Friday, January 28, 2011

How I got Hooked on Fishing: Part 1

This is the tale of how I, a land-lubber from Ohio, got into commercial fishing in Alaska. Well, I saw an add in the newspaper advertising making big money by working in a cannery.  But, I don't want to get ahead of myself.

After being bored out of my mind my first year at the University of Toledo, Ohio I transfered to The Ohio State University (OSU), which was much, much more fun!  My grades soon reflected that is was, possibly, too much fun. It all came down to the wire, as these things tend to do.  If I  aced my calculus final, all would be right in the world and I would slide by the academic curve that I needed to stay in school.  If I didn't ace it, I would be academically dismissed for three terms.

I had always been a good student, was on the Honor Roll in high school, had been getting A's and B's at Toledo.  Not sure what really happened at OSU, but it happened in only a matter of a few months.  Well, that's not really true.  I know what happened.  Sailing club is what happened.  I can't tell you how much fun that is!  Drinking beer and racing little 12' sailing boats was way better than studying.   Maybe I don't need to tell you how much fun that is.  Needless to say, my studies fell to the wayside, until the 11th hour, at the end of the semester. Anyway, back preparing for my calculus final.  I was studying and studying and studied until my brain fell out of  my head.  I scooped it up and shoved it back in there and studied some more.  When I had neared total exhaustion, and could no longer see straight,  I slammed my calculus book shut and dramatically dropped it on the chair next to my bunk bed in my dorm, claiming that absolutely no more knowledge could fit into my head.  Continuing on with this theatrical gesture, I dropped my graphing calculator on top of my book.  It was the morning of my much dreaded calculus final.  If I didn't know it by now, I'll never know it.

For those of you not familiar with calculus, it is a branch of mathematics that focuses on limits, functions, derivatives, integrals and infinite series. According to Wikipedia, (its been so long since I took the class, I had to look up the definition of it!) calculus is the study of change as geometry is the study of shape.  Yeah, big brain stuff, which explains why I was flunking the class.  Now that I think about it, it may have even been a pre-calc class that I was in.  Either way, a graphing calculator is an integral part of the process as it is a way of saving all the formulas need to calculate derivatives and whatnot.  Getting back to my story, I had my calculator all stuffed with every formula I could possibly need, with the help of my friends, who were passing the class.  Math has never been my strong point.  Anyway, during my moment of theatrics when I slammed my calculator on top of my books it erased its  e n t i r e   c o n t e n t s!  Gone.   Wow-ouch.  Woe is me.  Flunked out is me. Needless to say I didn't ace my final.  On the contrary, I was placed on academic probation.   However, every cloud has its silver lining.  With all my new spare time I found that add in the school paper to come to Seward Alaska, work in a cannery and make $15,000 in a summer.  And with my tuition money burning a hole in my pocket I bought myself a plane ticket to Alaska.  I figured, what the heck, I have some time to kill.  And making money never hurt anybody.  Neither did a little adventure.

As luck would have it, I had this long lost cousin who lived in Anchorage.  I called him up out of the blue and asked if I could stay with him for the summer. He said he and his wife, Kim had an infant son, Alex, that life was a little crazy, but I was more than welcome to stay on their fold out couch in the living room.  Sweet!  I pulled out my trusty Atlas and promptly looked up Alaska.  I found Anchorage and quickly located Seward, about a half inch away and thought, this is perfect!  I can live in Anchorage and drive to work in Seward everyday.  When I told Matt, my long lost cousin this plan, he laughed in my face.  For those of you not intimately familiar with Alaska geography, Anchorage is about 128 miles (206 km) and about a 2-3 hour drive to Seward.  But, in my own defense, if you look up Alaska in an Atlas, Alaska,  the biggest state in the union, the state that is 1/3 the size of the whole continental US of A and it  only gets roughly 1/4 of a page in the Atlas. I never understood that.  Anyway,  in that scale, Anchorage is about 1/2 an inch (sorry, I don't know what that is in metric) away from Seward.

Well, I didn't end up working in a cannery that summer.  Instead, I worked at a restaurant called The Sourdough Mining Company,  Cousin gave my his little Geo Tracker car for the summer and I would explore as far as I could get in my two days off a week. I hit Seward, Homer, Hope, Denali, Fairbanks and everywhere in between. I had a blast!  At the end of the summer, I ended up selling my plane ticket home (you could do that back in 1992) and traveled south with Sevilla, a gal I worked.  We were going to hitch hike the 775 miles to  Haines, but at the last minute her folks decided it was best to just drive us.  From there, we took the Alaska Marine Highway, otherwise known at the Ferry to Bellingham, Wa.  The 2300 mile trip took 5 days and we pitched our tent on the floor of the ferry and slept there.  We Grey Hounded it to San Fransisco, where we caught up with the Green Tortoise Bus Southern Dream Route  14 days of travel though the sunny southern states.  There were 41 of us crammed into that bus and only 7 of us were Americans.

The Green Tortoise can best be described as a hippy bus service.  The back half of the bus is relieved of its seats and mattresses take their place.  The front half has seats and tables that all convert into beds.  Passengers are packed in there like sardines and the bus travels pretty much 24/7, except to eat and hike.  We carry and prepare our own (vegetarian) food and sleep on the road.  Unless it was a nice night, then we would stop at a National Park and drag the mattresses out onto the dirt and sleep under that stars.   This was an eye opener for a 20 year old gal from Ohio!  But what fun.  I saw Joshua National Park, Big Bend National Park, hot springs, New Orleans, gators in Florida, wild pigs in Texas.  It was  quite an adventure!

After finally making my way back to Ohio, and spending every dime I had made over the summer to do it, I was broke.  But, not having school to attend to, I worked three jobs all winter to try to make my way back to Alaska, which I did that next spring.   Tune in next week to hear the rest of the story.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

eBook readers!

Howdy all!

This has been an exciting week for me.  First off, I found all sorts of new gadgets on my blog that I added, such as a search, a view counter and you can now check a box at the end of each blog if you think the blog is (1) cool, (2) interesting, or (3) funny.  Sorry, if you think it was awful, no easy way out for you, you will just have to go out of your way and post that in the comments section. I would love to hear your feedback about these new gadgets.  If you like them, if you noticed them, that type of thing.

Secondly, I am trying a new thing, to post on a regular basis, every Friday.  For those of you in the Western Hemisphere, you know that didn't last because today isn't Friday, yet. Hey, rules are meant to be broken. Besides, yeah for me. I'm usually a day late and a dollar short. Anyway, one step at a time.  I'm just so excited about my new idea and can't wait one more day.

Some of you readers already know that I am working on turning Fish Tales into a book, a memoir.  It will be a collection of short stories of my ventures and mishaps commercial fishing.  The writing style will be similar to the blog (only I plan to have a professional editor on board to catch the typos!) and also will have a full night's sleep and hopefully won't be writing gibberish, unlike last summer when I tried to write after a fishing opener.  Turns out, I'm not a genius on only two hours of sleep, I just think I am.   At any rate, a few of these stories are already polished and finished and just sitting around collecting dust, patiently waiting for the rest of the book to be finished before they can make their debut.  Well, the stories may be patient, but I am not!  I want to get them out there for the world to read them!  I want this for a few different reasons.  Foremost, for your enjoyment. My dear reader as been hearing for over a year now that a book is in the works.  I feel that I should reward you with something for sticking by me this whole time.  I can't afford to buy you all pizza, so a story will have to do.  Besides, less fattening.

Secondly, as an unpublished writer (I guess I'm not an author until I'm published, but I think that's like saying you are nobody until some body loves you.  Hello, can we say co-dependent?) e-publishing is a good way to get some notoriety and gain a following.  Or, note if there is a lack there of and that I need to go back to the drawing board.

Thirdly, because I can.  The days of sitting on a gold mine master piece waiting patiently by the phone for a publisher to call you is over.  That's like waiting for a guy to call you.  I like to take the bull by the horn and create my own destiny.    I just learned of this possibility this week (not the possibility of taking the bull by the horns but about e-publishing one single short story. I'm slow on the uptake on all this technology stuff.  The manuscript itself is written in coal on stone.  I'm researching the different options of where to publish, like Amazon, Scribd., Smashword, iBooks etc.  I would love to hear any input on this or if you have any biases to any of these sites.  I'm finding, like most of life in general,  there are pro's and con's to each.  Also, I've created a survey that you are more than welcome to take (hint, hint) to see if people would by one single short story at a time.   It will only take about two minutes and is right here, if you feel so inclined. Huh, that didn't come up as a link, did it?  Did I mention I'm technically challenged?  Maybe that is why I like commercial fishing, we still fish the same way Jesus did back in his day.  You may have to cut and past that to get it to go somewhere.  I appreciate you taking the extra step and taking the survey.  Please feel free to join in on this discussion, which, without you, is just a mono-log. 

Monday, January 10, 2011

Chinook Winds & Ice Fog

We made it over the hump!  The holidays are over and the days are getting longer.  We are gaining about 2 minutes of daylight everyday!  Sunrise today was at 10:06 and sunset is at 4:10.  We are on the upswing.  Good.
Last week the Chinook Winds hit the state of Alaska and temperatures went from 7 below to 44 in the matter of two days.  We went from winter wonderland to spring break-up like mush.  Though most complained about the soggy messy conditions, I personally enjoyed a few days reprieve from the sub-zero temps.  35 felt balmy.  But now we are back to normal and it's 10 degrees out.  Since the ground had  a few days to warm up before the temperate dropped again, ice fog forms.  The whole Anchorage bowl was pea soup for a few days and hoar frost was created covering every branch and limb on every tree.  It's beautiful, really though we couldn't see the sun for days.  However, the skies have finally cleared and we can go about winter again ice skating and what not.  Though, we could use some new snow to improve cross country ski conditions.

While winter is whiling away the days the salmon are out milling around.  And can you hear them?  All those salmon out sniffing around in the ocean, sniffing their way back home to AK waters.  Even the little humpies are making their way back.  I wonder if they feel like they have made it over the hump.  If they have made it to their turn around point.  If they have this innate "turn around"  point.  "Hey Charlie, this is it.  We turn around here."  Or perhaps it's a turn around date.  1/1/11 time to turn back.  Either way, they are coming.  And I am waiting.  We all are.   
I feel as though I have made it over the hump too.  I'm starting to count down the days until fishing season again.  I'm gearing up to head back to Cordova in a few months for another round of net mending and fish slaying.  Videos like these get me all pumped for another season.  Plus it's just fun seeing all my buddies on camera.  I hope this gets you excited about salmon, too!  Fish-on!