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August 10, 2014

What a Long Strange Trip - Part III

The return trip to Puget Island was non-eventful, in spite of stop and go traffic down Mt. Hood through Sandy. Not bad considering it was Sunday on Fourth of July weekend.
There was the slightly desperate portion where Helga choose to have her charger portal stop charging - meaning the battery was getting dangerously low and I needed the GPS - a minor inconvenience (not!). I stopped at a Fred Meyers in Sandy where a nice young man (god that makes me sound old) in the electronics section let me charge up. During that time OSD was able to relay a crucial bit of information about the tricky 205 North to Seattle exit. Thank god, because it IS tricky. Once I got to Longview, it was all good.

It was a hot (Helga has no aircon), long drive and I was pretty beat when we pulled into the compound late afternoon. OSD took me to Skamokawa (just down the road) to the Duck Inn for dinner. We chatted with Tori, our bartender/server over some fantastic halibut and chips.

The next day, Monday, there was an opening for fishing on the Columbia River, 7 PM - 7 AM, 8" mesh.
We spent the day getting the boat ready, switching out gill nets, in between dealing with J., OSD's 75 year old friend who's moving-on-down-the-dementia-path. OSD called on my road trip to tell me that J's wife had moved out. Lots of drama.
J. hadn't been eating (coffee and cigarettes) since his wife left (plenty of back story here. No judgment.). OSD's cunning plan was to have J. take me to breakfast; I'd make sure he ate something and pump him (discretely, of course) for information on the marital situation. Another caper!
J. took me to Duck Inn (again). When we came back, he said he was going to take the dog home, (she kept OSD company while we dined), and come back to help with the nets. Apparently he forgot where to find us (we were across the road on the slough). We heard him drive up to the house and then a bit later, drive off, without coming across the road to the boat. Oh, J.
Smooth as glass. Evening on the slough. (photo credit J.)

Gill nets on the reel.
See those floats? Nets don't come with them, they have to be sewn on with a net needle. The bottom also has to be sewn on; it takes days to complete a net. For gillnetting you need many nets of different sizes. It's a bit impressive that OSD taught himself gillnetting. For 35 years he seined, a completely different kettle of fish, so to speak. Heh.
Gillnetting will be illegal on the Columbia in a few years, they're switching over to seining. It's easier to control what fish are taken with seining and endangered fish can be returned to the river.
OSD has cleverly modified his boat to be able to do both kinds of fishing. When it's time to seine, the reel comes off as well as part of the railing, so the seine net can "roll" onto the boat. (I bet he thinks I wasn't paying attention).

Okay, enough boring boat talk.

Net in process
Being on a metal boat, on the water, for several hours, during prime sun time, with no sunscreen, gave me the second worst sunburn of my life. So stupid.
Glad the dermatologist visit was BEFORE going on vacation.

Pristine no longer applies
OSD had many of these Victorinox (Vicky) knives lying around. They're sharp, cheap, and versatile. One of my jobs on the boat was standing by with one of these in case he got tangled in the net.

Vicky knife

After several hours readying the nets we ran "over town", as they say, for ice and supplies. A wee nap and a brief tutorial on the radio and radar later, we got underway.
Taken by L. as we passed her house. I may have been driving (piloting?) here.

The captain (I love this picture)
We kept an eye on the navigation app (think that's what it was) for container ships in the channel - you do not want to be in their way.

Even though she was far away, her wake rocked our boat pretty hard.

We did six - seven sets (when the net is in the water). Wish I'd taken a picture of the ones at night. There was a 3/4 moon, no clouds, the river was calm. It was just beautiful. 

Our first set.
Because I didn't have a crew license (kind of silly to spend $135 for one foray), my instructions were to go in the cabin if the police came (they do regular checks) and not to touch the net. So when on deck, I just stood by, Vicky knife at the ready. I did do some steering (HARD LEFT!) and some Mark Twaining (Twenty feet. Eighteen feet. Fifteen feet. TEN FEET! EIGHT FEET!), as we laid the net out in shallow water. Cooked an omelet, made coffee. You know, first mate shit.

We landed two fish, caught one (get the distinction?). Did I get a picture of it? Nope. OSD said it was probably only ten pounds, it sure seemed bigger to me. It was after 1 AM when we decided to call it a night. We anchored out of the channel near the top of the slough. 

Good morning from the Columbia River.
Tuesday was recovery day after Monday's hard work, sunburn, going to bed late, and getting up early. 
FYI, boats are not that comfortable for sleeping, or at least this boat wasn't. Whacked my head several times on the bunk above me (remember? you cannot sit up in here) and got a crick in my neck. 

OSD cleaned and filleted our catch, promising that this salmon would change my opinion. (Many salmon spawning field trips with our father colored my view. Plus it can taste too fishy sometimes.)
We visited A.and L. (she took the picture of the boat on the river) for a few minutes. They are also friends with J., and involved in that drama. (A. made the Adirondack chairs. They're lightweight and beautifully made. Not surprising, as A. is a master boat builder.) She was making potato salad and it gave us the hankerin' for some; she gave us a jar of her delicious bread and butter pickles to add to ours.
I had to be channeling both my parents (my mother prepped/cooked all the ingredients, my father made the dressing), because that was the best damn potato salad I've made in awhile - got me right in the gill slits. It was a bit mustardy for OSD, but what's he know about potato salad? He's not Southern. 
He cooked the salmon simply, just avocado oil, salt and pepper. It was very good. Delicate, as he put it. Mild, not at all fishy. I had a big slab and a healthy portion (or two) of the potato salad.

My last day of vacation Helga and I went back to Astoria. Took in the Columbia River Maritime Museum, which is well worth the price of admission. The first section is on the Coast Guard. Their rescue swimmers and SAR teams are trained in Astoria - the roughest water in the world is where the Columbia meets the Pacific. Coast Guard stuff makes me tear up; it's as close as I get to being patriotic. 

Life size. Inside the Columbia River Maritime Museum.
The real thing
The rest of the museum is just as good - the history of the area, indigenous people, fur trade, logging, fishing. Many interactive displays (put on a rescue suit in one minute; pilot a tugboat). Admission to board the Lightship Columbia is included with the museum ticket. 

After a few hours in the museum, I walked a few blocks over to Commercial Street. There were some stores I'd bookmarked for further perusal when I was in Astoria the first time. 
FinnWare for one (shhh...the Finns are not Scandinavian according to DNA), RiverSea Gallery for another. This had to be my second favorite gallery of the trip. Fantastic space. Lovely art. Great jewelry. Becky was fun, patient, let me look at/touch/try on at about a gazillion pieces before finally choosing a necklace by Calliope
Of course, a trip to Astoria required a stop at Lindstrom's Danish Maid Bakery to pick up some treats for OSD. 
Stop in and say hi to Olga

Goodbye Oregon
The view from Helga's window

Upon my return, OSD decided a knot tying lesson was in order. (knot tying went much better than the learn-to-drive-a-stick-shift.) The Bolan (bowline?) knot. The rabbit goes in the hole... 
After I'd completed the lesson to his satisfaction, we went over town to the harbor and wandered around looking at sweet sailboats, sexy sloops (I like a sloop), and fat cabin cruisers. I took pictures of none of them. 

Like the color and pattern in this.

And again in this one.

J. came over for a few hours. OSD tried to help him understand the gravity of his situation, (she's not coming back and you need to learn how to do these things.), offering to help sort out his bills, etc. (I'm scared) 
He'd called her 61 times in one day and didn't remember doing it. It was just the saddest thing. 
While they talked, I made an apple crisp from the apple trees in the yard. Kind of therapeutic. 

K. came over later and we had a rousing discussion of all things political. With apple crisp a la mode to soothe our souls. 

The next day, after a breakfast of  apple crisp and coffee, OSD dropped me off at the airport. 
My flight to SFO was delayed as was the flight from SFO to RDU. Second verse, same as the first...

And that, dear tiny group of readers, is what I did on my summer vacation.

Best. Time. Ever.

Thanks everyone. I love you all.

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