Category Archives: Life in Yakutat

What it is like to live year ’round in this VERY small community.

Yakutat’s Local Election – 2017 Edition

We had our little local election for assembly and school board on Tuesday.  Preliminary results are as follows:

Yakutat Borough Assembly – 3 two-year seats…  We had four candidates:
84 regular ballots cast,  6 “question” ballots and 10 “absentee” ballots

Nick Holcomb – 65 votes
Daryl James – 64 votes
Adam Kohne – 56 votes
Carol Pate – 23 votes

Yakutat School Board – 2 three-year seats and 1 two-year term remaining on a three-year seat…  There were no candidates who applied to be on the ballot:

Write-in Rose Fraker – 22 votes
Write-in Justine Wheeler – 9 votes

We also had 7 write-in votes for Rose Fraker for the two-year term.

One School Board seat will remain vacant unless someone has a significant number of absentee write-ins,  or they appoint someone.  With all the budget woes and declining enrollment at the Yakutat School District,  it is sad that no one bothered to put their name in as a formal candidate and that we can’t fill three seats in our community.  But of course I didn’t put my name in either,  so I can’t really say too much…

The Canvass Committee will meet Thursday  October 26th,  2017 at 3pm at the City and Borough Office to open the absentee ballots and evaluate the question ballots.  16 votes can’t change the outcome of the election,  so although these results are technically unofficial,  this is official…

2017 Unoffical results October 17 in PDF

Canvass Comm Notice 10-26-2017 in PDF

 

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My Health Update

Since I’m still getting concerned calls and e-mails,  I figured I better give you an update on my little health scare…

Hearing when I came home that some folks were spreading the rumor that I had a heart attack (something that would make me lose my pilot license) and that I was going to lose the lease on the hangar (I own the hangar,  so not likely),  I should probably set the record straight.  Yes,  it was a dramatic event that could have cost me my life,  but it didn’t…  The circling vultures can go look for another carcass now.

Monday Sept 11th,  I had a blood vessel in my stomach burst.  It is officially called a Dieulafoy’s Lesion,  which just means a blood vessel near the surface in the stomach region.  I had one of these wayward vessels right where my esophagus attaches to my stomach and it decided to pop.  Just a design flaw with me and it would have popped at some point.  Better to happen while in town than at the cabin,  where I’d have to fly myself back to town under duress…

So it popped and after throwing up blood a couple times through the day,  I acted like a “guy” and laid on the couch telling Teen “it’ll clot”.  Yep.  It basically clotted once there was no more blood to bleed…  The third time I tossed my stomach contents,  my vitals started to crash and even I was convinced it was time for 911.

I’m very healthy and active with a very strong heart,  which is probably why I’m alive.  I also think it contributed to masking just how serious the situation was.  In the ambulance and in the local clinic,  as long as I was lying down,  my vitals looked pretty good and stable.  Sit up,  or try to move much and it was like I was finishing a marathon and completely out of breath with 150+ beats per minute.

I was medevacced to Juneau via Guardian Flight (I highly recommend everyone get medevac insurance even if just for your one-week trip – a medevac flight costs upwards of $70,000 and is completely covered with our annual $120/year for our family).  At Bartlett Regional Hospital,  they had to give me 7 units of blood to stabilize me.  Most people only have about 8 pints total…  I have had a couple doctor friends tell me they are surprised I was able to survive this unscathed at all…

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My sis and I…  No longer bluish-white,  but far from feeling better

 

The primary concern was over my heart…  I spent more than a day essentially without blood to pump,  so they were looking at the potential damage this would have done to my heart.  Even before they did anything to stop the bleeding,  or look for the source,  they had me getting an ultrasound and MRI of my heart.  They needed to scope my stomach,  but were afraid I may not come out of the anesthesia if there was a serious heart issue…  So we waited another full day before the first scoping.  Fully under and intubated,  they located the lesion and put an alligator clip on the bleed.  No visible ulcers and my stomach looked good in spite of my frequent use of NSAIDS…

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Alligator clip in lower right – thought about having a blog pool for when I’d pass it as a fundraiser for the museum.  Still waiting…

 

About 12 hours later,  they intubated and scoped a second time.  Bleeding had stopped,  but they cauterized around the lesion just for good measure.  By the time they brought me out of the anesthesia the second time,  they had the full 7 units in me and I was finally feeling well enough to move around.  They still wouldn’t let me eat or drink anything (including water),  just in case they needed to do another scoping.  It was 5 days before I was allowed to swallow anything but spit.

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My first “clear liquid diet”

 

 

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The halibut tacos my sister had while I was still not allowed to swallow…  Thanks sis!

 

By Friday night,  I was well enough to move out of ICU and onto the regular floor.  This also signaled their willingness to let me have some liquids.  Chicken broth never felt so good going down!  Within a few hours,  they let me have solids,  so my dam burst and it was sandwiches,  soup and milkshakes every two hours until they had enough and released me Sunday morning.

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Feeling better and getting some exercise

 

Because of the potential heart damage concern,  they wanted me to take the nuclear stress test before I went home to Yakutat.  The earliest I could be scheduled for the test was the following Thursday,  so we were in a Juneau hotel for another week.  Thursday came and the insurance still hadn’t pre-approved the test.  They wanted me to stay through Monday to try again,  but this is mid-September with 1/3rd of the fly shop’s total annual business in one month,  a mail plane every morning at 4am to load and offload,  1-2 extra cargo plane flights daily loading 5,000lbs of commercial fish,  hangar winter storage starting to come in and a new aircraft fuel facility which still doesn’t have its self-serve credit card system functioning,  so we have to meet every flight and give them “full-service”.  All handled by Teen and Tanis.  They did a great job keeping all the plates spinning.  I couldn’t sit on my butt in Juneau any longer.

So this past week,  we headed back to Juneau for the test.  Preliminary results are that I do NOT have any long-term heart damage.  My full day delay in getting medical care didn’t cost me my life,  or my pilot’s license,  or end my commercial fishing and physically demanding lifestyle.  Just a few months of easing back into doing things and rebuilding my strength and stamina.

A friend who missed fishing this year had heart surgery a little over a week before my little emergency.  I have lost a couple friends and family members this year,  making my little adventure seem not so urgent in the overall scheme of life.  I’m on the mend and will be back to being fully healthy and fit in pretty short order.  I have much to be thankful for.  Especially thankful for the outpouring of support and encouragement so many have given to me and Teen over the past month.  There were far too many cards,  e-mails and phone calls to respond to,  but you are all a wonderful blessing to us.  And tremendous appreciation to my wife and kids,  who stepped in to keep all the stuff on my plate moving forward and keeping us from going under.

My mom and sister flew up from Seattle to be with me down in Juneau and it was a tremendous relief to have them there.  I also have to share one little story…  I’m in ICU and a guy walks past the windows (there is no privacy in ICU as described by my nurse as “I see you”) holding a vase of flowers.  A moment later,  he comes into my room with a bouquet from my CONGRESSMAN!!!  He is the personal assistant for Congressman Stutes and he offered his personal car to my sister if we needed to get around while in Juneau.  Only in Alaska!  If you don’t have a congressman like this,  you need to move,  or get a new congressman!

I’m still a bit weak,  but I hope to be out fighting a couple steelhead in another two weeks.  I’ll keep you posted on whether or not I can pull that off.  In the meantime,  I am so appreciative of the literally thousands of friends that I have had the pleasure to get to know because of the fly shop and through this blog.  Thank you.

Like I said,  this was just a little “design flaw” in me and this event would have happened at some point.  Just one of those things and nothing I could really have prevented.  It all worked out OK in the end and can be a good lesson in arranging our priorities in life.  There are a lot of things that aren’t nearly as important as we think they are at the time.  Life,  health and the love of friends and family…  The rest is just noise.

Bob

Slow Around Here

What a slow day!  Not much traffic through the shop.  A relatively nice day out,  so I think most people were busy fishing instead of thinking about fishing in a fly shop.  Occasional showers,  but not so much to prevent the river from dropping.  Flow is down to 736 CFS tonight.  Getting better and better…

Without much business,  we cracked open the case of Gravenstein apples my mom sent us and I baked an apple pie.  It is late and I’m too tired to wait for it to cool.  It’ll make a great breakfast in the morning though,  while waiting for the ACE plane at 330am…

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Goodnight!

The Bears this Year

Most of you have probably already seen this,  but it is worth posting here too…  Cody,  who guides for the Yakutat Lodge was driving along the airport road and this happened…  This is right next to Situk Leasing!  Sorry for his f-bomb,  but you’ll appreciate why…  This is about 200 yards from the fly shop and it has charged several other cars,  including most recently Greg who runs the fish plant when he was driving out here to pick up our load of fish…

The comment section is pretty funny too…  The people who insist this is fake and obviously have never been to Yakutat.  One said it was animation…  Dorks!  Best comment though is the following:

Gabriel Martinez1 week ago

in my opinion, the initial charge looks like a bluff charge, the bear comes at you bouncing off with the front paws, then it stops. Then, it charges again, as you hit the gas. This demontrates that you should never run from a bear, your best chance is to stand your ground, use bear spray or fire arm, but never run from it, or it will come after you. Great video, glad you were inside a car”

One guy with a lot of common sense…  If you run away from a charge,  it’ll chase.

Out on the Akwe,  the bears have been just as bad.  No video though…  Tanis and I had a really skinny sick-looking bear come down to the edge of the water and pull on our corkline when we were in the boat about 30 feet off shore (holding to the same corkline).  This week,  he and his brother tore Tanis’ net to shreds and skinned several dozen sockeye.  They look for hens and just suck the eggs out of the belly.  A few humpies were also bitten,  but it looked more like they realized it was a mistake and spat the humpy out as fast as they could…  If you have sockeye,  why dirty your taste buds with humpy?!?!

In addition to having my Honda ATV seat eaten,  one of our fish cans we load into the plane was chewed up last weekend and leaks fish goo all over the plane floor.  Not anything life threatening though.  Just a Nuisance.  Around the cabin on the Middle Italio,  there is a big male that has chased off the sow with three cubs.  She is now over at the New Italio/Akwe confluence.  She is a good bear mommy though and is training her kids to run away as soon as they see us.

Life in Yakutat!

Another Commercial Week on the Akwe

The kids and I are back from our commercial fishing opener on the Akwe.  We are having a slightly above average run this season (after last year’s total disaster run),  but certainly nothing record breaking.  Caught our first two silvers this week,  along with several chum and 4 kings (3 jacks).  We set the gear at 6am Sunday and started our week catching about 1/4 humpies.  At that rate,  we’d expect to switch over to majority pinks next week (we only get paid 25 cents per pound for pinks,  so hard to justify fishing for them financially).  Then Monday and Tuesday the pinks dried up and we were almost exclusively sockeye.

River is low and we were having outboard challenges.  We ended up putting on a new outboard right in the middle of the high tide we were supposed to be fishing,  so missed out on a lot of fish,  but the new (refurbished 20 year old Yamaha) outboard runs so much better.  60 hours of fishing with few breaks is getting harder to do as I transition to fat old man and lose all my youthful energy.  Thankfully I have Tanis to pawn off as much work as possible.  He laughs at me because I ask to sit and rest,  but get so frustrated watching him slowly pick fish that I’m back up in about 20 seconds to get the fish out of the web.

Weather has been consistently crappy – fog,  drizzle,  etc.  Perfect fishing weather.  Not so perfect flying weather.  Was grounded a couple times I needed to haul fish to town due to the zero visibility.  Now I’m just exhausted and in need of a nap.  Thank you for your patience with Teen in the fly shop and with our Sunday/Monday closure.  The season has only one more week for us out there – possibly two.  Then we hit the August humpy lull before all heck breaks loose for silvers.

Our Subsistence Week on the Akwe

The Fish and Game biologist decided to close the Akwe River by emergency order last week.  We closed the shop and went out anyway!  Gorgeous sunny weather to start the week,  then it turned foggy and drizzly for when we needed to fly out.  So opposite of what we’d want – drizzle when fishing and sunny when flying…

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Not many fish in the confluence hole, just a few about 100 feet below.

I dropped the kids off the day before,  then Teen and I flew out late Saturday.  Tanis and Eden had much of the chores done.  Someone had borrowed our ATV sometime last fall and didn’t put it back under cover,  so a bear ate the seat ad the fuel tank was full of crud and water.  We spent most of Saturday getting the carburetor and tank cleaned out and the Honda running again,  followed by getting the boat on wheels and the outboard running again too Sunday morning.

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What is left of our Honda seat

Sunday noon,  we were ready to take the boat from the Italio to the Akwe.  Launched it,  went upstream to set a subsistence net and take a look at the river and fishing holes.  The week before,  the biologist flew the river and didn’t see any fish at all.  This time,  we saw a few from the air Friday and many more by Sunday from the boat.  We set the net in a pretty crappy spot – wide,  shallow and flat with less than 1/3rd of the channel blocked.  Went back to the cabin for lunch.  An hour later,  the kids went out to check the net and found 83 sockeye waiting.  We only wanted 30…  OOPS!

We spent the rest of the afternoon cleaning and icing the catch.  Monday,  the weather was terrible,  so had to wait till 3pm to fly back to town with the girls and gear first,  then Tanis and fish last.  Didn’t get ready to start canning till about 6pm.

Cleaning and icing the fish,  with a school of baby salmon eating their aunts’ guts…

We put up 9 1/2 cases of jarred sockeye.  We haven’t canned fish for a few years,  so this will be nice to have through the winter.  Subsistence is a vital part of rural Alaska life.  It is so expensive to ship food in by air or boat that our local seafood and moose are our primary staples.  We dropped off half the fish at Glacier Bear and had them vac-pack and freeze them.  Saved one to bake fresh fir dinner.  And found a 5 gallon bucket of frozen moose meat in the chest freezer that was intended for grinding for burger,  so we canned it in chunks.  2 1/2 cases of pints in a 5 gallon bucket of moose meat,  in case you need to know for the future…

Took two days to process all the fish,  but we’ll have protein through the dark winter months this year.  I would have rather fished through the entire weekend and sold my catch,  but they are opening us this week.  Hopefully there will still be a good run ahead,  even though the Situk seems to be slowing down a bit.

A side-by-side comparison of raw and cooked sockeye.  That brilliant colored meat is what they try to dye the farmed fish to look like (and fail).  Cooked…  not so spectacular.  But it tastes incredible and is naturally packed with all that Omega 3 fat we’re supposed to be taking in pill form…  Good to have a full pantry.

And a boring video of Tanis and I cleaning fish…  You have to cut the dorsal fin off subsistence fish,  so it can’t be sold to the fish plant.  The boat was tilted and the seat very slick.  Hard to do anything with the slimy fish in that seat…  I don’t think the videos show for those of you on e-mail subscriptions.  Sorry.

Needing an Update

Yes,  I have been a little busy…  Sorry for the lack of posts…  Especially since we are having a TREMENDOUS sockeye run right now.  Last year,  we had 73 fish total through the weir.  As of two days ago,  we have over 25,000.  And basically no one here.  Is the run really strong,  or just really early…  no way to tell till it happens.  But boy,  the run is really on fire.  The parent year reached 118,000 fish and as of this date had 16,000 fish through.  We’re blowing the lid off that year.

And if you remember,  I predicted we’d see a 10,000 steelhead count…  Um…  it seems to be leveling off at right around 6,000…  In my defense,  we had a good storm right as the bulk of the steelhead were done spawning that flooded the river and made the weir non-fish tight for 4 days.  I’m going to say 4,000 fish escaped when the counters weren’t looking just because I want to be right and I have no other basis to prop up my argument…  It sure felt like a stronger run than that!

In other news…  I have my plane back finally.  It had been sitting in Sitka for the past 10 months,  after receiving a $17,000 annual that I couldn’t pay for till recently.  But she is back and we’re ready to go spend some time at the Italio cabin.  Speaking of which…

This has been a challenging year so far and so we are making a few changes.  My health problems over the past two months have taught me I need a day off occasionally…  We opened the fly shop 10 years ago this season working long hours without many days off for 9 months straight.  This summer,  we are going to be closed Sunday and Monday.  We’ll be back to 7 days a week in mid-August when silver season starts,  but in the meantime,  I’ll closing the doors two days a week to get a break.  Granted,  that probably means I’ll be out commercial fishing the Akwe with the family,  but if it isn’t a physical break,  it is a mental break from the fly shop and things I have to do around here.

It is hard living in your place of business.  You have no escape.  The phone rings 24/7,  customers come and go at all hours of the day and night…  In the past,  we said to just pull up and honk if we were closed and we’d come running downstairs to help.  I just can’t do that anymore…  Sorry.

And maybe I’ll even get a chance to fly fish for some sockeye again!  Haven’t done that in three years,  since I first showed Chris how.