Wednesday, May 12, 2010

"Stern Party"

I'm going to elaborate about the footage shown where Jonathan ends up with a buoy tangled in his rudder, and or wheel. First of all, most crab boats are equipped with a "shaft brake" which stops the prop from turning once the boat has been pulled out of gear, this allows the vessel to "coast" over buoys and lines and ninety nine percent of the time, that's what happens.

Now bear in mind as the driver, your sending buoys down the rail all day long and this would have to be the most common way to end up with a set of bags in the stern. The crew could miss, or the driver for that matter, or there could be another unseen pot. These scenario's are the one's that pose a problem because the boat doesn't coast over gear as easily at low speeds, such is the case when hauling

When unfortunately you end up with a bag tangled in the stern there's only a couple of options. One, is to hope by swinging the rudder back and forth the buoys will clear. Two,is to get enough of the line aboard to try to pull it out of the rudder or prop. If to no avail, you've gotten to the unpleasant part of putting the boat in gear, and cutting it off with the propeller. This is always quite nerve racking because you never know how much line will remain in the prop,if any. (Picture your engine dead and the shaft fowled) this is a possibility, although rare.

More often than not, the pot can be saved and it's nothing more than a time waster, but in bad weather, because the boat is in neutral, and drifting for what is usually several minutes,it can become quite harrowing as you get to thrashing around. Whatever the case it's nice to go months, and or entire seasons, without the infamous... "Stern Party"

Capt. Monte "Wizard Mouse"

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Sorry for the delay, as I've been on the road. I want to elaborate on the great time I had in Florida. I arrived late Friday and by Saturday morning I was ready to "go". This was a free day for me, and it was great to see some friends that I had made the year before. We spent the day on the beach in front of the hotel, drinking a few beers, and I somehow managed to get a tad too much sun.

Saturday night was the VIP/celebrity cocktail party. I had a great time meeting the pro athletes, all there for the weekend to support the Foundation, as I was. There were more than a few Superbowl rings in the house from the year the Buccaneers won it all.

Sunday was a beach day with the same group from the night before, and ironically it poured rain all day! We played a "Cornhole" tournament under a covered deck and the rain didn't bother us at all. The game is a cross between Horseshoes and shuffle board and can be played anywhere. Set 30 feet apart the object is to land the 5 inch square, corn filled bag, on the playing surface for one point, a bag that drops in the hole is good for three points.

My partner was "Dog" a local radio host and we managed to take third place! Mike Alstott and his partner took first.

The next day the sun came out and the conditions for golf were perfect. My team hit the ball great but struggled on the greens, we ended up nine under in the "Best Ball" format with the winners at 17 under. The food, (it seemed every tee box had a BBQ or something!) was killer! The entire event was first class. Thanks again to The Mike Alstott Family Foundation and all the hard working people who donate their time for such a great cause.

Capt. Monte Wizard Mouse

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

"Once the gear is wet"

At the start of every season, once the gear is set, there is a considerable amount of time to burn. If we are fishing 225 to 250 pots it would take roughly six or seven hours to dump the entire load. They would go over in 7 to 8 thirty pot strings, and cover 15 to 20 miles. By the time we ran back to the first pot it should have 8 to 10 hours on it.

Normally we wouldn't haul a string on a short soak (less than 18 hours) but one can get a feel for what's down there by pulling a pot at either end of each string, this is known as "spot checking". This is our usual practice even though we risk the possibility of being mislead ... for example if you caught 20 crab in twelve hours would that turn into a 60 crab in 36 hours? Hard to say but after roughly twenty pots, over twenty miles, one would have a pretty good idea which area had the stronger fishing.

With that said, by the time you set the load of pots (7 hrs), ran back (2 hrs),spot checked (7 hrs) then ran back again (2 hrs) now the first string has 18 hours soak on it and now we can finally haul the gear.

This scenario would not pertain to everyone because not all boats can carry such a large load of gear. When I was running the F/V Norseman, a much smaller boat, my plan was to run to the "storage area", pick up a hundred or so pots I had set prior to the season (no bait, doors open) and return to my original load, this would normally take 20 to 30 hours which would allow plenty of soak on the gear already set.

Capt. Monte "Wizard Mouse"

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Since this was my last weekend at home for awhile I wanted to make the most of it, we loaded the dirt bikes up early and headed down the hill. One of our favorite riding spots is north of Reno about 30 miles near Pyramid lake, known as Moon Rocks. With dry camping, an endless trail system and mountains to scale the area has great riding for any caliber offroader. We always seem to find a new trail and sometimes it can get a little crazy, as was the case on Saturday. Thom, my riding buddy and Dustin his 15 year old son and myself set out to for a little hill climbing, our choice would have to be considered one of the most difficult in the area, and after a hour or so of serious climbing, we reached the top. Taking a well deserved breather, we decided to descend into a narrow passage that maybe only a handful of bikes had traveled. this "trail" soon turned into a narrow, boulder strewn canyon. And at this point it became obvious that there was no turning around! After a handful of vertical drops of six feet or more we approached the base and all that was left? a 50 yard blitz down a 60 degree chute with three huge boulders greeting us at the bottom.. We all safely navigated this plunge and nervous laughter filled the air, an hour later we were back at the camp reliving our conquest. A good end to a great day in the Nevada high desert

Capt. Monte "Wizard Mouse"

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Catching up with friends.....

One of the great things about being back at home is the chance to spend time with friends and do some catching up, which is how I spent this past weekend. My wife and I went into Reno and met up with four other couples at "Joe Bob's Chicken Palace" to eat some good fried chicken, have a couple of drinks and listen to "Baker Street" do some easy listening tunes. While that was a good time in itself, we couldn't let it end there so we headed on over to "The Black Tangerine" for a couple more drinks and some really good old rock and roll. I had never been into The Black Tangerine before, and I have to say, it is a pretty happening little place there on the South side of town.

Capt Monte "Wizard Mouse"

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Mornin' I mentioned hanging out with the "Blue Collar Comedy Group" this was posted on Larry the Cable guys Web site... gdata
Capt. Monte "Wizard Mouse"

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

"How we let the little ones out"

Hello, now that I'm home for the summer,I'll take this opportunity to pass on some little known facts about crab fishing. And if you have any questions ask them in your comments.....

Over the course of the year I'm sure you have noticed that between every fishery we spend several days converting the gear to coincide with the various types of crab we target. These changes are required by the Alaska Dept. of fish and game. One of the most time consuming changes is the required "escapement" web. The size of the King crab mesh is roughly 6 inches high and about the same wide, this large opening is designed to allow the "undersized" crab to escape prior to the pot being hauled, which is fine with us because we don't want to catch crab we can't keep anyways. This larger web has to cover one half of a vertical surface being either the 'door' or the 'back' of each pot.

Now of course we don't sew or hang different web each season on the pots but instead change out the doors. Each pot has three completely different doors one for the Opilio crab another for Bairdi and a third for King crab. If we failed to change the door after Kings and went Opie fishing the pot would come up empty as all the 4 inch crab would run right out the large web. The Opilio web is about 3 inches squared and the Bairdi about 5 inches... check out the photo's and again would be pleased to answer any questions.

Capt.Monte 'Wizard Mouse"

Monday, March 15, 2010

An exciting invitation......

So anyway....

My plans were to jump on the first flight that I could get out of town towards home. I was packed and ready to go so I decided to visit a good friend before leaving in the morning. While we were hanging out he suggested I stay an extra day and join him backstage at Key Arena for the comedy show. THE BLUE COLLAR COMEDY TOUR!! I spent most of the evening with Bill Engvall, Larry - the cable guy and Jeff Foxworthy. What an awesome night! We were a fairly small group of about 20 people with all access passes, and I was able to throw a case of King Crab into the mix. (Having just landed in Seattle the Wizard freezer was well stocked)

The show was hilarious and lasted close to three hours. It was a night I won't forget. Thanks again to Bill, Larry, and Jeff, and to Randy, tour manager, for having me..

Capt. Monte "Wizard Mouse"

Sunday, March 14, 2010

"The old man and the locks"

Having reached the Seattle waterfront before dawn, we tied up to whats known as the 'A' dock. This is where I would meet my dad, Gary and his life long friend Raymond Estey. They drove to Seattle from California (16 hours) hoping to meet the boat, they arrived in time to jump on board and ride through the Ballard locks. We left "A" dock and arrived in Ballard about 8 AM.

Once the Wizard was secured, Dad and Raymond were able to tour the boat and meet the crew. The guys got a kick out of meeting my old man, but as usual, they soon began to disperse, heading home to their families.

I was able to show my "guests" a little of Seattle before they headed for home. I had planned on flying out that same day, but my plans were changed due to an unexpected, but very exciting invitation.

More later. "Wizard Mouse"

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Headin' Home

Leaving Dutch just after midnight we rounded priest rock and with a lite current on the stern, went through a smooth Unalga pass. As you may remember this is our passage of choice through the Aleutian chain whether we are headed north or south. On this voyage we are headed south and this is the trip home we have all been looking forward to for many months. The season went well and being done the third week of February is extremely rare for us, the one thing on most our minds was "how's the weather in the gulf gonna be?" Again this is a long voyage, eight days or more, and the forecast is only accurate for about three or four days into the future.

After four days of calm seas and even some clear skies we had reached the halfway point, the crew, including myself, had done well in the chore department. It was a good thing because the pleasant ride we enjoyed for days was rapidly deteriorating, winds were 45-50 knots and from the wrong direction.. southerly.

The seas were running around 18 to 25 feet on the starboard bow quarter, which is the worst possible ride, not only does the boat climb and fall over each wave it also "thrashes" back and forth due to the weather being slightly on the side! Four days of this is about all we can take, and as Travis likes to say " will somebody turn off the ocean?".

The bad ride was finally behind us as we entered the Straits of Juan de Fuca at around dinner time, which put us dockside just before daybreak. A good ending to another safe crossing of the mighty North Pacific Ocean...

Capt. Monte "Wizard Mouse"

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

A Farewell Feast...


Our time in Alaska is coming to an end. The crab have been caught, boxed and shipped to market. We sail south at midnight in order to catch the tide in Unalga pass and then it is out into the vast North Pacific, our ETA in Seattle is around the 2nd of March. Time to put the "old girl" to bed for a spell, as it will be several months before she commands our attention again. The summer months always pass quickly and we will find ourselves back at it before too long.

Our chores here are complete, the gear is neatly piled high at Westward Seafoods and we thank them for always being so helpful. Westward is a top notch cannery and we are lucky to have them as part of our team.

Lastly, we have been invited to eat dinner at Lenny's family home. The Lekanoffs get together every Monday and they have invited the entire crew to join them. This will be Lenny's last chance this season to visit with his family and we are pleased to be part of the fun.

That is all from Dutch,

Capt. Monte "Wizard Mouse"

Saturday, February 27, 2010

The world must be flat

Now about 40 miles up the hill and the weather is getting better rather than worse (at times like this we don't ask why), it is midnight, and trying to see ice in the dark is next to impossible. The range of our boat's light is maybe a quarter mile and it is not unheard of for the "mother of all ice flows" to be a half mile off the side. Through the night we did encounter a few small flows, quarter mile wide by miles long, consisting mostly of "bergs" ranging from refrigerator size to VW bus size, but not large enough to move pots. Bouys can get tangled in larger chunks and drug across the bottom. We have had gear moved 10 miles in years past.

We continued our search north of the gear to access the ice and it's movement, and about daybreak, sure enough, there was a massive flow about five miles west of our gear. This patch of ice appeared to be of much larger chunks, the size of box cars or bigger, and stretching as far as the eye could see! Probably more than a couple miles wide.

We pulled into "the beast" and just sat a spell, trying to determine the speed and direction of it's movement (west at about one knot). Capt Keith thought it would be safe to set, providing the ice didn't turn around. We splashed the 100 pots we had on deck and it was "off to the races"! Hauling a steady 350 - 400 per pot for six days we were able to fill our tanks in a week.

The big storm never did show up and the weather for the entire trip was absolutely beautiful, I'm talking FLAT, not even a ripple on the water. Another trip to remember, flat calm while stacking the load on and a smooth ride toward home.

Capt Monte "Wizard Mouse"

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Storms a comin'....??

The weather report before heading out of Dutch was terrible. North east winds of 50 knots or more (60 miles per hour) were to persist in the central Bering Sea including the Pribilof Island area. Our partner boat the "Pinnacle" had endured such winds for two days while we were in town and had a rough go of it. The North winds make for cold miserable conditions and the we were beginning to wonder if our last trip would be spent breaking ice half the time. With only eight days to fill the boat there was no time to wait for better weather. We left late with light Northeast winds and didn't expect anything gnarly until sometime after midnight.

As we got nearer our gear about 60 miles west of St Paul the wind began to increase to about 35-40 knots, but surprisingly it was blowing due East. Once we began to haul the gear it became obvious that we would have a hard time banging out the last load in the Southern gear because the numbers were low, the other half of our gear, Northwest another 40 miles, could and probably would be under ice. None the less we put 100 or so pots on board and with the diminishing Eastern wind pointed the old girl Northwest. As for the ice it really isn't a matter of if, more like when.....

Capt. Monte "Wizard Mouse"

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Super snowy Sunday....


Our last offload went well & was uneventful, as usual. We did get about 18 inches of snow while there, which is unusual, because most of the time the snow just blows away and never really amounts to much on deck. The Superbowl was awesome and most of us were thrilled to see the Saints win. It was very cool to land a delivery on that weekend, kudos to my brother for making that happen.

It is interesting that after all these years of working together one can still learn something "new" about a shipmate. Along with the hundreds of crab that come up in a pot will sometimes be sea snails, which also land on the sorting table. About the size of a golf ball it is not uncommon for there to be 20 or more in every pot on a long soak. These critters are not allowed in the tanks because they are known to kill crab in a confined space and are therefore pushed out the discard chute. The shells, when sliding on the aluminum table make a sound similar to fingernails on a chalkboard. When held in ones hand and done intentionally, holy cow! what a screech. Some people, like myself, couldn't care less about this sound, but others (who knew?) like Travis and Lenny, are mortified, and when done "properly" are nothing short of physically affected, picture superman meets kryptonite. Knowing how this sound pains them I do my best to limit my fun to only occasionally throughout the workday. :) hee hee

We will be heading north in search of our last trip and have yet to see the "White Monster", and we hope to miss that altogether.

Capt. Monte "Wizard Mouse"

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

A sad day on the Bering Sea....

Today is a sad day on the Bering Sea with the passing of Captain Phil Harris. My deepest sympathies to his family and friends.

Capt Monte Colburn

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Happy return....


Well, we made it back to Dutch and although it was only three weeks it seemed much longer than that. It's tough to pop a big trip, jam to St. Paul, bang out an offload in 40 hours then boogie back out and do it again. It's no small task fillin' the old girl up, and in the past we couldn't do it in 10-12 days, let alone a week! Are we on a roll, or what?!

Three full loads in five weeks and back to Dutch Harbor in time for the Super Bowl. Really didn't think we'd catch the game, but glad we will considering it being historical for the Saints and all.

Haven't yet seen any ice floating around, but it lurks to be sure. If there was ever a way to put an end to a good roll that stuff would certainly be involved. We need to get back out to the gear, but first a little "party time". My "paws" are giving me grief, and I am not alone on that one.

Go Saints!

Capt Monte "the Wizard Mouse"

Friday, February 5, 2010

Into the teeth...

The season is going well. The jump we got on the rest of the fleet is paying off. With our second trip behind us we can't help but feel like we are in the home stretch but we also know the easy part is likely behind us. Feb & Mar are notorious for horrific weather and with the sea ice on the move I'm sure we are in for a battle. St. Paul is it's usual frozen landscape and the ice pack is forecasted to arrive in a matter of a couple of days.

It looks as though we will pile on our whole load of gear and steam north in search of fresh bottom. Much of the fleet is working west/southwest of St. Paul and will probably remain in that area due to ice movement. So, we will venture northwest and hopefully find ourselves alone. It won't be pleasant and it won't be easy but with any luck it will be quick.

The adventure continues.....The crew is well and the vessel is holding up well considering the constant abuse the old girl must endure.

Capt Monte "Wizard Mouse"

Thursday, January 28, 2010


With the second trip in the tank, we headed to St. Paul Island. It went well enough but it took a couple more days than the first trip, mostly because we had to round up the gear and fished in a different region. Any designs for a mild and or warm winter were carried away with the Northeasterly winds of 35 to 40 knots.
The problem with a northerly wind direction, is it comes across the ice pack that we all loath. Air temps plunge with the first puff of a north wind, and it took only a matter of hours for it to go from 38 degrees to 4 ouch!! To compound the problem, as the sea ice moves south the conditions only get worse and of course the boat slowly but surely turns into a ice cube. This last trip at times we were working on a 90 foot skating rink and to say that saps your strength is a understatement. My brother did a good job of keeping the icing to a manageable level, and we didn't have to spend to much time "busting" ice as the weather thankfully went Southerly and therefore it tends to melt. The offload is going well and hope to make it back to Dutch Harbor for the Superbowl, GO SAINT"S Capt. Monte "Wizard Mouse"

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Better late than never...

Hello. Please bear with me as these posts are late at best. It is more than difficult to run this boat and get these posted in a timely manner......

Jan 11, 2010

Our first trip is behind us, it went well. The voyage out was calm and we made good time. The fishing was not red hot, but steady, with pots averaging 300-400 crab each. After three days of grinding we filled the port side tanks (200,000 lbs) before the weather went to hell. The wind blew 50-60 knots for about 22 hours, in which we got nothing done, but it was a needed break in the middle of the trip. Once the weather died down we were back at it for another 3 1/2 days and then we headed to Trident Seafoods, in Akutan, to deliver. Trident was happy with the crab and the offload was uneventful. Once we made it back to Dutch Harbor we busied ourselves preparing for the film crew to board. One full load down, three more to go.

Capt Monte "Wizard Mouse"

Thursday, January 21, 2010

December 31, 2009

We got out of town and headed to the Pinnacle area. We have started out fishing here with some success in the past. The beauty of this particular spot is the ability to fish in depths of 100 fathoms and still only be 10 or so miles from our usual fishing spot with depths of 60-70 fathoms. We will fish deep at first then move to more shallow grounds if need be. Crew is all well and not taking the New Year's eve at sea too hard.

Capt. Monte "Mouse"

Sunday, January 3, 2010

December 29, 2009

Hello. We are in Dutch Harbor and the weather is relatively warm (40*) and raining. The only news since we left involves the big Sea Land crane, which is used to move containers onto and off of cargo ships. Apparently this big, 20 million dollar crane, was blown over by a hurricane that hit the Island the first week of December. Thank goodness we were long gone by then!

We are getting a good jump on this year's Opilio season over the rest of the fleet. So far we are the only crew in town and we are ready to get out there and catch some crab. Hopefully this first trip will be over quickly which might allow us to get back "home" earlier in the spring. We shall see...

Happy New Year to all!

Capt. Monte "Mouse"