Not missing from the planet...
...though people may begin to think so, I haven't posted in so long. Life just got in the way of blogging for the past few days. What can I say? I hope this doesn't mean I have to give up my Blogoholics Anonymous card! Yeah, I even missed the BA meeting at May's place yesterday. And I still don't know what pancit is, but it's gotta be yummy. I'm hoping it has shrimp in it.
So what could I possibly have been doing that would keep me from blogging? Well, working for one. It was a really heavy week at the hospital, and I came home from very long days looking something like a zombie. Sat in the chair and stared out the window. Barely managed to put dinner together for Dutch and me (he works even longer hours than I do, I can't complain). Very little energy left over for dogs.
The weekend came at last, and Henry came over for coffee on Saturday morning. He and Dutch and I spent several frustrating hours dealing with the flat tire on my boat trailer. Lug nuts were frozen; lubricant, blow torch, and impact wrench all failed. Finally, Dutch's massive muscles prevailed and he managed to get them off without breaking the studs, but it was too late to get the tire replaced (sidewall is rotted, it can't be repaired). Once the tire is replaced, the boat goes to the Bethel Boat Shop to get a new lower unit--only $2,000! Such a deal... This is what has kept the boat out of the water for the second summer in a row now. Grrrrr... Maybe by next weekend.
We decided to end the day with a steam bath at Henry's house, which was just lovely. The weather has been cool and cloudy with intermittent rain for several days now, and a steam felt great. Afterward, Dutch and I went home and grilled steaks for dinner--yeah, we eat beef when there is no moose or caribou in the freezer. And cuddled on the sofa watching a movie, Proof. We both like Anthony Hopkins, and found the movie intriguing (somewhere between interesting and odd). I thought it was time to go to bed, but the writing muse had other ideas. I was up until 2 am writing a post which is not yet finished that I will submit for Grand Rounds (and keep my fingers crossed) tomorrow.
After the late night slaving over a hot computer, I didn't feel the least bit guilty sleeping in till 9 am this morning. If Henry hadn't called to say "Let's go fishing!" we'd have probably slept later. Dutch was feeling a bit sore after his he-man display of strength yesterday, wrestling with the lug nuts, but he was up for it, so we said "Sure!" Henry said he only wanted two or three reds out of today's catch; we could have the rest for freezing, smoking, or giving away.
It was about noon by the time we got everything organized and gear loaded in the boat. The mosquitoes were really chomping on us at Henry's, so I pulled out the Deet and sprayed my cap and the back of my neck. Dutch winked at Henry and said "Guess I won't be kissing her there for a while!" Henry grinned back and said, "That's pure Alaska perfume! And Pic is pure Alaska incense." I realized with a start that when Henry had lit some Pic in the steambath last night, I really thought he had lit incense.
High tide was at 10 am, so by the time we launched it was going out strong. We were fishing on an ebb tide, which is not ideal, but we were only hoping for a hundred or so fish with a dozen of them reds. The rest could be chum or humpy, we didn't care. Henry now has about a thousand fish in the freezer, which would be enough for the sled dogs to get by with. The most the freezer will hold is about fifteen hundred.
The high winds from yesterday had settled down a lot overnight, but it was still pretty breezy, especially out on the river. The water was choppy, which causes a fair amount of spray from the bow. We were fully rigged out in hooded sweatshirts, fleece jackets, and Helly Hansens.
We went to one of our favorite spots alongside Missionary Island, a few miles upriver from Bethel. No other boats were out fishing. Henry drove the boat and Dutch and I crewed. We got the net into the water in a perfect "C" shape and settled back to drift. The coffee was hot, and we enjoyed visiting. As much as we see each other, we never run out of things to talk about.
Henry thought we were catching a few fish, but nothing spectacular. The floats were not bobbing much, and the net was not jumping around with fish slapping the surface of the water making tangles. When the wind is blowing as much as it was today, it can be hard to judge how much the net is pulling on the boat, which is another indication of how many fish are in it. Henry said "We may have to do a few drifts, just to get our hundred."
After a half hour, he decided we should pull the net. When the weather is calm, we cut the motor and let the boat drift while we pull the net in; but in windy weather the boat can run over the net, causing tangles and problems, so one person has to maneuver the boat while the other two pick the net. With me on the float line and Dutch on the lead line, we began hauling the net in. We were immediately in Fish City. There were about 20 fish in a net tangle right at the end of the net. Henry yelled at us from the back of the boat, "Round haul! Just get it in! NOW!!!"
Dutch and I were pulling net as fast as we could. Every pull brought a dozen fish in the boat. Henry was yelling, "Faster! Faster! Get it in!" We were pulling, groaning, sweating, pulling, grunting, pulling as fast as we could. My arms were burning, my thighs were aching, my fingers stung from grabbing the net. It was fearsome. The boat has low sides, but lifting 60 or 70 pounds of fish with each arm load, while pulling a 300 foot long net loaded with hundreds more fish towards you is exhausting. And I had the lighter upper half of the net. Dutch had the lead line, which had lots more fish. When I thought I couldn't possibly lift another fish, we still had 20 feet of net to pull in. My arm muscles were fasciculating, they were so exhausted. Sweat was running in my eyes. I was knee deep in squirming, flopping fish. The boat was listing to starboard from the weight of the fish. Another pull...lift the fish over the side...pull again...lift the fish in...one more pull...is there any end to this net? Henry was calling from the back, "Come on, you're doing great! Don't quit now, you're almost there!"
Finally the last arm load of fish and net came over the side and we were done. Dutch and I stood looking at each other over a huge mound of salmon with chests heaving and eyes round in exhausted disbelief at what we had just accomplished. It was all I could do not to fall over on top of the fish.
We headed over to a protected spot on the side of the river and tied the boat off to an overhanging tree. Picking the net actually went fairly quickly; it only took us about an hour. Most of the fish were small, as the run is nearly over; many of them could be pulled through the net, which is quicker and easier, instead of having to back them out of it. We ended up with two full totes of chum with a few humpies, 12 reds, 2 small kings, and even an early silver. We had all five species in one drift! In all it was close to 200 fish. Henry said, "We were planning on recreational fishing today, but we got combat fishing instead." I couldn't agree more.
We got the boat home and hung all those fish in the freezer. Dutch and I took most of the reds home in a cooler which is now sitting on our back deck ready for a few hours of filleting. I just couldn't do it tonight. They are well iced and will be fine for two or three days. I did fillet one nice red, which Dutch grilled for our dinner, and it was very tasty. So now it is Sunday night and I am nearly mashed flat with exhaustion. Every muscle in my body aches, despite ibuprofen and a hot shower. As my dad always says, "It's hard work having this much fun!"
So... that's why I haven't posted for a few days. I sort of hope you missed me, but I also hope you didn't worry. Life just got in the way. The things I write about take time to do, and I wouldn't have it any other way. Livin' large in Alaska...