it just about killed me. Perhaps I should look into something lower impact, but that would be letting my stupid shins win. I will not let such an innocuous part of my body dictate my life.

So I'm sitting here, thinking about the nice bath later and maybe some ice packs to bring the swelling down.

Oh, and while we're lamenting lost youth, I got 7 Brides for 7 Brothers on DVD from the library. For those of you who know me, you are laughing pretty good right now. I only have it on VHS and thus haven't seen it for a few years. Wow, is that ever a cheesy, sexist movie. From Howard Keel singing about "the beautiful hide" of his intended to the 6-couple shotgun wedding. I don't know if I can call it a favorite anymore, but that barn raising dance off is still pretty spectacular. And the fact that one of the girls is named Dorcas. Yeah, it's biblical but that doesn't make up for the silliness.

It's no Oklahoma.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Cooking for one

So with the old man gone on an adventure, I'm all alone in my messy, messy house. Daily, my house gets un-messied but my food ennui has taken hold. When I'm living by myself I like to sit around and read and generally ignore the world around me. I can quietly sit at my counter, read whatever I want and eat soba noodles every night.

It's a form of bliss, really.

What I've learned is that I don't really like to cook for one. It's sort of sad and boring to make food just for me when I'm perfectly happy with oatmeal and a salad. (I also enjoy not having someone ask me what's for dinner the second I get home.) My Everyday Food has a "cooking for one" section that has things like Meatloaf for one. I am quite adventurous, food wise, but any food called "loaf" that isn't bread is not a food for me.

In addition to the little cleaning widgets I need to manufacture daily, I guess I should add cooking to that. It keeps me from going to bed at 8:30. Tonight, I'm making a baked pasta thing with lots of vegetables and cheese. It is not that interesting but it is an achievement beyond last nights leftover miso and salad.

I guess I get so excited about not having someone up in my business constantly that I neglect taking care of myself food-wise. What do you all cook for yourself?

Monday, November 15, 2010

Man voice and two broke-ass trucks

My weekend was super fun! What did you do? I bet it wasn't as fun as mine. Wednesday, I started feeling a tightness in my throat. I thought it was just some weird spore thing from the crap old ford that we were driving while waiting for our new truck to arrive on the barge. Alas, it was Laryngitis. I went to the Doctor on Thursday (Paid day off for us Feds) and got a scrip for antibiotics and steroids. I didn't fill it because I avoid things like that until it gets really bad. On the way home, the transmission all but fell out of the bottom of the Ford.

Nice! 1 vehicle to go to the dump. Yay!

Friday, tDF tries to get a gasket to fix our little Toyota. We thought it was the oil pan. Turns out it was a cracked head or blown head gasket spewing oil out on Sitka's Streets. That is two irredeemably broke down trucks that are headed for recycletown. Awesome! We get to walk everywhere.

Also on Friday, I start having sinus pain and gross sinus things (it was rhinorrhea) so I decide that my symptoms are bad enough for the drugs--only ain't no 24 hour Walgreens in old Sitka so tDF came home empty handed. I suffer through some movies and can't even talk on the phone because I have no voice. I can speak in one of those irritating and exhausting hard whispers.

Saturday, I finally get my Rx after the nose starts expelling a rainbow of grossness. This is a new level for me, she of the chronic sinus infections. I take my pills and feel better. Yes, it is a placebo thing but I don't care because it stopped feeling like my sinuses were trying to dislodge my eyeballs. I also made some Tom Kah Kai and relished in the spicy, hot chicken soup.

So here I am, finally with a voice but it sounds all scratchy and deep. We call it "man voice" or "Terrible Blues Show Host" voice (inside Sitka Joke). I have a few more days of pill-taking but am eternally grateful to the miracle of mold.

Oh, and our new truck came today. I love that little thing.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

We didn't buy a boat

No boat for the Harpy-Fisherman household...yet. The year is young, we have until April to get us another maintenance nightmare and cash hog. Our trip was pretty dang fun, in any case. We stopped and looked at all the weird roadside stuff like Babe's blue balls and some metal dinosaurs. Oh, you want a picture? Well here:

Look at how cute my husband is, acting like a T-Rex. The artwork here was pretty amazing. someone in Gualala created these out of scrap metal. I wanted one so bad but they wouldn't fit in our tuff new truck.

We slept in the back of our truck off the side of the road and in harbor parking lots most nights. Campsites were deemed too expensive most nights but we stayed in a few along the way. The best one was the Umpqua State Lighthouse campground. They had free showers and you could rent yurts! Oregon State Parks beat the pants of both California and Washington parks. California was aggressively signed everywhere:

How awesome is this sign? Thanks, Sausilito Harbor, for printing the gold-standard in entitled asshole signs. We joked that California's new ad campaign should be Look, but don't touch, and really, don't breath on any of our things either. We couldn't get out of the state fast enough. The scenery was amazing and all, but the attitude of everything was really off putting. Except in the harbors.

This trip really brought home the fact that Fishermen are the same everywhere. The uniform, the speech, the impressively foul language, they are the same north to south. Actually, I was surprised that there weren't any yuppie fishermen down south. Here, there are the younger Patagucci-wearing right along with the wool sweater-clad salts. There, only salts. Everyone we talked to was really surprised to talk to us, young fishermen trying to get in. (We aren't even that young.) The whole industry is dying and those working in it have an average age of 50--much like farming. There's not future in fishing on the west coast. It's pretty sad.

Back to fun trip things. I went to Goonies Beach! This was my all time favorite movie from age 5 to about 9. My crush on Brand, Josh Brolin, is embarrassing these days.

It was very exciting. TDF didn't want to be Sloth or Chunk so he took the picture instead.

We did, however, buy a commercial power troll permit while travelling. Now we can sell the hand troll permit and not have to hand crank fish and weights. Our elbows are rejoicing!

He's negotiatin' on a bench in Bandon, OR. Bandon is a pretty, little tourist trap. I think it would be a great place to spend a week.

More, later.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Home again

Surprisingly, the weather hasn't been awful since I've been home. Just wanted to give you all a little pic from my trip.

I'm under Babe's Big Blue Balls! I have never before been in front of a fiberglass scrotum before.

Paul isn't as anatomically correct.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Turn the page

Well, this is interesting. Blogger does not seem to like my new iPad. This is the first post written on my magnificent new toy. I can only write in the HTML window which sort of sux but I guess I'll have to find a app or something.

Anyway, before I rudely interrupted my very important thoughts with my iPad braggy gripes, I was going to tell you all about out my awesome trip. We are, as of this writing, in Cresent City California, driving north in our new truck. We just went through the redwoods today and they we're beautiful and tall, but I guess I've seen tall trees before so I wasn't as impressed as I should have been. Plus it's raining so I am not too pleased.

What has struck me the most are the fees and the no fun zone that is the great state of California. Everywhere along highway 1 no parking signs were posted. Plus this hilarious one in the Sausilito harbor that said "don't disturb the rocks." we totally took a picture. We call this the no fun zone. It's like the whole state in grandma's plastic-coated living room. Oh, and campgrounds cost $35per night to $65 per night. Hotels aren't that much.

Tomorrow we get to Oregon and I cain't wait.

Living in a remount island-bound small town makes a road grip extra fun. I have loved driving the past few days. The 6-cyl Toyota really kicks some ass. The tunes are a bit on the slim side. There is only so many times you can listed to the same 6 CDs, no matter how good they are. (Belle and Sebastian are pretty awesome.)

I'm figuring out this new toy of mine. Any apps I can't life without?

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Rollin', Rollin', Rollin' in the Blackout

Due to high winds (gusts to 70mph) our hydro power is down. A tree blew into the power line and now the town has to operate on diesel power. BUT this town, in its amazing foresight, does not have enough diesel power to run the whole town. So we get rolling blackouts! Whee. An hour of electricity and hour without all the livelong day.

The radio people said we could be under these blackouts for up to 3 days. The city electric department says blackouts will last for at least 3 days. I'm glad I was awake during semantics in High School. Those are entirely different situations! The communication is amazing. Plus, the electric department is in contract negotiations with the city so they are going to take every bit of time to "prove" how valuable they are.

I have decided that the best way to spend this time is drinking heavily. Nothing says "awesome" more than drinking to the light of the 1 candle you own while it howls outside. I even came up with a themed drink to commemorate this occasion:

Woodford Reserve Bourbon

Pour at least 3 fingers of Bourbon into glass


Look at what an incredible cocktail this is! I call it Muskeg Harpy's RollingBlackOutDrunk. Try it next time you have, nay, get to experience a rolling blackout.

I should have the giggly-cute attitude that everybody else seems to have. I simply can't muster the bonhomie. It is awful, inconvenient, and stupid management by the City. At least I still have a bottle of bourbon at home.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Ribs and Cheesecake

Fall is here. I don't go in for that Martha Stewart holiday-themed decorating anything, so fall is weather related not gourd 'n mini pumpkin centerpiece related. Fall is such a crappy time of year that any attempt to make it festive falls so very flat. In other parts of the world, fall is brisk and shiny. A time for rosy-cheeked, scarf wearing shenanigans. In my world, it's 60 mile per hour winds and 4 inches of rain in a day.

Ain't no hay rides at the punkin patch in Sitka.

Because the weather is shit, the light is leaving, and I have time to putter I spend lots of time cooking things that are not healthy. I like lots of butter, bacon, cheese, and pretty much anything with a glycerol group. My inaugural "fall blows" meal was for tDF's birthday. It was ribs, steak fries, coleslaw, and Cheesecake. I would classify this as a healthier version of what I typically make (nothing was fried or wrapped in bacon).

I coaxed the Miller-Lite Weber knock off into smoking a small rack of ribs on our porch in a light drizzle. I managed to get that pinkish smoke ring through the meat, so I was feeling pretty good about myself. The sauce was something in my shiny, new America's Test Kitchen cookbook. It was good but I lost points when I revealed it had corn syrup. (My husband is on an anti-corn syrup kick.) The oven fried steak fries more than made up for the corn syrup, I believe.

A growler of the Baranof Brewing Company's seasonal ale showed up on our doorstep. It has like 12% alcohol so it made the evening a little fuzzy-edged.

We didn't really need dessert after but we plowed ahead. I made a huckleberry compote to have over the dense cheesecake. Consequently, I learned there is a low-fat cheesecake. Of all the things to make low fat, this is possible the worst. Actually, the worst is fat-free half-and-half, but that is not something a person strives to make. Just an abomination you can purchase. Aaaanyway, we ate until we felt like bursting. Everything was yummy and I got excited about food again.

I'm looking forward to a winter full of the ribs and cheesecake diet. There will be a vegetable or three, I'm sure. I think squash needs to be in the rotation, but at $1.37/lb it's pretty expensive. If only the mini corn and gourds were edible.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Using our house for a bank and other 'Murican themes

Five long years of our lives were spent pouring every last penny into our luxury house on the hill. Every evening. Every weekend. Every gov'ment holiday. I even rolled change so we could do things like rent movies. Our goal was to spend $1 once rather than finance that $1 and end up paying $3. Our deb-adverse shuffle paid off when we financed our house last May. We owed about 25% of what it was worth. We celebrated by renting 2 movies and buying sugar-snap peas for our salad.

We live large. Oh yes, we do.

I know I've been thrilling you with our adventures on the high seas, making commercial fishing that much less romantic. This lifestyle shift has sort of taken over our lives. I spend "free" weekends building spreadsheets on income/expenses for commercial fishing. Last week we drank beers and tallied our season's catch (4,865 pounds). See, we're fiends for the fishing. This isn't going to stop and the next logical step is owning our own boat and building a viable business based on commercial fishing.

Unfortunately, commercial boats are more than Toyota Tacomas or Kamik boots. Boat officially stands for Break Out Another Thousand. Buying a boat is like buying a house without any hope of building any equity.

Fortunately, we built our own little equity farm. We can borrow against our house! Whee! refinance to buy something else that doesn't retain value but maybe will make us some money! We are now as American as the debt crisis and apple pie. I am not exactly happy about doing this but borrowing against a house provides better terms than a boat loan. There are fewer strings and hurdles but it still squicks me out. We would be building a debt layer cake.

I immediately had to call my Brother who set me straight. "It's not like you're buying a jet ski and financing a vacation to Disneyland," he told me. I felt at least a little better. We decided it was like starting a small business or trying to finance that ground-breaking indie film (ha). Having the means to buy a decent boat and gear allows us to focus on fishing and not trying to cut corners on boat maintenance to save money.

We're going to the bank and set the paperwork in motion. I know talking about money in America Is Not Done, but you all really need to know what goes into building a life and career in Commercial Fishing. People take out a tremendous debt-load to buy into the industry (at least those who do not inherit permits and boats). People fish because they love the life it affords, not because it's easy or lucrative.

I'll keep you posted. I feel more adult doing this than when I first bought homeowners insurance.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

It's hot and sunny here!

I have remarked before that weather her matters. Eliza Dolittle would be just fine discussing the weather in Southeast Alaska, it's all we talk about. Her cockney slang could stay hidden in the polite discussions of unseasonably warm September or an incredibly shitty June. Fyi, the 150 year average of rainfall for September in Sitka is 11.28 inches. We are a bit low this month.

So, yes, as the title of this blerg states, It's been bloody hot and sunny for darn near a week in the Greatland. So hot that they're catching blue sharks of the cape of Kruzof Island. This means there is a current of warm water somewhere off shore. TDF is thinking about going tuna fishing on the Leona. Yes, fricking tuna fishing in the Gulf of Alaska. Man, I loves me some albituna. Plus you troll as fast as our boat goes (like 6 knots) which may be pretty fun.

My tomatoes, grown inside, are showing signs of finally ripening and my celery is finally becoming tall and stately. I'm leaving work early to go and sip some minty booze on my porch and lay in the sun. Because I can and because I know that soon it will rain and be dark.

Make minty cocktails while the sun shines, kids! You'll regret it on a rainy day later.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Crater Mountain High

Finally found the picture! Here we are lounging in the hummocks in Crater Mountain. I love all the red in this photo.

In other, decidedly less awesome, news we are trying to buy a truck. This post is sort of a Hail Mary of truck purchasing. Our list of requirements is not long, but each requirement further narrows the choices by at least half. Since you asked, ahem, here is what we want:

Toyota Tacoma extended cab
Manual Transmission
Less than $10k.

Finding this golden goose of a vehicle is very hard. It wouldn't be if we lived in TN, somehow that's where all the awesome Toyotas meet up, like some sort of yuppie truck Jugaloo gathering. Do you know anybody who has one of these unicorns? We have ca$h money to spend.

Buying a truck has made me realize that I'm some total Luddite crank when it comes to cars. I can't stand automatic transmissions and power windows scare me. We had this large suv *coughSuburbancough* that fell apart from the inside. The Power windows were the first to go, then many things followed. It was really fun watching a piece of Americana rot into America's Temperate Rain forest.

All of these woes remind me of my first, and really only, Truck. She was an 1989 ranger with a Mazda engine. Everything was manual, including the steering. I totaled her on the freeway at Christmas and managed to rebuild her with a crazy drunk guy I knew. I learned the Bondo Method of bodywork. She started life black and I sold her as a pearly purple. I never did get around to fixing the gaping hole in the upholstery. I miss that little thing.

What was your first car? Do you miss it?

Friday, September 10, 2010


My husband and I haven't really had a vacation the entire 7 years of our blissful married life. We have had "vacations" and a trip to Baja that was infinitely more fun for him than me. Most trips away from home, they are not vacations and should not be referred to as such, are to visit family. (Hi, family reading this. We love visiting, really.) It's great being warm and seeing loved ones, but it's not the adventure that he and I desire.

Well, dear readers, we are taking a dang vacation. Our plan is to drive the west coast from Santa Barbara to Blaine over a 3 week period. We are shopping for a boat, so this is a business vacation. Bah, don't care. I finally will get to see that weird part of Northern California with all the hippies and the statue of Paul Bunyon. We plan on joining the rest of America by sleeping in our car in a Wal Mart parking lot.

Our hope is to purchase a new truck and drive it up, filling it with all kinds of fall goodness and cheap fishing gear. If we're lucky, we'll buy the truck soon and can bring AK plates with us. We have no plans except to stick to the coastal routes and see as many harbors as possible. (I will be wearing my Xtra-tuffs so that any local who fishes will see them and know that I am awesome, and fish too.)

Any must sees? I like the strange and unusual. Roadside attraction stuff like giant balls of twine.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Things you should know about commercial fishing

1. You are at least damp all of the time, if not soaked. Parts of your body will peel off due to being wet and salty all of the time.

2. You will stink. From sweat and from rotting salmon-ick stuck to your body. Salmon ick ranges from blood to viscera. I peeled a chunk of spinal blood off of my shoulder over the weekend.

3. You cannot be claustrophobic. The fo'c'sle is dank and you sleep in a coffin like place near the ceiling. The hold is dark and cold. The hatch to the hold must stay closed all the time (even when packing fish) to keep the ice from melting.

4. Repetitive motion is the only motion. You scrub the deck at least 20 times per day. The salmon get clubbed in the same manner with the same arm (Hammerstein). The path between the wheel house is worn.

5. Breakfast can make or break the day. Eating is secondary to catching fish so eating before you're pulling them keeps the hunger pangs at bay. Warm breakfasts are best, but anything will do. I know that if I don't eat I become nauseous, crabby, and hard to work with.

6. Things break all of the time. The wash down pump stops working if it gets too hot. You will lose stuff over the side. There will be electrical fires. You must be able to fix the situation and move on.

7. Mornings are dreadful and amazing. Getting up an hour before dawn in an Alaskan summer means regularly rising at 3 am. This is a time that should not exist, yet manages to be spectacular. The way everything is purple and quite. The potential of another day on the water. It breaks your heart, it's so perfect.

8. Only breakfast is more important than sleep to functioning. Get some when you can. It's never quality sleep--the motions, the noise, the damp--but it is something.

9. Have a clean change of clothes to wear at night. You do not want to smell like fish guts when you are trying to enjoy pork chops or a beer.

10. Coming back into the harbor, late at night and tying up to the cannery is about as exciting as it gets. When they lower the tote down to you and you fill it with your catch, and they have to keep lowering it because you caught more than 1,000 pounds of salmon flesh, you take a breath. The icy cold and the way your back screams from shoveling out all of the ice doesn't matter.

Friday, September 3, 2010


Some days you get the Baar. Well, dude, some days the baar gets you. Today I was the carrion picked at by the vultures. I was gum under the shoe. I was the bag full of only yellow gummi bears. I had to re-image my gov'ment computer. This means that I have to reinstall every program, reestablish every connection, and mostly remember what on earth I had on the thing.

I got home at 11pm last night, got to work at 8:15 today. Have to go fishing at 5 pm. I should be more excited about fishing, but I really just want to lay down and read for awhile.

Burned the Flight of the Conchords cd, though. Foux de fa fa should get me through the day.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Work is not a four letter word

I often forget I'm working when I'm at work. I have the privilege of living and working in the most beautiful place on earth. to wit: my paid adventure in the wilds of Kruzof Island. I had to finish the field work for mapping the soils of South Kruzof, a young volcanic terrain with the iconic Mt. Edgecumbe. I am lucky lucky lucky.

Four intrepid souls packed into a remote shelter via the Mt. Edgecumbe trail. It was rainy, sunny, foggy, and wonderful. We packed out more than 80 pounds of soil to send off for sampling.

This is part of the trail as you move away from the volcanic plains near saltwater and onto the plateaus at the flanks of the cinder cone. The trail is a narrow, gravel path with cedar logs as both steps and drains. It blends very nicely with the surroundings.

At the top of Mt. Edgecumbe, we had our first sample site. Here we all are in the alpine meadow. I'm taking a point with my semi-awesome Trimble Nomad. (It is incredibly crotchety, a neat tool but so very temperamental. I want to throw it against a tree at least once per day.) We had to dig a soil pit, describe it and pull samples out to send off to a soil lab.

Make no mistake, I love dirt. I love my job that lets me study dirt. I love the touch, taste, and smell of dirt. Here I am, placing the measuring tape for the official photo. I am super happy. That is not a fake smile, I really like what I'm doing that much.

The shelter has 3 sides and a wood stove with a few bunks in the back. Basic, and perfect. Up here, you pretty much only need a roof. I believe this was burrito night, we ate really well.

After Edgecumbe, we hiked up crater mountain. She sits just to the north of Edgecumbe (in the background of the above pic) and is not really a cinder cone. I felt like I should be wearing a dirndl and herding some sort of sheep. The place was otherworldly.

The vegetation is tundra, the same as caribou feed on and is found in the main part of Alaska. It's dominantly small grasses, heathers, and forbs. I just wanted to sit quietly in this landscape.

I wanted to camp there instead of the shelter. We were lucky enough to have a clear day to hike up here as the day before was foggy and wet. This is an andesite dome that is the main part of Crater mountain. The little waves in the foreground are formed by frost heaving from freeze-thaw cycles in permafrost. They are perfectly contoured to fit the human body and are immensely comfortable.

They aren't the organic soils I was expecting and they even had spodic development. Weird.

I love my job. Do you love yours?

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Meet Rodgers and Hammerstein

In the feverish existence of commercial fishing, I named my biceps. I believe some people refer to these as "guns." I have never had much muscle definition in my arms before and while white-knuckling the trip home through 20 kt winds I decided it was high time to name my newly defined arms.

Lefty is Rodgers and Righty is Hammerstein. I am right-handed, and use that one to wield the gaff/bludgeon and kill fish. It deserves to be called Hammerstein. (Was thinking about Gilbert and Sullivan but I love Oklahoma! more than a GenX/Y/Millenial really should.) I am a big-budget musical girl always and forever.

I have never named my body parts before, so this is my first step into some ill-conceived adventure in whimsy. This also speaks to the complete lack of filter I get when working near 22 hours straight. Yesterday began at 4 am and ended 2 am this morning.

Continuous work! That's what fishing is! At least every day began with a hot cup of high octane coffee and something hot off the propane grill. It was needed too because we caught at least 39 kings yesterday. "At Least" because I'm pretty sure I lost count here and there. The day ended after off loading 1500 pounds of fish flesh at the cannery.

Tired doesn't even begin to describe how I feel.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Deer Killin' Machine

I done married one. He loves a good Deer Killing any time of the day, any day of the week, any elevation in the greater Sitka Area. (He especially loves packing 50 # of meat out through the absolute worst terrain created by opportunistic logging and cliffs.) While I was luxuriating in Denver last week, he shot another one.

We still had a ton of venison in the freezer in the garage. I "haven't cooked deer in forever and have been neglecting my wifely duties." Ahem. It could be the piles of sh*t that are not mine in and around the freezer preventing me from getting at said 2009 deer meat. But, let's not fight. Let's talk about Demi Glace and 15# of sausage!

Oh yeah, I made a lot of sausage. Both bulk, and stuffed into casing with my handy Kitchen Aid meat squirter (sausage attachment). It took 2 days but I think it was worth it. We made spicy italian sausage, but I made it a bit more mild so it would be versatile. TDF even took pictures, but they all look kind of gross (not cleaning the house for, like, weeks ftw). Also, you have all seen ground meat and sausage so picture it in your minds eye and bask in my awesome sausageness.

My real triumph was the Demi Glace, or meat jelly. I got to use the Wyoming Saw I bought tDF for his birthday and cut up the leg bones of the deer. I felt like the most awesome french person with a Saveur subscription. It's a James Peterson recipe where you roast the bones with veggies and aromatics before simmering them for hours. I used the crock pot for simmering because I take shortcuts like that. The final broth was reduced to a scant cup on the stove over a couple of hours. I froze it into little glass jars to break out for special food occasions! I love how full and round the flavor is. I could eat it with a spoon.

The bones were cooked again to make a broth that's pretty nice. It should become chili or stew very shortly. Not much cooking right now, though. We have another king opener on Sunday then I have to work in the field again. Summer fun just never ends at the Harpy-Fisherman household!

Also? All this deer death talk reminds me to share with you, Internet, that we saw Deliverance last night. It was disturbing. Not the "Squeal Like a Pig" Hillbilly rape shenanigans, but the sinking the bodies in the river with rocks. And how Normal Dudes could just kill people like that. Not the uplifting, heartwarming tale I was expecting.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Snowflake Kittens

This is the product of the Venn Diagram of Romance novel readers and cat people. This may not be so much of a Venn Diagram as concentric circles. I found this on the free shelf at the library a few weeks ago, but didn't pick it up. Later, talking to my brother about Brokeback Mountain (I finally saw it) we talked about this book, Snowflake Kittens. He made me promise to go to the library and pick it up.

Luckily, it was still there. I read this thing in its entirety in about 2 days. The book is 3 regency-era novellas involving kittens and spinsters. So that Venn diagram above also should have Women-of-a-certain age..

I, as you may guess, only retained the important plot points. Character names, not so much. Here you go! Snowflake kittens:

Story 1: An injured war hero from the Napoleonic wars returns home to take over the estate after his brother and wife die. Soldier inherits their two spawn and, yup, a kitten. While riding home (stoically) he sees the new tenant covered in unladylike mud. She knows she offended him by doing her own gardening. What a strumpet. She has a puppy, a yellow lab.

Through a series of dumb regency maneuvering he realizes the tenant is a well-regarded governess who inherited enough $$ to retire. How perfect! Someone to govern those two precocious kids, one with a moppet-law mandated lisp. He's not sure he can be around her, though, because he desires her oh, so much. (This is a chaste book, so the language is quite mild. As you would expect a kitten-themed romance novel to be)

After the kitten is lost in a snowstorm and tennant-lady's dog retrieves/saves it do the two starcrossed 40-somethings get together. It is a very happy ending for all.

Story 2.

Confirmed bachelor rides into the moors to visit his self-exiled brother. Bachelor invited the lady who broke off the engagement with his brother. But Bachelor really likes the lady. Oh, and brother is super-into treasure hunting for Roman relics on his estate. AND, a mangy, pregnant cat befriends bachelor and brings him gifts of jewels from a neighboring estate.

Got it?

This is fairly straight forward, but bachelor is constantly creating work for his Valet by getting dirty and petting the filthy cat. (I can imagine Jeeves not really tolerating this behavior from Wooster.) Well, the cat was trained by a band of rogues who steal from estates through the moorlands. They manage to steal the cat back and Bachelor has to ride out in a snowstorm to save her. The only person who cares is the lady (brother's former fiancee and currently the squeeze of bachelor) and she is suitably impressed by a guy who would brave the weather to save a cat.

She is proposed to over a batch of kittens.

Story 3.

There is some sort of convoluted custody arrangement that doesn't really matter Dude is engaged to a shrew. Lady is engaged to a fop. They both want custody of some kid that are their mutual relations. The two kids put on plays and make all the adults watch. These are elaborate plays where the 4 or 5 kittens, all with names like "Hope" or "Prudence."

Fop and Shrew hate kittens and one kitten "attacks" them and they shriek from the settee. Dude and Lady can't keep their hands off each other. Stealing kisses while playing billiards. There is also an admiral who hates the French. All the plays are morality tales that tell the stories of our four lovers.

Fop and Shrew elope which leaves Dude and Lady to marry and adopt the adorable moppets and their 5 kittens.

There are more books: Mistletoe Kittens, Valentine Kittens, Spring Kittens, Wedding Day Kittens. You should totes check them out.

Friday, July 9, 2010

My favorite screen grab ever

Bad action movies are the bestest. Nothing is better than Carl Weathers and Ahnuld shaking it out man-style. I want to make a motivational poster that just says: Teamwork! or Strength through Diversity or Biceps. Think about how they can help you succeed.

Mostly, I needed to post this so I can come back to it from time to time as it makes me blissfully happy.

If you don't know this is from Predator, you are missing out.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

55 Kings, 24 Coho, 2 Chum

I done beat the hell out of some fish. Literally. One of my many jobs was to knock the incoming fish out and bleed them to prevent them from flopping around the deck and losing their scales. And steering the boat. And cleaning the non-king/Chinook salmon. And cooking. I tried cranking the gurdies and did a few times but was physically unable to do more.

It was the hardest I have worked in a long time. Harder than fighting fire. Harder than thinning trees. I am exhausted to the core. And unbelievably happy.

Every morning started at dawn, which this time of year is 3 am. TDF was pulling the anchor at 3 while I laid in bed below for a few minutes longer. Once the chain was up I had to get up and turn off the anchor winch and start driving so he could set the gear. Between turns, I would throw food together for breakfast and pray the coffee maker would brew 2 cups worth of coffee. That thing is a crotchety piece of work. It makes me very sweary.

Oh, my, was I ever sweary. Every fish that I couldn't beat down was a filthy motherf***er. Mom, you would be so proud of me.

That was my view for nearly 18 hours a day. Those are the tattle tales in front (the little V things all the way on the bow by the anchor). They are springs with cowbells on them hooked to the trolling line. When a fish strikes a lure, they bounce and jangle. After awhile I could tell the difference between a King and a Coho on the line. I could even estimate the size.

My dear, dear husband would sing, "ring my beeeeelll, ring my bell" by Anita Ward while waiting for a strike. All I could think of was More Cowbell.

The first hour we were fishing we caught 10 kings, and by noon there were 18 kings and 15 coho onboard. It was chaotic. I was running between the wheel house and the pit, making sure to both steer and bleed the fish while tDF hauled them over the side. Thank God for adrenaline because otherwise I would have collapsed.

The wheel house.

We ran around the Sitka area quite a bit. We fished as far south as Whale bay and as far north as Salisbury Sound. We wanted to stay longer in Whale bay but ended up leaving early due to incoming bad weather. It was supposed to blow 25 knots and we couldn't get stuck out there with a hold full of Salmon. You have to sell within 5 days of catching the fish and we couldn't let $2,000 worth of fish go bad.

I am tired today, but wanted to leave you with a few photos:

Me holding up a 45 pound king we caught in whale bay. I can barely hold the fish up by its gillplate.
TDF with a really huge king from Crawfish inlet. This one hit the line like a ton of bricks. Look at how fat his tail is.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

King opener

Wish me/us luck. We're going out for a whole week to hopefully slay lots and lots of fish.

I'll let you know how it goes.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Freaking awesome boots

I wear boots nearly every day of my life. Everybody does here--we all march around in our $80 pairs of Xtratuffs. They are part of the uniform, just like a rain shell and a fleece. They are sort of cute but boring. I am an individual, just like everyone else. Well, since I was stuck in Juneau all day due to a mechanical* I went shopping. I wasn't planning on buying boots but these were on sale.
How cute are these??!!! I had to only pick one and I got the ones just like those pictured above. PLUS they were on sale since it was summer. They are Kamik boots and they are so awesome that the company has a recycling program for their broke-down boots. I am very happy to look like me and not some schlub when I wear skirts and rain boots. I now have stylish ones. I have a feeling I will be buying more of these boots. YAY! BOOTS!!

Thursday, June 10, 2010

The world's saddest pancake

Hello Internet! Sorry for the silence, but I've been very busy and important. I am now a deck hand with a commercial fishing license from the great state of Alaska. We have successfully sold 1 whole King Salmon ($87, kids!). I have made the worst pancakes of my life onboard the Leona. Let me spin you a yarn, matey.

So, we are now trollers. I haven't really worked the gear but that's because I drive the boat and am not fast enough. I also am in charge of the galley, such as it is. Please, let me take you on a tour with words of the great galley/berth of the Leona.

The back of the area is full of Perkins Diesel engine. The loud beast that powers our boat through the briny deep. The alternator squeals if we put too much load on it. Too much is defined by the on board computer (heh), the 12v coffee pot, and the water pump. When we get off the boat I still feel the solid thrum through my body from the motor. Forward (toward the bow) is the double berth, sink and "stove." This is a stove in the academic sense of a metal box that gets warm. Pretty much I can touch it with my bare hand. I am not bragging about my super-tough Alaska hands but slamming the crap nature of the stove. Ever seen a stove that takes 20 minutes to cook an egg while on full blast? Yeah, it sucks in ways I never knew were possible.

So, this stove is really meant to heat the small fo'c'sle, whatever.

Cooking on this boat means a fundamental shift in our eating habits. I am a make-it-from-scratch, no processed nothing, over packaging is eeevil person. Guess what we eat on the boat? Over processed, packaged, nonsense that sort of nauseates me. Oh, and nitrates. Lots and lots of processed meats. blerg.

On this, our maiden voyage, we decided to try pancakes. I bought Kustez reluctantly and got ready to make some. I fried, read: warmed until brown-ish, some apples in a pan then dumped the batter over it. I should mention that this is between steering the boat above from the wheelhouse and hopping down below to tend my breakfast treat. I let the pancake sit for 15 minutes on one side and flipped it. It was pallid and anemic. It cooked for a bit longer then I dumped it in a bowl with maple syrup for tDF (whom was actually filthy and fishing).

It was raw in the middle. Ever had a molten pancake--like one of those chocolate cupcakes that are undercooked on purpose? Well it was that but in pancake form. So, so gross. That stove is only good for heating dish water. I can't even begin to tell you how frustrated I am with that situation.

We have what tDF refers to as a crack torch--an MSR single burner backpacking stove. Ths heats water better but can't really be used in all weather. Having something like that roll on its side would be tragic in a wood boat built in 1926.

What should I cook where there is no refrigeration, room, ability to actually cook, time, or energy? NEW FUN PROBLEM!

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Another year on this earth

Today, I am officially another year older. As my dear, dear brother says in my early-mid 30's. Now, I have to shop in the matron section of the store. Maybe. I think you have to birth something in order to officially be a matron. I'm more of a matron-in-training.

I have celebrated the day with shopping at the thrift store (totally scored a red pair of doc marten mary janes. I know they are no longer on trend but I live in Alaska and nothing is on trend here.). We also had a really nice dinner out at the one nice place in town. It's the steakhouse. It is notable, mostly, for having a salad comprised of entirely verdantly green leaves. None of that pallid iceberg there. I also had a creme brulee with rhubarb sauce. I need more creme brulee in my life.

Tomorrow I will do as little as possible. Because I can.

Our biggest, fanciest news is...we got a regular mortgage. Just like normal 'murcans. It feels funny to celebrate debt, especially paperwork-intensive debt, but I don't care because we are bleeding less money into the interest leech. We were celebrating that too. The bleeding less part, not the debt part. Because nobody should celebrate debt. That most certainly doesn't butter my beans.

(Can you tell I've had a big fatty glass of Malbec?)

Monday, May 3, 2010

Anticipation. I'm getting itchy.

This is a pretty rough time of year for me. It's almost field season which means I am rarely parked in front of my two screens of gov't computing and out tromping around. I finally get to go on little townie missions--a wetland delineation or two and a stability assesment for a trail re-route. Better than nothing.

The weather looked like it was improving but it feels cold again. I just want summer so much.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

my life, in 4 pictures

I promise not to eat your brains, even though that's pretty much what this face looks like it wants. Really, is me after using the paint sprayer.
King crab, fresh of the boat. They are spiny.

He barely fit in our new crab boiler and pot. We need a bigger pot. (Yes, it is a he. It is illegal to keep lady crabs.)

Me with all the trash-tastic schwag from the stuperbowl at a bar. We got 2 miller lite beer cozies but tDF didn't want to hide is mirror pond in such a way. That is our only BBQ. It is not very good.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

It's a nice day for a white salmon

Winter King, White King, or that totally kick ass salmon, call it what you will. Half of one came up the driveway last week fresh off the Leona. It's sort of a tradition to eat the first fish of the season and we ate the frack out of this lovely white-fleshed king.

No, this isn't a 6th type of salmon we get. It's the winter version of the mighty King/Chinook. Their flesh turns white and fatty through the winter due to diet (not sure what exactly they eat). We were only introduced to this in Alaska, we had never heard anything like this down south.

White king parts! There are belly chunks and the collar along with fillets. The fish was probably 30 pounds in the round (whole).
Look at that! I haven't had winter king in about 3 years and was so very, very pleased.

This is fattier than normal king salmon so it can be pan fired, broiled, or grilled easily. It doesn't dry out the way leaner salmon does and it will baste in its own fatty liquid.

It dawned on my today, when i had to get up at 4:30 am to help with boat things, that my life is going to be very, very different. As long as fish like this comes home I think I can take the early mornings.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Bring you kid to work day: subtle sexism edition

I am prone to rants in my personal life. My husband often bears the brunt of my loud, opinionated personality. Let's all take a moment to feel bad for him. Ok! So. I am currently really, really irritated at the whole Barbie-sponsored bring your kid to work day thing.

I applaud Barbie's whole Dream it-Do it stance. Everyone should follow their dreams and become who they are and do what they love. HOWEVER, is there any other toy on the face of our fair planet (Happy earth day, planet) with more baggage than the Barbie? No. There is not. The website reference Barbie's 120 careers. With a few nods to the health industry and generic science excepting, Barbie has held very few science/math jobs.

Yes, when I was a little girl I didn't exactly dream about my current career. BUT I didn't look to Barbie for career advice. She was too busy in the complicated soap operas I embroiled her in.

Even the 10 women to watch are lacking in the sciences realm. Three of the women are in fashion while 1 is a scientist. How will this help the little scientists out there? Also one is the marketing/self-promotion whiz Danica Patrick. I hope any future race card driver I spawn also becomes the face/boobs of a web registry place. So proud I would be. I thought the 10 women would be actual women, not celebrities. Barbie dashes my hopes again.

The Internet is for ranting and funny lists. I really want to support people doing what they want and love. Some kids, yes even little nerd girls like I was, like science and outdoorsy things. We need role models not plastic toys.

Let's turn this around for a call for Actual Career Barbies based on the really great women we all know. I'll start:

Kayak Ranger Barbie: with little paddle, ponytail, and 3 season tent, she's up for any and all adventures on the seas.

Fish-Tech Barbie: Carhartts, chest waders, hard hat, and back pack shocker will monitor the heck out of your streams.

Slime Line Barbie: Head net, long gloves, and Xtratuffs make this lady ready for all that comes down the stainless steel chute at her.

Soil Scientist Barbie: Filthy, ripped pants, orange field vest, Razorback shovel, she'll hike anywhere and dig the pit to prove it.

What about you? What barbies would you propose?

Monday, April 19, 2010

free dump week

Last weekend was one of my most favorite weekends of the year: Spring Clean up. For 1 glorious week we get to get rid of all the rotting awfulness in our house/yard for FREE. Maybe you all don't really know, but it costs an arm and a leg to dispose of trash here. Normally it is 7 cents a pound, which can add up.

Remember that awful boat we cut up and took to the dump last year? Sure you do! That cost over $400 in dump fees. WHEE. Living on an island is super fun. We got rid of a bunch of old, rotten crap in the yard, lots of insulation, drywall, a boat trailer, and temporary flooring. 6 little toyota truck loads left our house and we look much, much less like trash.

There will be more. The event lasts all week and I can find more things to get rid of.

This effort it to encourage all people here to clean up their yard because if it wasn't free, nobody wants to pay to get rid their trash. Even so, there are some amazing properties around here.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Eat them up, Yum!

Fish heads, Fish heads, rolly-poly fish heads.
Fish heads, fish heads, eat them up, Yum!

Ask a fish head anything you want to
They won't answer.
They can't talk.

About 9 fish heads rolled up to the old homestead yesterday. Eight made it into the house. A raven and eagle fought over one of them yanked from the bucket. It was entertaining. The eagle won.

Now that tDF works down on the docks he's meeting lots of people who are willing to give away fish and fish parts. Yesterday, it was a bucket full of Black Cod heads. Black cod is also called Sablefish or Butterfish. We don't eat the heads, internet, but we eat the cheeks and collars.

I had a very, very bad experience the last time I ate Black cod and so was a bit skittish about trying them again. I persevered, though. Black cod is a fatty fish and has slime equivalent of an albacore. Plus, these were frozen so it was challenging work cutting out the cheeks.
Here is a bowl full of heads with guts attached. The collar is just behind the gill place and is around the belly. Most of the heads had some lungs/digestive system still attached.
Here I am ripping the collar off after cutting it free of the gill plate.
There really is a lot of meat on a collar. There are few bones and just a bit of cartilage to deal with. The cut also has a fair bit of fat so they broil/grill very nicely.
This is a bowl full of collars. They aren't completely cleaned yet. I peel back the membrane and scrape out all the blood. Blood ruins the flavor of most fish, plus it will discolor the very pale flesh.
This is the cheek. Forward of the gill plate and under the eye there is a pocket of very tender flesh. Halibut cheeks are bigger and better-known than black cod cheeks. These were a bit challenging to excavate because they were frozen. It was hard to differentiate between frozen flesh and cartilage.

Here is the bone structure behind the cheek. You have to cut away the membrane around the eye. There isn't a ton of meat to be found but it makes perfect little medallions.

Here is a nicer, larger cheek. These went into a salad after a quick sear on the stove. I broiled the collars for about 8 minutes with Tamari and sachiko. The flesh is delicate and flaky but covered in fat. Much the way king crab is delicate and fatty.

Tonight, I'm grilling them. They need surprisingly little to be delicious.

Also, I know these are gross images but this is my life. I get buckets of who-knows-what to deal with on a regular basis. Living up here is messy, bloody, and sticky. I love it.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Boat-shaped hole

They say that owning a boat is like having a hole in the water you throw money into. They aren't lying. Slapping the word 'marine' onto something drives the cost up at least 20%. Also, tDF has very expensive tastes. He wants a marine monitor back in the pit so he can watch the Novatech outputs and stay on course.

Hey, look at all the new frickin' terms.

Here is a picture I got from the Oregon's Choice Albacore page. It's a nice illustration of the various parts of a salmon troller. The outriggers dangle the gear away from the boat and you hook 20-foot long leaders 2 fathoms (6 feet) apart along the cable (Below). The gear is controlled by stabilizers, big wing like things that keep the gear more or less in check.

Our permit allows us two lines in the water, so the above illustration isn't quite accurate. (Power trolling allows 4 lines, more like the above picture but you get the point, right?)
Anyway, each hook is baited with herring or you drag plugs or hoochies. DO NOT google image search Hoochie. Search for Fishing Hoochie instead.

Those are hoochies of various colors and patterns. Some glow in the dark. I love the hoochie isle at the gear shop. So pretty. There's also plugs and spoons. I don't know what works and I couldn't find any good pictures. A plug is a conical chunk of wood or plastic with some hooks. A spoon is a flat piece of metal bent so it wiggles in the water. Salmon can be finicky so you drag a variety of tackle.

At the end of the lines are heavy lead balls. These provide the weight to pull the lines down and keep them from fouling. "Fouling" is nautical for tangled. Once you get your lines out you sit around and watch the sky. Until your cowbell at the end of your outriggers (or poles) starts a jangling. Then you reel in.

We have to hand-crank gurdies to bring in the lines. Gurdies are like big, brass fishing reels. We crank from the pit--a lowered section in the stern (Back) of the vessel that puts us closer to water line. Then, as the lines come up, you gaff the fish and swing them on board. Then the lines go back out, rigging them with the most successful lures do maximize your gear. Then you clean the fish.

Cleaning commercial fish is pretty straight forward. Canneries buy fish in the round, meaning whole but gilled and gutted. It's important to take the time to clean out all the viscera and the long vein along the backbone. Blood causing spoilage so removal is necessary. They then get iced down in the hold. Trolling is a quality fishery so you want your salmon to be as pretty as possible. Plus, you get more $$/lb the nicer the fish are. Crummy looking ones get number-two'd and bring less per pound.

This is only the very basics. The electronics on board are astounding and very, very costly. We're trying to get the Novatech chart plotter up and running on 12v power. This little program is a GPS enabled mapping thing where the background is nautical charts, thus eliminating the need for a frillion paper charts.
Look at the Leona!

All new adventures soon. Right now, we're working on the foc'sle (folks-ole) trying to get it ready to take out for a week at a time. The foc'sle is the space forward of the engine and under the bow to sleep/eat/cook in. She is a teeny space. New bilge pump goes in today. Whew.

Thursday, April 8, 2010


Finally, he says hello. Peeking shyly around Verstovia earlier than yesterday. He watches me, curiously, as I untangle my gear. I'm embarrassed by the state of things. I don't want him to catch me in such a disheveled state, but there's no hiding from him at lunch.

bolder, he stares down at the deck of my little Troller. At me. Knee deep in tackle I neglected last September when I was staring down another winter without him.

He says goodnight from Edgecumbe, whispering he'll come earlier tomorrow. Promising to meet me before I cast off.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Didn't see that coming

A friend, out of the blue, called to see if we wanted to buy his hand troll permit and lease his boat for the summer. Guess what? We did.

The Dirty Fisherman is now a Dirty Commercial Fisherman.

Looking to a summer learning how to be a deck hand and cleaning fish. Wow. I'm still stunned.

Friday, April 2, 2010

Harbingers of Spring

Can anybody else only think of Starbuck when they use the word harbinger? Yeah, well I am an isolated nerd who watches a lots of DVDs. On to an actual harbinger.

It is spring here in the great Southeast Alaska which means erratic weather and herring. Our weather goes from snowy to sunny and back to rain in the space of 2 hours. This is both strangely beautiful and downright irritating. I've been waiting for my garden to dry out enough to turn it over, but the weather is thwarting me. Mostly, the weather can't make up its mind and folks around here call that equinox weather.

Spring brings life back to our dreary little corner of 'Merica. It comes on the back of herring. Mid march Sitka Sound begins to fill up with sea lions and whales feeding on the huge schools of herring waiting to spawn. They are the first batch of spawning fish we get to meet then we have euchalon, steelhead, kings/chinook, sockeyes/reds, pinks/humpys, chum/dogs, then cohos/silvers. Everybody needs to reproduce and they seem like they're in such a rush during the sunny months.

Like every other thing that swims in our sea it has a multimillion dollar commercial fishery built on it. Herring politics are only slightly better than halibut politics around here, but you don't care about that. You want to know how they fish for the little silver buggers. Well, they seine for them. Seining is where you have a big boat and a little boat with a net stretched between them. The little boat zips around a school of fish and ties off to the big boat. Then net is closed and the school is hauled on board.

Seining for herring (from the Juneau empire)

Sometimes the herring will dive to the bottom (PANIC!) and the boat will roll severely. Remember that scene in Finding Nemo where they have that school of fish work together to beat the eeevil fisherman and the day is saved? That really happens.

The openings (times where the state deems it legal to fish) used to be about 15 minutes long and boats used to team up/ally where one boat actually fishes and the others ram other boats out of the way. Combat fishing, they called it. Now the openings are 2-3 hours long so the excitement of battle isn't really there anymore.

Hauling in a seine full of herring. (From national geographic).

Also, each group of boats or teams of boats have a spotter plane over head. When I went out the road last Thursday to watch, I counted 11 planes working above about 47 boats. Also, a film helicopter and the Coasty helicopter were buzzing about. It was a sight. I took pictures but the were of the far-away variety and not that great.

Herring are also a primary fertilizer for the local gardens. You can read about it here. What's spring like where you live?

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Raingear for the rest of you

As I was walking in to work in the absolutely pissing down rain I thought of this post. Much of the world, at least where I am from, can get away with a simple hooded sweatshirt. I used to. Now, I am absolutely snotty about my foul weather gear. I am choosy and have different rain outfits for different occasions. Oh yes, I even have "fancy" rain gear.

When I first moved to the great, rainy southeast of Alaska I bought a full set of slicks. Mine were a deep green Grundens/Helly Hansen set. Like below.

These totally keep the rain out. Also Hellys have a petroleum smell when they're new and everybody can tell when you have a new jacket on. They also create an issue I like to call "Swamp ass" Where you pretty much sweat as hard as it's raining. I stopped wearing slicks in the woods because I couldn't stand hiking in rubber. Plus they're really heavy to wear and carry in your pack. I learned there is a balance between keeping the rain out and breathability that foul weather gear misses.

I still wear my slicks in the boat because that's really what they're for--places where you don't move much and there is a lot of cold water coming at you.
Here is me, in the snow in Yakutat taking of my rain gear because it was too dang hot. See the snow? It was better than being soaked from sweat.

After I ditched the slicks I moved onto tin pants/jacket combo. What are tin pants? Why, they are the best thing Filson makes. BUT if you don't need them then you don't want them. They are not really that comfortable. Think of coating a really heavy pair of jeans with beeswax and walking around. Also getting your legs waxed all the livelong day. Not that awesome, but for what I do they're perfect. They repel water, breathe, and don't get ripped up by the brush. They cost a pretty penny. Expect to pay at least 100 big ones for a basic pair of tin pants and upwards of $130 for hunter style or double fronts. Also, remove the buttons if you are a lady since suspenders make it difficult to poppa-echo-echo in the woods and if you wear a belt, the buttons dig into your hip bone.
Here I am in all my field glory. Those are tin pants I have on. I'm on my second pair, the first got turned into a skirt. I love my tin skirt, it's the only one I know of. Anyhoodle, tin works until it gets really, really cold and it stiffens up to the point where it won't bend at the knees and I have to use my arms to pull my legs over blowdown. It is well worth it, though. Plus I look like a logger. Everybody wants to look like a logger. Notice my lack of rain jacket? It is indeed raining in that photo but hiking is sweaty and I only put on a jacket if it's really coming down.

And now for the townie rain gear I sport now. I only buy uninsulated, unlined rain gear since I'm good at layering and I tend to overheat in the woods easily. Contrary to popular belief it really isn't that cold here so arctic gear and heavy jackets are inappropriate for 98% of the year. Plus LAYERS. I have burned through 1 ultralight jacket and am working my way through my second. (First one was a Patagonia something or other and my current one is a Mountain Hardware thing.) I am really hard on rain gear since I am usually both wet and covered in dirt the cuffs of the sleeves wear out first. I am willing to shell out some dollars on a decent jacket. My mountain hardware jacket has pit zips--a great feature for jackets under normal circumstances. There aren't really any pictures of these since I hate wearing them.

I have a janky pair of Red Ledge rain pants that are regularly abused. They used to be for walks to work but they get deployed in the field quite often.
Here I am on the Stikine flats with my trusty .375 and rain pants. They weigh nothing, dry quickly and keep most of the rain out. I really need a new pair because these are rain pants in the academic sense anymore. That is an really huge white bog orchid. They normally are only about 6-8 inches tall.

I know nobody cares, but up here it matters. FYI the worst day in the field was in Yakutat where it rained 12 inches in 24 hours. It was a mess and it didn't matter what you had on, you got soaked. The hardest part of that day was getting out of the truck,