Start your engines

Today we fired up the engine. It’s always a “hold your breath” moment, hoping that the engine starts after sitting for 10 months. Bristol Bay gillnet boats are hauled out of the water and stored on land once the fishing season is over.

 Boats hauled last winter are waiting for their preseason work followed by the annual splash into Bristol Bay

Boats hauled last winter are waiting for their preseason work followed by the annual splash into Bristol Bay

Bristol Bay has some of the highest tides in the world, often rising and falling 30’ each tide. The winters here get below -25F degrees and stay below -25F for weeks. Between the tides and the weather, leaving a boat in the water while you are sunning down south isn’t an option. Putting the engine away (winterizing it) at the end of each fishing season, plus a bit of luck helps keep your engine running well.

My boat is so small it’s very difficult to work around the engine. I feel like a contortionist trying to change the oil. Just when I get into the right spot, I cramp up. It hurts to work on my boat.  

 Look at all that room for oil changes. Good times.

Look at all that room for oil changes. Good times.

A good engine will help you have a great season. A bad engine or break down can cost you your season due to lost time on the water and the sucking sound of money draining from your checking account for repairs. Because we have only short periods of time to catch all the fish we can, missing just a little bit of fishing time can be very detrimental to the whole season.

 

 Elijah in a box

Elijah in a box

Shafted, but in a good way…

Today we pulled the shaft from our boat, F/V Potential. Pulling the shaft is a job I’ve put off for five years. Here are the steps to the job: First you take off the rudder shoe. Next remove the rudder, propeller, engine coupling and then the bearings. After that’s all done you can pull the shaft out.

 Prop off, shaft out, crew hiding under boar from rain pretending to work...

Prop off, shaft out, crew hiding under boar from rain pretending to work...

The cutlass bearing is at the stern of the boat. It keeps the boat’s shaft spinning smoothly and the propeller turning. Mine was way over due for a replacement and it couldn’t be put off longer. They are very hard to pull out from the bearing housing. Most people end up cutting them out. Here is a picture of the new one and the old one. 

 Cultass bearings new and old, it really was time...

Cultass bearings new and old, it really was time...

I found out today that every bearing size has a different woman's name. Our cutlass bearing was Glenda (1¾”) and the rudder bearing was Eva (1½”). Both are lovely and will hopefully slide right into place.

 Meet the lovely ladies!

Meet the lovely ladies!

The shaft repairs will take a couple of days at the Mechanic’s shop. He’ll weld it and then very precisely machine the extra metal off to the perfect diameter. It is a fair bit of work to pull the shaft and you always feel relieved when your boat is back in one piece. Boats float better that way.

 Crewman Philip inspects the shaft for wear

Crewman Philip inspects the shaft for wear

Subsistence Fishing

The commercial salmon fishing season in Bristol Bay isn't open yet but subsistence fishing for food is allowed for Alaska residents before the commercial season opens. This doesn't mean that you can fish any where and any time you want. There are regulations and limits, and you can't sell fish caught in a subsistence fishery. What it does mean is if you are motivated to do so you can fish for food for your family.

Some people set their net from the beach today and are hoping for some yummy salmon. Here are a few pictures of the action.

 

 Setting the net, looking back at the shore

Setting the net, looking back at the shore

 The net is set, looking out to the Nushigak River

The net is set, looking out to the Nushigak River

 Katherine and Tyonne, two friends who fish the Bay

Katherine and Tyonne, two friends who fish the Bay

With the net set, it's 'hurry up and wait' time while the net soaks. Now it is up to the fish to do their part...

You can learn more about subsistence fishing from the  Frequently Asked Questions page on the Alaska Department of Fish and Game (ADFG) website.  

Here is a bit more about subsistence fishing for you until you get a chance to go over to the ADFG website, "The Alaska Department of Fish and Game recognizes the definition of subsistence fishing to mean the taking of, fishing for, or possession of fish, shellfish, or other fisheries resources by a resident of the state for subsistence uses with gillnet, seine, fish wheel, long line, or other means defined by the Board of Fisheries."

The ADFG website also says, "Subsistence is defined in Alaska state laws as the 'noncommercial customary and traditional uses' of fish and wildlife...The primary requirement for participation in subsistence fishing or hunting is Alaska residency, which is defined as having lived in Alaska for 12 consecutive months."

 

Arrived Dillingham, Alaska

I made it to Dillingham Wednesday night. The internet connection has been a challenge but it is working so far. So let the blogging begin...

 Dillingham, Alaska

Dillingham, Alaska

Today I'm doing some preseason work on the fishing boat in Dillingham boatyard. Haven't seen the boat yet? Here she is, the mighty Potential!

 F/V Potential

F/V Potential

Check out that blue sky. You never know what you are going get - sun, rain, snow, T-shirts or fleece - all are an option and sometimes all in the same day.

But the right now weather is fantastic up here, 76 degrees yesterday. The sunset photo was taken from the boatyard at 11:30 pm. The days are long here which is good, we have lots of work to do on the boat and the preproduction for the films. Still getting settled in so this post will be short. More soon...Elijah

 Sunset from the Dillingham boatyard

Sunset from the Dillingham boatyard

Pre season clean. On the way to Bristol Bay.

Just got on the plane in Seattle and will arrive in Dillingham tonight. If you haven't worked on a boat or in a remote location you may be wondering what preseason clean is.

Preseason clean is the last time for a very long time you will be well groomed and clean from head to toe, all layers of clothing fresh from the laundry or your closet. Not that all personal hygiene goes out the window completely at airport security with the bottle of water you forgot in your carry on bag. It just means you do what you can do to make sure you can stand living with yourself on a 32' fishing boat and expect the same of your crew mates who are also crammed in that same boat with you.

Examples of preventative maintenance:

1) On a boat you can brush your teeth and wash your hands and face at the same intervals you do at home on land.

2) You can bring lots of socks and change them often so your feet stay dry and smell is kept to a minimum for the benefit of all on the boat.

3) You can't shower on a daily basis and clothing is worn and worn again until you get back into port to do laundry. You are doing good if you can shower once a week. This requires a trip to port or a visit to a tender, a larger boat that buys fish out on the fishing grounds. Tenders will sometimes let you use their shower if there isn't a line up of boats waiting to sell fish. More on tenders later in the fishing season once I have some pictures to show you...

4) Rain gear that you wear fishing is scrubbed and rinsed at the end of the day to keep it from developing foul odors. This helps to keep what you wear under the rain gear smelling better longer too and makes your crew mates like working on deck with you better.

I borrowed this description from TravelAlaska.com, "Dillingham is located at the extreme northern end of Nushagak Bay in northern Bristol Bay. There is no road access to Dillingham. The community is reached by scheduled jet service from Anchorage and air taxi service from smaller communities."

So I am on a plane, on my way to Dillingham. Stand by for more updates from the Bay once the internet connection is up and running...

 

Old School Corks

Next week I'll be flying up to Bristol Bay to get ready for fishing season and begin shooting the films. I took this picture a few years back at one of the canneries in Naknek, Alaska. These old corks, the floats that keep the net from sinking, were hung up in storage many decades ago. They don't see the water any more as newer materials have replaced wood corks. Now they just make a good picture and remind us of the generations of people who fished Bristol Bay before us.

 old corks from naknek cannery

old corks from naknek cannery