It has been a slow start again to the season. 2013 the fish came early and in abundance and the last two seasons we’ve geared up early, just in case… all for naught. It’s nice for us in the office. We get a slower start and more time to acclimate and get things ready. The forecast this year is gigantic; 50 million fish. The forecast last year was only 28 million and we got 40 million. It has felt downright lazy-dazy these first two weeks and with that forecast, it makes me nervous. I think we are going to get absolutely slammed with salmon in a few weeks. Slow start means we will have the energy for it, I guess. I hope…
I’ve been here two weeks and there was a good solid week of parties, reunions and shenanigans at the beginning but most of the friends left to go fishing a few days ago and I’ve been sleeping 9 or 10 hours a night. After a first week of rain and cold the sun came out last weekend with a vengeance. 90 degrees yesterday. Wut? This is Alaska! The place where Pacific Northwesterners and Scandinavians come to hide from the summer. There’s a reason there are so many redhead fishermen in Alaska in June and July… bring back sweatshirt weather, please.
Here are some photos. I’m not feeling very poetic tonight.
It’s mid-afternoon Mug-Up* on the 6th day of my tenth salmon season in Bristol Bay, Alaska. This morning we had partial blue skies and the cold sunny light of early June, but now the grey shrouded sky blends into the floodtide waters of the Naknek River and rain streams down the windows of the office. The weather here changes with an abruptness that mirrors the spirit of the place and the work we are here to do. There is no softness in Bristol Bay. It is all knife edge beauty and stark truth.
It is Sunday, early in the season before the fish have come, and this is my favorite time. The phones are quiet and we are all at our desks engrossed in the work of preparing for the season. The gloom outside and the rain on the windows creates a bubble of companionable busyness. Today is the first day that I feel *here* again. My whole self, present and engaged with this place, this work, not still half on the Outside. This is what I come here for. A total narrowing of focus. A concentration and surrender impossible in the land of TV, advertisements, cell phone apps, text messages, billboards and freeways. I am so grateful for my strange life in this place.
It has already been an interesting few days on a personal level. Lots of dearly loved people here whom I rarely see outside of Bristol Bay. There is an intimacy rooted in daily contact and the intensity of work that is different from relationships forged elsewhere. There is history going back years, and the attendant complications of history. The first few days were a little difficult to negotiate. In the middle of it, I found a note jotted on the back of a piece of scrap paper in my desk, written at some point last season. “Riding the swells and eddies of emotion. It’s ok to do that here. Bristol Bay can take it.”
She always does.
*”The term “Mug Up” was used in coastal communities by the mid-1800s to describe any snack or coffee break throughout the day or evening. “Mug ups” were an important part of life for fishermen. They would gather and have a hearty meal and warm up whenever they could take a break. Today, this nautical expression still describes a gathering of people for a drink and meal” Thanks, Urban Dictionary!
The folks from Tiny Nest stopped by the build site in April, before we’d even put up sheathing or moved out from the carport, and did a little tour. It was fun, and they posted the video this week. I look like a goober, but it’s pretty cool to see. The house has come so far even from April! And I’ve changed or learned so much. Cool. Thanks, Jake and Kiva!
Weeks 11 and 12 were a blur of building, sweating, crying, packing, driving, trying to sleep and failing, visiting Portland, having food poisoning or maybe stomach flu, cutting myself with sheets of metal, racing against the oncoming rainclouds to get the roof finished, and generally losing my mind. I’m writing this now from the relative peace of my desk in Naknek, Alaska where I’m working 12 hours a day and just being able to sit and concentrate on one task is so relaxing, I might as well be reclining on a beach somewhere with a margarita.
But really, I’m wearing rubber boots and a heavy sweatshirt and it’s been raining for 4 days. Oh well. I don’t do beaches and margaritas very well anyway.
The actual process of getting the roof finished is blurry to me now as some time has passed but I’ll try to dredge it up from the depths of my nightmares where those memories have gone to rest.
First came the skylight. I caulked the edge where it meets the roof and put on flash tape before we’d screwed it down into the roof. Just an oversight. But because it wasn’t screwed down tightly, there was a gap between the frame and the roof… maybe 1/4 inch. I filled it in with silicone caulking, really confused as to why there would be such a big gap. Well, derf. Now I know. Hopefully the caulking didn’t screw up the seal between the frame and the roof too much. When it came time to tighten down the super long, 1/8” screws, Uncle Jack and I found that the pre-drilled holes were at a slight angle and they came out just to the outside of the roof joists. We ended up going to Lowe’s to get a really long 1/8” drill bit and widening the holes just enough so we could get the screws to bite into the wood. The flashing kit was due to go on next, but the bottom layer of flashing goes on TOP of the roof panels, so I switched to getting the metal roof installed.
I spent a few hours agonizing over the installation pamphlet. I had ordered eave trim for the long ends of the trailer, gable trim for the short ends, 24” panels and the ridge cap. There were a number of optional items, such as sidelap tap (a double sided skinny piece of tape that is used between the edge of the gable trim and the roof panels, it keeps water from being blown or wicking under the gap and can also be used to seal the seam between roof panels), stitch screws (I thought these were special screws used to affix two pieces of metal just to each other, but when I ordered some I was given the same screws I already had) and metal adhesive (again, to cut down on water or air seeping in under the edges of overlapping pieces). I also tested out the fit of the panels on one end of the roof and found that they weren’t long enough to bend the tops up to create a water barrier and an air gap, so I called Chinook Lumber and ordered foam strips to place between the ridge cap and the panels to block out moisture, as well as sidelap tape and stitch screws.
I put the eave trim on first, by myself; the 26 gauge metal is pretty light and it was easy to do. The regular drill with a magnetic nut driver worked just fine.
Originally I was going to start from the front end of the trailer, pretty much so I could get the skylight done first for my own satisfaction. But as I was considering sidelap tap and metal adhesive, I realized if I overlapped the panels from the back of the trailer forward, the seams would be on the protected side , away from the wind when the house is traveling. Mom helped and we started putting up panels. It took us awhile to get the first one square. I measured an inch from the bottom edge and snapped a chalkline, and we maneuvered bit by bit on each side until the overhang was even across the bottom. I figured that would make it square, and we had just a slight amount of wiggling to do as we made our way up the house and overlapped each panel so I guess I was right. Once we got going it took about 20 minutes. So satisfying to see half the house done!
The next day Uncle Jack and I got most of the other side of the house done, and after he left I got to work cutting the panels out to fit around the skylight. All I had were tin snips. The afternoon ended with a lot of blood and tears and yelling, and I headed to Portland for the week.
When I got back, I had 4 days to finish the skylight and the roof. It all took longer than I thought it would, but I got the skylight panels cut out and all the flashing put on and the skylight looks great. Hanna, a friend from Bristol Bay that isn’t returning this year (BOO) came over to say goodbye and help out. I didn’t have much for her to do that morning, so she took advantage of the sunshine.
Aunt Mary, Uncle Jack, cousin Maddie and her boyfriend Matt came over Sunday night and we got the gable ends trimmed and attached and then I climbed out through the skylight and scooted backwards along the ridgeline attaching the foam strips (we used the leftover sidelap tap to secure them down).
Then I sat on top of the pieces of ridge cap and made my way slowly down the house, screwing down the ridgecap at every panel rib and adding extra screws on all the panels and through the ribs since I couldn’t reach the top with the ladder. The ridgecap is a very sharply pointed piece of metal. I was straddling it. It was more painful than I could have imagined and I couldn’t walk well for days after and still have bruises.