Thursday, January 31, 2008

Landing or Taking Off?

I'm not sure what the eagle was doing, I just know the marks made by the other wing in the fresh snow seemed impossibly far apart from this one.

We got our first delivery of opilio today, about 150,000 pounds off the Kevleen K. It's the first day of the month tommorow and my next 4 or 5 days are going to be one long blur of work interspersed with bits of sleep . . . . .

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

F/V Sea Storm

After work I wandered down to the mouth of the river to see who was parked at our dock. F/V Sea Storm is a 120 foot trawler with a single 1700 HP main engine. Sea Storm is currently set up to fish for trawl cod and is delivering to us this season. It varied while I was watching but there were between 8 and 12 eagles perched on the boat at any given time with another dozen lined up at the mouth of the river - I'm not sure what they were eating.

Goldfish and I went to the Crab Pot Deli for supper and I plan on turning in early - work has been tough with the end of month reports looming and not enough hours in the day. Cheers!

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Smoke On The Water

At noon today along with the ever-present eagles roosting on poles across the street from my door there were these super thin sheets of ice spinning downstream with the current, each with its own trajectory and course but also confined by the banks of the stream. They spun and smashed into each other, so thin they looked like smoke or fog, forming and reforming like plates of the Earth creating Pangea in a dozen different forms in as many seconds. I could have spent the afternoon watching but the wet snow and Chico's relentless desire to locate lye drove me inside to the laptop and then to the responsibilities of the workplace. . . . . my mind returned to those spinning sheets of frozen smoke throughout the afternoon and I pondered the meaning of the messages scribbled on the water surface by an unseen hand . . . .

Chico Needs Your Help

Living on an island can be tough on a dog, sometimes it's hard to find life's essentials out here on "the chain". Chico likes to make soap and has a new idea for the next batch incorporating seaweed collected on the spit enclosing Dutch Harbor. He has all the ingredients he needs except he is low on lye . . . . you see, lye is tougher to find than it used to be because lye is also a primary ingredient in the manufacture of methamphetamine. One look at that face and I think it is plain to see Chico does not manufacture meth - he makes soap, pretty good soap actually.

So my little web surfing minions, here is Chico's offer . . . . the person to come up with a source for lye (must be 100% lye, must be in a 16 ounce container like the one pictured - maximun of 32 ounce containers as lye cakes up when exposed to humidity so smaller is better when it comes to storage) that will ship through the postal service, either parcel post or priority mail, to Unalaska, will be rewarded with a few bars of Chico's soap and the pictured Unalaska Fire Department tee-shirt, new, size medium, for their efforts. In cases of multiple sources, the one with the best price will be the winner.

This has to be a place that will be around for the future, not a one shot deal, because Chico is planning on making more soap as he perfects his recipies. As a matter of reference, you can normally buy one pound of lye at an Ace Hardware store for about $3 to $4 bucks. It can be either a bricks and mortar store or strictly web-based but they must be set up to ship through the postal service - UPS or Fedex just isn't cost effective to the island.

Don't let Chico down - look into those eyes and see if you can make him happy. Chico is so very busy these days, it's tough for him to find the time to track down sources with our slow web connection - help him out! Email your sources to me and I'll pass them on to Chico - the best verified source by midnight (Alaska Standard Time) on Friday gets the goods!

Spring for a Moment

Do you remember a couple days ago I was crowing about temps in the 40's and beautiful sunshine? Well I wanted to post a few pictures from my noon dog walk that day because the NEXT day we got this awesome swirling sleet, sort of like getting sandblasted from all directions, and then today we got a couple inches of wet snow and it was down to 30 degrees when I was out earlier with Chico.
I had to download my camera and take a look at these to see if that day really happened . . . . the top photos is Mount Ballyhoo and you can see how much snow has melted (snowshoeing sessions suspended until further notice). Also, all the little snowslides blocking the road to Summer's Bay and the Pass are melting down and I can get a little further everytime I drive out that way. I lie awake at night thinking about the beaches out there, un-beachcombed for a month now, and all the smelly pretty things washed up by the storms and waiting to be found . . . .
We should have our first shipment of opilio this Friday. It's hard to believe January is almost gone!

Saturday, January 26, 2008

F/V Maverick

I haven't really watched Deadliest Catch but I guess the Maverick isn't going to be on this season for one reason or another. I think the Maverick looks like a crab boat should and I like the tribal killer whale below the wheel house. I wish them all the best in their on-line sales of crab and salmon - their price on crab is actually probably the best on the internet when you factor in the free shipping.

It is a balmy 43 degrees out this evening on the dog walk. All the snow berms are about gone so we took advantage of the easy access and walked right on the beach. The tide is high and the water is flat calm with just ripples lapping the shoreline. Chico found plenty to investigate and I enjoyed the quiet evening, letting him wander where he wanted with no rush to get home.


With long hours and no days off you are constantly forced to make choices in how you spend that 3 t0 4 precious hours each day not spent working. Reading, housework, dog walks, hikes, workouts, phone calls to family, relationship time and hobbies all vie for attention - and then some days you have to just take it easy and relax. I had time to blog last night but instead used that half hour to catch up on the blogs I try to keep up with, those faceless friends that are part of my life on the island.

I'm starting to feel a bit better; I still have a runny nose but I feel about 80%. We filled our empty spot in my office today so I have a bit more help moving forward. Cheers everyone!

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Donde es piscados?

With apologies to all my Mexican friends, that is my interpretation of "where are the fish?" We are at full crew levels right now and we are all poised, waiting for deliveries of the season's first pollock and opilio. The technicians and engineers have re-vamped and repaired everything and at midnight tonight begins a top to bottom scrub and sanitizing of the whole plant in preparation of fish - piscados - soon . . . .

The picture shows the APL dock at night, what I see when I raise my head from the laptop and look out the window. To the right you can see the tugboat James Dunlap holding the barge fast to the dock while they unload all the containers.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Sorry . . .

My posts have been quick and dirty lately, and I've even missed some nights . . . truth is I'm trying to kick a cold before it turns into something more nasty. It's hard to kick anything when you work long hours seven days a week but I've had pneumonia a few times in my life, and the flu strains out here are horrible - a few people died here last year from the flu - so I'm doing all I can to get better. I've been missing dog walks and getting to sleep early and just trying to get through the day at work - I think I might be turning the corner and starting to feel a bit better. Goldfish has been truly golden in taking care of things this week when I've been less than 100% . . . . she had a day off today and took down the Christmas tree, it leaves a huge hole in the living room but we still have all the other lights up and the Rudolph Christmas village and the Nativity set my Mom made.

The picture is taken from about halfway up Haystack Hill. On the left you can see the road towards Dutch running along the base of Bunker Hill. In the middle is the Small Boat Harbor and Harbor Crown processing where a few of the Deadliest Catch boats deliver. Harbor Crown always seems to post the best price but only offer bare bones support for the boats that deliver there. Off camera towards the left is the bridge and then Captain's Bay.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

I learned a good lesson a few days ago when I took this crappy picture of the moon rising behind a raven perched on a cliff - sometimes it just better to watch what is going on instead of trying to capture it. The next night I purposely left my camera at home and I just looked around, watched the sea otter swimming along shore, watched Chico investigating and imagined the world through his eyes, watched dusk fall on the Bering Sea. I love taking pictures but once in awhile it's good to relax and let life happen - know what I mean? Because the raven and the moon never did line up just right . . . . . .

Sunday, January 20, 2008

No Time For Posing

Fishing vessels are zipping through the East Channel at all hours of the day and night now - when I walked Chico after work along Illiuliuk Bay I could see 10 boats either arriving or departing. Our pollock guys haven't quite come to an accord on price yet but the crab boats have and should be leaving for the grounds by Tuesday or Wednesday.

The warm weather continues and another storm is on the way for tonight! Another person joined the weight loss pool so we're up to $800 for the winner, weigh-in on April 4th . . . . . no dieting for me today, I had pizza at the galley for lunch and four king crab legs for supper instead of the usual one leg with brown rice. Early to bed tonight, right after I call Zack and thank him for the Christmas package - Duck Hunt for the Wii, an Eric Clapton biography and a Bumble figurine (my favorite character from Rudolph the Red Nose Reindeer) that roars when you press his belly! Cheers everyone . . . . .

"A nation that draws too great a difference between its scholars and its warriors will have its thinking done by cowards and its fighting done by fools."

Church at Night

I know I post a lot of pictures of the Russian Orthodox Church on here but it is a part of my "place", and I find it riveting. It's just a block away and I walk by it a couple times a day on dog walks, or drive by it on the way to the Dutch Harbor side or the road to Summers Bay. Eagles love to perch on the crosses - if you look closely you may be able to see the white heads of the two that are perched in this photo.

Today the storm let up and we had a wonderful day of sunshine and temps in the 40's. Lots of snow is gone from the driving rain and the warm weather . . . . tonight we went to the Crab Pot Deli to celebrate 7 months living on the island. There has been a lot of boat traffic heading out this evening on the eve of the pollock season opener and the pot cod boats getting ready for opilio,

Friday, January 18, 2008


We're having one humdinger of a storm out here, it started this morning and shows no sign of letting up. They were calling for 50 to 80 mph winds, not sure if we've got that high but I do know at noon I was walking on an icy parking lot towards the beach with the wind at my back and I didn't have to move my feet - the wind just blew me along at a normal walking pace, sliding across the ice. Along with the wind and rain are warm temps so the snow is going fast. All our Mariner fleet is done with pot cod and are switching their gear out for opilio. We do have a couple boats doing trawl cod this season as well, and the pollock fishery opens in a few days so we're all busy with last minute projects both on the boats and in the plant.
I took these pictures a couple days ago when Chico and I were walking out past the landfill. The strategy when it has been snowing is to drive towards Summer's Bay until the first snow blockage across the road (there are many, but they get then cleared the next day), park, and walk along the beach. The fog and light snow that day made passing fishing boats look like ghost ships.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Wet Snow

The eagle on the rock in the foreground has its wings spread, trying to dry them out a bit after a wet snow. Goldfish and I saw what happens when a soaking wet eagle - especially an immature on with more wing mass - tries to fly this afternoon. There was a bald eagle sitting on our neighbor's car and as we approached it took off. It tried desperately to gain altitude but couldn't clear the three story building next door and had to perform a very un-eagle-like maneuver at the last minute, completely losing any appearance of dignity and crashing to the ground in the process. We last saw it walking to the top of a snowbank, looking very confused and embarrassed.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

The Perfect Workout

Here are a couple photos from our snowshoe session on Ballyhoo after work last night - you can see the conditions were just amazing with clear skies, 28 degrees and no wind. This is the view from where we park, looking towards Dutch Harbor. In the foreground is the world famous Dutch Harbor Airport runway - look closely in the middle of the bottom photo and you can see a plane in front of the terminal building. When I first flew out here in 2002, Alaska Airlines was still flying jets into Dutch and the runway had the distinction of being the 2nd shortest jet runway in the world - there was one in Norway that was a few inches shorter. It's always pretty exciting flying in, even with the turboprops they use now. Well, except for you Zack . . . . . .

Monday, January 14, 2008

Greenpeace / Time Bandit

In a post last July I photographed the Greenpeace vessel Esperanza parked in Iliuliauk Bay in front on my place, here in Dutch Harbor as part of their Bering Witness voyage. We have BBC as our homepage and an article today mentioned the Esperanza was currently engaged in a high speed game of chess with Japanese whaling vessels in the South Pacific near Antartica. Greenpeace and I don't always see eye to eye but I do appreciate all the work and research they do to protect the oceans all over the world - and I loved seeing their Zodiac chaser boats whizzing by the plant last summer!

Yesterday we had a pretty intense storm out here, winds 30 to 50 mph with gusts to 70, along with heavy wet snow. Because our internet is delivered by satellite those conditions pretty much shut it down. That wasn't the only reason I didn't post last night though; I've been pushing pretty hard these days between work and play and it caught up with me. I was lying on the spare bed with the dog after work, listening to the storm howl outside, and I fell asleep. I woke up a couple times here and there but got probably 10 hours of sleep, just what I needed. Thank you Goldfish for walking Chico in the storm while I slept!

We had the perfect session of snowshoeing tonight - the weather was perfect, we both had our tunes with us, I was super rested from last night, and the stars were coming out in a clear sky. I noticed that the Big Dipper comes out right over Ballyhoo - I'll have to try to get a picture. I took a few pictures tonight that I'll share later this week but on the way over we saw F/V Time Bandit taking on pots and snapped a shot. The helicopter was circling around today as well so I suspect the DC crew is filming the start of opilio season.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Captain's Bay

The road up Captain's Bay I have deliberately explored infrequently, to keep part of the road system a bit mysterious. I spent some time up there 5 years ago on a visit to the island but I haven't been there much since I moved here. Come to think of it, I didn't even bring ack out there when he visited. There is a cool shipwreck up there you can barely make out to the left of the island in the picture - I'll try to get a better shot sometime when the light is better.

It is a clear night with a sky full of stars . . . no wind, just the sound of the river ice cracking and the surf on the beach. Chico and I walked at Summer's Bay after work and the horses were there, eating the seagrass by the shoreline. Not really enough light for pictures or to beachcomb, I just sat on a log and watched Chico interact with them, not being aggressive, just trying to gently herd them away from the water. They ignored him for the most part and a good time was had by all . . . . .

Goldfish and I called a day off from the diet and I had the steak at the galley tonight and a few other things I probably shouldn't have . . . .

Friday, January 11, 2008

Seven Random Facts

So, Jen tagged me for this one. I'm not going to pass it on to seven people because I don't read 7 blogs regularly, I read maybe 5, most of whom are tagged by Jen already . . . . we're lucky that way . . . .

1. My last three cars I owned in the six years before moving to the island cost $800 - combined. I gave two of them away (still running) and I sold one of them for $300 just before moving so my automotive costs for those 6 years was $83.33/year - fairly typical for my adult life. I did buy one new car once (loved that Subaru until I hit a moose at 60 MPH) but generally drive beaters, the crappier the better. I have only paid someone to work on a vehicle twice in my life - once they screwed me over without fixing anything, and once I simply didn't want to do the job (replacing an in-tank fuel pump). DISCLOSURE #1 - Goldfish likes beaters too but has not had me around until recently to fix her cars, hence the Honda Element. DISCLOSURE #2 - Motorcycles don't count, I have probably spent more on them over the years than cars :o)

2. I have four big goals for the next 15 years - to thru-hike the Appalachian Trail from Georgia to Maine; to ride a bicycle via the Northern Tier Route across America from Annacortes, WA to Bar Harbor, ME; to ride a motorcycle from the top of Alaska to the tip of South America; and to drive a boat from Dutch Harbor to Maine via the Panama Canal.

3. I have a tatoo of a sea turtle. I have always loved the ocean and the water.

4. I have been in all of the United States except for Louisiana. Don't ask me why I have missed that state, it's a mystery to me as well - but I think it's kind of cool I haven't seen them all yet. I've been to Mexico and all across Canada and have always felt a guy could spend a lifetime exploring North America. DISCLOSURE - Goldfish does not necessarily share that view so I'm heading to the DMV soon to get a passport. . . . . .

5. I've been approached by bears, charged by moose, and almost bitten by a shark but the outdoors has never hurt me and it is where I always go to recharge my batteries. The more extreme the situation, the more I generally enjoy it.

6. I was a deckhand on a commercial salmon fishing vessel for four years in the 90's and continue to love boats and the fishing industry. In commercial fishing I had a strong sense of being connected to the process of feeding people and found it tremendously satisfying on a very deep level. I fished during some of the years affected by the Exxon Valdez spill which still has not been settled and am excited to be out here living on the Bering Sea where the pollock fishery is the last great sustainable fishery left in the world.

7. Jen, I know the answer to the quiz . . . . . .

The picture is indeed me, taken by my Dad in 1966 at the World's Fair. I look pretty happy, right?

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Cod Season

They allocated the cod quota a little differently this year, splitting it almost evenly between the A and B seasons. That, combined with very good fishing, is making for a fairly short cod season. The boats are coming back with good loads and not having to burn too much diesel; the dock price is also excellent.

Goldfish and I went snowshoeing on Ballyhoo tonight after work in a near ground blizzard. I haul a sled behind me so I can whiz back down - a reward for the effort on the way up - and often times it was not even touching the ground, streaming out behind me in the wind as I labored my way up. Goldfish prefers to walk back down, no idea why. She gets more of a workout but I have more fun - Chico goes ballistic chasing me on the sled and trying to pull me off, I'm trying to steer with the blowing snow and Chico jumping all over me, and I have the car all warm and toasty by the time she gets down.

After the workout we swung by the plant and saw they were off-loading cod from the Kevleen K. You can see they get pretty iced up out there on the grounds, despite the best efforts of the crew.

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Pyramid Peak

A new diner opened down the street, the Crab Pot Deli, and we walked down there for supper tonight after work. I had the crab and avocado club sandwich - quality control you understand as the diner owner buys her crab from my work, usually from me as we sell it through the engineering office - and Goldfish had the daily special which was an excellent soup and sandwich for an astounding bargain price of $4.95. Both were excellent and I think we have a new favorite place to eat when we're in the mood to skip the galley.

I'm eating a lot of crab on my diet - I had a king crab leg shredded over some brown rice with a dab of salsa for lunch today. Low fat and healthy, and it doesn't make you feel like you're suffering and giving up food. Chico and I just got back from a long walk before bed . . . . they are unloading a massive container ship over at the APL dock; a fox we flushed ran across the river ice floes to the other side and startled about a dozen eagles who were settled in for the night on a rock ledge; they took wing silently, silhouetted against the snowy night sky.

The picture shows a mountain of crab pots with Pyramid Peak in the background, taken by Captain's Bay a couple days ago. And Happy Birthday Zack! Good to talk to you tonight - love ya, Dad.

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Flat Light

There is lots of flat light out here in the winter where the snow, the ice and the sky all blend together, you can barely tell where one ends and the other begins and the eye searches for a break in the monochrome landscape, searching out the dark spots - the water, the odd rock rising above the snow, or a stove-in skiff on the shore of Captain's Bay. You almost have to include something dark in the frame to give substance and scale to the scene . . . .

Monday, January 7, 2008

F/V Bering Sea

F/V Bering Sea went through the East Channel today at lunch and I snapped a few shots. You can see the three guys up near the bow for scale - and you can also see they have beat the ice off the rigging as high as they can reach.

Nice and calm tonight on the dog walk and I enjoyed the eagles while Chico investigated the fresh fox tracks. The night shift starts tommorow at the plant putting us at a normal in-season 24 hour a day operation. The cod price is relatively high this season, hopefully helping to off-set the also high price of diesel.

Sunday, January 6, 2008


Winter is definitely here to stay and Goldfish and I are embracing the season by breaking out the snowshoes and getting our workouts in after a quick supper. We went to Ballyhoo tonight, snowshoeing up to our fall whale watching spot. Our dieting has gained a new focus - we're in a pool with a few others at work where whomever loses the most in the next three months gets $600. Time to get serious!

Saturday, January 5, 2008

Noon Dogwalk

With our first delivery of cod today the season has officially started and I switched to my in-season work hours of 7 AM to 6 PM, seven days a week. My next day off will be sometime around the middle of April after our last delivery of opilio. Let the games begin!

There is only an hour of daylight after I get out of work now so it doesn't leave much time for photography until the days get a bit longer; walking the dog at noon might be my best window for taking pictures. Here, we are walking along Bayview in a snow squall yesterday - not much visability and very flat light. Cheers, Steve

Friday, January 4, 2008

F/V North American

Maybe the North American is fishing cod - they went by the house today on the way to the Unisea dock and it looked like they were loaded. It's nice to have the season underway and have more boat activity in the East Channel.

Tonight when I walked the dog there was fresh snow so I could play "Track the Fox" along with Chico. It was blowing pretty good and I could tell from the tracks that we had just missed the fox by maybe 20 or 30 minutes or less but Chico and I differed on which way the fox was heading. I could tell the fox had crossed the footbridge and followed the river shoreline, checking the low tide line, then crossed the road and went down on the beach. Chico was more interested in where the fox had been than where it was going . . .

While watching him tonight I realized he played this game every night, snow or no snow, and how limited I was in needing fresh snow to see anything. I can only console myself with the things I see sometimes that he does not - like a few nights ago when I watched the fox on the other side of the river, foraging, into the wind, Chico completely unaware . . .

Thursday, January 3, 2008

Goals for 2008

As you can see our little foot bridge over the Iliuliuk River is lit up for the holidays. The river is right across the street from my place and I walk the dog along the bank every night before bed.

I'm not going to make any elaborate lists of resolutions this year but I do have some ideas for the next year or two, some are new and some are goals that have been around for awhile but are still current. I've done a lot of really cool things in my life but I'm always stretching to accomplish more . . .

1. I (still) want to finish the sculpture that won't stop haunting me, "The Dichotomy of Man". Now I have the added challenge of getting a 130 pound piece of alabaster out to an island in the Bering Sea.

2. I want to get (much) better at finger style guitar and write some original songs. This will be a big stretch for me but I'm fascinated by the process.

3. I want to get scuba certified and dive some of the ship wrecks out here, maybe get re-certified as an EMT and join the volunteer rescue squad.

4. I want to take two great vacations this year - three weeks to fly and drive to Maine, visiting family along the way, and two weeks staying on the west coast, maybe driving 101 with Goldfish and taking time to smell the roses. I'll save a week to enjoy out here . . . I guess that makes three vacations, but I do work pretty hard!

5. I want to continue to hike around the island, taking pictures and blogging to stay in touch with everyone. I want to finish getting healthy. I want to fill our freezer with salmon and berries from the summer bounty so we can eat healthy all winter.

6. I want to continue to work on my soap making, as well as all my other projects. I've got some very cool ideas that I need to devote time to and finish up. Maybe get a table at the craft show next fall . . .

7. I want to start building a kayak in the basement. Everybody needs a monster project to work and focus on . . .

8. I want to work on my Spanish and Tagolag so I can communicate better with friends at work.

Okay, that's plenty . . . of course I want to read more, stay in better contact with my family, and be a better friend to my dog :o) I also want to keep Goldfish happy and encourage whatever hopes and dreams she has for the new year. What are some of everyone elses goals for 2008?

Wednesday, January 2, 2008


The winter is so mild out here compared to other places I've lived in Alaska I was beginning to wonder if it ever came but after a couple weeks of continuous snow coverage and the beginnings of ice on Summers Lake it appears it may have arrived. It is, of course, the wind and waves that make the weather so remarkable out here and I have seen plenty of both . . . just in time for opilio season!

All is Calm

I don't really have a picture to go with this post. Walking the dog tonight I was struck with how quiet it is out here, just before the season starts. Our cod/crab boats are on the fishing grounds and will be back in a day or two with our first cod deliveries of the year. More crew is flying in every day but the plant is quiet and still, the only sound is the distant noise from the power plant and the water lapping on the beach.

I watch Chico nose around and I can tell a fox has gone through sometime today from the tracks and Chico's interest. Sometimes at night I see a fox (or two) on the other side of the river, nosing along the high water line for the odd bit of food. The river empties into the Bering Sea just 100 yards downstream so the level flucuates with the tide, exposing a new banquet for the fox to investigate twice a day.

When we walk out the door Chico often heads across the road to the river bank and pees on the telephone pole there. If the night is still there is always a bald eagle on top of the pole, peering down at the disturbance, and I glance up at his stern stare as Chico attends to business. Directly across the river is another eagle on another pole like a corresponding bookend or guardian at the gate. I wonder what silent language the two eagles - perhaps a mated pair - have worked out to communicate across the 50 foot gap . . . . .

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Happy New Year!

The town put on a pretty decent fireworks display and the viewing conditions were about perfect (unlike the 4th of July when all the action happened in the low hanging clouds) so I dragged Goldfish and Chico up Haystack for the best seat in the house and took a few pictures (okay, I took a lot of pictures, all of which came out like crap until I got smart and laid in the snowbank to brace the camera for the timed exposure needed to capture the shot). Chico hates fireworks so we figured he be happier with us than alone at home. Having lived in Alaska almost 20 years now, I can say there is no better back drop for a fireworks display than a snow covered mountain - and having a historic Russian Orthodox church in the foreground works pretty well too . . . . happy new year everyone, I hope everyone is safe and well. I'll post reflections and goals maybe tonight - Cheers, Steve