Monday, August 4, 2014

The Dent of Alaska

Home.   Sweet home.
Clean sheets, warm showers, a bed that doesn't sway with the ocean and reek with the putrid stench of three men living and working on a thirty two foot boat for five long weeks.  Despite the fact that Steady Freddy undoubtedly runs the finest kitchen in Bristol Bay, my beautiful wife's home cooking is second to none and nourishes the little aches and pains slowly from this aging vessel of mine.

There is a grand story to be told of the time I was a rookie deck hand aboard the F/V Potential on Bristol Bay.  It is a rich tale, full of characters larger than life and events that one simply must see to believe.  Thomas Jefferson once said, The most valuable of all talents is that of never using two words when one will do.  The truth is also that some stories should exist only in oral legend until they fade from the memory of those who were there, and become the mist that fogs the space between the fact and fiction of our history.  I will be brief.

I left for Alaska a couple months ago seeking an adventure, but with the eyes and mind of a tourist.   Fishing however, has a way of changing a man and pushed me places where I could never have driven myself.   The things I learned being a thirty-six year old greenhorn in a game where nobody gives a fuck about where you went to college, the letters in front of your name, or what you think you may have accomplished in your last job has taught me more than I ever could have anticipated.  As I lifted off the runway of Dillingham last week, leaving the clean water, expansive green tundra and steaming volcanoes of Southwest Alaska below,  I realized that in my chest no longer beat the heart of a traveler, but that of a fisherman.

Bristol Bay didn't leave an impression on me, it left a dent.  Alaska is in my future.

Kloshe konaway
Kloshe nanitch


The Usual Suspects (photo: Luke Brummer)

When it comes to chow, Skippy takes care of the boys and Freddy don't mess around.  This did not come out of a can. 

Alaskan Wild Iris (Iris setosa)…I think.

The Groover.  Yep, that's it for the boat. 

 Fresh caught Alaskan King Cakes anyone?  Tom Douglas ain't got shit on Fast Freddy.

Daniel San entrusted with the filleting of the King. 

The seals aren't dumb and a gill net full of salmon spells an all you can eat buffet to these clever mammals.

Salmon angels on a 12,000 pound day.  You know the fishing is good when Skippy stops to take photos. 

A three thousand pound round haul is an experience that one enjoys telling stories about, but not necessarily repeating.

Always a highlight of the day!

Pink at night; sailors delight.  

 Skippy gently explaining the intricate details concerning chain of command aboard the F/V Potential to Freddy and me.

Tender lines suck bad, but it's hard to be bent when the sky looks like this. 

Hydration stop.  Naknek, Alaska.

 How fish gets to market after it is caught.  Tender boat, processing boat, transport boat.

It's good to be loved and I imagine the only thing that beats mail on a boat is mail in jail.  Same same, but different. 

Matt's view for most of the summer. 

Boxing drills make the long hours of scratch fishing pass a little faster and keep you warm on snotty Bristol Bay days. 

 The Alaska State Patrol is unabashed in their presence on the Johnston Hill Line.

Ghost River.  I have the upmost respect for the fish that we harvest from the ocean.  The cycle that sustains this ecosystem never ceases to amaze me, even as the rotting carcasses of spawned fish ride the rip tide down the river.

Freddy is the Man.  Bacon donuts with maple syrup. 

 It's not about the shit you get into, it's how you get out of it~Frank Cranborne F/V Herbert Cecil.  
Some quick thinking and fancy driving kept our net from wrapping the Alaskan Reefer…by about six inches.

 BfF.  Skippy and Freddy have been fishing together a long time,  and boats have a way of bringing out the best and worst in all of us.  I respect their ability to maintain a tight friendship despite the stress that is inherent to fishing and living in a small space.  

Kowalski is a legend.  True friends send you treats in the mail!

 You can take a boy out of Pullman, but you can never take the Pullman out of a boy.

 Your friends will make fun of you for a long time if you do this and manage not to sink your boat.

 Steak, real mashed potatoes and fresh greens celebrate 100,000 pounds of catch in the 2014 season.  As much as I like eating rice and fish every day,  I feel pretty fortunate to work for a guy who understands that what you put in your employees is directly related to what you get out of them.

 Mount Chiginangak dominates the skyline of the Ugashik watershed and makes me imagine what the Puget Sound may have looked like one hundred years ago.  High ski potential.

As much as I like bears, I didn't mind not running into this fella. 

Be advised that entering into a practical joke competition with Myagi likely won't turn out in your favor.

 Beard love.  When I told Jenny that I was going to shave clean she begged me to keep the nest.  I compromised with a  number four trim.  

 Smoked Chum love.

That about sums it up.  (Photo credit:  Luke Brummer)


  1. What a fabulous series of adventures! I love your spirit.
    This sounds familiar too:
    Home. Sweet home.
    Clean sheets, warm showers, a bed that doesn't sway with the ocean...


    1. Thanks Al-
      Yes, I imagine that a guy like you well appreciates the comforts of home!