Monday, May 23, 2005

Seine boat cruises

I got thinking about using an Alaska limit purse seiner as a charter boat after talking to my brother Arnold last week. My son Daniel is going to gillnet with him this summer on his smaller boat so his big boat is just sitting around. Man, do I know what to do with it to show some people a good time. There is one other seiner I know of doing this too. I ran into a retired metals company manager from Oregon who would hire a large troller in Petersburg to take him out fishing for King Salmon too. It's a way under-utilized option for the serious Alaska adventure visitor. It's not a well known fact that you can hire any boat to do anything.

All commercial vessels are loaded with safety gear for the sake of their crews, as per Coast Guard regulations. I used to take the guys at the cannery out in the speed boat in the summers as much as time allowed. I liked exploring and giving them a thrill, and they got a thrill. We hiked to lakes, shot mountain goats and ducks, caught salmon, trout, halibut and anything else we could. I helped the cannery carpenter and his wife put up a barrel of salt salmon to take home in the fall to make pickled salmon, kippered salmon, etc.

The way I see it is that a client group of up to six should have the option of cooking for themselves. Cooking is important business out on the water. Seems you're always hungry with all that good seafood for the cooking. The clients would pay all the expenses and then depending, you ask for something for your time and experience. I would like to see folks who are really researching opportunities in Alaska take such a trip. There is plenty of time while running to talk politics, industrial development, tourism, real estate and a net full of other topics.

Maybe over time I'll post some cool excursions I've taken in my own boats and on other boats, from Seattle to Bristol Bay. Most of my boatingh experience is around Southeast Alaska; commercial trolling my own boat, being a fleet manager and fish buyer, hunting, camping, and sport fishing. My father, John also, was managing the big Cold Storage plant in Pelican when I came into the world and his bookkeeper made out a Uniform Fish Ticket to my dad for "one large baby boy." I started boating when I was maybe one year old, because Arnold is two years older and he fell off the seat into water in the botton of the boat before we got started on one outing. Since then I've taken piloting from the Navy at OSU and manned the wheel of boats up to 185 feet. Although with radar, GPS, and computer chart programs, it's pretty hard to not know where you are at all times any more.

I think the client should decide where to go, how long to stay at each anchorage, whether to just stay cruising, what to fish for, and about anything else. Why not let the client feel like he is the owner of a yacht. You could also set up a time-share situation with the captain as just an extension of the boat. That would be the cheapest way to go if you wanted to come back over the years to try to see a good piece of Coastal Alaska. The coast of Alaska is a ways longer than it is around the world. About 35,000 miles compared to about 24,000 miles.

There's a lot to explore and make records of. Alaska has been explored in the accessible parts pretty well, but not nearly as well documented. For example, I found an unusual flower on a hike to a lake to go swimming one summer and found that little flower to have the sweetest, most appealing scent I had ever experienced. I know for a fact that perfumers are sending people all over the world looking for new scents. That retiring little flower might be the next big thing to hit Paris.

There aren't many marine resources left to utilize that aren't being fully utilized already. There are some though that aren't common knowledge. There are wrecks, old mines, caves, and abandoned canneries to explore. There are probably a lot of sites of antiquity left to be discovered. Someone I know well found a museum quality stone pestel hammer well back of the beach when he lifted up a stump with a crane. There are a lot of gem quality rocks around, a lot of good seasoned wood to scavange from the Tongass National Forest and other things that you could harvest without any difficulty, ie., kelp and seaweed. And with a seiner, you have a cargo hold to put it all in.

With a big work deck you can take small vehicles to lighter to shore anywhere or off-load to a dock or remote road system. My ideal for a relaxing adventure is to take rowing skiffs along on deck to use to troll for king salmon the old-fashioned way. The stealth aspect makes it a perfect platform to fish near-shore, on a shallower drag and in calm water. I don't care if there are kings out off-shore, all the combat aspects of that kind of fishing is a little self-defeating for clients looking to relax a little. (See my post on The Joys of Rowing.) Well, there are almost as many possibilities as people. A time-share boat could be used to commercial fish in the fleet too, the crew would just change all the time.

I'm talking about inside waters, as Alaskans call them. Everything but the roughest water on the "inside" can be sliced like butter with an Alaska limit seiner. They call them that because the Legislature made 58 feet at the waterline the longest a salmon purse seine vessel could be to fish in Alaska. A tuna seiner could really haul in the salmon but it wouldn't provide many jobs for Alaskan families. It's kind of a long story why there are extra limit seiners around these days. Arnold's came from Canada where the government paid fishermen to stop fishing because there were too many boats for the amount of salmon these days. Maintaining these boats is somewhat of a chore and can't be left alone.


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