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Bodega Bay Beat - December 2016

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Bodega Bay Beat - December 2016

by Joan Poulos

Months like this has been are hard to accurately record. Will the crab season open or not? Will the crabs be their usual delicate flavor? As we go to press the full season is open only south of Point Reyes. Sport’s season has been open up here, but the take has been small. The fishermen are very frustrated and disappointed, but still hopeful. They have been meeting over and over, hoping there is some bright light at the end of the tunnel. Since the Fisherman’s Chapel meets in the Grange Hall, the same place the fishermen have been meeting (at least once did meetings overlap). We could hear their angst, and many a parishioner added a silent prayer for the fishermen to the normal Prayers of the People.

My month has been spent largely in Alaska – in Haines. Like Bodega Bay it is a fishing village; like Bodega Bay the fishermen have a constant struggle to make ends meet, although their crab season has been much more rewarding. They also have a pad of a bigger salmon season, but it is still a regular struggle to get the boats repaired; nets tended and bills paid from the last season. They have more and bigger crabs, but also rougher weather and sometimes crushing cold. Also, it gets dark at 4:30. Since I had a 4-hour ferry ride from Haines to Juneau sitting next to a commercial fisherman, I have some insight into his life and witnessed the same dedication our fishermen show. It may be tough; but it’s a life spent doing what you love best.

One thing there is a huge supply of this year: bald eagles. There is basically only one road in Haines (the Haines highway) but we went up to see the bald eagles. I couldn’t count high enough to be accurate, but several hundred birds flocked up to the river and busily grabbed the migrating salmon. It is always amazing to me how such big, smart birds, could be satisfied with such messy nests. They are mostly made up of twigs and small branches, but apparently they are satisfied, since they return to the same area each year. I have never seen anything like it. The only problem the eagles have is that bears love the salmon, too; and sometimes a conflict of territory develops. The good news for eagles: They have excellent eyesight and can always lift off, if the bears get too close.

We complain about our roads in Sonoma County. Haines Borough (their county) solved that; they don’t have roads. There are streets in the towns; and Haines Highway, but NO road connects Juneau and Haines. To go from one to the other, like I did, requires either a 4-hour ferry ride, or a 30 minute airplane ride in a very small plane (which is much more subject to the vagaries of weather than the ferry – which dutifully plows thru even in bad weather – the mail has to be delivered).

Since I was in Haines for the election (I voted absentee), and my daughter works in the borough in elections, I got a different view of the debacle. South east Alaska voted heavily in favor of Hillary, but like many other areas, lost out to the electoral vote of Alaska being counted for Trump. Alaskans have a bit of a conflict in that they believe (hope) the pipelines will at least go back into action, oil prices increase, and they may once again get their yearly payment from the oil revenues. The ones I talked to, though, thought electing Trump was too high a price to pay. (One young man who was helping me in the airport put it into context. I asked him for his reaction to the election. ”I am Mexican. What do you THINK my reaction could be? Trump pretty much dumped on all Mexicans, even though we have lived here for fifty years.”)

An equally interesting reaction came from the passenger in the airport, where we were waiting for the plane. He kept getting up to check and I noticed many boxes of materials being forklifted into the hold. I asked him what he was building. He looked at me and shook his head. With a straight face he answered,  “I am Canadian. I am building a wall.” It wasn’t entirely a joke. The Canadian government requires the Alaskan Air to check passports before issuing boarding passes into Edmonton

When I got home (courtesy of Alicia, Bodega Bay Concierge – she’s great), I tried to catch up on local news. Other than the Flea market December 17 and the Public Workshop November 29 at the Marine lab (on “Sea Level Rise on our coast. How do we adapt”), I didn’t get many meeting dates. That meeting sounds important. They will prepare a Sea-Level Rise Adaptation Plan updating the Sonoma County Local Coastal Plan. When we finish maybe we could send it to Juneau. They don’t have waves like we do, but there are hundreds of houses all along the coast build right on the edge over the water.

Westside Park is very busy. It looks like a real “crane festival” but no one had much information about the project. By next month we will scope it all out. Hopefully the crab pots will all be on boats, and busy with a good catch. It’s time for some good luck in the fishing industry.

Give thanks for what you do have; your health, your home, your family. I underestimated how wonderful it was to see my daughter and family after this year. I also underestimated how much I miss the sun. It’s great to be home.