Sunday, June 29, 2008

On Their Way . . .

I took a bunch of photos of the Berrimilla this morning when they departed Dutch Harbor for Nome but this is my favorite - they are passing through the channel markers on the East Channel. This is my favorite view because this is what we see from our living room - I noticed Alex was drawn to the same window when he visited, watching the channel. Over the years there have been some amazing sights passing through the channel - submarines for instance - but it will take a bit to beat the sight of the Berri!

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Safe Travels Berrimilla

Alex, Corrie and Kimbra are leaving at first light tommorow on the next leg of their big adventure with the next port of call for the Berrimilla being Nome on the way to their sail across the Northwest Passage and on to England. Goldfish, Chico and I will be snapping photos as they make their way through the East Channel and head out to sea.

I hope they realize that what they left behind in Dutch Harbor - in the hearts and minds of those lucky enough to meet them - far, far outweighs any assistance they received. What a class act they are, and what fun it is to slowly discover the back story on their journey through life to this point. Alex rolling the Berri last year, Corrie generally excelling in everything and Kimbra sewing shorts (??) for an Aussie boat crew - ahhh yes, the wonders of Google. Their quiet confidence has its roots in a life of adventure and it is the most important tool in their considerable toolbox.

Safe journey mates and stay in touch! Remember Alex, not until England!

Friday, June 27, 2008

Guest Photographer Today

Captain Alex of the good ship Berrimilla hiked up Ballyhoo today and in the process humbled me considerably by taking a better picture of an eagle in flight than I have in the last year on the island, thereby earning a guest photographer spot on today's posting. Great shot Alex! And I know you well enough now to realize that you did more than photograph the eagle - you saw it as well.

"It's not what you look at that matters, it's what you see"
- Henry David Thoreau

Berri Fine Evening

Alex, Corrie and Kimbra joined us along with Joe, Christine and Max for a wonderful evening of conversation, spirits and food. In the top photo, Alex, Christine and Kimbra solve the world's problems; in the second photo Alex's newest sailing disciple Max practices the "bridge maneuver", and the rest of the photos document Corrie and Kimbra's absolute Ruk-Shuk dominance despite a lack of experience. Kimbra in particular seemed to enjoy flaunting the most unlikely gravity defying formations.

The captain and crew of the Berrimilla are first rate - even by island standards - and we wish them all the best on their journey. Our home is always open to them, no matter where we may roam. Safe travels Alex . . . .

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Another View

Our friend Dana came over for supper tonight; Rich wasn't up to it so we prepared and delivered a take-out plate for him to enjoy. Tomorrow night we're going to show the captain and crew of the sailing vessel Berrimilla some Unalaska hospitality and hear how their voyage from Australia to England via the Northwest passage has gone so far.

These are different views of those old WW II wooden pipes in the valley - you can see in the bottom photo they are constructed like barrels. Must either be because of better water quality through non-metallic piping, or a war-time shortage of metal - anyone have any ideas?

The Supreme Court delivered their decision today on the Exxon Valdez case of which I was a plaintiff, along with 32,000 others. By reducing the punitive damage award from 2.5 billion to 507.5 million (roughly a billion with interest charges) the court has sent a strong message regarding what they viewed as excessive damage awards. You can read a copy of the full Supreme Court decision here.

As for my thoughts, that is tough to describe. To see the original award in 1994 of 5 billion reduced to 2.5 billion and now 507.5 million has been a tough pill but I also remember those years on the deck of a salmon boat, the first set of the day, jumpers every where and the radio crackling with excitement as we await the 6 am start to lay out our 900 feet of gill net. To see salmon hitting the gear, splashing in the sunlight, bright as new dimes. Picking the salmon from the gear and layering them carefully with ice in brailers - it had a sense of importance, we were feeding people.

Years later I'm no longer standing on the deck of the boat but I'm on the edge of the world, still working in the commercial fishing business, still feeding people, witnessing the last great sustainable fishery in the world, the Bering Sea pollock harvest. Sure, we handle cod and crab but it is pollock up here that pays the bills, and it still comes down to a boat and a net.

When I was on a salmon boat, when those salmon were hitting the gear and the boat was running well I would have done the job for nothing, yet I got compensatory checks for the Valdez spill then, and now so many years later the issue is laid to bed with punitive award checks finally being paid some time in the next 90 to 120 days. How does any group of people put a price on what happened when a drunk assumes control of a super tanker?

Further more, why am I entitled to money just by virtue of working on a salmon boat in the "affected years"? Members of my family own Exxon stock, indirectly so do I - at a 42% gain in 2007 it's a no-brainer as an investment. Is it a zero sum game where the punitive award comes out of other pockets? Am I a hypocrite for even being in the lawsuit?

Anyways, it's late and Chico is letting me know I'm overdue for bed. I'm not sure I have a good answer for this one . . . .

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

A Sign of Things to Come

The salmon berries are flowering nicely and I'm already mentally marking off promising berry patches on my hikes with Chico. After walking the dog tonight I rode through the pass on the motorcycle - it's still pretty rough but it's open! The bike and I both got good and filthy, good times . . . . .

Monday, June 23, 2008

Sooooooooo Close! !

The morning was rough at work - hey, even when you work 7 days a week, Monday morning rules still apply, believe me. I was looking forward to a ride at noon and hadn't been up to check on the pass in awhile so I headed that way after a quick stop at the galley for come chicken.

I started out on the "town side" of the pass, and was excited to make it to the top - the pass looked open! For those who have not been in the pass, the top two photos are taken at the top, the first looking south towards Ugadaga Bay and the second looking north towards Summers Bay. You can see the weather was extraordinary today, perfect for a ride. As I started down the other side, pausing briefly to snap a photo of the bike by the snow to show the depth, I turned the corner and came across Jack from Public Works operating a loader and finishing the job - clearing the last two big berms between me and the Bering Sea.

I had a great talk with him - he's a fellow biker - and he promised me he'd have it cleared by tommorow afternoon. I went back to work with a smile on my face despite having to retrace my tracks - the pass is almost open!

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Berrimilla - For Sure This Time !

Last week I posted what I thought was a photo of the sailboat Berrimilla coming into Dutch Harbor. I couldn't read the name on the boat but an article on the local news website mentioning Berrimilla's arrival on that night led me to believe I had spotted it.

After see the Berrimilla up close and personal in the Small Boat Harbor since then, I can definitely say it was NOT the Berrimilla I saw arriving as the vessel was larger and had a dark colored hull. All of that said, and having inspected the real Berrimilla, I an even more in awe of what they are out to accomplish - sailing to England through the Northwest Passage. Again, you can follow their progress here and I will be adding them as an inspirational link along my right side bar - do go and check on their progress once in awhile - having heard from their webmaster in England and the skipper's sister, I can say they are a good lot and I wish them the best of luck and a safe voyage. I hope they make it up Ballyhoo before they leave, the view is worth the hike!

Saturday, June 21, 2008

More Blogging? ?

Not a very good start for blogging more this year, I celebrated the solstice yesterday by hiking all over the valley looking for Chico until midnight. In his defense, we were covering some new ground, walking along the trail that traverses the base of Pyramid Peak. Some how he got turned around, and I finally had to go get Goldfish to help me look and eventually we located him at the edge of town looking very lost and dejected.

The photo is of an old wooden water pipe jutting from the hillside in the valley.

Friday, June 20, 2008

One Year - Part 2: Looking Ahead

Well, looking ahead to my second year on the island, there are a few things I'd like to do better, and I few goals I have in mind. I'd like to blog closer to every day this year - 296 posts wasn't bad but I can do better, even if it's just dropping a photo on and not saying anything. I have thousands of pictures I took last year that could have been posted.

I'd like to take some digital video and get it on You Tube with a link on my blog for those times when a still photo doesn't do the scene justice - severe storms come to mind, I've yet to take a good photo that captured nature's violence.

I like to be a better reader of the blogs I enjoy, and I'd definitely like to read more books this year - you may have noticed I wiped the Recent Reading entries clean (only 13 books read last year?? What a shame . . . . ) so I have a fresh start.

And as usual, my focus will be to every day be a better friend to my wife and my dog and to keep losing weight! Cheers and good night!

Thursday, June 19, 2008

One Year - Part 1: Looking Back

Today marks exactly one year since I came to the island to stay. Goldfish and I were reflecting on all that has happened since that night a year ago when our friend Elaine picked up us at the airport and dropped us off at our new home with a huge pan of home-made lasagna for us since she knew the galley was closed for the day. Some things are kind of funny, in hindsight - we were planning on not having a vehicle and just riding bicycles everywhere but we quickly discovered walking Chico around the neighborhood was really not very fun, for Chico or for us, and we needed to get him away to areas where he could run free for an hour or two every night. Now we have an old beater GMC Jimmy for getting into the remote areas, a Honda Element for everyday dog taxi duty, and a motorcycle for maintaining good mental health. So much for sticking to bikes . . . . .

I started this blog out here and now as of the next post I'll have posted 296 times in the past year - not every day like I would have wanted, but not too shabby with the work schedule I keep. I've tried to stay true to the idea I started out with - my target audience is my family, my Dad sitting down to his Mac Book over a bowl of cereal in the morning in Maine, my sons in Anchorage and North Dakota, my sister in Idaho and my brother in Maine. I don't take pictures of the Deadliest Catch guys I see around town (but I have made some wonderful on-line friends that are fans of the show, and I finally broke down and watched it this season); I don't talk about work much, both because of non-disclosure rules and respecting the privacy of my friends.

Even though I got married this year, Goldfish remains Goldfish, even as a wife, because I respect her privacy as well - she didn't sign up to become public property of the thousand or so different folks that read this blog on a regular basis. I try to see things through a different perspective but pictures will always be here because I like them, more than any other reason, so there will always be too many pictures of boats and eagles. I am completely un-apologetic about the picture quality; I use cheap digital cameras because I like to tuck them in my pocket, shoot pictures in all kinds of weather, and not worry about breaking the equipment. Sometimes the pictures are really not very good but they are an honest un-retouched look at where I've been within the last week or so and what I've been doing. Both Goldfish and I use the blog archives as a diary of sorts, to check dates on things like when the salmon started running, when I went to Seattle last fall, what dates Zack visited, when did we have to fly Chico to the vet in Anchorage - it's handy.

On the eve of beginning my second year on the island I'd like to thank all my friends who are readers, both for your kind comments and for the blogs you keep that I love to read when I get time. I like to thank Goldfish for being patient with me and sharing a wonderful vision of the future with me. And I like to thank Chico for always being up for an adventure, no matter what the weather, and without whose dog-ged persistence in treking all over the island in search of the perfect poop spot every night I would not have taken many of the pictures that appear on this blog!

Monday, June 16, 2008

More View from the Living Room

This was taken last week, one of the most amazing cloud formations I've ever seen. You can see the wind was blowing wispy clouds from right to left on the peak of Split Top Mountain - and in behind was this enormous cloud bank that looked almost solid, like a pile of wind-blown snow. Amazing . . . .

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Happy Father's Day Dad

I consider myself very blessed in the father department, both as the son of the fellow pictured above and as the father of two perfect boys. My Dad provided me with a great example of what it meant to be a father - patient, kind hearted, hard-working, self-sacrificing to a point but always having hobbies and interests, and always striving to be a better person. I've blogged before about my Dad and it is still all true; Dad has mellowed a bit in his 75th year but is still all he ever was and more and I know he'll still be a great Dad when he turns 100 - I'm just looking forward to retiring as soon as possible so I can hang out with him more. The pictures above are from old slides I scanned two years ago when I spent the winter in Maine. All but one of them were taken before I was born; it's fascinating to connect with Dads in their younger years, in all the pictures he is younger than I am now. I love you Dad, thanks for the foundation you gave me.

As for my sons, I am so very proud of the young men - and in Trevor's case, the father - they have become. To all the Dad's out there - Happy Father's Day!

Saturday, June 14, 2008

View from the Living Room

This is the APL dock at sunrise a few days ago. The APL dock is an endless source of entertainment for us - whether unloading huge container ships from the Far East or just sitting pretty all lit up at night, there is always something to see over there . . . . . .

Friday, June 13, 2008

Berrimilla (Sorry about the poor photo!)

I felt the interesting story behind this 33 foot sailboat from Australia warranted posting the poor photo I hurridly snapped through my living room window in low light a couple nights ago - it turns out the folks on this vessel are sailing to England through the Northwest Passage, and they have a blog - you can follow their progress here. I'm going to ride around at lunch tommorow and see if I can locate where they are docked and take a better photo. It just goes to show, you never know what you'll see out the window out here . . . .

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

The Boys Are Back In Town

The pollock boys, that is . . . . our boats are gearing up and testing their systems prior to heading out to the fishing grounds. We should have fish in the plant and be in production by this weekend.

It was a bright sunny day today, not a cloud in the sky - "severe clear" in aviation terms. The salmon should start running in the local streams soon and this summer is shaping up to be fantastic! Can't wait until my sister gets here . . .

Monday, June 9, 2008


I haven't fully accepted the start of B season and the 5 months of work it entails - I'm staying up too late and trying to accomplish too much, I need to pace myself and relax. I'm anxious for the greening of the island and the sunshine . . . . and my sister's visit next month!

This is an old Army bridge on the island, mostly rotten through and closed to vehicle traffic. I still haven't figured out why the sky looks so washed out . . .

Cheers, steve

Sunday, June 8, 2008

A Mixed Bag

One thing I've learned from many nights beach combing with Chico is to take what life offers with grace and gratitude. The beaches I walk on get re-made like a giant Etch-A-Sketch twice a day with the tides and you never know what you'll find. The key in life and beach combing is to keep your eyes open and keep a good attitude . . . . .

Friday, June 6, 2008

First Hike of the Summer

Some how all the walks on the beaches and up Bunker Hill and around Strawberry Hill don't seem to count as hikes, in my mind - you have to break a good sweat and stand on top of something of size. The hills have been drying out and the weather tonight was perfect so after work Goldfish, Chico and I headed up Ballyhoo for our first "hike" of the summer. I had to do some last minute work so I rode the bike over and met them there - and with their head start I barely caught up with them before the summit.

The great thing about standing on top of Ballyhoo is not only do you have a great view of the planes landing and taking off, you can see pretty much all there is to see of the inhabited parts of the island. Captain's Bay, Dutch Harbor, Unalaska, out in the valley - you can see it all.

Chico was making us a bit nervous peering over the edge - there is a fair drop off on the back side and the snow cornice was rotten. We saved the walk over the knife edge to the other summit for another day when Chico was feeling less adventurous and headed down to well deserved ice water and hot showers.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Clearing Skies

The low hanging fog that has been hanging over the island has lifted and today was sunny but also windy; that fog was holding in a lot of heat like a down comforter and temperatures went from 50 to 40 with a nasty windchill with the clearing skies. As I type I'm watching the surf pounding the beaches at Little Bishop's Rock and the base of Split Top Mountain through the window.

I took this picture out at Morris Cove; you can see the island is starting to green up a bit, especially by the water. Just a few more weeks until the mountains dry out enough for hiking! I can't seem to get the settings right on the camera I'm using - the sky and background is always washed out and over-exposed.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Checking on the Pass

I rode up and checked the progress of the melting on the road through the pass. It looks like full passage is still a month or more away - but it sure is a pretty ride getting up there! The top photo is looking to the left of the road toward Ugadaga Bay; we can't wait until the trail is clear and we can make the hike with Chico. Down at sea level the snow is gone except patches here and there that stay in the shadows.

Monday, June 2, 2008

The Bombing of Unalaska

Tonight after work we walked Chico in the valley and went to an outstanding lecture/slideshow by the Unalaska High School History teacher Jeff Dickerell on the bombing of Dutch Harbor by the Japaneese during World War II. That subject is especially interesting to us because we live in a 4 plex that was originally built in 1938 as a 24-bed Native hospital. The building - indeed, the very unit we live in - was struck by a bomb and Jeff always gives his lecture on the anniversary of the event. I took the top picture tonight showing the foundation under my place; you can see where they rebuilt as the foundation to the right is new and the foundation to the left is original from the hospital.

The bottom photo is from the University of Alaska photo archives and shows the damage that occured right where I live. Goldfish and I are going to order a re-print of that photo to hang in our living room - it is an amazing piece of history! You can view more vintage Unalaska photos here. The lecture was two hours long, every minute of it fantastic - Jeff, you did a great job! Thanks for your service to the school and the community - Jeff spends his vacations flying all over the United States talking to vetrans and digging into the National Archives - we're lucky to have him out here.

Sunday, June 1, 2008

"B" Season 2008

Today is a day off, the last day off before the 12 hours/day, 7 days a week grind of B season. We are starting up a few weeks early this year to ensure we get all of our quota; there is a very real chance my next day off will be in 5 months, 5 months spanning the 2008 pollock fishery, cod fishery, and king crab (brown and red) fisheries.

You might think I am spending this last day off moaning and groaning about the coming 5 month season but in reality I was lying in bed at 3 AM this morning excited at the prospect of a new season, new challenges, new growth. A fishing season, even a 5 month one, is a closed-ended event in time with a beginning and an end and I remember from last fall how satisfying it was to end the season and the excitement of that first day off of the break, that slack time when we only work 60 hours a week and take our vacations. Regular folks with Monday through Friday jobs will never know the utter joy of a sunny day spent hiking after working for 5 months. Folks with weekends tend to take them for granted, frittering them away. I know, I've frittered away a bunch in my lfe. Out here, during the season, you get off at 6, hit the galley for supper, home by 6:15 (no grocery shopping, no food prep, no dishes), and are changed into sweatpants and headed off for an evening of fun with the dog by 6:30. I think a lot of us squeeze a weekends worth of adventure into every evening - you have to in order to keep that balance between work and play.

I'm sure I'll work some short days in July when my sister is our here visiting to spend as much time with her as possible and I'm equally sure the end of the season will be here before I know it, in the blink of an eye, and that next day off will be stretched before me like all the time in the world, and I'll be lying in bed at 3 AM, again excited with possibilities . . . .

Note: I broke my "new pictures only" rule today - this is actually from last B season, taken of my friend Hymie looking out the window of the sorting line at the East Channel below. He was a source of endless inspiration to me, 60 years old this year and utterly tireless, strong as an ox, and the harder life got, the more he would sing. Welcome back to the island my friend!