Whether sifting through sand, or scrambling over a rocky shore, it's about finding treasures in every day. 

Smurf Cod!

We went out for a nice day in the runabout last summer. It was one of those misty, occasional rain showers, Southeast Alaska days, and the fishing was unusually slow. Slo-ow. Which gave us time to look around at the mellow day.

We were glad to see that the eagle was on station to watch over things.

A humpback whale worked the edge of a kelp bed, but didn’t seem to put much heart into the activity.  The cormorants just hung out on a kelpy rock.

A pod of killer whales cruised over to check things out, but they kept on going. That’s a good sign that there just isn’t much going on.

They did stop out at the edge of the kelp patch and toss around some ideas about where to go next.

It was a kelpy kind of day.

Suddenly my fishing pole dipped hard and I thought that I had caught bottom (again). Then it reeled hard and I thought that I had caught kelp. It finally bounced and I had a fish on! We brought in a lingcod, which is delightful because they are yummy. I stunned it, cut it’s gills, and then started to put it onto a stringer to let it bleed out. The blue-green mouth caught my attention.

 Hmm, interesting. Pretty…but weird.

Nice teeth, huh? Very effective, too. Lingcod also have very sharp gill rakers, so mind your fingers if you pick one up by the gills.

When I cleaned the fish its cavity also had that strange color. I started thinking about, well, you know, Martians and all. Now stop laughing at me! Nobody knows for sure that Martians have to show up as little green men. After all there’s all that talk about Mars having water way back when. If I was a smart fish and my planet was drying up then I would surely put intensive effort into the space program.

Back on shore (here on Earth) that evening I set a cutting board on some rocks and filleted the lingcod. I started to actually get a little bit concerned. Blue-green flesh? Ling cod meat is usually white.

A trip to the internet eased my mind and slowed my imagination. Lingcod meat can be white, green, blue-green, and even turquoise blue! The blue ones are lovingly called Smurf cod. The reason for this remarkable color is not entirely clear, but it has to do with a bile pigment called biliverdin being responsible for turning the blood serum such a lovely color. Beyond that there appears to be a lot of speculation about diet and habitat. The good news is that Smurf cod are delicious and healthy to eat, just like the standard white-fleshed lingcod.

Another name for Smurf cod around here is 'green ling' (pronounced with a pause between the two words), which is interesting because lingcod are not actually a cod. They are in the greenling family. Greenlings, such as the kelp greenling and rock greenling, are also known to occasionally have blue-green meat. 

Ling cod is one of those fish that you can cook a hundred different ways and all of them are delicious. Here’s some more good news: the green goes away when the meat is cooked. On the plate Smurf cod is tender, bright white, and scrumptious. Maybe it is even tastier than regular lingcod - just because it is special.

Wishing you interesting colors in your day,

Alaska Beachcomber

Wishes for You!

I've been thinking about you. Even if I haven't written to you for awhile, you've been on my mind. Here's some wishes that I have for you....

I wish that you will have lots and lots of fun!

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May you enjoy grandeur in whatever form it enters your life.

I hope that you find lots of reasons to jump with joy!

May you be blessed with abundance.

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Especially when you are out fishing!

And snacks. I hope that you get lots of great snacks!

And hey, if the heads (or breadcrusts) are too crunchy then you should get to cut them off of your special snack occasionally.

May your life be full of love.

And you all deserve great friends to hang out with!

And peacefulness when you want and need it.

So that you can soar to great heights.

And while you're achieving great heights it is nice to have snacks along with, isn't it?

So bye for now,

Alaska Beachcomber

Samsonite's Trailer

Long ago in a remote logging camp in Southeast Alaska the boss decided that he needed a boat trailer for one of the boom boats. Boom boats are not very long, but they are deep and heavy. The trailer would have to be stout. It would have a long tongue so that they could back the boat deep enough into the water to float the boat off off the trailer. The boss decided that Henry was up to the job.

Samsonite the boom boat.

"Henry! Samsonite needs a boat trailer. We're going to tow it overland to the other side of the island the morning after next. And don't go robbing anything off of working equipment!!"

Henry nodded, collected up his lunch off of the spike table, went out to the equipment boneyard, and set to work. He gathered up a bunch of rebar from here and there and pulled some flat bar stock and angle out of the scrap barrel. Then he put his leathers on and went to work with his cutting torch.

Henry took a back axle off of a log truck that the greenhorn had wrecked when he hotdogged down the mountain and missed a corner. Then Henry cut the reach (tongue) off of the truck, welded that onto a pipe from an old log tower, and welded that onto the axle.

Now loggers were always losing the dang pin for the pintle ring, so Henry found a broken log chain over by the pile of shackles. He welded the chain onto the top of the pin and welded the hook onto the tongue. Let them try to lose that.

Hitch pin chain hook welded

Boom boat operators push big, heavy logs around for a living. Henry needed something hell-for-stout to stop the boat when the operator runs it up onto the trailer. He fired up the Cat 980 log loader and used the tine to dig around in a pile of metal that had been building up for a few years. There was that little platform built out of old metal shop building beams. Henry flipped it over with the 980, and then cut out a chunk of tapered i-beam. In that pile he also found some walkway grate and other treasures.

Things were coming together pretty well by midday, so Henry pulled two sandwiches out of his lunch bucket and washed them down with a thermos of coffee. Then he fired up his welder and went to it.

Now Henry figured that he could pretty well fab the trailer with chunks and scraps, but the fenders were niggling him. Plate steel was just too darn heavy and precious to use up on that. It sure would be nice if you could step up onto the boom boat from the sides, too. He tucked that thought away while he pulled the hinge pins out of the ventilation doors from an old generator shed. Those would be great bunks for the boat to sit on. There were a few leftover scraps of dock bumper to pad the bunks, so Henry quickly procured them.

As Henry walked past the cookshack with the dock bumpers casually wrapped in a blue tarp, he noticed the tank for the oil stove. It reminded him of the 500 gallon fuel tank that was left over when they changed the generator out. Perfect for fenders!

Henry cut the tank in half and cut the angles to lay the bunks on. He spent the afternoon welding and cutting and welding some more. Another day and things should be in pretty good shape.

At dinner the boss came over to Henry with a scowl. "Henry," he said, "we need that boom boat on the other side tomorrow night. They'll be pulling it out no later than ten tomorrow morning."

Henry finished his meal and went back to work. He made ladders out of scraps of bar stock and rebar. He made rails and reinforcements with angle iron and rebar. He pulled out his blacksmith hat and bent rebar to make a railing. 

It was getting somewhat late, or judging by the light to the east, a little early, when Henry realized that it would be best if there were a few safety features. He added rebar cleats to the walkway, but the walkway needed a railing, too. Henry was tired enough to be past "pretty" and "nice", so he grabbed a wicked looking piece of scrap metal and a length of conduit. He welded the scrap onto the trailer and then smashed the end of the conduit flat and bolted it to the scrap iron at the top. There just wasn't an elegant way to attach the conduit to the walkway, so he blew a hole in the conduit with a torch, welded a bolt in, and welded the bolt to the walkway.

Attachment for conduit to walkway

Henry knew that the boom boat wouldn't always come onto the trailer perfectly straight, so he added some exhaust hose as a bumper. He scrounged up some rope and attached the hose to the metal.

He contemplated his prowess with rope and decided to stick with his torch and welder. A few finishing touches and Henry was done.

The boss stopped by before breakfast. "Damn, Henry! That's a work of art! But what's with the shiny red and white stickers?"

"Safety first, Boss," Henry said.

 

*Disclaimer* I made this whole story up. Henry only exists as the men who made do with what was available during the logging camp era in Southeast Alaska. My hat is off to the person who fabbed up this boat trailer with inspiration, improvisation, and perspiration.

Take the scraps of your day and make something that works!

Alaska Beachcomber

P.S. I know that the last two posts have been whimsical. I'll get serious in the next post or so. Don't give up! I haven't lost my grip on reality entirely yet.

P.P.S. Mini glossary below.

More on boom boats...

Moving a Boom Boat

More logging stuff...

Logging Mental Health Trust Land in Southeast Alaska

Logging in Alaska: Falling a Big Spruce

Second Growth; On the Bones of the Elders

Boom boat: A small powerful boat that is used to push logs, log bundles, boom sticks, and other wood around in the water.

Boom sticks: The logs that are chained together to contain the log raft.

Spike table: A table with lunch items. The loggers pack their lunch off of the spike table in the morning.

Rebar: Steel reinforcing rod for cement work. It's like duct tape - a staple of bush camp work.

Pintle ring: What the pintle hitch attaches to.

Cat 980 log loader: Like the 988 below, only a little bit smaller. Don't be fooled by the delicate work this loader is doing. It can grab a whole load off of a truck.