Thursday, June 26, 2008

Combat Fishing at Midnight on the Summer Solstice

Well here I end the second of four weeks here in "Man Camp" aka Cordova and thought I would bring everyone back up to speed as I have been absent from the blog for a while. After my dad and Dave Aldous left (Memorial Day weekend) I was sent over to Cordova for my first trip of 4 for the summer. I was lucky enough to be sent over 17with Bart, one of our other pilots at the unit, who really (I mean really, really) likes fishing. You might say that he is slightly addicted, or at least has a small fishing fetish. Since the red season (sockeye salmon) season is currently on hold back in Kodiak due to low numbers this year, we thought that we would try our hand here in Cordova. Well the first week ended up being a complete washout for reds here too. There wasn't anything coming up the rivers and even the commercial fishermen weren't out trying.

So in between flights on our days off Bart and I decided to head out for the some halibut (or buts) as they are commonly referred too. Luckily the station here in Cordova has some handme down boats that are no longer used in Kodiak, and we can rent them for 15 dollars a day plus fuel. What a deal, a 17' whaler that ours for the day. So we headed out on two different days that first week and were able to catch some but. This one here is my very first but since arriving in Alaska, not a whopper, but still fun to catch on a salmon pole.

In between fishing, or I mean on our days that we had to work, we did do some great flying as the weather was truly fabulous. Here is a picture of us working a moving people and equipment from Hichinbrook lighthouse at the entrance to Prince William Sound. It's kind of hard to remember you are working when you get see scenery like this.

After the first week Bart and I were sent home for a week where we were either standing duty everyday or deployed to Anchorage. So after a week home, we were afforded another vacation, I mean forced to deploy to Cordova again. This time we were lucky enough to find out that the reds had started running and were given the location of a sweet spot that the previous crew found. I tell you what, if they hadn't found the hole we would have never suspected there were even fish there as it was a drainage ditch off one of the feeders to the Copper River.

So we arrived the first night here in Cordova, minus all of our gear as the Herc never made the trip from Kodiak to here due to Sar, and borrowed what we could and headed out. After a short drive (ha) we found this ditch that the previous crew had told us about, we were pretty sure that they were screwing with us once we actually found it. Like I said it looked just like a drainage ditch. Well were we wrong! I don't know why, but this little hole had more reds in it than we could imagine.

The second night we were there we were lucky enough to be fishing on the summer solstice. As the title of the post you can probably imagine that we were fishing all four of us, around that little hole and trying not to catch each other's line, until well past midnight on the longest day of the year. Yup that's right, we were fishing after midnight because the sun doesn't really set up here until way after most normal people are in bed. At 2am last night when we finally finished cleaning fish, it was still pink in the sky.

The last night we were off duty, we ended up taking a full crew ( 7 in all) back out to the hole for day 5 of our fishing trips and really had a great setup. Jarred, our flight mech, ended up receiving a package from his girl friend with tamales from a local favorite in Kodiak, along with a case of beer. So with a few smores added in for desert we headed out for a night of true combat fishing, cooking food in an open fire (any man's favorite passtime), drinking beer, and oh year catching fish. We ended up having such a good setup on the side of the road (because I refer you back to the drainage ditch) that people thought we were stranded at first and then soon realized we were in for the long haul.

So after 5 days of fishing, and at least 4 people each trip, we ended up with 39 reds total and over 150 lbs of fillets that we are bring home to Kodiak for a one week trip. Can't beat that! If you are lucky enough we may even share some with others. =) Well that's all for now, hopefully we'll be heading home tomorrow, and home that everyone is doing well.


Monday, June 16, 2008

As seen in Kodiak

Unfortunately (or fortunately... depending on how you look at it), not much has been going on around here lately, so all I really have is pictures. I've been bringing my camera with me pretty much everywhere I go these days, trying to catch the signs of spring (or summer?) that are finally coming to Kodiak. So, here's a week of Kodiak through my camera!

First up - a sure sign of spring (summer) - lupine! These purple flowers were everywhere when we got here last summer. In fact, on one of our drives out the road, we found an entire field of them near an old air strip. It was awesome, and one of the pics from that visit now adorns our bathroom wall in an 11x14 version! Here's just the beginnings of blooms that are sure to be everywhere sooner than later!

Also seen on the same day as the lupine were some sprouts of this flower. I have no idea what this is, though... so, if anyone does, let me know! I just thought it was pretty!

The first two pictures were taken from one of my favorite spots in Kodiak on Near Island. Near Island is a small island connected to the City of Kodiak by a bridge. It's also home to the Trident sea plane basin. As usual, I was caught unprepared with only my 18-70mm lens on the camera, but I finally got at least a decent shot of one of the planes coming in. One day, I'll have my big lens ready and will get a good shot off!

And, for the last shot from Near Island (these were all taken the same day, by the way), this flower is a VERY welcome sight to many in Kodiak. This is the bloom of the salmonberry bush. Last year, because of a horrible winter, the salmonberry bushes never really bloomed, and produced VERY few actual berries. In fact, when we got here last year, most of the "bushes" were just brown sticks, without even any leaves! Late in the season, we managed to find a stray berry or two, but it just wasn't what it was supposed to be. Judging by how many of these pretty pink blooms I've seen over the past week, in all our favorite hiking spots, the crop should be healthy this year! I can't wait!

About mid-week, I glanced out my window at work early in the morning, before the wind kicked up, and was greeted with the view below... seriously, I get to look at that from my office! This is Old Woman mountain, and her reflection in the CG boat basin.

On Thursday, Fred and I ventured out to Ft. Abercrombie. Given my ridiculously bad sense of direction, I have never gone out to Abercrombie by myself. I have been afraid that I would get lost! Feeling confident about one particular trail, and after walking through a big cook-out to get to it, we set out onto the Wildflower Trail, and made it back to the car with no issues! Of course, Fred had to stop and smell the flowers.... (ok, maybe he's eating grass... but whatever).

Going back in time to a week earlier, and back on Near Island, here's a view from the beach. Yes, we still have a ton of snow up in the mountains, but the temperature is rising, and the coastal mountains are slowly losing their snow and turning green!

Finally, we end the week(ish) in pictures with a couple shots from yesterday. Because it was GORGEOUS out yesterday (over 60 degrees and SUNNY!), Beth and Zach called us early in the afternoon to see if we wanted to head out to the beach for a campfire and cook-out. Our original plan of staying "local" at the Buskin River pavilions was crushed since a LOT of other people had the same idea, so we headed out to Mayflower Beach, way out the road instead, and enjoyed a few hours of sunshine, campfire smoke, the rocky beach, and great friends!

First up - Fred, digging in the water for.... a rock. He won't put his face in to get something on the bottom (though he'll chase sticks, grab 'em and bring 'em back!), so he paws at them to get them to the beach. We thought maybe he'd found a bone of some sort, or maybe a dead crab or something. But, no, it was a rock. Actually, two rocks. Ah, endless source of entertainment! At least one of us thoroughly enjoyed the rocks on the beach. I won't give away his identity since he seemed to be concealing it with the hood, but we'll just say that the G-man seemed to have a good time!
And, finally, most of the group - Looks like a couple kids, Zach and Jason didn't make it into this one. Jason was probably tending to the meat-on-a-stick we brought out to eat, and Zach was probably trying to get a piece of meat-on-a-stick!

So, that's my week, in pictures. Jason was gone for most of the week, out in "Man Camp" (aka Cordova) for the first of many deployments this summer. As usual, he enjoyed himself thoroughly out there, and caught his first halibut (babies, but halibut nonetheless). I'll let him share that if/when he gets to it.

A belated Happy Father's Day to all the Fathers in our lives! We miss everyone and we're looking forward to our upcoming visitors!!

Saturday, June 7, 2008

In China, they call Chinese food... "Food."

I'm hoping that I've got this slide show thing figured out... we'll see how this goes!!

So, as promised, a post about China. In the interest of saving myself some time, I'm going to just paste a post I made about my trip on another interent board I frequent. But, I've included a slide show of 27 of the 150 or so pictures I took while I was there. I think they're a good representation of what I saw! So here's the copied text:

Holy whirlwhind of a trip!!

I left on Memorial Day morning to head out to Shanghai, China, with an overnight in Seattle on the way. So, I got to Shanghai on Wednesday afternoon, their time, which is still too hard for me to figure out in relation to my time here! UGH!

Travel went REALLY well on the way out. Somehow I ended up in my own row on the long 12 hour flight, so I got to stretch out a bit between the two seats. Air Canada rocked.... I would totally fly them again! They had TVs in the seat, a plug to be able to charge your laptop, even an USB port right in the seat... it was crazy! They flight attendants were great - they kept the carts moving up and down the aisle (FREE drinks, too!), and kept coming around with water, too, which was key!

We hit the town on Wednesday night, doing anything, really to keep ourselves awake until a "normal" time. Unfortunately, I felt like crap after the trip and couldn't eat any of the awesome food the Captain ordered for us (there's a CG Capt stationed in Beijing who came over for our meetings). I then slept like crap Wed. night because of not eating, feeling sick, and being worried about not waking up on time for our meetings on Thursday!

Thursday, we got up early and headed to the Fisheries Law Enforcement Command base on the East China Sea. We got the chance to tour one of their cutters before heading back towad Shanghai for the rest of our meeting. The meetings were really productive, and a great experience to see cooperation between the two countries. It's amazing to me that China is actually one of the best partners we have for high seas fisheries enforcement - let's just say that the country as a whole, is not normally known for cooperation at sea!

Thursday night, they held a banquet in our honor, which was just a crazy experience! I don't even know how to describe it! We all sat around a HUGE round table, with the biggest "lazy susan" I've ever seen in the middle of it! Unlike our lunches, we each got individuals dishes at the banquet, but the servers would still put it all on the lazy susan in front of us. The food kept coming alllll night! CRAZY! We also toasted to anything and everything - I guess it's rude to drink without a toast when you're at something like that! Lucky for me, they go easy on the women (I was the only one), so I didn't drink nearly as much as the guys did. It was insane!
The other insane thing was the food choices!! YIKES! Lucky for me, it didn't appear to be rude to leave stuff behind, because there was no way I was trying dried jellyfish or duck tongue! Yes, that's right - duck tongue! Among some other strange dishes - chicken feet, beef tendon (which I did try, and don't recommend), some kind of dried squid, sea cucumbers, snake skin, river eels and I don't even know what else! Some of the food was really good... some of it, well, not so much!

Friday morning, we wrapped up our meeting, had lunch, and then headed out to do a little sightseeing.

Oh, first, lunch - much like dinner, we were at round tables, with huge, glass lazy susan's in the middle of the table. The server would just bring the dishes out, and put them on the table, and then we'd just take food from the family style dishes... Apparently, they were serving us pretty fancy food (a whole plate of foie gras!), so I felt bad when I really didn't like some of it, but most of it was good. Or, at least, edible! The lazy susan and the communal dishes (using just your own chopsticks to serve) was a little weird at first, but at least then you don't have to try to pass plates all night!

So, Friday afternoon, we finally got to sightsee... we went to a town called Zhouzhuang, a "water town." It had all kinds of canals and rivers running through it, with bridges to cross it all. (I guess there was something like it in Mission Impossible 3, though I never saw that one.) We did the complete tourist thing there, but it was totally worth it! It was beautiful, and ancient (over 900 years old), and gave us a better taste for China than Shanghai ever could. Our hosts took us out to a relaxed meal after our tour, where we ate "country" Chinese food - the kind of things people actually cook for themselves, rather than what we'd had up to that point. It was all WONDERFUL, and has ruined me for our American version of "Chinese" food. *sigh*
We headed back to "The Bund" in Shanghai on Friday night, getting a chance to see the skyline lit up at night. It was beautiful and weird at the same time - the lights are gorgeous, but it's strange that it's so flashy and non-traditional! It was neat to see, though!

We left for the airport first thing Saturday morning, and then flew for what seemed like forever. I got back here to Kodiak at about 3:30 on Saturday afternoon (after getting a day back during the trip), but my body thought it was almost 24 hours since I'd left Shanghai, and I spent most of the beginning of the week all screwed up now!

It was an amazing trip, and I'm so grateful that my job gave me this opportunity! Who knew that being in the CG, and being stationed in Kodiak would allow me to travel to CHINA, of all places!
Oh, and about the title of my post - thanks to Dave Aldous for that one - that was his pithy advice for me before I left. What a guy! Enjoy the slide show!!