Monday, July 30, 2007

Cooking Night

My night to cook was fun and we'll have leftovers for a few days if we want to skip the galley some more. Honestly, I love the galley food, love having no groceries to buy, love not doing dishes. I love seafood night, steak night, BBQ rib night, Mexican lunches, the way Henry cooks my eggs over easy just the way I like them . . . . but I have to say it was still fun to cook in my own kitchen and try a couple new recipies.

The photo above I took a couple weeks ago when the lupine was just starting to come out. It is taken from the top of Haystack and shows Captain's Bay. The land mass in the center of the picture is called Little South America because of it's shape - it is a good place to see sea lions. The boats are mostly big freighters hanging out waiting to load with product for Japan - it is hard to see from the picture but they are quite large.

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Bering Rose

I saw the most amazing sight at work today and of course didn't have a camera with me so I'll have to just post pictures of the Bering Rose being off-loaded - it should be about done by now and the night crew should be moving on to the Great Pacific. Anyways, it was about 6:45 maybe, a good hour into my shift, and there was a problem with a pump that shut the whole plant down. I got my area squared away and wandered over and looked over the railing at the two guys frantically working on the pump, two levels below me, kneeling in fish guts in their raingear and ever mindful that 200 people on overtime could not work until they got the pump back on line. I grinned to myself because there have been times in my work career when I have been that guy - the guy that has to make it happen NOW while people watched and waited. I grinned because I may be that guy again someday but today?? Today I drifted over to the open window and watched the sunrise on a flat calm Dutch Harbor, the sky ablaze and the Bering Sea a shimmering molten cauldron. I was stunned by how beautiful it was and called a couple of my crew over to watch as well. I kept expecting the colors to have peaked but they got more rich, more vibrant, and when things could not possibly get any better my favorite boat in the harbor, the tugboat James Dunlap, made the turn from the outgoing channel and idled across the scene, pushing the molten water in front of it. I'm a tough guy, and not many things move me to tears - my son making an especially good bone crunching tackle on the opposing team being a rare exception - but this morning I may have had to turn away from my coworkers for a moment - the scene was too beautiful, it hurt my eyes. I'm looking at roughly the same area of the harbor as I sit at my computer desk typing this and I'm remembering how it looked and wondering if I will ever see it that perfect again . . . . .

Friday, July 27, 2007

Touring the Northern Glacier

A couple days ago after work Goldfish and I met her friend Tammy and she gave us a tour of the catcher/processor boat she works on, the Northern Glacier. The tour was awesome! She gave us a very thorough tour, from bow to stern, top to bottom - I even got to see the engine room where I salivated over the 3000 horsepower diesel and the wheelhouse where the captain showed us around. The wheelhouse was like something off Star Trek, right down to the captain's chair. I was amazed they could catch, weigh, sort, then either filet or process into surimi, all within just 201 feet. They pack 670 tons of boxed and frozen product and come in to port every 10 to 12 days to offload and head back out to sea. The picture I took from shore after the tour didn't come out great but there are much better pictures here on the company's website. I believe the Northern Glacier was one of the first at sea processors to fish the Bering Sea. Even though it was built in 1983, the equipment has been updated regularly and still appears to be pretty state-of-the art.

Thanks for the tour Tammy, I've always wanted to see how it was done on one of those vessels!

Thursday, July 26, 2007


It was an absolutely gorgeous day here today after all the fog burned off around noon. I spent some time at the supermarket picking up some things so I can cook supper in the next few days per my agreement with Goldfish - once a month we'll skip the galley in the evening and I'll cook.

This picture has absolutely nothing to do with any of that - this is the library across the creek. They have a fantastic Alaska collection and is just a quick walk away. I'm posting this instead of the promised report on the boat tour so I can get to bed a little earlier tonight - cheers everyone!

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Hello Greenpeace

I looked out the living room window this morning and the Greenpeace vessel Esperanza was parked in my "front yard", and sure enough, I watched Zodiacs full of staff buzzing by my "office window" all afternoon. The top picture is one I took of the Esperanza at lunchtime. At first I thought they were here to protest the controversial deployment of the exploratory oil drilling rig parked in Margaret Bay, in front of our grocery store, to the Beaufort Sea. The oil rig is parked here because a native corporation has been granted a 30 day injunction against the rig proceeding any further north. I took a couple pictures of the oil rig tonight after work. You can see Mount Ballyhoo - at least the part not hidden by fog - in the background.

A little web research revealed Greenpeace is up here for a two month mission in the Bering Sea. You can read about their mission, called Bering Witness, here. It's pretty cool because there is a webcam updated every 30 seconds looking off the ship's bow. As the boat swings on it's anchor with the tides, there is a different view of my neighborhood. Right now there is a flood tide and a nice view of the landfill facility! I think there may be a time during an ebb tide when it would show my place but I'm not positive.

Anyways, a fun day today. I worked refrigeration this morning until fish showed up, then worked hard. After work Goldfish's friend Tammy gave us a tour of the trawler/processor she works on as a Quality Control technician - amazing! How they fit all that in just 206 feet blew my mind. I'll blog more on that tommorow . . . . night folks!

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Skyscraper Living

I thought this was pretty cool - a pair of bald eagles has set up housekeeping in a crane and appears to be settled in for good or until the crane needs to be used, whichever comes first. In the background is Mount Ballyhoo.

Before the season started and I was outside doing pipe insulation, I watched a mated pair of eagles build a nest in the crow's nest of one of our boats that was sitting idle. The male patiently brought stick after stick and the female worked them into a nest - it was fascinating to watch but sad because I knew it had to be torn down in a week. I don't envy the poor fellow that was given that assignment!

Today at work I was watching sea lions feeding on salmon by the dock - at least that's what I assume they were doing as they appeared to be enjoying themselves and the salmon were terrified and jumping for their lives.

Monday, July 23, 2007

The Salmon Are Here

We were walking home from the restaurant last night and I noticed fish jumping in the creek! On closer inspection I saw decent sized schools of pink salmon moving up the creek with the flood tide . . . . I'm "tickled pink" that 40 feet from my head where I sleep at night salmon are swimming by on their way to the lake. I was thinking today that Unlaska combines all the good things about Alaska all in one place - the mountains, the fishing, the ocean, the hiking, and great people all in one place.

These pictures are from a hike to Ugadaga Bay last week. The trail is an ancient portage route used since ancient times and although rated moderate to difficult, it was a nice walk except for a couple places where the trail is very narrow adjacent a ravine. The top picture is of Chico when we arrived at the bay, the second is of the approach to the bay, the third is maybe midway and the last picture is of the sign at the trailhead.

I'll see about getting some pictures of those pink salmon to post soon. The silvers will be running in the creek in August, that will be fun. Cheers!

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Wildflowers Are Out

We're running into more and more wildflowers when we're hiking - the top picture is alongside the road on the way to the landfill, just past Memorial Park; the middle picture is taken from Strawberry Hill (a favorite walk because Chico can be off the leash and chase ground squirrels to his heart's content); and the bottom picture was taken when we hiked Ugadaga Bay trail and shows one of the many wild iris that we found where ever the ground was damp. Also, we are noticing the berries are starting to develop. Unalaska is fantastic berry picking - salmon berries, cranberries and blueberries especially - I can't wait until August/September when we can start gathering.

I'm posting early tonight, Goldfish and I are off to The Three Amigos for supper. Every Sunday they cook a different authentic Mexican dish and tonight it's posole. Hopefully we can get a window seat by the harbor - cheers everyone!

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Relaxation Day

Today I worked on insulating pipe, a nice break for the body to recover. F/V Alaska Rose is another one of our boats, it holds about 750,000 pounds. In the bottom picture I just missed getting a nicely centered picture as it passed the dock at work; in the top picture it has made it through the channel and made the turn towards the mouth of the harbor and open ocean. It is beautiful and sunny after work but I did chores at home and relaxed before the next round of work. Cheers everyone!

Friday, July 20, 2007

Views From The Apartment

The top photo was taken yesterday from my living room window and shows a research vessel anchored in the harbor - to the right you can see one of their lifeboats returning to the ship. If you look closely you can see several more of those lifeboats hanging from the ship. The were apparently using one of the lifeboats to transport crew members to Dutch Harbor. I watched these funny orange boats go back and forth the dock at work all day yesterday and today - at first we thought they were submarines!

The bottom photo I took tonight on the way home from work from right outside my bedroom window. One of the eagles had something interesting and the others were quite excited about it. I thought these were two good pictures to illustrate that I never know what I'll see outside my windows - with a shipping channel out the front window and a salmon stream out the back window there is always something going on.

There is no fish tommorow so I'll be working with the refrigeration crew; it will be a nice change of pace and an opportunity for the ol' body to recover a bit - cheers everyone!

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Working Away

Hey, here I am with my two little buddies getting ready to rock and roll on the line. Trevor, you can see your school is still getting represented! This was taken today actually, which turned out to be a gorgeous one with blue skies and a flat calm Bering Sea. The salmon are starting to run and folks are abuzz with excitement as people pile into vehicles and head out fishing straight from work. Tommorow night I'm going out to the Grand Aleutian to watch Open Mike night and celebrate my first month on the island. I splurged today on a laundry basket and a haircut, a great day in Unalaska. . . . .

Monday, July 16, 2007

Foggy Day

This picture is taken from the beach near the apartment and shows a couple tugboats giving the Horizon container ship a hand docking at the APL facility. Right now there is a huge container ship there; I can't tell if they are loading or unloading. Short blog tonight because I wrote a long email covering things I haven't talked about here. Cheers everyone!

Sunday, July 15, 2007

World War II

There is an unbelievable amount of remnants from World War II here on the island - some people have bunkers facing the sea in their front yards. Some of the more interesting bunkers and remains are on Mount Ballyhoo and I took these pictures a few days ago when we were hiking around. I will need several more trips up there to explore the whole area as there are too many sites to visit in just one trip. There is also a World War II museum here that I haven't gotten a chance to visit - it's on the "list" of things to see and do!

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Great Day In Unalaska

It's late so I'm going to keep this a brief post. After my 12 hour shift at work we stopped by the galley real quick to grab some grub (Saturday night is always steak night so I threw a nice one in a plastic bag along with a baked potato and some cucumber slices) and then we headed to the trailhead to Ugadaga Bay. It was a great hike, just 2.2 miles each way with a fair amount of elevation gain. This is a trail from ancient times that was used as a portage from one side of the island to the other. After our hike we hit the galley again (peanut butter cookies and milk for me and an English muffin with ham and cheese for Goldfish) then home. Lots of good pictures; I will post them soon! Gotta shower and head to bed, I have to get up in 6 hours . . . . . the pictures are of a trawler returning to port taken from Mount Ballyhoo a couple days ago. The boat is just passing a buoy that rings a bell as it rocks in the waves - when the wind is just right you can hear that buoy from our place.

Friday, July 13, 2007

Eagles, Eagles Everywhere

I don't guess I'll ever tire of seeing eagles every day and I was thrilled to see one perched on the railing on the front of the building I live in. I ran back inside and got my camera and snapped a couple shots while he waited patiently. I love watching them play in the air, chasing each other and performing complex aerial maneuvers for the sheer joy of it. The area by the small boat harbor seems to have an especially exuberant population of eagles that like to showcase their skills on a regular basis.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Trip Over The Pass

I think I mentioned we attempted the pass a couple days ago but were blocked by snow. We did see this very cool photogenic fox which sat on the other side of a small creek and watched us exploring. There is a great trail up there I want to hike sometime in the next week if I can find the energy - sometimes the tank is almost empty after work and I can just manage a mile or two walk like tonight. You can see there is still plenty of snow up there!

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Pollock Season Continues

This is our flagship trawler the F/V Destination approaching the dock last night just as I was getting off shift. We finished offloading it this afternoon and began offloading the Bering Rose. The Destination holds over a million pounds of pollock, a truly impressive fish catcher! What is equally amazing to me is the tiny amount of non-pollock bycatch - maybe 20 pounds of herring, a couple sharks, a halibut, and a half dozen Irish Lords, along with a half tote of cod - just a tiny drop in the bucket compared to the total catch.

Tonight all my adventuring caught up with me and I took a nap after work in the sun coming in the window at home. Hard work and little sleep had finally took their toll after three weeks on the island and I slept for two hours and can hopefully get back to sleep now - good night all . . .

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Battle Wagon

Here is the new addition to the family in all it's rusted glory, the perfect island vehicle. This was Goldfish's vehicle when she lived before, and when she left 7 months ago she gave it away to a mechanic friend. We were delighted to discover the vehicle was not being used and ran better than ever - we got it for $250, the price of the new parts. The top picture is from tonight's adventure on Mount Ballyhoo and the bottom picture shows where we had to turn around last night when we tried to drive through the pass to Summer's Bay - a few more weeks out to clear out the last of the snow drifts across the road and we'll try it again. Lots more pictures to share from both adventures in the days to come . . . . . . . .

So Many Choices

I was reviewing pictures to try to decide what to post and I was just overwelmed - when I started posting I wanted to try to post a photo everyday and wondered if I could possibly find that much interesting to share. Now I see I can not leave the house or look out the window for two months and I'd still be able post new subject matter. Chico the Wonderdog flew back in from Anchorage today, none the worst for wear except for the shaved patches where the vet inserted IVs. We have a new addition to the family, a 4WD GMC Jimmy we got for $250 - I call it the Battle Wagon (okay, honestly, I'm the only one that calls it the Battle Wagon but I'm hoping it catches on . . . ). It greatly increases our range and in the two days we have had it we have been some amazing places. Just an hour ago I was sitting on a 1000 foot cliff watching fishing boats return to port and basking in the sun. There has been a break from fish so I have been working with refrigeration for a couple days but the break is over and there will be some long days ahead!

One of our favorite things to do is beachcomb - the picture shows our haul of beach glass, rocks and shells from the beach in front of the apartment from a 20 minute walk a couple days ago. Goldfish finds all the beach glass, I can't seem to spot it - too distracted by the rocks maybe??

View From The Living Room

I know I've mentioned we love watching boat traffic through the channel from the living room - just thought I'd share the sight of the F/V Defender leaving port and heading to the fishing grounds as seen from my couch. The parking area is where the boat captains and crew that fish for our company leave their vehicles when they are working. The boats have to navigate parallel to the beach to stay in the channel as they leave and arrive in port giving us a great view!

Sunday, July 8, 2007

Cool Things

This photo is actually a very poor rendering of what I actually saw - a few days ago, just as I arrived at the summit of Haystack, I looked up at the antenna array and saw the sun shining through the fog and backlighting two eagles. You can just make out the sun; it looks like the moon does during the day sometimes. My camera didn't know what to make of the light situation and this was the best I got out of several pictures I took, and it really doesn't do the scene justice at all.

That got me thinking about things I've seen lately where I didn't have a camera handy, where the image remains only in my mind. Boat traffic is always a joy - with the channel only maybe 100 yards away, seeing big freighters and fishing boats is always fun. One just passed by as I was writing this, and if you've watched Deadliest Catch you know how big these boats are and what a presence they have on the water. About 20 minutes earlier I was emailing Zack and had to stop for a bit and watch the porpoises jumping in the channel - something cool is always happening out the window.

We were beach combing for seaglass tonight and I found an old rusty knife with a jury-rigged leather handle where someone had wrapped leather around the knife tang tightly and then screwed wood screws in to hold it all together - what stories that knife could probably tell before it washed up on the beach in Unalaska.

The very coolest thing in the last few days I saw was a steady stream of tiny polluck scales running across the dock and into the ocean in the bright sunshine - from the second story of the plant it looked like a braided river of liquid silver, ever changing. Amazing!

Saturday, July 7, 2007

I really like this picture of the church I took last week; the play of the light and clouds and the centering of the church. Quick post tonight, we stayed out too late at the Unisea sushi bar with friends and it's past my bedtime. Cheers everyone!

Thursday, July 5, 2007

Unalaska Courthouse

I get tickled everytime I see the courthouse down the street. Yes, that is the only sign identifying it as a courthouse . . . . small town . . . you can also see it is almost right next to the Russian Orthodox church. We hiked Haystack tonight and then went down to the dock and looked at boats. It was a gorgeous sunny day today! Also went to the library and drooled over their Alaska collection . . . another great day on the island.

Wednesday, July 4, 2007

Happy 4th of July!

I spent the day today insulating pipe from a scissor lift. The day started out chilly and foggy (in the top picture you can see me with my hood up and the grey skies - also, you can see I shaved as it isn't worth being around seafood with a beard as you need to have a beard net anytime you enter the plant) and ended gorgeous and sunny (in the middle picture you can see the blue skies - the bottom picture shows an almost-insulated valve assembly - the interesting thing about insulating pipe is all the hard work is hidden! ). After work we were social and attended a BBQ; great food, fun dogs to play with now we're waiting for the fireworks scheduled for midnight to end the day.

Tuesday, July 3, 2007

Russian Orthodox Church

A hundred yards or so down the street is this Russian Orthodox church, similar to the one in Nilnilchik. This photo was taken partway up Haystack Hill and if you look closely you can see the eagle on the left-hand spire of the church - a favorite resting place. The building to the left used to house the bishop - both the church and the bishop's house date to the 1800's and are definitely a focal point in the area.

I have decided to not discuss work too much here, just like I rarely talked about Alaska Indoor Sports or the Kennebec Journal in my other blog, but I have to mention one of our boats is on the way back to the plant with fish - the season has begun! It will be nice to be done with all the preparation and into the thick of things until the season ends in November!

Monday, July 2, 2007

APL Dock

When you look out the living room window, one of the major features is the APL Dock where the big container ships are loaded and unloaded. Watching this process through binoculars is a favorite activity - in fact I am watching one being off loaded as I blog tonight. These three pictures show the view of APL from Strawberry Hill where we hiked last week. It gives a better view of the process from the side - the top view shows the whole barge and crane, the second photo is a closeup showing a container being lowered but still about 50 feet above the truck, and the last picture shows that same container almost all the way lowered. It is amazing how fast the crane operator can complete this process, and the trucks are just lined up one after the other. There is always something interesting happening out the window - either the ocean side from the living room, or the river side out the bedrooms. Last night a huge Russian ship unlike anything we had ever seen docked briefly, probably to take on fuel and supplies. It looked like a research vessel of some sort.

Sunday, July 1, 2007

Bunker Hill

We had last Sunday off and celebrated by riding our bikes to the Bunker Hill trail head and hiking to the top. You can see from the pictures why it is called Bunker Hill! If you look at the panoramic shot at the top of my blog you can see Bunker Hill to the right side. The hill in the middle with the antennas is Haystack Hill. I live right at the foot of Haystack so it is the best option for a quick workout.

The top picture is taken near the top and you can see the bunker at the summit. The middle picture is from the summit and shows some of the other fortifications up there. My favorite is the third picture showing the bunker and the view to the north.

It's hard to believe a week has gone by since hiking Bunker Hill. Today was an optional day at work - I was in the middle of a project and chose to work; Goldfish took the day off to relax, go to the market and made supper. No walk to day for the first time since we arrived, just a day to relax, read, and work on the bikes a bit.