Never Quit

by Tia (Deckhand) on July 6th, 2012

The plan: Get the boat in the harbor at 4:30 AM. Start her up, grab the ice, and GO FISHING!

What actually happened: The boat showed up at the harbor at 4:30 AM as planned. It would have been in the water on Wednesday but apparently, you can't haul oversized vehicles on July 4th (who knew?!?). The fabulous folks at the boat yard backed her down the boat launch at the Homer Harbor. Captain Wes jumped on boat to start her up and...

The boat wouldn't start! To add insult to injury, there were gallons of water pouring out the bilge immediately upon being put back in the water. We had no choice but to pull the boat back out of the water and return to the service yard.

There was nothing I could do to help at that point so I returned home and jumped back into bed. I didn't even change out of my clothes, which proved to be fortuitous when I woke up to a call from Captain Wes at 9 AM. "The boat's fixed and we're going to head out! Meet you at the boat launch!" I grabbed my gear, kissed my kids, and headed for the spit.

We met up at the boat launch and Captain Wes fired up the engines. No water leaking! That was really nice to see as I had no desire to wrestle with a survival suit any time soon. We motored over to the cranes and picked up two brailer bags full of shaved ice. Our next stop would be the fishing grounds! Unfortunately, our progress was halted when the left (old) engine stopped working about 15 yards out of the mouth of the harbor. I see this as a blessing; we could have been 45 miles from harbor! We turned around and headed to our harbor slip.

Captain Wes, despite being extremely frustrated with the turn of events, maintained his composure and called the boat mechanic, Lee, who made a trip down to our slip to see what could be done. After about 45 minutes of replacing some starting wires and a coil, Captain Wes was able to get the old engine going again. Apparently, all the moisture that had been in contact with the engine in the last couple days had taken its toll on certain parts. As we headed out of the harbor at 12:30, I made a mental note to deliver some homemade cinnamon rolls to Lee and the fabulous folks at Marine Services.

Glassy, calm water as we exit Kachemak Bay.
With lightened spirits, we enjoyed lunch on the ride out to the fishing grounds. Everyone was happy to be able to make it out to fish, even if it was just a part of the day. There were reports that the seas were picking up a bit and that the fishing was steady. Captain Wes headed to a spot that he says he never passes without making an experimental set. And that's why he's the captain! The fishing was steady and we never quite moved from that spot, except to drift with the tide.
In this picture, you can see the calm seas of Kachemak Bay meeting the rougher waters of Cook Inlet. See below for video footage of some sloppy Cook Inlet water.
"A smooth sea never made a skillful sailor." The weather proved a teacher on Thursday and I learned more about operating the hydraulic reel in rough water. There was a significant wind blowing and we had some green water over the bow. When fishing in this kind of weather, there are so many factors to take into account when operating the reel. How is the wind affecting the boat? What debris should we be aware of? How does pulling on the reel affect the fish in the net? These are all things that Captain Wes understands inately after so many years at sea. This is my second summer on the boat and I'm trying to take in all the nuances so as to be the best I can at my job. When the fish really start running, this knowledge will help keep things running smoothly and avoid situations that could potentially halt the fishing operation.

At one point, we had a tug-of-war match with a huge floating patch of seaweed. It had drifted in the hook in the net, a curve we had placed in the net by towing on it. We were pulling in the net and picking fish as they came over the bow. We were working our way around the floating pad by slowly "walking" up the net with the boat and then pulling up a little of the net. This would, ideally, allow us to "walk" around the seaweed bunch and keep it out of the net. However, every time we pulled the net in, we had six to eight fish to pick out! In the time it took to pick the fish, we had lost the progress we had made on getting around the seaweed. While it was frustrating to not make progress around the patch, we were elated to be picking fish like crazy! We made our last set in the midst of tons of seaweed (literally) and rough seas for 63 fish. Overall, we managed 250 fish in less than five hours of actually fishing time. Not too shabby!

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