My favorite part of our recent family visit was the “trip”. If you have been a follower of our blog, you know we like to take a boat trip every year over to Jakalof Bay to pick some berries and fish for some halibut. We decided it would be a good idea to take the ladies out and let them experience special part of Alaska. Like any good mariner, I checked the weather regularly before the day of the trip, and not once did it look very good. But since we were just jetting across the bay, I thought we could pull it off. So off we headed, back to Homer for a little adventure.
The gaggle of gals headed down to the boat, while I parked the car, and I could see them milling around the boat. To their delight a seal had decided to make a home on the swim-step of our boat. Someone had the foresight to keep Austin from harvesting it, and instead they took pictures like they were in a petting zoo.
With the lines tossed, we were on our way. It was a very pleasant trip, for about 10 minutes, then we snuck out around the spit. In an instant we were in it, The Perfect Storm. Okay, perhaps not quite that dramatic, but at least 6-7 footers, which to a 24 foot boat are pretty decent. I calmly answered the cries of ” is this normal?” or”are we going to die” and” I trust you, you wouldn’t be out here if it wasn’t safe would you?” With a very calm and sweaty palmed ” This is nothing; a piece of cake” . ” I have been in much, much worse!” I didn’t tell them it was in 121 foot deep sea patrol vessel at the time.
Very soon shades of green were popping up amongst the passengers. I could tell, as the talking quickly subsided, minus the screams as we would crest the waves, that there was some uncertainty amongst us. Perhaps they were looking for a Jonah, and they kept eyeballing me. I knew it was far too late to turn around, and perhaps far too dangerous, so onward, upward, downward, upward, downward…… we continued. Every once in a while I had to pull back the throttle to keep us from slamming off the top of wave, which tended to add to the excitement.
Then for some reason I thought I would say something to comfort everyone. ” As long as the engine keeps running, we will be fine. ” Hmmmm, that didn’t come out as I expected, and it didn’t cause the reaction I was looking for. Eventually, in what probably seemed like hours to some, we pulled into the cover of the bay and all was well. We managed to tie up safely, eat some fried chicken, and go pick some salmon berries. I am not convinced they thought it was worth it, but I think they had fun once we got there.
After several hours, we decided to try to catch some halibut, and I was anxious to try a new spot right outside the bay. As we cast the lines, I sensed a slight tinge of nervousness, as I assured them it would not be nearly as rough as before, and it wasn’t. However the motion of the boat in a long, almost gentle swell, while at anchor, seemed to have an even more adverse effect on the briny crew. Soon there were heads hanging over both sides of the boat, and Tina laughing her head off in the cabin. I knew it was bad when my first mate, whom I had never seen sick, succumbed to chumming over the port rail. You just better be thankful my camera isn’t a smell-o-vision.
Due to my ultra -sensitivity to those around me, and my first mate begging me to go, I decided that it was time to move on, halibut or not. We had one last spot to try, and then we would call it a day with only berries as our prize. A pride buster for any old salt. Again, this was a new spot, but it was in protected waters. However, we would once again have to cross the straits of horror to get there. But as I assured them, the ride would be much smoother as we would be traveling with the seas. The sick and wounded climbed into the bunk area and off we went.
We made it across without too much excitement and managed to drop anchor in some flat calm waters. Very quickly the herring laden hooks were weighted and dropped and there they sat for a lengthy time. It was poor fishing. A fine finish to a fine day.
Again, my ultra-sensitivity radar kicked in and I could sense that the ladies wanted to call it a day. Perhaps the cat calls of ” how much longer” ” when we can we go” and “there’s no fish” aided in tuning in my radar. So as we always do we pulled up one line at a time. Dorian the die-hard always waiting to the last second, kept on fishing while I reeled all other lines in. Now this strategy never works. I can never, not one time remember catching a fish by cleaning up one rod at a time; except today. With three lines in the boat I hear Dorian ” Dad I got one” and I look over at his rod bent over mightily and I knew instantly it was a good fish. Quickly we put Austin’s rod back in the water and in a matter of seconds he had a big fish on.
Dorian informed me that this was a good fish, and having boated a 160 pounder last year, I figured he would know. So there I was bouncing between Dorian and Austin trying to help them land their catch. I figured Dorian would land his first, but every time it got close it made a run for the bottom. unfortunately the two halibut conspired to get the lines tangled up and Austin eventually lost his. After a lengthy battle Dorian was able to bring his to the surface and I harpooned her as if she was Moby Dick and I was Ahab. She figured to be in the 60 pound range, not huge but often the best fighters. While we let her rest I put Austin’s rod back in the water and once again he hooked into a big one, and once again he lost it. DANG!
By then it was time to go. Considering the start of the day, the ill-fated journey ended well. We harvested berries, saw a ghost ( ask Tra about that one) got some great pictures, got enough halibut to share, earned some awesome stories, saw some first class chumming and grunting, and grabbed a McKinley Mac on the way out-of-town. Even though they failed some of the tests, I have now declared all on-board official salty dawgs. Next time we will look for some real rough water.