Friday, December 25, 2009
Tuesday, December 22, 2009
week snapped it in half and now the top 12 feet is in the front room. What a prickly sucker!
Sunday, December 13, 2009
The weather was not what we had expected and Friday, the day of the golf tournament, was the worst yet, pouring rain by 2:00 p.m. The round was unfortunately cut short but we made up for it in the clubhouse. My team, with Joe, Craig, and Jason didn't play well, but had a great time none the less as these three are quite comical and were just flat fun to be with.
Saturday morning started with a CBS morning show in Tampa, rising at 5 a.m. was a drag but well worth it as the broadcasters were very pleasant and made me feel relaxed and welcome, the interview was only about 5 minutes long, but it seemed to go well. They claimed it would air nationally. Upon returning to the hotel, it was clearly going to be a busy day, with several events scheduled. with me and my brother signing autographs from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. The concert had a long list of bands which played from noon till 6 p.m. with The Charlie Daniels Band preforming last, and with another dinner party this turned into one heck of a long day!
With yet another early start, Sunday it appeared, was primed to be a whirlwind. first it was off to The Angelus for Sunday service with Charlie and Hazel, Guy Gilchrist, Tammy the event organizer my brother,Florance and of course Catherine. The trip to the Angelus was the main reason for the entire trip, and I was honored to be invited, the residents are all wheelchair bound and seemed thrilled to meet me. With Charlie playing Christmas carols,it was no doubt one of those days you just don't forget..
All good things must come to an end and we were off. I caught a hour nap ridin' shotgun back to Tampa (we weren't in the Limo and yes my bro was out to..) Our next destination was the Sarasota yacht club, the 50 foot Budweiser yacht was running and ready. The trip across the bay to the Old Salty Dog was brief, Phil the owner of the Dog was along for the ride as was Tom and Karen. Having met these people in the past it was good to see them again.
There was no shortage of fans at the dog and after a couple hours of signing and taking pictures everyone seemed happy. This was the final event of the trip and bout' now we were all pretty much spent. I made to many new friends to count and it was good to see old ones again including a familiar group of the Wizette's, Heather,Velvet, Kim and Debbie. We flew out the next day and were greeted by a foot of snow in Reno, this is uncommon and there was twice that much in Tahoe but it sure was nice to be home.. Capt. Monte "mouse"
Tuesday, December 8, 2009
Marilyn and Gary flew up to Dutch hoping to meet the captains and crews from the boats of "The Deadliest Catch". Because we were the only crew still in town (the Wizard was the only boat to fish Bairdi) they were somewhat disappointed.
Over the course of the next few days, we took the time to give them a full tour of the boat and during the evenings had a few belts in the hotel bar. We had a wonderful time and became fast friends. I can only hope our paths cross again.
Next on my agenda is a trip to Tampa, Florida to participate in the 19th annual Charlie Daniels Band Celebrity Golf Tournament in support of The Angelus, a home for challenged adults young and old with cerebral palsy.
Capt. Monte "mouse"
Tuesday, December 1, 2009
The gear set northwest of the island was disappointing and the handful that had a respectable score appeared to be on a small patch at best. We were running out of strings to check and the vibe on deck was plunging. This group of guys have had a poor Bairdi trip as often as a good one and this was not what we'd hoped to see.
With only two short strings left, both being set in the shallowest depths, I was beginning to plan where to look next when low and behold the first pot came up solid at around a buck twenty five! The crew was now pumped and the next pot was even better. Working our way west about 8 miles to the last string, the first pot came up loaded as did the next, and the next. A stretch of 200s plus per pot. Wow! what a sight to see.
Over the course of the next week the weather was poor but the fishing was nothing short of spectacular, huge numbers coming over the rail made it easy to forget about a pesky 40 knot wind. With the relentless N.W. winds subsiding as the last pots were stacked aboard, we had beautiful weather for putting on the large load of gear. This trip would have to be considered epic, and as Gary Soper put it before we even left town "The Bairdi that saved Christmas", and it truly was. Capt. Monte 'mouse'
Sunday, November 29, 2009
In my last blast I defined the boundiries of the Bairdi fishery and I'm glad to report we headed east! When we left Dutch with a light load of 80 pots, our heading was northeast enroute to Amak Island, 135 miles from town. This small uninhabited island lies about 20 miles offshore north of the Alaska Pennisula and is home to some of the most fertile Bairdi grounds in the entire state.
The crew was able to get a day off being that it was Friday. Few, if any, boats will leave town on a Friday because most fishermen believe it's bad luck to set sail on that day, and going into this trip I wasn't about to push that!
The Bairdi crab is without doubt the slipperyist crab we target and notorious for it's ability to baffle skippers. They tend to hide in pockets rather than lie in large schools over several miles like King crab or Opilio would. In those fisheries a 30 pot string covering 5 miles would more than likely yeild the same or similar score in the whole string. With Bairdi a 15 pot string would more than likely read something like this.. 10,15,20,40,70,85,100,100,75,65,40,25,15,15. kinda scary because one could just as easily land on a 10 and miss the 100 altogether. (bear in mind that is over two miles of ground) With those numbers in mind and the fact we set out to catch 50,000+ crab (150,000 pounds total) it appears we could have our work cut out for us.
First things first, we'll set the 80 and steam another 100 miles northeast to round up 135 pots that were stored at the end of king crab. We are eager to get going as the holidays are looming. Capt. Monte "mouse"
Thursday, November 26, 2009
It has been some time since you've heard from me and I apologize for the delay. The time we spent in Dutch Harbor was brief between King Crab and Bairdi with most of our time being consumed rigging the gear over again, which is a larger chore than I can describe here, but I will take the time to do so between seasons which will be soon! The Bairdi fishery is unique in that few boats participate and with an average weight of 2.6 -3.0 lbs apiece Bairdi crab are substantially larger but not nearly as plentiful as their close relative the Opilio (aka snow) crab. The Wizard has targeted these elusive critters for many years and most of the time I am given the task of running the boat. The fishing grounds are split into two areas with the center boundary line being the 166* west longitude. This longitude line runs north/south almost right through Dutch Harbor. The crab in the western district is primarily caught around or between Saint Paul and Saint George Islands. Because abundance is low in the west fishing there has proven difficult over the years, and for 2009 the fishery was closed altogether. Thank God!
As for the eastern district the crab are generally caught around Amak Island about 135 miles northeast of Dutch Harbor, and this is where we intend to fish. With mixed results in the past the entire crew knows it could be a battle to put together a viable trip but nonetheless we have high hopes. Capt. Monte "mouse"
Wednesday, November 11, 2009
Things went well enough, not as blistering as last year but a steady, solid number coming over the rail. As in the past, come Halloween the fishing peters out to the point of horrible. Most of the boats still fishing (about half the fleet) struggle to find more than 10 per pot, and at that rate it's no longer lucrative and quite maddening to boot! This year the problem can be attributed to any number of things:
- minus tides associated with the full moon on November 2nd
- a storm that blew through at the same time, stirring up the bottom and creating large waves that tend to jerk on the buoys. This turbulence is transmitted to the pots via the line and can actually bounce the gear around.
- any large concentrations of crab have, to some degree, been caught by the fleet
It's good to be finished with King Crab and now we are on to the mighty Bairdi fishery. More on that later,
Capt Monte "mouse"
Sunday, November 8, 2009
The weather is decent and it has yet to snow.
Capt. Monte "mouse"
The King Crab fishery is now well underway.
It appears as though the fleet is targeting three separate areas. The first and closest is about 135 nautical miles from Dutch Harbor, around Amak Island. We fished this spot briefly in 2007 & 2008 with mixed results. Both of those year's the concentrations of crab were small, but when we were on them the scores were huge. (In 2007 we hauled the largest count in a single pot that I have ever seen, 168 "keepers". ) On the other hand, at times we would haul a blank not one mile away! With that in mind, the Amak area is a total crap shoot and we chose to continue on.
The next stop is known as the "Deep Hole", at about 200 miles from town it is a solid day's travel. Surrounded by water 220 to 240 feet deep the hole's 300 plus feet of water is a drastic depth change for the relatively flat bottomed Bering Sea. The fishing here is more consistant over a larger area but as with any location the crab are either there or they're not.
The third and last locale is known as the "Compass Rose". This area was given that name due to the navigational device on a common paper chart that aids in plotting. We have caught more crab in this area than any other and at more than 240 miles from Dutch Harbor it is pretty much the end of the Earth as far King Crab fishing goes.
We expect to have gear in both Deep Hole and Compass Rose. I will let you know how it goes.
Steaming along under a cloak of grey, we approach our destination of choice. Northerly winds, though mild, carry a constant reminder of the upcoming winter.
Thanks for hanging in with me as it has proven difficult to send updates from sea. Capt. Monte
Wednesday, October 28, 2009
The fishery officially opens October 15th and we can legally set gear at noon that day. Hoping for the best. I will keep you updated as time permits. Capt. Monte
The evening became somber as a good friend and fellow captain revealed that during this past summer he lost a crewman while salmon fishing in Alaska. He did not elaborate on the subject, and I did not ask. This is not something that is easily dealt with and I am sure he will suffer the loss for years to come. I think he chose to share with me as this is a horrible, tragic experience we now have in common. Having taken not just any man, but a dear friend to sea and failing to bring him home. There is no cure for this type of pain. It has been over a decade for me and I carry the weight to this day.
My friend, I wish you well on your journey down the darkest of trails.
That's all for now. "Wizard Mouse"
Friday, October 23, 2009
The trip out went well, no wind whatsoever. We began setting the pots at daybreak. The gear went off like clockwork in three, 50 pot strings, set at about 12 to a mile. At that spread a pot hits the water about every minute. It took three and a half hours to splash the whole load. Gear can't be set any closer or it becomes difficult to turn the boat on them as you chug from bouy to bouy. The doors are open with no bait as is required for stored pots.
Pointing the boat for "Dutch" we are off like the wind and to our delight a building northeast 40 began pushing us home! We reached town 07:00 the next day and began preparing a second load of 7'x7' pots, with another 150 to rig. The weather forecast is horrid for the next few days...Capt Monte
The Opilio quota also being released today is grim at best, harvest total is 43 million pounds, down from about 65 million last year.
Bairdi is a close relative of the Opilio crab and though substantially larger is not very well known. This is the crab you will find in my freezer. The poundage to be taken this year is just over one million pounds, less than half the amount landed last year.
With the price negotiations looming, it will interesting to see what the canneries and buyers will offering as a starting price for Red Crab. I'll keep you posted. Capt Monte "the Wizard Mouse"
Thursday, October 22, 2009
Westward is our primary seafood processor. We deliver the bulk of our crab there, but not all of it. We are one in a small group of crab boats that calls Westward home and over the years have become friends with the staff, which numbers well over a thousand when the plant is operating at full swing. Landing dockside the crew begins to load the 7'x8's which will take two long days, with some well deserved fun scheduled for late tonight. Capt. Monte.
Thursday, October 8, 2009
The bulk of supplies we have stowed on board, is no doubt, the Production teams camera equipment. all told the amount of gear nearly fill's a semi-truck trailer and basically fills our forward line room, located in the bow . Some of the equipment, such as large crated generators and a four wheeled ATV, which could'nt fit in the bow ,had to be tarpped and chained to the forward deck. They seemed to have traveled well and I'm confident have remained dry. Most of the camera's and such are packed in large Pelican case's, to ward off damage in tranist, and provide a watertight atmosphere.all told there are 190 of said case's in the bow. It is a understatement to say these people don't travel lite!!
Last but not least, is the camera man. Merely a kid in his early twenties, he helped load the above. and sailed north with us. Never having had the pleasure of being on the open ocean before, he suffered a horrible case of seasickness, spares'ly seen, he spent most of the voyage in a bunk. He's not the first to have such a trip and without doubt not the last.
Will continue later,before we enter the pass, and again upon reaching Dutch Harbor Capt.Monte "Wizard Mouse"
can't help but feel like we're closing in. Traveling 400 miles offshore is always a cause for some concern,but as we are encountering large boats on a regular basis, we must be heading in the right direction! ha. Ha! Lets take a moment to
introduce the crew that I'm honored to be sailing with, first and formost without question would be Gary Soper a lifetime sailor who like myself caries a United States Coast Gaurd Master's license, a document that is not easy to obtain and few in the
crab fishing fleet have. The Wizard, being of a larger tonnage and due to our size is required to have two licensed people on board at all times. In contrast most of the fleet is not required to have even a single licensed Capt. on board.
Gary's standing on board is unsurpassed as he spearheads the entire deck operation, along with myself he run's the hydraulic's (hydro"s) being the deck machinery almost exclusively. Swinging 800 lb crab pots around all day with a crane on a rolling crab boat is nothing short of an art, and he does it almost as well as me! this is a topic of some debate as we are all very competetive in every aspect of what we do. Gary's tenure on board spans two decades and change, something unheard of
in the crab industry and is longer than even mine or my brothers. He hails from Anchorage AK. but is originally from Florida we are best of friends and the bond between us can't be discribed, he stands all of 5' 6"tall and I find great joy in refering to him as sawd off at times. with an easy going nature and quick wit, he can make the most miserable of days bearable.
Next would be Lenny Lekanoff, as I mentioned before he is fresh out of retirement, and we are pleased to have him back. as I may have already noted he is the vessels Engineer and a solid one at that, it's not easy working on deck 18 to 20 hours a day and also dealing with the chores associated with the engine room, having done it myself. I carry great respect for him because at times he gets the least amount of sleep out of the entire crew. Lenny was born and raised in Unalaska/Dutch Harbor Alaska and most of his family still resides there today, he is unique in the fact that believe it or not, very few natives participate in the crab fisheries that Alaska is now famous for, Lenny is proud to carry the torch and is tough as nails even at the ripe old age of fifty. An ongoing joke is I refer to him as Grandpa; although he is only five years my senior, he takes it well and always in stride, his usual response is a well timed "squeak squeak" in regards to my long standing nickname of "Mouse".Again I'm thrilled to have him back for more punishment and pain, as the old saying goes, "misery loves company" and it's a comin'.. soon Capt.Monte the Wizard mouse.
Mornin' today is the last day of Sept. and the distance covered through the night was not what I had hoped. The never ending Westerly winds have again increased to forty knots, producing an 18 foot sea height that has dimminished our speed to six and a half or seven knots. With those numbers in mind it's safe to say we're not making very good time, with our slow start I was hoping to make up that lost time on this end of the voyage but it's become pretty obvious that won't be the case, this is beginning to look like a ten day trip. Now entering my twenty-fourth year crab fishing it's safe to consider this my fiftieth journey across the "Pond"as we sail north in the fall leading up to the King Crab season, and south in the spring after the Opilio, a.k.a Snow Crab fishery is over. On a scale of one to ten I'd rate this trip about a six..
Kodiak Island, which is known for the numerous Grizzly bears that roam the Island, lies four hundred miles north of our present postion and sometime tomorrow we will transit over the Aleutian Trench, with a length of over a thousand miles and located south of the Alaska peninsula and stretching along the Aluetian chain it's depth of 24,000 feet,it is to the best of my knowledge, the second deepest place on the planet. bested only by the Mariana Trench off the east coast of Japan.Shortly after crossing the trench we wll make our way through Unalga Pass, being about a mile and ahalf wide and three miles long It joins the No. pacific ocean to the Bering sea. Needless to say ALOT of water moves in and out of this region and a seven knot current is not uncommon,hitting the tide right, time wise is not an option but a requirement. Hitting the pass at the wrong hour is something a person does but once. there are numerous similar passes throughout the Aluetian Chain but the beauty of this one is the simple fact that after you squirt out the other side Dutch Harbor is at the most two hours away
Let see.. one of the many ways we pass the time on a long journey is to play cards, and rest assured it's always for cash. The game of choice is Cribbage, and we have been at battle for many,many years Gary Soper is without doubt my biggest rival! the stakes are low, and not bothering to count the points, it's twenty dollar's a game and double for a skunk all games are logged on a dry-erase board in the galley with payment due at the end of the current season. In the past it was'nt unusual for one or the other to take four or five hundred dollar's from his shipmate..Lenny joins in and is a worthy foe as is my brother. Other forms of entertainment are slim as live televison is not available unless the vessel happened to be equiped with a extremely expensive satellite system, no crab boat is equipped with such a luxury. Music being the most common source of entertainment, coupled with the advent of the Ipod our selection would have to nothing short of vast, as this unit is owned by all. More tomorrow, Capt. Monte "the Wizard mouse"
The King Crab fishery is a difficult one, where to start and how many pot's to fish? more is usually better, and with that in mind I'm sure we'll fish over three hundred. That's alot of gear, and more than most boat's would care to take, but hoping to have three or four hundred thousand pound's to catch it will be required, unable to safely carry more than 200 7x8's (that's 7 feet wide by 8 feet long),it'll take two loads to get three hundred and change in the water. The first hundred and fifty will be hauled out and "set" in storage with the door's open, and no bait,the area set aside to legally store gear is about 150 nautical miles from Dutch Harbor, which make's this at least a two day endeavor, weather permitting of course. The drawback to fishing alot of gear is that once the season end's, you have twice as much stuff to round up!
By the time we reach Dutch, the Alaska Dept. of Fish and Game (ADF&G) should be close to announcing the harvest guidelines. There's always alot of speculation, and rumor's abound throughout the fleet. Over the course of the summer three trawl vessel's drop a small net, and drag the seafloor, the duration of the tow is brief and the gear is hauled aboard. All the crab are counted and measured and each size has a classification, female's,legal males, recruit's and juvenile's the tow's are done at the same location every year, and at a distance of every twenty miles,it take's the group over two month's to sample the entire Bering Sea! The data is then compiled,and a total biomass estimated. We are then able to land a percentage of the legal sized males. With a total allowable catch determined, these number's carry with them, great controversy,and the fleet is more often than not, disappointed. It should'nt be long before this information is released and I will pass it on as soon as possible. Thats all for now.. Capt Monte "mouse"
Hello again. We reached the open ocean this morning (9/25) at dawn. Our
night of traveling allowed for some time to reflect on our last couple
of days in Seattle. We were busy with large tasks that are usually
completed several weeks in advance but were still in the works two days
prior to departure. Things like the Costco trip, getting our rebuilt
crane back aboard and of course loading all the equipment for filming.
Good tales soon to be told. Our tasks seemed endless at times and coming
down the stretch, I was shocked we were able to sail when we did. This
season's crew is a blend of old and new, with an old friend returning
from a brief retirement. He claims he had no choice with the economy as
it is, but in reality I think he just missed us! or the fishing itself.
Crab fishing is not something one walks away from easily after 25 years,
although he is a bit of a grump, he is a good friend and a pleasure to
Clear of the Straits and heading due N.W. the weather is marginal at
best. N.W. winds of 35 to 40 knots producing a sharp and steady 18 foot
sea. Having just begun our trip I am disappointed to have the wind and
waves right on our "beak". Though the boat rides up and over this
caliber of weather with ease, it does tend to slow us down. On a journey
of this length every little bit counts and having made this trip
numerous times, I know this is not an ideal start. Generally speaking it
takes about eight days to get from Seattle to Dutch Harbor. The longest
crossing I've ever experienced was 15 days back in 1999, a serious ass
kicking I'd just as soon forget! The forcast is calling for more of the
same weather tomorrow and we can only hope it improves the day after
that. The crew is well and only the new "horn" is mildly seasick, he
seems like a trooper and I'm sure he'll get over it soon. Hoping for
smoother sailing, Captain Monte- the Wizard Mouse.