Friday, March 20, 2015

Still Healthy and not too Senile.......

To Our Treasured Guests,

It is an old axiom that everything is for sale if the right buyer comes along. Such has been the case with the Lodge for at least the past 15 years. There have even been some serious inquiries during that time, including one corporate group. Looming economic issues in 2008 made them reconsider.

I am in my mid-seventies now, still healthy and not too senile and there are lots of things left that Miss Patty and I would like to do, including spending time with seven grandchildren before they disappear over the horizon in search of their dreams and aspirations. And of course there’s the Show Girl…and the airplane!

Owning a top-rated lodge in Alaska, going fishing every day, and rubbing elbows with some of the greatest people on the planet is the best job in the world, and an enviable life-style. But it’s time to get serious about some of the other things in life before it is too late. 

In the past we have hesitated to openly advertise the sale of the Lodge or even list it with realtors for fear of making our loyal and cherished guests nervous. It was always our hope that a like-minded investor would come along that would ensure a seamless transition, so the Lodge could continue on just as it always has and one day several years later someone would look up and say, “What ever happened to Captain Mac and Miss Patty?” Finding that buyer is still our goal, but the passive phase, waiting for that buyer to show up, is changing.

With that in mind, we wanted you, our valued guests and “Friends of the Lodge” to be aware of an aggressive advertising campaign beginning this month by Hilco Global Real Estate. It represents a new phase in our “desire to retire.” 

And, there’s another reason for bringing you into the loop: You know who we are. You are aware of our business philosophies and how we operate. Our guests are successful people. You may know someone, or some entity that would be interested in the Lodge that would appreciate and carry on our traditions of Service and our quest for excellence. By all means, let them know what is going on, and let them know about the good people at Hilco Real Estate.

In the meantime I wouldn't get too excited about any differences in the operation in the foreseeable future. Nothing is going to affect the Lodge for 2015, and I envision a transition period of at least another year. I fully expect that all of us will be here for the 2016 season. Even after that, Miss Patty and I will not be far away. We’ll be over at our little floathouse in the back channel, keeping an eye on things and being handy for the new owners if they should need us.

So…now you know what’s going on if you see the ads. Don’t worry. We are not going anywhere anytime soon and the hope is always that we will find a buyer that appreciates the Lodge the way we all do.

See you in the summer,

Captain Mac and Miss Patty

Monday, January 26, 2015

Christmas off the Grid....

Our water comes off the hill behind us. I guess just about all of Southeast Alaska is one big “hill.” It’s pretty much vertical everywhere you go around here. For instance there are 110 steps from our floating dock at sea level to the upper generator shed on the hill behind us. When you include several ramps (without steps) it is about 100’ vertically to the top of our property before the bush takes over. Our water source is about another 50’ feet vertically up the hill through the bush and trees. It starts as a 55 gallon plastic barrel half-buried on its side in the bed of a little stream that flows for 2,500’ out of the mountainous watershed above it. There is a 12” square hole cut in the top (the side of the barrel, as it lays in the stream) with a section of mesh from an old screen door over the hole to keep out debris. A piece of 3” black plastic pipe diverts stream water to the screen and into the hole in the barrel. A 1” plastic hose runs the 400’ down the hill to the house. We have no water tank. No pump to provide water pressure. Mother nature provides an unlimited, steady stream of fresh water off the hill and gravity provides 150’ foot of head pressure at the taps in our house at the water’s edge. Free. (The water system for our house is independent from the Lodge in winter. The Lodge water system is winterized, filled with 500 gallons of RV anti-freeze at this time of year.)

The heat for our house and most cooking comes off the beach. Logs are everywhere, escapees from log booms, cut away from river banks or eroded off shorelines. It is a never-ending supply of fuel for the woodstove, which will drive you out of the house if you don’t open a door or window, even in the dead of winter. Yes, the logs have to be bucked up and split. But a Stihl chainsaw and a Honda-powered hydraulic log-splitter make quick work of a log found floating in front of the Cove, or pulled off the beach with the skiff on a big winter king-tide. Two kettles sit on top of the woodstove at all times, boiling away any stream-borne bugs like Giardia, that cause “Beaver Fever,” a close relative of Montezuma’s Revenge. A quick mug-up of hot tea or cocoa, or a hot buttered rum at the end of the day is a side benefit. Toast is done in a frying pan on the woodstove, oatmeal takes just a few minutes, and a propane gas range and barbecue takes care of anything more complicated.

Generating electricity with the large diesel generators used in the summer for the Lodge gets really expensive for just the two of us. Even our smallest Genset, at 60kW will burn 30 gallons of $5.00/gallon diesel in a day. Yes, it’s off the grid, but…! Solar panels, that charge a bank of batteries that in turn drive an inverter for AC powered small appliances works great – in the summer with our long days, but not so much in the winter. Fortunately there is one great big refrigerator just outside the door, and a propane-powered clothes dryer takes care of that otherwise big electrical load, as does a propane hot water heater. For everything else there is the little Honda suitcase generator that burns about a quart (litre) of gasoline every 6-8 hours. But we seldom run it more than a few hours a day, unless we are curled up in front of the fire in the evening, reading or watching a movie. The Honda will run all the lights, the heated tile floors in the bathroom, three boot dryers, a full-size refrigerator with freezer compartment, the sewer pump when it cycles on, and a small microwave. What else is there?

We have no TV, but we could have a dish if we wanted. We choose not to have TV, but we have Sirius XM satellite radio, excellent AT&T cell phone service (with a great data plan) and we can create our own wi-fi hotspots with an iPhone, an iPad or a Hotspot device about the size of a pocket calculator.

Food: Our dinner last night centered around liver and onions. Venison liver. No I didn’t shoot the deer and all that entails. But we sure could have. There’s no shortage of Bambis around here. But this was a gift from hunters that we hosted at the Lodge last month. And it was delicious. Smoked salmon salad went with it.
Our neighbors live a subsistence lifestyle and they are always gifting us with a venison roast, or a generous section of choice tenderloin “backstrap.” We haul all their freight and fuel on our weekly freight runs in the summertime. This is their way of saying thanks, along with keeping an eye on the place when we are gone. We don’t need to hire caretakers. They live here.
Keeping vegetables fresh is a problem, but every other day or so the taxi, (a DeHavilland Beaver on floats) comes by with things for somebody in the Cove, or to pick up or drop off a neighbor that is going to, or coming back from Town (Ketchikan). So it is a simple matter to call up Safeway and have them run an order of fresh stuff over to Pacific Airways for delivery to the door, well maybe not the door, but the floatplane dock in front of the house.
Fresh bread comes from the oven. Patty has a beer batter recipe that is to die for…but it does eat into my beer supply!
Today we went fishing, as is our custom on Christmas day when the weather permits. It was a beautiful day, flat calm and bright sun most of the day. We caught enough True Cod for five meals for the two of us.
Tomorrow we will rig the shrimp (prawn) traps and crab traps (Dungeness) and set them not too far from the Lodge. We’ve been too busy to get to them this Christmas. Tomorrow is the day.

The weather has been mild, not even freezing yet, but it is not always like this. We typically will have several hurricanes a month from December through March. Not big ones, but 60-70 knot winds are not unusual, and 30-40 knot storms with sheets of horizontal rain are the norm. We don’t get a lot of snow, but when we do, we get a lot. It is not unusual to wake up in the morning to 2-3 feet of snow. It is then that we see we are not alone. Critter tracks everywhere. Otter, mink, marten, deer of course, and the occasional wolf track up at the back of the lot.

New Year’s eve we will get together with our three neighbor couples in the Cove. We will tell stories, play penny-ante poker, drink beer and mulled wine, and graze for hours on a feast of delights from the land and sea.

It’s not for everybody, but we wouldn’t trade it for anything.

We hope your Christmas was filled with what you enjoy most, and the New Year brings all that you hoped for.

Mac and Patty
The frigid digits of the North

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

It's All In A Fisherpersons DNA

For years folks have been asking me, “Do you notice a steady decline in your fishing out of the Lodge the way it seems to be everywhere else?” And my answer is always an emphatic: “No!” Then I go into the reasons why.

Now, those of you who know me well are accustomed to the positive way I approach things, especially fishing. After all, if you are a fisherperson it’s just part of your DNA, right? I mean, what’s the point in going fishing if you take the negative view that you won’t catch anything. That’s just not who we fisherpeople are! And I know full well that some folks roll their eyes and expect ol’ Cap’n Mac to put an upbeat spin on it because he has a vested interest in people thinking that they are going to catch something. Fair enough. I get that.
Full CatchBut when a statistical report comes out that verifies my viewpoint that our Alaska fishing, especially salmon fishing, is not declining the way it is in other areas, my reaction is, “Yesss! Told ya so!”

NOAA, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, has issued such a report for 2013. It deals mostly with the commercial sector but touches on the recreational fisheries as well. It takes almost a year to put the data together, and some of it is still preliminary, especially for the recreational sector, which takes even longer to correlate. But the trend is unmistakable.
For the commercial fisheries, Alaska claimed the nation’s top three fishing ports for seafood landings last year, and wild salmon landings, of which 95% are from Alaska, topped 1 billion pounds, an all-time record and a 70 percent increase from 2012.

In our area, Southeast Alaska, commercial fishermen hauled in more salmon than any other region, larger than Prince William Sound, which has huge catches of Pinks, and larger than the fabled runs of Bristol Bay. And in the list of top 50 commercial ports in the nation, not just Alaska now, the nation, Ketchikan ranked number 10, above Sitka (#15), above Petersburg (#16), above Seward (#20), above Valdez (#24) above Kenai (#38), and above Juneau (#41). Cool.

While it is nice to have a NOAA report to back you up, I base my opinion of better fishing over the years purely on our experience. As you have probably heard me say, when we first came to Alaska 31 years ago, in our area you couldn’t buy a Lingcod, or a Yelloweye. Pinks were always plentiful but Coho were hit and miss because they spend almost the first half of their life in their natal streams and are very vulnerable to stream conditions, which can vary greatly year-to-year depending upon whether droughts (yes, we have them) or monsoons dominate the weather patterns. The recent decades of private aquaculture operations such as the huge facility at nearby Neets Bay have contributed heavily to our consistent runs of big, fat and sassy coho that start showing up in early August and continue on through late September, and even into October. These rascals put on a pound a week as they mature through the season. (Where have you heard that before…) And those big, bright, iridescent, feisty Chums that SSRAA is kicking out by the thousands – those suckers were non-existent in years past.

King Salmon are a big variable as everyone knows, and in the early years at the Lodge, there were definitely more liberal limits in force, but that didn’t necessarily translate into greater catch numbers. The NOAA report shows an increase in King catches in the last few years, and 2014 predictions were way up. At the Lodge our 2014 King catch numbers were up and so was the size, some of the biggest we have seen in fifteen years. That relates to healthy ocean conditions and good feeding grounds.
Halibut may be the one downer that I can’t say is better than the early days at the Lodge. Hugely political as many of you have heard me talk about. But in addition to the politics, scientists point to a “decadal cycle” in halibut abundance, an historical ten-year up and down trend that we hit the bottom of a year or so ago. There’s a lot going on that should help us get a larger share of the halibut pie in the future, but we are going to have to buy it – from the commercial guys. But that’s a whole ‘nother story. More about that in a future blurb.

In the meantime…enjoy the holiday seasons and the possibility of great new things for our country. Y’all take care of one another! See you next summer.

Captain Mac

Monday, January 6, 2014

North American Fisherman at Alaska's Best Lodge

 Watch the trailer here.

This is the schedule for the West Coast Showing

Monday, December 16, 2013

Sharing the spotlight!

I have decided to give some of my staff an opportunity to tell about their time at the lodge. And just because today December 16th is Denise's Birthday, we will start with her.

There is nothing more exciting than having a Fish On!  Alaska is the most awesome place to come “catchin’ fish”! My first year (2013) at Sportsman’s Cove was wonderful. I had the opportunity to watch the Dock operations from the Tower (the office really). To see the eager faces leaving the dock excited about what the day would bring out on the water, and to see the smiling faces return to the dock with their catch was amazing! And to hear the stories of magnificent whale shows, there is nothing like seeing whales in the wild coming full body out of the water, it puts you in a state of awe. An experience you will never forget!!  One of my favorite things to do was to talk with the young kids that came catchin’ with mom & dad or grama & grampa. Hearing about the fish they caught that was as big as they are, so much fun. Being at Sportsman’s Cove Lodge was like have mini family reunions all summer long, meeting new people and hugging old friends. I look forward to many seasons at the Cove!

Denise Bryant
December 2013