Category Archives: Fishing

West Coast Travels

At the end of the fishing season this past summer, the Captain was ready to head home.  A new phase of the adventure begins with the rising sun.

Along the way home, he stops to check out this little building. You would never guess that inside this shack is a pleasant surprise.  A cemented enclosure fills with warm water through a  pipe from hotsprings behind the cabin. Step inside and have a soak to take the ache out of your bones.

The falls at the head of Lowe Inlet splash relentlessly. Except for the odd raven chuckling in the treetops, the rush and gurgle of the water are the only sounds. If you think you might want to try casting a dry fly towards a coho, be sure to take your bear spray with you – just in case.

 Need a warm cabin for drying out those wet clothes? This Fisheries cabin at Lowe Inlet, aptly named the Lowe Budget Hotel,  is very cozy after the Captain has spent some time trying his luck fishing in the cold mist of the falls. 

He remembers to follow the rules about the woodstove, posted on the wall. Don’t want to risk burning the cabin down.

Almost there. Running the boat down Grenville Channel.  Beautiful trip but there’s no place like home.

Meanwhile at home, I’ve been writing, and thinking about my fictitious character, Andrea, who has had an experience that seems bizarre at first. But in truth, this has happened to other women who have ventured out to the coast.

How did a city girl like her became trapped in an isolated cabin on this remote coast? Will she ever escape this lonely place where she must live with a man who is mentally deranged?

You can download The Wind Weeps (FREE), and then you can find out the conclusion in a sequel, Reckoning Tide, that is only $2.99. When did you last get so much enjoyment and entertainment for such a small price?

Why not get them both today at amazon.com or amazon.ca and smashwords.com?

You can find them all with supporting reviews at my website www.anneli-purchase.com

Ripple Rock

Every year when the captain (my captain, that is) takes his commercial troller from Vancouver Island to the Queen Charlotte Islands on the northern coast of British Columbia (and back again), he has to go through a tight passage called Seymour Narrows.

Located just north of the town of Campbell River, this stretch of water was described by Captain George Vancouver as “one of the vilest stretches of water in the world.”

Whenever I have accompanied “my” captain through the narrows, I’ve nearly given myself an ulcer beforehand, as Seymour Narrows has such a terrible reputation. Yet each time, going through the passage has been a piece of cake, with calm waters. That’s how it should be, if you wait for slack water, between tides.

The passage through Seymour Narrows is now much safer thanks to the removal of the tops of Ripple Rock,  a submerged twin-peak mountain that lay just nine feet beneath the surface of Seymour Narrows. According to Wikipedia, it was a serious hazard to shipping, sinking 119 vessels and taking 114 lives.

In the case of the William J. Stewart, when it struck Ripple Rock  in 1944, I’m not aware of any loss of life, and the ship was beached and later restored. It was due to be scrapped in 2017.

On April 5, 1958, after twenty-seven months of tunnelling and engineering work, Ripple Rock was blown up with 1,375 tons of Nitramex 2H explosive. It was quite the project.  A 500-foot vertical shaft was built on Maud Island, and then a horizontal shaft of 2,370 feet  was drilled out to Ripple Rock. From that point, two vertical shafts were drilled up into the  peaks, with shafts for the placement of the explosives. Very advanced technology for 1958.

I think those columns of smoke are blowback  from the explosion, coming out through the drilled shafts.

The explosion spewed debris almost 1000 feet into the air falling on land on either side of the narrows.  After the blast, the two peaks were 13.7 m (45 ft) and 15.2 m (50 ft) underwater.

Some very smart engineers had the foresight to detonate the charge at a time when the tide was running its fastest, so the rocks  blown off the tops would not fall straight back down onto the peaks, but rather, be swished along beyond them.

Even after the top of Ripple Rock was removed, it remains a challenging route. In March 1981, the Star Philippine, a freighter, ran aground in the narrows.

When the captain was coming home from a summer of trolling, he took pictures of his navigation instruments as he went through Seymour Narrows quite close by Ripple Rock. The red triangular icon represents his boat as he is heading south, just past Ripple Rock. Arrows show the direction of the tidal flow at that time. You can see the depths of the peaks as 15.2 m, and 13.7 m.

In the monitor of the depth sounder below, you can see the twin peaks of the rock. The reading is taken on the far right where the scale is marked. This tells me that the boat has just passed the second of the peaks of what is left of Ripple Rock.

Even knowing that the rock has been topped, I still have a healthy respect for this stretch of water. The colour photos (near the beginning of this post) of the swirling eddies are recent, well after the explosion of Ripple Rock, so you can see that going through Seymour Narrows when the tide is running full is still not a good idea.

My preference is to stay on land whenever possible.

 

 

 

Fishing is Hard Work

If only fishing were as easy as lying on your back in the grass beside a creek, waiting for the trout to bite. Commercial fishing, catching fish for people to eat, is much harder work than that.

To survive in heavy weather and rough seas, the fish boat must be in good shape structurally and mechanically. If it is a wood boat, it needs extra care in the form of dollars and sweat.

Once a year, before leaving for the north coast of British Columbia, the fish boat gets a facelift. Actually she gets a total body lift by a Travel Lift that puts straps under her hull and lifts her right out of the water and deposits her on the dry parking lot.

 

She is set down on wooden blocks. Jacks prop up  each side to prevent her from tipping over.

The hull is power washed to get rid of any sealife that may have attached itself to the wood. Once the hull is clean  and has  dried off, the upper parts are sanded and scraped to prepare them for a coat of paint.

Bars of zinc are  attached to the rudder and the iron shoe of the boat. Molten zinc is poured into a tin can mold attached to the wheel nut of the propeller, and more bars are attached to the cooling pipes not shown in this picture. All the zincs are meant to be sacrificed in lieu of the other metal parts of the boat (like the rudder, propeller, and cooling pipes). It is better that the zinc, rather than the propeller, be “eaten” by electrolysis.

The last job is to paint the bottom of the hull with anti-fouling paint. When that is done, the Travel Lift picks up the boat, carries it over to the water, and lowers it in.

In the photo below you can see that the boat has been carried away from its blocks on its way to the water again.

Feeling more comfortable now in its usual surroundings, the boat rests calmly, waiting to make the trip back home.

Passing  a sailboat  that is leisurely making its way out to sea, the fish boat hurries home.

For photos of the boat being lifted out of the water, click the link below.

https://wordsfromanneli.com/2016/03/11/uplifting/

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.

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.

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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.