Category Archives: Alaska Warbird Museum

My non-profit museum project intended to honor those who have been willing to stand up and protect the freedoms we take for granted.

Tsiu Super DC-3 Gear-up Landing in ANC

A TransNorthern Super DC-3 lost an engine on take-off from ANC yesterday and had to make an emergency landing at Merrill Field minutes later.  Landed on one engine,  but couldn’t get the gear down.  Standard DC-3’s like mine have uncovered retractable main gear that don’t fully go into the engine nacelles.  That means,  if you have to land gear-up,  the wheels protrude below the plane enough and freely spin to prevent damage to the underside of the plane.  And you’d usually land power-on,  so you eat the tips of the props as they grind into the pavement,  preventing damage to the engines.

A Super-converted DC-3 has bigger engines and gear doors over the retracted mains.  From the photos,  it still looks like the plane wasn’t damaged badly and may really only need engine teardowns and new props.  But I don’t know…  Here is a good write-up with video of the radio transmissions and the actual landing at Merrill.  No one was hurt and the plane looks good too.  There is a reason (many actually) that DC=3’s are usually #1 on the greatest aircraft design list…

It’ll Be A Busy Winter

Winter is doing what she can to rear her ugly head in Yakutat.  We woke this morning to work the ACE plane (mail and UPS) to find a dusting of fresh snow.  The first to stick this year.  We have had a couple flurries,  but this is the first to stick.  It continued to snow off and on most of the day,  enough to have the State DOT plow the ramp.

OK,  today was back day!  Yay!  Second time to do back since we unloaded the container.  I have a LOT of equipment yet to assemble,  but we have a couple rooms all done and set up,  with just a couple pieces to complete.  The rest all will end up inside the hangar bay.  Right now,  we have no heat there,  so working out this morning was absolutely miserable below freezing!

We have another year at least of work on the new final gym space in the hangar bay.  The entire 1st floor for the new building at the back end of the bay will be the weight room,  about 40 feet by 120 feet.  In the meantime,  we are putting the equipment in the other 1st floor spaces along the southwest side of the building.  So essentially the 4 rooms on the same side as the fly shop.  It’ll be EVERYTHING other than the fly shop space…  The room pictured below is the “leg room”…


Leg Extension and Leg Curl on the far left under the windows,  unassembled 45° leg press at the far left corner,  huge double-squat rack to the right far wall with the seated calf hiding in the far right corner.  Smith Machine near right and standing calf in the middle foreground.  I also have a Sissy Squat in the hallway behind me.  And I have another Leg Press on order, along with Adductor and Abductor.

And this is the dumbbell/bench room – the largest room along this side of the building.  Dumbbells to 150lbs,  two sets of fixed barbells (one straight and one EZ-bar),  two flat,  two incline and two decline benches,  Preacher bench,  two VKR’s (one with pull-up and dip bars),  selectorized Bicep Curl,  Triceps Extension and Ab Crunch machines.  That was all I could really cram into this room and still have space to do stuff.

Finishing up the two smallest rooms along this side of the hangar…  the 10’x20′ room has two private treadmills.  Will eventually have a couple bikes as well,  but for now,  just the two treadmills.  Then the larger corner room is 20’x20′ and has one more treadmill and all the aerobic steps,  benches,  small neoprene dumbbells,  bungees,  etc.  My mirrors didn’t come with this container,  so the far wall will eventually have mirrors and the long wall on the right will have a couple big TV screens for DVD aerobic classes,  etc.

And then there is “the rest”…


Hangar Bay is a little dark (and a lot cold)…  Above is my 8-stack with two Lat-Pull-downs,  two seated rows,  two Triceps press-downs and cable cross-over.  Because of the space issue,  I’ll try to cram two selectorized pieces against the wall between the two row seats.

Then we have parts sorted and piled out in the hangar bay proper…  17 more pieces to assemble and fit into a 40’x20′ room I’m going to build around the equipment that can 1) maybe be heated and 2) secure access to the hangar bay and therefore the ramp.  Can’t allow public access until I have the area secure.


Most of the equipment has their bolts and nuts still attached.  These are just the “other” bolts,  washers and nuts…  This is going to take me all winter…


And even if the reigning Mr Olympia was to work out here,  he’d still have no chance of having the biggest guns in the gym.  Right now,  our 80 year old Normandy survivor carries that title.  Thank you Pratt & Whitney.

50 years ago… About an Hour from Now…

Hard to believe,  but 50 years ago already,  Alaska Airlines flight 66 took off from Yakutat within about 15 minutes of when I started typing this tonight.  35 minutes later,  111 souls perished when the 727 slammed into mountainous terrain while on approach to the Juneau airport.  I was only three years old,  but I can remember the mood and feelings of the adults around me at the time.  No details of course.  But even at 3,  the event affected me.  Rather than typing up some bull from my noggin,  I’ll just post some text from a book I have on the shelf…  This event had a dramatic impact on Yakutat that lingers to this day.  May they rest in peace.



Happy Independence Day!



Heading down the hall to watch The Longest Day with Tanis.  Hope everyone had happy Memorial Day weekend…

5 Weeks to Go!

February is winding down and winter is dragging on.  But the days are getting longer and we can see light at the end of Alaska’s long winter tunnel.  It is 10pm as I start typing this and Tanis woke from his couch nap with too much energy.  He is out snow blowing in the dark with our new snow blower in front of the neighbor’s hangar.  Hope Pat isn’t trying to sleep…

The past week,  we have seen some pretty cold temperatures for Yakutat.  Two weeks of nights getting to around zero,  with daytime highs scratching just under 20.  That is Fahrenheit,  for our friends over-seas…  Hard to complain too much with what is happening throughout the rest of the country right now,  except Florida…  Frightening to see what happens when Alaska weather hits Texas…  Our thoughts and prayers are with you down south.  You should burn more of your own oil for power and heat.

The past several days have been a lot warmer,  with temps getting into the low 30’s.  Had some rainish sleet on the 17th and 18th,  but back to snow now.  The ramp has a couple inches of fresh snow since the DOT plowed the pavement clear,  on top of a half inch of polished ice.  What a mess.  But no snow pile…  DOT keeps building it up,  then taking it down.  Last year,  we had so much snow that the pile knocked our internet out in early March,  not to come back again until late April.  “Fortunately” the fly shop was mandated closed,  so we didn’t have to process credit cards via the non-existent internet.  They are doing what they can to limit the impact on us this year and it is greatly appreciated.

So…  the river is frozen solid at 9 Mile,  with a thick sheet of ice as far up and downstream of the bridge as you can see from it.  We have about 2 feet of snow depth in the open,  with not much in the trees.  The road to the river is plowed and easily navigable,  so no real risk of that being an issue come April.  Or not much of a risk…  Because of the cold snap,  we have thick ice on the lakes now and getting an insulating layer of snow on top of that will keep the lakes colder even as the warmth starts to creep into the air.  Still not a lot of total snow,  but enough.

After saying it was looking like another warm winter and therefore early steelhead run,  we are now back to an on-time run with our current conditions.  March is just around the corner and we are definitely NOT at risk of the run showing up anytime soon.  We can breath a sigh of relief,  knowing whatever happens with the number of people allowed to enter Alaska from the outside,  their timing will be relatively in line with the fish coming in.  My guess is we’ll see a LOT of Alaskans coming this year after being forced to take last year off,  and out-of-state travel will be less than half of what we’d expect on a “normal” year.

Tanis has been busy with the snow blower ever since it arrived on ACE Air Cargo in January.  No snow,  but he was out practicing with it on bare pavement.  Now,  we have had some snow for a month to actually blow.  Keeping the path to the shop open by blowing all the snow into two piles in the parking lot that will undoubtedly still be there into May.  After the first real snow of the year,  he made a big pile about 40 feet long and 15 feet wide.  I already mentioned previously that some kids from town came out and helped mine dig a tunnel all the way through the middle from end to end.  Once night came,  they carved shelves into the snow and lit candles for a nice glow.

The second storm a couple days later brought a second big pile of white.  Tanis alone dig another snow cave,  but this time just made one entrance and hollowed out a big cavern in the center.  He insisted I had to spend the night out there with him,  but I politely declined,  as another storm hit that night with 60-70 knot winds blowing the entrance shut with more snow.  The sun came out the next day while he reopened the doorway and enlarged the cavern.  OK,  we put down a tarp floor and loaded it with pads and blankets.  Made a flap door with an old wool blanket and settled in for the night.  The first of the clear/cold nights dropped to 7 degrees.  Actually warm and comfortable inside!  With my old-man bladder (ya,  TMI…), I was up a couple times in the night.  The first time,  I poked my head back inside the flap and it was just as cold inside as it was out.  The second time,  I had accidentally woke Tanis,  so he lit a candle for me to see my way back in.  Opened the flap and my face was hit by an amazing warmth.  From ONE little candle!  What a difference!  It stayed lit for a while!

Now the rain this week has made the fort a couple feet shorter,  but the tunnels haven’t collapsed.  Can’t say I’m eager to spend the night out there again,  but it was a blast to camp in the yard with my little boy again,  even if he is 21 now.  Haven’t truly winter-camped with him since he was about 7.

We also had a great visitor – the Ozark Air DC-3.  They were bring the plane back up from Montana where it spent the past couple years after their last visit.  She was supposed to do some tourist flights down in the real world,  but then the world ended and she just sat.  On her way home to ANC,  she had some mechanical issues in Sitka,  so spent a couple months there getting fixed up and back in the air.  On their way over Yakutat,  the weather was going down in Anchorage and getting dark,  so they turned around and overnighted with us.


This is a beautiful plane with passenger config,  galley and lav.  They are planning to do flightseeing tours around the Anchorage area as Golden Era Aviation,  in period uniforms once they get the FAA stuff all set.  Their website isn’t ready yet,  but I’ll let you know when it is…  These photos I stole from their preliminary site…


OK,  Tanis just came back inside…  About 6-8 inches of new snow since 6pm when DOT left for the day.  Tomorrow is going to be a mess outside.  Glad to be working INSIDE tomorrow,  mudding and taping the holes in the downstairs bathroom ceilings.  Had to cut out access holes when I needed to replumb the water system with PEX several years ago.  Yes,  PEX can burst when it freezes,  contrary to what they say…  Getting a little more done on the hangar…  Trying to do SOMETHING every day,  no matter how piddly.  You eat an elephant one bite at a time and this hangar is like eating an entire herd.  Several herds…

Vacation 2020 – Part 4 – Bora Bora

8 months have passed since I last posted about our big Tahiti trip.  Wow!  One year ago tonight (at least when I started typing this,  but the kids wanted to go to the fireworks and then watch a movie,  so…),  Teen and I boarded Alaska Airlines flight 66 and 30 hours later,  we were standing in line at the Papeete Inter-Continental hotel.  I had to go back and reread the earlier posts to figure out what the heck I was saying,  so if you want a refresher too…

Post #1: How About Something Nice to Read About… (trip prep and planning)

Post #2: Vacation 2020 – Part 2 (Yakutat to Papeete)

Post #3: Vacation 2020 – Part 3 (Windstar Cruise from Papeete to Moorea,  Raiatea and Tahaa)

And now for part 4 – Bora Bora!


Photo swiped from the web…

First off,  Bora Bora is more than the stereotypical tropical destination…  It is the perfect one.  Every fantasy ideal of paradise is just a rip-off of the real thing (including the tropical paradise in The Incredibles).  On almost every top 10 list of best islands,  best destinations,  best whatever…  Bora Bora is usually #1.  No other place on earth can genuinely compare.  Sound overblown and exaggerated?  Nope.


Another photo swiped from the web…  One of several outer atoll resorts 

The perfect volcanic peak completely surrounded by a ring of motus (islands).  Incredible white,  or pink sandy beaches.  Spectacular resorts with their famous over-water bungalows.  Aquatic wildlife so plentiful and diverse that you can’t fully appreciate unless you have been there.  Probably more than once.  Visiting Bora Bora is like being in a perfect virtual reality.  It is almost like no way it could be real.  How’s that for an endorsement?


The trip from Tahaa to Bora Bora was another short one. They depart the first atoll each night around 6pm and are anchored before midnight usually.

Most famous for it’s overwater bungalows,  we spent most of our time on a cruise ship.  Not the best way to experience Bora Bora,  but as a small 148 pax sail boat/diesel hybrid,  it wasn’t a bad way either.  Throughout the trip,  we didn’t take very many shore excursions.  Between the fly shop,  fueling airplanes and ground-handling the mail plane every morning (except Sunday) – PLUS hangar construction – I don’t get ANY days off.  Even if I’m no longer also squeezing in commercial fishing and guiding…  An occasional nap is a cherished holiday.  This first vacation in nearly two decades was all about relaxing,  not running around doing a bunch of activities.  That said,  we missed out on a LOT of incredible things to do,  especially here.  No,  I did NOT go fishing!


Paradise! The atoll is a nearly perfect complete protective circle. Other than a few shallow spillways, the only navigable entrance is on the west side with 7 remaining WWII cannons overlooking it. Our military blew the entrance deeper 80ish years ago, but any “damage” to the coral, or aquatic life definitely recovered. The air base (3-letter identifier airport code “BOB”) is at the very north tip of the atoll. Most of the resorts are also spread out along the outer atoll, with only a couple smaller ones on the main island.  You can easily see the bungalows along the upper right side of the atoll.

The one thing I really wanted to do though was take their WWII tour.  I’d almost call that a “work day”,  since I give a dozen WWII tours myself each week through the summer,  but those tend to be more a labor of love than actual work…  The cruise scheduled two full days in Bora Bora and we didn’t have anything planned for day-1.  Slept in late,  over-ate again for breakfast and over-ate again again for lunch.  In the afternoon,  we took the shuttle to shore and wandered around the town of Vaitape for a couple hours in the very hot sun,  then went back to the ship to relax.

Pretty clear that these big international hotel chain resorts don’t have a lot of financial impact on the local economy,  or lifestyle.  Yes,  they employ locals and locals do conduct most of the shore excursions,  but the communities around the main island live VERY modestly.  One of our shipmates remarked that he was shocked by the poverty.  Yes,  they are poor – especially by our standards – but I also saw contentment…  They don’t have much,  but they also don’t need much!  They aren’t chasing after the “American dream” which seems to be 4 new cars in the driveway and a big plasma screen in every bathroom.  A lot of the houses looked like depression-era Hooverville tin shacks,  but they looked like they cared for what they had and everyone was busy mowing grass,  or hacking back the ever encroaching jungle.  Leave your yard unattended here for a little while and it quickly becomes an impenetrable salmon-berry thicket.  We got nothin’ on them in the tropics!  On our drive around the island,  it must have been the annual yard debris pick-up day.  EVERYONE was out working on cleaning their yards and piling the debris neatly on the roadside.

Maybe my perspective is skewed a bit having grown up in a one-room shack on the beach during my formative years…  Family of five,  no plumbing,  an outhouse out back,  drinking water from the river (Giardia and all),  no electricity,  or phone,  washing laundry in the river…  Eating a LOT of fish because we couldn’t afford many groceries in town.  Then choosing to raise my kids in the same environment…

Here is a video of a guy going to a villager’s “house”.  If they wanted to live more affluently,  they can…  They could get a job for one of the resorts and have more money,  but they are living a lifestyle they choose on their own terms.  He owns the land he lives on and has few bills.  They catch fish and eat their own fruit.  Bread,  milk and a few other grocery items are subsidized by the French government.  Everything else I saw in the stores pretty much matched Yakutat prices.  I dare you to find happier kids in an American city no matter how much crap their parents just bought them for Christmas…

On our second day in Bora Bora,  we ate breakfast,  then headed to the boat to go ashore.  The guys at Bora Bora Tupuna Safari met us and loaded everyone into the back of three 4-wheel drive pick-ups.  Safety rules don’t seem to apply,  so you find yourself on a bench seat along the side of the bed with no cushion,  or seat belt.  It felt like growing up in the 70’s..Canvas canopy over the top,  open sides and back.  Hold on tight to the frame,  or you’ll be pitched out and limping back to the boat alone.

Operation Bobcat was intended to be a new coastal artillery and air base in England.  They loaded up the ships and headed…  south.  The brass decided at the last minute they wanted that base in the South Pacific,  so to Bora Bora it headed.  The location was so picturesque,  it would have made an incredible 50’s romantic musical…

The  US Army’s 13th Coast Artillery Regiment was sent to man the eight 7″ guns on Bora Bora.  Seven of those guns remain.  They are actually pre-WWI guns,  built in 1911 according to our guide.  They are Mark 2 7″/45 caliber guns.  The Mark 2 was delivered to the Army as a non-self-propelled/towed-by-a-tractor field artillery piece,  although none were shipped to France.  They were also installed on the battleships of the day as the largest “rapid-fire” gun because they were the heaviest shell one man could handle alone.

There are 12 remaining survivors of the Mark 2 in the world.  Seven of which are in Bora Bora.  No one knows what happened to the eight gun…  Two of them originally came off the USS Louisiana and one came from the USS New Hampshire.  We drove up the mountainside on a wild ride,  holding on for dear life,  to see two of the guns.

There were also some remaining bunkers and sheds that hadn’t completely disappeared into the jungle.  The guns looked like you’d need a little WD-40 only to get them working again,  unlike our rusted blobs of former 5″ guns on Cannon Beach.

Back in the early 1940’s,  the view from these gun emplacements was mighty useful for keeping an eye out for the approaching Japanese fleet (which never appeared in these waters).  Today,  it is a breathtaking sight to behold,  looking down on the indescribable deep-blue water,  pure white sand,  vivid green jungle and light blue reef.  On the way back down the mountain,  we stopped at a couple different vantage points to see different sides of the atoll.

One last stop on the hillside drive was at a small plantation owned by the family of our guide.  They had fresh fruit and coconut for us to eat,  hand-painted and dyed wraps for chicks to wear and some more incredible history.  The site has some sort of old Polynesian religious ruin which undoubtedly hosted human cannibalistic rituals.  Our host shared a fascinating history of the early missionaries that came through Polynesia and attempted to convert the cannibals to Christ.  Talk about a tough job!  Many became buffet-fodder.

On the way back to the dock,  they drove us on a complete circle of the island.  Holy cow!  The drivers there are nuts!  Lots of mopeds and small motorcycles weaving between cars on the narrow 2-lane road built by the US Army Corps of Engineers.  We were supposed to stop at the famous “Bloody Mary’s” restaurant and bar,  but it was closed for the Christmas holiday that lasts through most of January.  In fact,  most of the smaller local businesses were closed,  so hardly anywhere to buy souvenirs off-resort.

Briefly back on the ship,  before we loaded onto catamarans for the trip to Motu Tapu (which means Sacred Island) for a big buffet dinner and jiggling naked dancers show.  Beautiful little motu featuring palm trees with all their coconuts removed so you won’t get bonked,  meticulously raked white sand (so you won’t break your leg stepping into a coconut crab hole and lots of tables set up in the middle.  We enjoyed the dinner (again,  probably a little too much except no ice cream),  but skipped the show.  Living in a native village,  I’ve kind of had my fill of the dance shows,  plus our local St Elias Dancers are probably more realistic than what they do down in Polynesia.  Everyone else enjoyed it though.  Instead,  we had the beach completely to ourselves for the sunset and then watching the aquarium show off the dock.  The pictures of the fish didn’t turn out well enough to post because of the bright red light illuminating them,  but we had fun feeding them the bread from the buffet tables nearby.  And eating more and more myself…

On our way back to the ship,  they had it all lighted up.


I was told repeatedly that the two best excursions of the entire trip were 1) to the pearl farm – the farm and shop was boring,  but it had the best snorkeling anywhere…  #2 was the ’round the island snorkeling trip.  They took a boat all the way around,  stopping at a few locations to swim with the sharks and sting rays.  Apparently all the rays get their stingers clipped off as babies,  so they won’t hurt the tourists by accident…

It was a long day and getting to sleep was nice.  That night,  we departed Bora Bora and headed for our last atoll,  Huahine.  Huahine is cool.  It is two large islands within their atoll ring with a bridge connecting them.  This is where Tahitians go when they want to get away from all the tourists.  But…  Teen and I didn’t leave the ship.  Spent the day relaxing.  And eating.  On a small ship like the Windstar,  staying behind is really nice when most of the other passengers go ashore.  Almost like you have your own private mega-yacht.  This was our first experience with Polynesian rain.  Bone dry for our entire trip up until now.  In Huahine,  we were hit by a few showers,  which helped to cool things down a bit,  until the sun came back out and then the humidity shot up to about 478%.


The Huahine-Tahiti trip was the longest,  but we were still back into port long before breakfast was served.  Most of the passengers had packages that included a day room at the Papeete Inter-Continental,  so many  from the ship spent their day hanging around the hotel before their flight in the evening.  We hung out with our favorite excursion buddies while they waited for their bus to the airport.  We all took a taxi to the Carrefore store south of the hotel.  I loitered for as long as they would let me in the ice cream section just savoring the freezers.  Had to open every door to see which ice cream I wasn’t buying just to cool off.

Great store with just about anything you could need.  Your French Polynesian version of Walmart.  They had an “american” section with giant vats of mayonnaise,  cheese-puff balls,  Coffee-Mate,  Frosted Flakes and peanut butter.  Either they don’t eat this stuff in paradise,  or they don’t think much of the American diet…

Great lunch at the hotel restaurant by the way…  First meal we had to pay extra for all week.  My double-bacon cheese burger with cheddar AND brie was delicious!  So was my half of Teen’s sirloin sandwich.


Just wasting time now,  waiting for our flight to Rangiroa the next day.  Like I said several posts before,  the Papeete Inter-Continental was built a long time ago before there was a whole lot of high-end tourism.  The majority of the rooms are in these big,  old multi-story buildings,  with just a dozen or so over-water bungalows.  They have tennis courts and multiple bars and restaurants and would be a great place to spend a week,  if not for the fact that Tahiti is surrounded by actual paradise on all the other atolls.

I’d compare Tahiti to wanting to see Alaska,  so you spend a week in Anchorage…  We’ll be seeing it in our next installment…

What it Took to Get Here – Part 4

OK,  Happy New Year!  We have already survived 4 big storms this year,  but now we get to remember back to the first ones in the hangar…  For starters,  it was a heavy snow year that made it very difficult to get in and out of our new public entrance.

It wasn’t the snow that was the problem.  It was the warming spell that followed…

The hangar apparently had some leaks!  First,  the snow pushed up against the side of the building blocked any drainage of the rain and melt,  flowing in through the doorway.  We have had to keep a drain trail shoveled all winter ever since.  Then…  we had all sorts of leaking problems from the 3rd floor roof drainage system.  Water poured down through the second floor and then completely soaked all out drying trim wood.  We had to cart all of it back out into the hangar bay,  so we could soak up and dry the room out.  Ceiling sheetrock damaged all over the place.  What a great start to the new year.

Then  everything froze solid and we had some beautiful sunny days,  but bitterly cold.  The roof drains are all plugged with ice.  We sheeted the 3rd floor with plastic and stuffed it down the wall hoping any leaks would drain off and down the outside wall.

Problem kind-of solved,  time to start tiling the floor.  We are down to 3 months and one week before our grand-opening date of April 1st…

Oh wait!  Did I forget to mention there is no water at the airport and it is in single digits?  I made sure we had a couple fish totes filled with water ahead of time for the water supply to mix the mastic and grout.  Ya…  about that…  By this time,  they were completely solid ice.  We had to fill buckets with snow each day and have the jet-heater blast them all night so we could have a little water to work with the next day.

The grouting went well.  Now had to spend several days buffing the surface after it dried for three days.

Then the real fun happened…  Prior to Cascade Air taking over the lease on the hangar,  the city leased it.  The city owned the power plant,  so didn’t care how much power the hangar consumed.  There were electric pipe heaters throughout the roof drains.  Apparently Cascade was a bit shocked to see a $5,000 power bill in the winter,  so they disconnected all the pipe heaters.  And left for the season…

More damaged sheetrock,  more flooding,  more plastic sheeting and cutting out a quarter of the drain pipe to redirect it out a window after the PVC pipes burst.

More and more buffing,  polishing with wax,  then bringing the trim wood back inside to dry again.  T minus 5 weeks and counting…

Creating trim from raw green wood…  I bought a little DeWalt planer that was OK for planing 1″x4″ trim.  Not so great for planing 20 foot long 2″x12″s.

Now what to do for a sales counter?  We have this platform along the back wall,  what to do with it?  This is March 15th.  Two weeks to go…

Counter still needs to be clear coated and needs glass,  but pretty happy with how it turned out,  without a plan…  Now we need more displays.  Carried the rest of the wood back into the hangar – again – cleaned up all the dust and started to think about what else to build…

I think things are coming together OK,  winging it as I go along.  Teen is absolutely freaking out!  This is what the shop looks like on March 28th,  four days before we open:


T minus 4 days and counting… fast!

Who’s ready for a humiliating opening day?  “Grand”?

My good friend and silent business partner Mark arrives today to help get the rest of the stuff built and ready,  along with the big shipment of glass for the counter,  computer equipment and all the IKEA stuff to help get us by.

Peeling tree trunks and putting the tables together green…  Would have been nice to have the branches dry a little slower,  but they were cut same day,  peeled of bark,  cut to length and assembled all at once,  so the big cracks remain.  Not perfect,  but close enough with three days left.

OK,  last full day before we open.  Actually most of the fear is gone.  Just need to finish up a few things,  clean up and pull out the inventory.  Little things like doors…

Alaska Air called and said our glass was ready to be picked up.  The igloo was out on the ramp waiting for us to come and get it.  The crate the glass was shipped in collapsed inside the igloo.  We open tomorrow.  If the glass is broken,  we have no sales counter.

Nothing was broken!!!  Thank you God!  Meanwhile,  as Mark and I finished up the building and creating,  Teen had help from Hae Sook,  a local friend who was kind enough to come out and help wash windows.

We are out of time at this point,  but we’re still building displays.  I had ordered a rod display rack from Sage,  but it never came.  Still hasn’t…  So better build something.  Display for the rod cases,  but my brand new 1/2″ DeWalt drill broke!  That was really the last thing to go wrong.  One final clean and out comes the little bit of merchandise we had.

It is now 4am April 1st.  Time to go home and hope for a little sleep before being back at the hangar in 4 hours…

Day one,  we had about two dozen locals come out for a visit.  We sold a hat…  The next day,  we had about a half dozen locals and sold a hat and a shirt.  Then…  it was a LONG two weeks before we saw another customer.  What the %$#@ did I get ourselves into?!?!

A couple weeks later,  the floodgates opened.  Our meager supply of merchandise was gone before the end of the month.  It would take more than a month for our emergency orders to arrive,  long after the steelhead season was over.  By May,  “potential” customers came in and expressed that we had a nice shop,  or WOULD HAVE if we had some merchandise to sell…

And the rest is history.  Sort of.  It was an incredible ride and I’m trying to hold myself together right now after going back through these memories.  You guys made this shop what it is and I thank you for your support,  your friendship and for the knowledge you shared with a moron who thought he could start a fly shop in a tiny village having never stepped foot in a fly shop before.  You all made this possible.  Thank you.

I don’t want all this work and everything we all built to go away.  I would love to see someone carry this on into the future,  but if that doesn’t happen,  maybe someday we can start again and bring this back again.  Maybe a little hope for the future.  We’re not going anywhere.  In the meantime,  we’ll sell down the remaining stock this coming year and then…  maybe…  you may even see me on the river again once in a while.  Stranger things have happened.

What it Took to Get Here – Part 3

OK,  I figured this would be just a single post,  but here we are…

Starting to come together,  inside and out!

Back to the river for my guide season…  Trying to juggle two existing businesses while starting a third…

Yes,  Teen’s last season helping in the kitchen and on rare occasion guiding with me.  Fun times.  Back in town in October,  we concreted in the new fence posts,  then had some time to kill while it set for a week.

Needed a few days to let the concrete set,  so…  Took the kids to Cannon Beach and started the arduous process of winter hangar storage.

Had large electrical vaults in the shop floor that had to be filled,  so after getting the hall and offices electrical done,  we insulated and sheetrocked those.  Then filled the vaults and holes with sand and concrete.

Now to move the fence…  This was a VERY LONG day!  Had to have the airport secure before we could leave for the day.

The fence is now gone!  Hall and office mudded,  taped and painted.

We planned to use locally milled Sitka Spruce for all the trim in the shop,  so time to bring all of that inside to dry.  The floor was in really bad shape in this room.  The worst floor in the entire building!  Fortunately we planned for big 16″ tile that could span a lot of the “imperfections”…


Making progress… Can almost see some light at the end of the tunnel…

Getting closer!  And almost Christmas!  In December,  we planned to have a two-day open-house to show the community what we had been up to and what we planned for the future.  Still had a LOT of clean-up before it would be presentable though.  We had our initial order of shirts and hats,  a handful of supplies we acquired from a fly shop that went under in Utah and two sheet cakes.

OK,  a few people came out to see what we were up to,  but not many.  We had a lot of cake to eat by ourselves and a lot of Pinochle to play with my mom and Teen’s mom and dad with us.  A thousand aces,  800 kings,  a double run,  a run with aces round and my mom’s double pinochle…  We played a LOT of cards.


As 2007 came to a close,  we were riding high.  Excited about the future and ready for anything that could come.  What could possibly go wrong?  The new year didn’t start the way we expected.  It was a train wreck that will be in part 4…

What it Took to Get Here – Part 2

OK,  where were we…  Back from our shopping trip…


Quick! Look! They’re getting along!!!

We’re back.  Adding the vapor barrier to the walls and building he box around the asbestos pipe across the ceiling…  Box it in and it is protected from damage.  If you ever wondered why the dumb soffit runs full-length across the ceiling of the fly shop,  now you know.


Taking a break from math class


Every day is recess for Eden…

We took a time-out to build birdhouses with the kids…

I have no idea why I started mudding the walls before I sheetrocked the ceiling,  but whatever…  Starting to look pretty good though!

Time to open up the ramp wall from the outside…  Took down three full-sized sheets of siding and three 1/2 sheets along the bottom of the entry door.  We put the 1/2 sheets back up below the new windows on the ramp though.  You have no idea what a 10′ x 3′ sheet of 1/2″ corrugated concrete/asbestos siding weighs!  I didn’t truly understand till we started removing it from the 2nd floor…

And then the shipping container arrived!  Yay!

The rest of the windows,  ceiling sheetrock,  electrical conduit,  more insulation and another load of junk from my mom’s garage from when we moved back to Yakutat…

…and working lights!!!  Followed by insulation and sheetrock.


Doesn’t this look inviting? Complete with chain-link fence to keep everyone out! I love how bad the second floor looks.


Look how clean the hangar bay is!!! Nice work Cascade Air! This is their other DC-3, which was sold to Desert Air in Anchorage and is still flying up there.

OK,  I admit it!  I cheated.  While I was out commercial fishing on the Akwe,  I hired some guys from the fish plant to come out and finish the mudding and paint the primer.  I had to redo about a third of it though.

Ahh…  Life on the river before being tied down in the fly shop…  These were wonderful days that I definitely miss.  Our last summer together out there.  From here on,  one of us had to be in town,  so if I was out fishing,  Teen was in the shop.  During the guide season,  I was out fishing,  Teen was in the shop.  We’d close the first week of October to have a little family time on the river in the initial years.


N272R looks beautiful in the empty – clean hangar. I need to get her that clean again!

OK,  August break between the commercial fishing season and the fall guide season at Italio River Adventures…  Time to split this into part 3…