Get in Line

The commercial salmon troller (not to be mistaken for a trawler) is shown here in early June, all tiddled up, ready to leave for the summer fishing season in the Queen Charlotte Islands (now called Haida Gwaii). But now that the season has ended, the boat is a bit tired and ready for some TLC. Like every summer, it has taken a beating, pounding into the waves in bad weather. Rigging, fishing lines, gear,  equipment, and even other boats have rubbed on its hull.

The question friends and acquaintances most often ask after it’s all over, is “How was your season?”

The main thing is to survive the elements, stay safe from the many hazards that can befall a fisherman. Beyond that, it’s a case of trying to be in the right place at the right time and hook some salmon that happen to be swimming by.

Commercial fishermen work hard to supply us with fish to eat. Turns out though, that we humans have to get in line. No, I don’t mean the line in the grocery store. I mean get in line behind the more aggressive predators. Here’s how it comes to be that way.

This year, the Captain tells me, it has been an exercise in frustration. Yes, there were good days, but there were extra obstacles besides the ongoing bad weather. The blue shark below is one example. Often they are quick to take advantage of the salmon’s inability to escape the hook. This one was unlucky and bit the lure himself.

Sometimes the Captain might hook a salmon and before he can get it into the boat, a shark has helped himself to a meal.  Here is what’s left of the fish after the shark has taken a bite. I’ve blurred out the deckhand’s face for the sake of his anonymity.

And then there are the pyrosomes, a new phenomenon in northern waters this year. They are not really a jellyfish although they could easily be mistaken for them. They are really small creatures (zooids)  held together in a colony by a gelatinous substance. If they break apart, they just multiply and grow again. Soon we could be overrun … er .. overswum?? with them.

The deckhand holds the hoochie (a lure meant to simulate a squid), which has the hook hidden inside its rubbery, synthetic tentacles. Some pyrosomes are snagged on the steel cable and slide down to where the monofilament line is attached, while others are snagged on the monofilament line itself and slide down to the flasher or the hoochie beyond it.   A hook that is covered with pyrosomes won’t attract a fish, so the lines have to be cleaned off constantly.And then we have the same old deadly predators, the sea lions, who often follow a boat, lazily waiting for a salmon to be caught so they can snatch it off the line for their own easy meal.

With a lot of stress and frustration, the fisherman does his best to catch enough fish to sell to the buyers who will supply the stores to feed humans. Looks like we have  to get in line behind these more aggressive feeders and take what they leave us.

Herring Time

When the herring roe fishery happens each spring on the BC Coast, the seine boats and herring skiffs congregate close to shore because that is where the herring can be intercepted as they rush the beach to spawn. At night when the boats have their anchor lights on, it looks like a floating city just offshore.

Sea lions and seagulls and eagles patrol the area in hope of some tasty bites.

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Photo courtesy of P. Knettig

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It’s a bluebird day. Hard to believe it was rough and windy just a couple of days ago. Still it was fishable and the herring filled the seine nets. Then disaster struck as an extra heavy net caused a boat to list  and not recover. The fishing community lost a fellow fisherman. His brother is quoted on CTV News:

“They had a really big set. The boat was listing and Mel went down into the engine room to turn the pumps on, and while he was down there the boat rolled over.”

It brings home to all of us once again, how dangerous fishing is. While the fleet mourns the loss of one of their own, the fishery goes on, as it must. The pretty night lights, and the bluebird daytime sky and sea belie the sombre mood and the heavy hearts of the fishing fleet.

All Up in the Hills

With apologies to my oldest followers, I’m reblogging this post from four years ago.

Pictures were taken with my tiny Olympus camera before the days of my Nikon. Only this first photo is different, taken by my friend, Ken Johnston.

grizzly

A few years ago, the Captain and I went on a camping trip west of Williams Lake in BC with another couple to fish the highly esteemed Chilko River.

Chilko River

I knew it was grizzly country but in spite of my ursaphobia I didn’t want to miss out on this adventure.

Choelquoit Lake with the Chilko River Valley at the base of the mountains.

Chilko Lake ahead with Chilko River flowing out of it.

The Chilcotin Plateau on our way to Chilko Lake and the Tatlayoko Lake area was scenic and spectacular. Real cowboy country. Near the horse corrals of Chilko Lake Lodge we parked our trailers side by side in a designated camping area.

 

Perfect camping spot

Anonymous checks out “A Room With a View”

I kicked aside hoof trimmings with sharp tacks still sticking out of them. Didn’t want to step on them later.

Horses live here.

We fished some of the many smaller lakes in the area, as well as the Chilko River, for which we needed a special licence (and a promise that we wouldn’t sue if we got frostbite on the river). It was June, and sunny, but the temperature was cool at this altitude.  Chilly and cold.

“Hey! Maybe that’s why it’s called Chilko Lake—‘chilly cold lake.’” I thought I was being witty, but all I got was eye rolls from my shivering companions.

I’m not petite, but with many layers of coats, sweaters, and life jacket on, I’ve doubled in size.

All those layers of clothes and still chilly and cold on the Chilko.

“We should try to find a better spot to launch the skiff,” the Captain said. “There’s a good place right around here.  Saw it last year. The main road runs parallel to the river. Somewhere, there’s a trail between the two.” Moments later he spotted it. A narrow road had been pushed through the dense woods. It might have been passable with our four-wheel-drive truck except that large boulders had been strategically placed to prevent vehicle access. We got out and walked through the woods.

Hiking time

“I don’t mind a hike, but what about grizzlies?”

“Oh, you don’t need to worry about them. They’re all up in the hills this time of year.”

Why didn’t that reassure me? “And you know this, how?”

“I just know.”

I shrugged my shoulders and strapped on my bear spray. “Okay, let’s go.”

“The river’s got to be just around the bend,” the Captain said. In the next twenty minutes he would repeat this phrase many times.

My neck felt rubbery from swiveling to check behind me. “Are you sure about the grizzlies?”

“No grizzlies this time of year. I told you, they’re all up in the hills.”

This sounded very familiar. It was the same thing he had said when we were stranded in grizzly country on the coast the day we got cut off by the tide.  “You always say that.”

“No really, they are,” he said.  “It’s too early for grizzlies.”

The launching spot we eventually found was nowhere near where we hiked that day through “non-grizzly country.” We fished the river and were amazed at the huge fish that remained, for the most part, elusive. Three things stood out for me on those days on the river:

1. The scenery was spectacular.

2. It was cold enough to freeze your goosebumps.

3. Blessedly, there were no grizzlies on the river (which is why I liked being in the boat).

Pretty cool trip

After several days at the horse ranch, the forecast of heavy rain marked the end of our stay.

We packed up and started for home. Outfitted with walkie-talkies in each truck, we led the way, chatting occasionally to our friends who followed behind in their rig.

Time to leave

The roads were turning ugly in places as the downpour dampened the clay gumbo under the gravel topping. We were getting out just in time.

For sure it was time to leave!

That’s when it happened.

“Did you see that?” I pointed to the road in front of us, then turned to see where the two grizzlies disappeared into the trees. We pulled over to the side to peer through the woods. The trees were so close together I wondered how a grizzly could fit between them, especially at a gallop.

“Two grizzlies just ran across the road in front of us,” the Captain said into the walkie-talkie.

“Oh yeah? Well, you’ve got a flat tire,” our friend said.

“Ha, ha! Very funny,” we answered into the mike.

“No, I’m serious. Your back right trailer tire is flat. I’m parked right behind you and believe me, it’s flat.”

“Is he messing with our heads?” I asked. “Right where the grizzlies went into the woods?”

Only flat on the bottom

“I’ll check it out.” The expression on his face when he came back to the cab told me it was bad news. “We must have driven over one of those hoof clippings with the tacks. You take the shotgun and stand right there while I change the tire.”

My neck felt prickly but I couldn’t wimp out and leave the Captain to be grizzly bait all alone, so I stood there with the shotgun. Our friend stood guard with his rifle — brave soul –, and his wife stayed in their truck — smart woman.

After a while, I got bored. The gravel on the roadside looked soft, and the grizzlies—a mother and a teenage cub I would guess—were really moving, so they should have left some tracks. I wandered a bit, looking up and down the ditch for the tracks.

“Here!” the Captain called. “Just stand there with that shotgun. I don’t trust those buggers.” No more pooh-poohing my ursaphobia now. I should have felt some “I-told-you-so” satisfaction but all I felt was jumpy nerves.

At last the spare tire was on and tools put away. I did a quick check for overlooked tire irons and such. And that’s when I found it—the grizzly track I’d been looking for—right behind the newly changed tire.

Either a grizzly or Bigfoot

“Oh my God! It’s exactly right here that they went into the woods!”

As we drove away, the Captain scrunched his face up. “Ahem … I didn’t want to tell you earlier,” he said, “but a rancher near Tatlayoko Lake lost some livestock to grizzlies last week.”

“All up in the hills. Hah!”

A Proper Prop

No wind or rain today! Here’s a chance for the Captain to put the troller on the grid and exchange the old prop for a new one while the tide is out.

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He’ll have to work fast before that water rises again and floats the boat. As soon as the tide has dropped enough to give him a working surface on the grid, he begins.

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The old prop needs to be pulled off, but that isn’t so easy. Nor should it be. It’s meant to be on there good and tight. Not something you want to have wobbling on the shaft or twirling right off the shaft and whooshing away into the deep. It’s hard work but the wheel puller (fishermen often call the prop a wheel) that he puts around the propeller puts physics to work and with a bit of elbow grease and a few grunts, the old prop pops loose.

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This boat is going nowhere until the new propeller is put on. You can see the gadget that helped pull off the old prop lying on the ground next to blue kneeling pad. The propane bottle on the left was used to heat and expand the hub of the propeller, making it easier to release it from its tight fit on the shaft. Like holding a stubborn jar lid under hot water to make it easier to open.

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The new propeller is placed on the shaft. It’s a bit like changing a tire only harder work. The blocks of wood under the bottom blade will stop the prop from wanting to turn as the wheel nut is tightened to hold it in place.

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Whew! That was hard work. The Captain drops the pipe wrench on the ground while he stretches his legs and gives his arms and shoulders a rest. But OH! Look at the back of his coveralls. Which washing machine will want that mess in its tub? Bottom-of-the-boat scunge and copper paint. So much fun for Ahab’s wife.

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The annual spring cleanup of the hull of the boat is yet to come. A proper shipyard will be needed for that job. For now, Ahab’s wife will try to enjoy how shiny the new propeller is and forget about how grungy her Captain looks after a hard day’s work.

*****

If you have made it to the end of this post, I would like to invite you to check out my other blog http://annelisplace.wordpress.com  and comment or follow it if it interests you at all. That blog is dedicated to writing-related posts, and introduces authors and their books. All of you are readers or you wouldn’t be reading this post, so why not see what else is out there in the reading world?

Surf and Turf

Apparently the term “Turf and Surf” has been around since 1961. It has taken me 54 years to know about it and figure out what it means. As I’m sure everyone else in the world already knows, “Turf and Surf” refers to meals of meat and fish, especially when speaking of steak and lobster.

Yesterday the Captain and I had a Turf and Surf day, but it was a far cry from steak and lobster. We went to a store that sells commercial fishing gear near the small town of Coombs on Vancouver Island, and took care of the annual gear upgrade. Then we went to the Coombs Market where they keep goats on the roof as a tourist attraction. You may recall that we did this same outing last year and it has become a bit of a tradition: Buy fishing gear, go to the Coombs Market to buy a few picnic fixings (Black Forest ham for the bread I brought from home, some fancy mustard to put on it, and two Starbucks Americanos), and then drive ten minutes to Qualicum Beach for a seaside picnic.020

The turf was on the roof of the Coombs Market building,

004and the surf was on the nearby beach.

It wasn’t steak and lobster, but we had a beautiful day for a picnic by the beach.

The Mystery Photo Revealed

Thank you, all those who were brave enough to take a guess at the photo in the last post. I loved the imaginative answers you  had! If you look in the bottom left of the photo,  you’ll see the section I cropped for the mystery photo. If you click to enlarge it, you’ll be able to get a better look. I loved the squiggles in the picture. Nature is a pretty good artist, don’t you think?

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Taken near Masset, Queen Charlotte Islands, now renamed Haida Gwaii.

If you didn’t guess right, don’t worry. I really liked all the ideas, and all of them were great thoughts.  You were very brave to volunteer a guess. Even the Captain, who took this picture (some time ago) couldn’t guess what the mystery photo was.

Do you judge a book by its cover?

Re-blogged from http://annelisplace.wordpress.com

They say, “Don’t judge a book by its cover.” I used to believe and follow that advice. I’ve read some excellent books that came “in a plain brown wrapper.”

Many years ago, most hardcover books came in  plain cloth or hard paper covers, not illlustrated. A discerning reader had to read the inside of the flap jacket for a synopsis to decide whether the book might be more interesting than its cover.

When paperbacks came out, the classics and non-fiction books were printed in paperbacks with plain covers after a suitable period of time had gone by to give the hardcover edition a chance to make a few dollars. Yes, there were a few good books among these, but along with the plain, scholarly paperbacks came book covers associated with a lesser quality of writing or cheesier topics. Often a cheap photo or drawing attempted to lure a reader into buying.

Times have changed. Now that everyone is a writer, the market is more competitive and since most authors want to realize some sales now rather than 100 years after their death, they resort to a flashy advertising campaign. And it works!

Put a boring plain cover next to a flashy modern one, and it’s no contest. Of course, in the end, the real test still lies in the text between the front and back covers of the book.

Anita Carroll has helped bring me into the modern age of competitive book covers. Her amazing imagination has created a new cover for my novel, The Wind Weeps.

After reading the book, she said it had the same suspense as the movie Sleeping With the Enemy starring Julia Roberts. I was so pleased that she found it to be a page turner.

I had thought of book cover images with a stormy ocean,  a desperate young woman, perhaps a boat … but none of these images conveyed the terror that is also a part of this love story. Andrea’s husband brings her orchids. Perhaps orchids could feature in the cover? But the cover image can’t be too rosy (sorry for the pun). It is also a dark story – the kind of darkness that makes you want to turn the page, looking for the light.

In the end, I told Anita, “Just forget my ideas and see what you come up with.”

She really came through for me. I was shocked at first because it was so different from what I expected, but she has captured all the elements of the story. The delicate orchid, the tears dripping from it into a desolate ocean; love gone wrong. The red sky symbolizing (for me) pain and fear, and the dark, rough ocean symbolizing Andrea’s remote isolation and desperation.

Here is Anita Carroll’s amazing creation for The Wind Weeps. This novel is available at all amazon outlets, and at smashwords.com

WEB_WRAP_2If you are looking for someone to design and create your next book cover, why not give Anita Carroll a try?

Anita’s  contact information:

www.race-point.com