Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Sailing in Seattle...F/V North American Style!

At last post, I had just boarded my plane at the Fairbanks airport. The flight was uneventful I assume, given that I passed out like a narcoleptic on Ambien as soon as I settled into my seat. I woke up as we hit the tarmac in Seattle. My face was pressed into the window, my contacts were glued to my sleep-crusted eyes, and I'm pretty sure I might have drooled a little.  This was also the start of day three without a shower, and make-up was but a distant memory.

I was looking good.

Anyway, I had a brief layover in Seattle, long enough to do breakfast with a friend, but not much else. Long story short, he wasn't able to meet up early thanks to (lamely) injuring himself. It was quickly looking like my back-up plan of falling asleep on my backpack like a hobo at the bus station was going to come to fruition. However, he called me back shortly thereafter and told me to go get a later flight so that we could still hang.

I was unaware I could do this.

He told me being the bum that he is, he often misses his flights and just asks for another one. At worst, they charge him about seventy five bucks. My next flight was actually slightly delayed so they let me change it without any trouble. Awesome.

After various rigmaroles, we ended up meeting under the Troll bridge.

 He is...an Enchanter. There are those that call him...Trav.

I regretted the fact that I didn't have a fanciful hat to accompany his...or even a shrubbery, but well, what can you do? Me. I jumped in his Corvette and we took off towards the Fisherman's Terminal. In addition to being skilled in the ways of humor and haberdashery, Trav is a crab fisherman...you might have seen him on Deadliest Catch Season 4. He also has a fantastic book out about his experiences fishing and aboard the F/V North American:

You should buy it.

Today the aforementioned F/V North American was due for sea trials. Basically, we were (by we, I mean the crew and not me) checking the boat out to make sure it was seaworthy.

This was not my first time on a crab boat. I work for Keith Colburn, Capt. of the F/V Wizard, running his website along with my friend Mystic. I've also done some t-shirt work for the Wizard and North American, logo design for the Sea Star and Deadliest Deckhands...with a little more in the works now. If you're a fan of the show, you'll recognize some of these boats.

Here's the Wiz, Pinnacle (HUGE!) and the Arctic Fury.

...and a little side view action.

The Early Dawn. 

It was a beautiful day, but it was hot. Stupidly hot. It was the kind of hot that makes you angry at the fact that the sun exists. If I recall, the temperature was 105 with a heat index of August in Hell. So, while the guys were outside prepping the boat for sailing, I ducked into Trav's cool, dark room and passed out on his bunk for about two hours. It was wonderful. I woke up to us getting underway for the Ballard Locks. I always enjoy a trip through the locks...well, when it isn't packed. There are always people on the sides waving and snapping pics and today was no exception.

 Going through the Ballard Locks


Trav giving the ladies on the yacht behind us an eyeful...or Trav getting an eyeful of the ladies on the yacht.

Finally, we hit some open water.

Trav and I goofed around for a bit before the serious business of running a boat had to take over for a while.

Everything was going pretty smoothly, except the anchor. There were some problems with the wench and the line, or so they tell me. All I know is it didn't sound good. It didn't sound good at all. Hank and Trav are working on releasing the line here or guiding it or something else equally nautical.

John Skarr keeping his eyes on the anchor and the wench.

You know that part in Dumb and Dumber that goes a little something like this:

 Yeah, well, that's what a screeching anchor wench sounds like. This went on for...I don't know, about 30 minutes or 900 hours. One of those.

No offense Capt. Earling, but I really don't think that's going to cut it.

 Eventually, they hoisted the heathen and we started sailing back to Ballard.

During the return trip, I took a few more shots around the interior. For a crab boat, the NA is actually a fairly nice ride. Here's a quick little tour:

The wheelhouse. 

I think this is the Captain's Bunk, so either Earling's or Sten's depending who's aboard at the time.

The Captain's dining area. It's not really a galley, since all the food prep areas are downstairs...but still, swankified. I don't recall any of the other boats having two 'dining rooms'.

The deck was pretty open given that it isn't stacked with crab pots. You can see the coiler, block, and launcher in front of Travis, the crane to his left, and Hank walking on top of what I'm calling the shelter deck. Obviously, those NA guys really like their dining options. Here we've got a third, 'al fresco' seating choice.

 That's the motto of many a Bering Sea crab boat Captain. 

Finally, we passed back through the Locks, headed into Pacfish, docked the boat, and tried to decide what to do with the rest of the day. We all would have loved to have jumped into the water for a bit to cool off, but well, you don't really do that in a ship yard...

unless you want to play BP and the oil spill.

Eventually, Trav and I headed down to the Sea Star  so he could drop off some files and discuss a little business. I wandered around and browsed in the shop. I grabbed a shirt with my logo on it...gratis of course! Per contractual agreement on this artwork, payment consisted of specific sum, a shirt with the printed logo, and a sandwich of my choosing with the stipulation of extra cheese. So far, I'm still waiting on that sandwich...Travis.

The crab on the final version is red but I don't have that file with me and I don't care enough at the moment to find it.

After the Sea Star, Trav and I left to have dinner with his family and then hook up with some friends of his out in Seattle...but we had to go to Costco first at the request of his mom...which was exciting for me because I'd never been to one. Sad, I know. Still, I love the fact that you can buy orange juice, a mattress, and a pair of jeans in the same isle. Two gallons of milk and a pack of Swedish Fish later, we hit the Seattle Center  hoping to catch a laser show. Sadly, it was already over by the time we got there, but I'd never been to the top of the Space Needle, so that's what we did instead...

But first we played on some public art.

The night-scape of the city was really lovely from the top. We hung out for a few minutes eating Swedish Fish and laughing about something I no longer remember. However, this trip, as all good things must, had to end, and like Cinderella, my coach (seat) was leaving at Midnight. So, once again, I was off to the airport...more hugs, more goodbyes, more lines at security. By this point, I really was utterly exhausted. All I remember was that I got on the plane, and woke up as we landed...got on another plane and woke up as we landed, and finally, got on another plane and woke up as we landed...and then drove to work.


And that's the real world for you. (At least there's a shower at the gym!)

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Welcome to the Ice Hotel!

After driving through a landscape filled with fires, you might want to find some where to cool off, right?


How does an ice hotel sound to you?



Welcome to the Chena Ice Hotel! Well...technically "The Aurora Ice Museum."

I know it just looks like a large tarp painted to look like an ice castle, but that's only because that's kind of what it is. It encases the actual ice hotel, er museum. The original was built in 2004 and subsequently melted in July of that same year. However, that didn't stop Chena from trying again. I figure the conversation went something like this:

"Gentlemen, we can rebuild him it. We have the technology. We have the capability to build the world's first bionic man permanent ice hotel...er, museum."

Allow me to explain through the use of my skills in copy&paste:

While long daylight hours and summer temperatures in the 90ºF range (lies!) melted the first Aurora Ice Hotel in July, 2004, the project was not abandoned. The second version was completed in January, 2005, with the ambitious goal of making it the only primarily ice structure in the world to stay up on a year round basis.

Because of the high cost of electric power at the site (30¢ per kWh) it was decided to use an absorption chiller design by Energy Concepts Co. and powered by the available geothermal resource to keep the Museum ‘on ice’ year-round.

This chiller was a unique, three pressure design and the first of it’s kind to be built in the world. In September 2005, Chena Hot Springs won an award for the absorption chiller from the Geothermal Resource Council for the best new direct use geothermal project in the United States.

When you walk into the ice (I'm sticking with hotel...people DO stay there.) hotel, you're given a thick parka thanks to the constant 24ºF at which they keep the place...with that on, you're fine. The first thing you see when you walk past the coat room is the ice sculpting studio. Steve and Heather Brice are the hands that make this amazing place happen.

Anyway, enough talk, more pics!
 Here's an overview of the main hallway. Using the flash, you really don't see the amazing atmosphere and colors that the place has, but I wanted a few shots that just displayed the amazing 'icescape.'

 Each of these chess figures are around 2 1/2 to 3' tall.

This is the Polar Bear bed and it's extremely cool...both literally and figuratively. Although, the beds do all come covered with several caribou hides which are very thick, soft, and warm.

 Uh...they usually don't come covered with a David. Nice shirt stains my friend. Keepin' it real.

I killed the flash so that the colors of the light passing through the ice would really stand out; it's beautiful. The jousters...

The glowing orbs near the bar.

One of the many chandeliers. It cycled through three or four colors.

The ice Christmas tree.

Yes. This is indeed...an ice toilet. A green, glowing, ice toilet. Now, to me, this raises some questions, such as, the ah, ice to skin equation, the 'how do you flush this thing?' enigma, and the quandary of the 'melt factor' when in use. It's something to ponder...and we all know there's no better place to think...

...or to stink.

The fireplace is a lie.

She's been holding that pose for years!

So there you have it. The Aurora Ice Museum HOTEL. It's a pretty cool place. Haha puns! Chena also has some pretty sweet hot springs, horseback riding, and sundry other activities in which you can indulge.

Until I just uploaded this picture, I never realized the guy sitting on the spout was waving at me. We didn't have time to take a dip in the springs, or do anything else, but really, how can you complain after visiting a really upscale igloo?

The herb garden outside the non-ice hotel at Chena.

It's a Christmas tree...made of moose antlers.

Apparently, his antlers ended up as a festive decoration.

On the drive home, we saw a lot of moose. I'd say near fifty. Honestly, they were a constant roadside attraction. I was like 'who let all the moose loose?' Turns out, the forest fires. Yeah. Thanks to that million acres of burning Alaska, the animal populations were all akimbo for a while. Many of them had migrated to areas which were less well, engulfed in flames.

It was homeward bound from this point forward. I had time to get back to Salcha, pack up my bags and head to Fairbanks to hop my plane to Seattle. The goodbyes were tearful and the hugs rib-crushing, but it was a wonderful trip.

...And, that's all she wrote about Alaska.

See you soon Seattle!

Friday, September 24, 2010

Leaving Denali

Well, I found my CD and backed it up on my T-drive. I didn't even have to tear that much of the house apart.

So, where was I? Oh yeah, animals...

Anyway, here's some more caribou.

Of course, every time I was ready to take a pic, this little family would turn tail (literally) and bolt.

Ok, everyone get together and sit in a circle... 




MOOSE! (Embrace the geek.)

I hope you can find the bears in that picture.

Those tiny white specks...those are big horn sheep. Enlarge the picture and you can see slightly larger tiny white specks.

Same Eagle? You betcha!

He really is pretty majestic.

I don't really remember what these are...but they were small and cute and probably only minutes away from being picked off by the eagle...

 I have foxes in my own neighborhood...but I was still happy to see him.

Now, this is the first time I'd ever used a camera like Dawn's ...it's huge, comes in a pelican case with a variety of lenses, weighs...I'd say roughly eight, nine...hundred pounds. I was really grateful she lent it to me though, because I'd left the main battery for my own camera back at camp...in the charger...

...because I'm an idiot.

(I discovered this after setting off on the bus tour part of the trip. I had a small point-and-shoot cam as well, but it died almost immediately. "Well, just use some of those spare batteries you surely packed on this possibly once in a lifetime adventure," you might say. I'd say, "spare batteries?" So yes, I had three cameras and no extra batteries.)

I am a college graduate.

I did find a couple of old, nearly dead lithiums in my backpack...I'd used them previously and just hadn't disposed of them. Through what I'm guessing was the battery equivalent of the Hanukkah miracle, they lasted for over eight hours. That's right...they just kept going, and going, and going. (I think God took mercy on me.) Because of that, I have pictures from the first part of the trip up to the mountain...and thanks to Dawn, pics of everything after. ( I didn't want to risk running her battery down before McKinley...because, well...we've already covered that spare battery bit...)

Anyway, eventually it was time to leave Denali and head towards Chena.

Which involved, of course...wildfires. Now, thankfully we really weren't that involved with them. We mostly just saw the towering plumes as we drove down the highway...but man, Alaska was burning.  Over a million acres burned in July. The largest fire was near Nenana...guess where we drove to...


See you at the Ice Hotel!