Friday, January 30, 2009

Pollock Season - Round 2

After a slow start the pollock boats are heading back out to scout for fish.  We sent out the Alaska Rose and the Morning Star, visible in the top photo.  The Bering Rose was heading back to the dock to await news from the fishing grounds from her sister ship and the cod boats will soon be switching to crab gear and heading out for the opilio season - it sounds like the ice pack is moving down from the north and the boats are making ice pretty heavy.

On land it was an absolutely gorgeous day today, sunny and 35 degrees.  The storms lend perspective to the weather out here, making you appreciate the fair days all the more!  

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Book Clubs and Blizzards

It was only last Saturday that I took this photo but the weather has turned to winter again and we're getting a nice ground blizzard as I type this post.  Sunday night I attended book club where we discussed Out Stealing Horses by Per Petterson, a wonderful book I think everyone liked.  After the book the talk turned to life in general, particularly life in Alaska, and in an uncharacteristic flash of brilliance I mostly kept my mouth shut, drank my tea, and listened to these strong, opinionated, Alaskan women (and one diminutive Texan) talk about their lives and experiences.  If I could bottle the wisdom, commonsense, and strength of character in the room I could rule the world - thank you ladies for letting me attend!

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Road to Summers Bay

After work yesterday I rode my motorcycle out to Summers Bay with Goldfish and Chico following in the car.  I was amazing to be able to make it out there - and beyond - this time of year!  Usually the avalanches close that road for months so it was a real treat to walk on the beach and see what the winter storms had deposited with no other footprints in sight.  After that we hit the Crab Pot Deli for a Club Sandwich and a Bread Bowl of chowder (thanks Lauri for the recommendation on your blog!).  Chico loves the beach at Summers Bay because it is mostly sand so it is easy on his feet and he has a huge area to really run his heart out; I love it because you never know what you might see, and it is almost always deserted except in the months the salmon are running along the beach and into the small stream.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Sense of Wonder

I was talking with a pollock boat crew member today who reads my blog regularly and he mentioned - somewhat reprovingly - that I didn't post as often as I used to in the beginning. I emailed my brother this morning, asking how he was, and he said he wondered if I was okay, he hadn't seen me post in a couple days.

I feel bad when I don't blog, like I've let my family down, but as this little spot on the internet evolves I find myself more likely to reflect on how this place makes me feel than what I have seen or done that day. The raw data for today: I worked 11 hours, I walked with Chico along the beach for 45 minutes after work, we saw 3 sea otters 50 feet away, 10 sea lions 40 feet away, a few bald eagles, some ravens, a few other species of birds. I didn't bring my camera because it was raining. Goldfish and I talked about our days while she cooked, we ate then watched the news from the local television station. I tore apart our recumbent bike to check the hub, blogged, worked out, read some, walked the dog along the river.

A normal sounding day but the sense of wonder for me is in the details - the sea otters were eating sea urchins, cracking them open on their bellies; the sea lions periscope out of the water to get a better look at Chico while I stand on the shore and talk to them and they talk back. A pair of ravens are either trying to kill each other or very much in love - like any species, it is hard to tell the difference - as they put on an unrivaled show of fancy flying over head. Goldfish's face lights up when Chico and I walk in the door, we know we are home and loved, the air is heavy with the scent of cooking, she is preparing Bon Appetit magazine's Recipe of the Year for 2008. The meal is excellent, and she knows it, and I glance out the window at a passing crab boat in the East Channel and back at my beautiful wife, lit from within, and I forget to breathe, for far away the markets crash and the jobless march and a new President sitting on the edge of his bed puts his face in his hands and weeps for the job at hand . . . . but on this day, on this island, I take a breath and a bite of pasta, my eyes soften and I smile.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Blue Hour Lighting

My sister commented on the lighting on my last post, that blue tinge that saturates everything after the sun sets but before it get dark.  All you parents out there that have had to explain the blue sky to your children are probably familiar with Raleigh scattering, the dispersion of light by particles in the atmosphere (or transparent solids and liquids).  Blue, being at the short end of the visible spectrum, is scattered much more than the other colors, particularly when the sun is near the horizon and the light has to pass through more air to reach our eye.  In the arctic winter the sun is near the horizon a lot as it skims along, never reaching overhead, accounting for that wonderful, soft blueish winter light up here.  This picture I took tonight when we were walking Chico along the road to Summer's Bay seems particularly blue.

In a wonderful intersection of real life and fiction I read of the blue hour at lunch today in "Out Stealing Horses" by Per Petterson:

Outside, the blue hour has arrived.  Everything draws closer; the shed, the edge of the wood, the lake beyond the trees, it is as if the tinted air binds the world together and there is nothing disconnected out there.
Have you ever read anything that seemed particularly pertinent and descriptive of what was going on outside your window?  Or perhaps within your heart?

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Refueling the Spirit

Today was tough - not in any way I can put my finger on, but tough nevertheless.  I think it was just the metaphorical grinding of gears as the season starts up; whenever you go from the relative quiet of December to the full bore intensity of January, there is bound to be some stress.  The pollock boat crews are showing up, the crab boats are mostly fishing for cod, waiting for a break in the ice, all our processing crew is showing up as we ramp up to a 24 hour operation.  Everyone needs things - the boats need parts to get their boats running, the crews need their gear, the galley starts feeding folks around the clock.  The engineers are rushing to get all the plant machinery back together and all the new alterations working smoothly.  I've done my job but there are still small glitches here and there, just part of being such a remote location.  You have to think and plan ahead to get a season started but it's tough to think of everything and there is just a tiny handful of folks making it all happen.

I was going to attend EMS training this evening but as the day wore on I knew I needed some play first and I began thinking about how quickly I could get my bike de-winterized and on the road for a quick ride to take advantage of the warm weather and fairly clear roads.  I put enough gas in it to make it to the Dutch Harbor side and as I sat at the gas station by the hotel filling the tank I could feel the weight of the day lifting and my heart filling as well.  Just what I needed . . . . . what sort of things refuel your spirit?

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Escaping the Jaws of Winter

Just when it appeared the icicles were going to eat our apartment the weather warmed up to the mid-40's and the rain started, knocking back a good bit of the snow and leaving us safe for another day.  It is supposed to cool off again tomorrow with increasing winds.

I watched a kayak in the East Channel after work this evening, paddling among the sea lions and birds.   A crew member off a crab boat refused my offer of forklifting their considerable build up of mail and freight to the boat this afternoon, happy in the simple pleasure of carrying heavy things, comfortable in his own skin and not looking for the easy way out of everything.  I walked out the door with Chico tonight for our pre-bed walk and glanced up at the light pole for the eagle that almost always is sitting there, sometimes with company, always glancing down at me.  Simple pleasures noted with satisfaction . . . . what sort of things made you smile today? 

Monday, January 12, 2009

What a Moon!

We got very brief glimpses of the biggest full moon of the year but the wind whipping the clouds kept me from getting a decent shot.  Along with the huge moon of course came some big tides, nearly emptying out the creek and allowing me to almost touch the bow of F/V Great Pacific while standing on the beach.  We finally have enough snow to start snowshoeing and are planning our first outing for mid-week.  Tonight while I worked out Goldfish took the Christmas tree down; a somber moment as we plan on being on vacations around the holidays for the next couple years.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Balancing Act

I can really sympathize with this eagle - my life is a balancing act, my tail feathers are frayed and I have a bad wing. I hope I also have the matching resolve to overcome hardship, the fearlessness to stretch my boundaries, and the sense of adventure to perch in unlikely places.

Friday, January 9, 2009

Decisions, Decisions . . . . .

I took the evening off from working out to deal with some computer setup issues and relax a bit. It looks like some boats are switching out their pots - again - as the cold weather continues and the price of pot cod remains low.

LOTS of foxes on the dog walk tonight . . . when Chico spots them, he barks and tugs on the leash. The foxes? They sit down in the middle of the road and watch him make a fuss, secure in the knowledge, apparently, that I don't let him run loose in town.

It is my son Zack's birthday today and it sounds like he had a good one! The foxes along the river told me to tell you "hello" son, and they miss you!

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

F/V Seabrooke

Goldfish and I went to Alaska Ship Supply on the Dutch harbor side at lunch and it was a somber ride after passing the Seabrooke unloading at Harbor Crown.  

We have heard from several boat captains that the amount of floating ice is bad on the opilio grounds right now and it's supposed to blow hard for 10 days so no one is in a hurry to get out there at the moment.  Lets hope conditions improve soon and the rest of the season can be safe for the fleet.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Sadness in Dutch

At 9:50 AM this morning a crewman on the F/V Seabrooke became entangled in a crab pot line while setting gear and was pulled overboard.  A Coast Guard search has been called off until morning.

The Seabrooke has delivered wonderful quality bairdi crab to our company dock at times, some of which I used to top a pizza served to friends this past Christmas Eve and also served at a celebration of my wedding to Goldfish at my brother's house in Maine.  The crewman's family is in our prayers during this difficult time.

Monday, January 5, 2009

Goals for 2009 - Part 3

So let's see, we've got the 100 book goal, we've got the 10,000 bicycle mile goal, we've got the Christmas card goal.  I've got the weight loss challenge going with Goldfish.  Let's dust off a couple from last year that didn't get done - how about 100 hours practice time on my guitar and finishing the Level One Spanish Rosetta Stone lessons.

To round out the list, I have a few island specific goals:

1.  I want to circumnavigate Amaknak Island (basically, all around the base of Ballyhoo Mountain).  There is one small portion that has to be swam, according to my sources, making it interesting.

2.  Hike all the way to the top of Pyramid Peak.  I've hiked along the base and the slopes of it, just need to stand on top.  Not a tough goal, just haven't gotten it done yet.

3.  I've heard a rumor of a trail to Big Bishop Rock, 18 miles round trip leaving from somewhere around Morris Cove.  That would be a cool hike - I'd make two days out of it.

Okay, that should do it!  I'll figure out a way to track progress on them all on the sidebar somehow, either through graphs or pictures.  I have a few more in mind but I think this is plenty - and tomorrow morning I'm dragging my decrepit fat butt out of bed (the horror!  normally I jump out of bed 20 minutes before I have to be at my desk - love the non-commute!) and on to the recumbent to start knocking out some 2009 mileage.  Cheers!

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Goals for 2009 - Part 2

This is a great photo when discussing goals - this is F/V Arctic Fox heading out to fish for crab on January 1, 2009.  Take a look at pictures I took of this vessel in the East Channel last year to truly appreciate the scale involved!  Yet, while all the big boys are still tied up at the dock, this plucky little warrior is heading out with its two rows of pots, truly an inspiration!  It remains my favorite boat in the Bering Sea crab fleet.

My goals are still a work in progress.  I added a stripped down Shelfari widget on my sidebar, just above the archives.  You can see I knocked out one book, just 99 to go!  Goldfish and I have a little bet going involving weight loss and ocean kayaks, so it looks like I'll be working out a lot this year, mostly on my Bowflex Revolution or my recumbent bike.  I'm wanting to put in ten thousand miles between my exercise bike and my mountain bike this year, so I'm tracking that on Fitness Journal, and have a link to that on the sidebar as well.  I figured if Jill can log almost ten thousand miles in a year through the snow I should be able to match that in my living room working on my reading list, right?  (I know Dad, last time I tried this I didn't make it very far - this is different, trust me).

That's it for now, gotta hit the sack - cheers!

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Goals for 2009 - Part 1

Okay, I'm not even sure what my goals are going to be but I'm ready to start hashing them out.   Here's a real obvious one:

1.  Since I just finished Christmas cards for my family tonight (January 3rd), I think a real nice place to start would be to finish next years cards say, sometime in December, maybe even in time to get them to recipients before Christmas!  Actually, now that I look at them, I still have to take a sharpie and draw a Russian Orthodox cross on top of the church before mailing them out - there was no way I was going to attempt carving that into the block.  I know it kinda looks like my pumpkin design this year - what can I say, the church is like 200 yards away and I think it's pretty . . . . 

2.  Reading 100 books.  Yup, that is an aggressive goal, especially given that I read maybe 15 in 2008.  I absolutely LOVE reading though, I always have, and I'm not going to let a silly thing like an 80 hour work week keep me from what I love.  To help with this, we are dropping our cable modem (along with cable) and going with a wireless internet service provider so there will be no more 2 hours a week of television (since you need cable to get any channels out here).  I'm going to record the books I read on that cool Shelfari widget that Jane uses on her blog so you can all watch me fail miserably at this one . . . . I am almost done with my first book of the year though, so technically I'm right on schedule!  I'll get Shelfari on the sidebar in the next day or two.  

Okay, two goals has worn me out.  More tomorrow!  Cheers  . . . . . 

Friday, January 2, 2009

Looking Ahead at 2009

First of all, I have a hard time believing it is 2009 in the first place!  Less than a year now to 2010, that seems amazing to me . . . 

I haven't posted goals up here yet, life has kept me pretty busy and it is going to take me a block of time to organize the thoughts in my head.  Last night I did a block carving to make some cards and tonight I assembled some shelves for the spare room that Goldfish shipped from the mainland when she was visiting family.  Speaking of the mainland, it is -30 degrees in East Anchorage right now according to our family there so I'm definitely not complaining about the balmy 37 degree outside right now.

I'm leaning towards having quite a few goals, because I don't forget them by Valentine's Day - I either knock them out or I torment myself for not accomplishing more.  Anyone that knows me can tell you I'm goal oriented, and it always does me good to throw the goals out there to think about and focus on.  And they can also tell you I pretty much enjoy tormenting myself, on some level . . . . 

I'm heading off to bed, cheers and good night!

Thursday, January 1, 2009

What a Way to Start the Year!

The weather today was just amazing - blue skies and 30 degrees, you couldn't ask for a nicer way to start the year.  Since we weren't working today, Goldfish and I took Chico out to the Spit for a romp and then we headed over to Amelia's for a late lunch.  Our batteries are all recharged and ready for "A" Season!  It's nice to see the boat activity starting to pick up.