adventure, FOOD, Sea Story, Travel


As I finished my third year at the University of Washington, I landed a great summer job at an exclusive adult summer camp and fishing resort in the San Juan Islands. I was the cook on the Thelma Rose, the resort’s classic vintage yacht. They offered six-day cruises to their well-heeled guests aboard this eight-stateroom vessel. Mid-way through our third cruise, Max Dumas, one of the guests, became a problem for both the crew and the seven other guests. This wealthy, middle-aged man was an unpleasant, arrogant ass, who delighted in belittling and bullying the other guests, ordering the crew around and complaining about everything, including my food. One evening, when we were anchored up off Roach Harbor, Max missed the five o’clock cocktail hour on the fantail and didn’t answer the seven o’clock dinner bell either. Everyone seemed happy to be rid of him, as they dined on Dungeness crab cocktails, Caesar salads, and freshly caught Lingcod. Halfway through dinner service, Max burst into the Captain’s mess. He was very drunk and argumentative. He took his seat, knocked over the crab cocktail, spilled his wine on the man to his left and picked a fight with a diner who asked him to, “Be quiet and behave like a gentleman!” Max was incensed by that remark and threw his wine glass at him. The skipper had enough of Max Dumas. He whispered to me, “Help me get him out of here.” As we manhandled him down the stairs, he kicked me, screamed obscenities at the guests, and grabbed a bottle of scotch off the sidebar. As we locked him in his stateroom, he threatened to kill both the skipper and myself.

About ten that night, I finished cleaning up the galley and made my way forward towards my berth. Just then, Max kicked open his stateroom door and stumbled out into the narrow passageway, brandishing a 357 Magnum. I was scared crap-less and stepped into the head, locked the door, and hoped he didn’t recognize me. I realized what a stupid move that was, trapping myself in this tiny room behind a flimsy wooden door. I was terrified when Max stopped and rattled the doorknob, I held my breath until I heard and felt a fleshy thud against the door, and it became very quiet. I waited a few minutes, hearing nothing, I forced the door open a few inches and discovered Max was passed out on the floor and sprawled up against the door, blocking my exit. I froze when I heard a groan and a string of curses; he was awake and back on his feet. Fortunately, he must have forgotten about me in his drunken stupor, I could hear him moving away, towards the stern.

When I was sure he left the cabin, I quietly made my way up to the captain’s mess and peered through the window to see what he was doing. Max was standing high up on the stern bench watching a school of a dozen killer whales that were playing harmlessly off our stern. I heard three shots, followed by a soulful animal moan and furious thrashing in the water. The gunshots woke up everybody on the boat, and lights were coming on all around the bay. I watched as the remaining school of whales, circled, dove and darted in and out around the mortally wounded female until she died. Then, they came together and plunged deep below the waves. I knew these animals were smart, fearless killers, and we had not seen the end of them. Max seemed oblivious to what was going on as he swayed back and forth waiting for another clean shot. Suddenly, the eleven remaining angry whales rose from the depths of the sea as one, striking the hull of the Thelma Rose with a premeditated jolt that sent Max, their enemy, flying overboard into their world.

The skipper flipped on the searchlights, and we raced out onto the fantail and searched the dark waters for him. We spotted Max thrashing about in the blood-tainted water near the dead whale. As the skipper tossed him a lifeline, the school shot out of the water, leaping six feet in the air and pummeled Max.

shutterstock_ocraAlthough I was horrified, I couldn’t turn away from this fascinating display of animal vengeance and retribution. I watched them toy with Max as he screamed in pain and terror. A bite here, a bite there, then they dragged him under the water and tossed him in the air, as he gasped for breath. When the big male sunk his teeth deep into his adversary’s chest and shook him like a rag doll, I turned away and said a prayer for Max Dumas.

*** THE END ***

BRISTOL BAY – episode – IV-fishing the south line.

adventure, Dutch Harbor, fishing, Travel Alaska



anchored up crop                                                Naknek River South Channel

When we finished our first half-day of fishing. Harry Jay Follman ordered the net reeled in, spun the Erika Lynn around and headed up the south channel of the Naknek River. The tide was ebbing, and I could just make out the sand and gravel bar that separated us from the town. We joined a small group of vessels seeking shelter behind South Naknek’s high cliffs and anchored up across from one of the canneries.

As I waited for Andy to prepare supper,  I thought about how I came to be a deckhand aboard the Erika Lynn. I remembered watching the first season of The Deadliest Catch on TV and knowing I was hopelessly hooked. The show created a nagging desire to experience the same dangers and adrenalin highs these fishermen routinely encountered on the Bearing Sea. I was determined to one day earn my stripes as a Bad Ass, Bering Sea Fisherman before I left this world. When my longtime friend, Harry Jay Follman, called me a week ago, out of a clear blue sky and said, “Meet me in Naknek, we’re going fishing,” I was ecstatic. My dream had come true.


Andy had dinner ready a little before eleven, and we all dug in. Baked sockeye salmon, canned potatoes, and canned peas. When we were about halfway through eating, Mike, who had gulped his food down, abruptly disappeared below leaving the rest of us to enjoy our meal and the discussion of the next day’s adventure. Harry Jay Follman pulled a crumpled up notice out of his pocket which he got at the boatyard and tossed it on the table for all to read.

fastest picker crop crop


He pointed at me, chuckled, and announced, “If you screw up, Full Share, this guy’s your replacement. Are you guys okay with that? The table erupted in laughter.

Kris said tomorrow’s marine weather forecast was for fair conditions in the morning, but we could expect thirty-knot winds and rain in the afternoon. When we prepared to hit the sack, Harry Jay Follman announced, “It looks like Mike’s asleep in your bunk, Full Share. Do you want me to toss his ass out of there, or you okay with sleeping on the floor?”

The little rascal had pulled a fast one on me. Mike knew there were only four berths and five of us.  I realized the only thing I could do without alienating the crew was to suck it up and sleep on the floor in the main cabin.

“No!  I’m the new guy, the floor works for me.”

It was then I realized why he shot me that brief hostile look at the D & D when we first met.


HJF on EL cropAndy was up preparing breakfast at five the next morning. He stepped over me twice and tripped over me once before I decided to get up. The smell of bacon and eggs frying, on the now working stove, woke up the rest of the crew. Harry Jay Follman demanded a cup of black coffee and fired up the engine. Mike went up to the bow, pulled the anchor and we headed back down the Naknek River. I was standing at the stern rail taking a leak, when Mike came down off the bow and confessed, “Sorry about last night, Full Share. I was just going to grab a quick nap, and I was out like a light. It won’t happen again.”

“It’s okay Bro, shit happens.”

                                                         waterfront                                                          Naknek and its Canneries

We left the relatively protected waters across from the Naknek canneries, entered the much rougher Kvichak Bay, and headed to the south line of the Naknek-Kvichak fishing district. Harry Jay Follman hollered, “Jake, come up here, I’m going to explain how this is going down today, and what we want you to do. The fish are coming up from the southwest, past Port Moller, Cold Bay, Ugashik, Egegik, and directly across the south line into the Naknek and Kvichak Rivers a few miles south of here.

BB fish districts crop

                                     Bristol Bay Districts – Courtesy of ADF&G

“We’ll be fishing the south line all through today’s opening. If we’re successful, and we will be, we stand to capture the lion’s share of the fish. The downside is, we will be competing with the most experienced and ruthless captains up here, in a dog eat dog competition for the fish. This is a serious and sometimes dangerous work, and I want you to know what to expect and what we expect of you.  You’re our backup. You need to jump in there if someone gets hurt on deck, or needs a break. Stay alert, stay safe, and have fun.”

Kris overhead us and joined the conversation, “It takes nerves of steel and plenty of audacity to successfully fish the line. The Erica Lynn, Harry Jay Follman, and a dozen other boats, which are his dog pack, have been the top produces up here for nearly thirty years. The fleet knows this and respect this group of captains, but won’t cut them much slack.”


An hour later, Harry Jay Follman bullied his way into a prime position, directly onto the South line at Johnson Hill, along with his dog pack, which were skillfully fending off any intruding vessels. The morning flood tide opening was a few minutes away as Harry Jay Follman approached the spot he intended to drop the nets, and gently nosed another vessel out of his way. He put down his coffee cup and hollered, “Three minutes, Kris! Get ready and when I holler, drop the net.” The Erika Lynn was a few yards over the line as Harry Jay Follman prepared to make his first set, but there were no AF&G anywhere around to do anything about it.

At precisely eight o’clock, all hell broke loose on the south line. The sights and sounds of this big opening were mind-numbing. Four-hundred engines came to life simultaneously, and black clouds of diesel exhaust waifed across the fleet. The noise was deafening. It reminded me of the start of the Indy 500 or the Gold Cup hydroplane race.

BB Fishing

Naknek South Line –  Photo courtesy of YouTube.

We were fishing so close to each other that you could literally jump from boat to boat or net to net. I was speechless as I watched what was going on. Over fifty vessels, including the Erika Lynn, were fishing the face of the south line. As they jockeyed for position to set their hundred and fifty to three hundred fathoms long nets, they crashed into each other, ran over each other’s nets, and cursed one another.

near crash crop cropJust as Kris dropped a hundred-fifty fathom of drift net in the water, Harry Jay Follman spotted the State Trooper’s helicopter off in the distance. He nudged me, “That son of a bitch is headed our way.”

I thought, Oh shit! We’re over the line, and he’s going to nail us. Jay gunned the engine, the Erika Lynn leaped forward and he turned sharply up river pushing a couple of other boats out of his way to drag his errant net back behind the line before the Helicopter spotted his illegal net and hit him with a huge fine.                              Erika Lynn nudging a vessel

chopper chop chopBy the time the Chopper reached us, we were just barely legal. Harry Jay Follman grinned up at the state trooper’s helicopter and gave it a friendly wave as it circled thirty-yards above. This wasn’t the first confrontation between the Erica Lynn and the AF&G, and the officer aboard the chopper was watching us with great interest. This was undoubtedly one of the most exciting events in my life.


State Trooper Chopper & below photos – courtesy of YouTube.

CahosThe next group of boats upriver from us was a nightmare of nearly three-hundred vessels, which were also jockeying for position and getting tangled up in each other’s gear. Some very angry fishermen lost a lot of time and valuable gear in the adrenal driven, macho insanity.

The third group of boats, even further up the river, were the more conservative vessels which were content, at least for now, to capture the fish that survived the mayhem and to watch the chaotic shenanigans down at the line.

jake cropWe stayed on the line most of the four-hour opening, but for all the commotion and spent energy, we didn’t catch a lot of fish on the morning flood. When we returned to Naknek and approached Trident’s dock, Harry Jay Follman sent me up to handle the bowline. I was happy to be given an assignment and jumped to it. Trident Seafood off-loaded our embarrassingly small, five-thousand-pound catch, we found a spot to tie-up alongside several other boats and waited for the evening flood tide.






adventure at sea, autobiography, DARE TO DREAM, Fishing Bristol Bay, food & drink, Humor, INSPIRATION, Travel

This collection of stories runs the gamut from light and funny, informative to exciting, dangerous, thrilling, and scary.


BRISTOL BAY – episode V – Farewell

Fishing the south line of the Bristol Bay’s Naknek R9ver can be terrifying and exciting as hundreds of boats fight for a place on the line.


BRISTOL BAY – episode IV -Fishing the south line


BRISTOL BAY – episode III – 24 hours to launch

After a week’s preparation, the Erica Lynn is checked out, provisioned, and ready to fish. We climb aboard as the mobile launcher comes to get us and launch us into the Naknek River


BRISTOL BAY – episode II –


BRISTOL BAY – EPISODE I – Naknek Village ‘

Naknek is the centerpiece of the Bristol Bay salmon run every July. Over a thousand gillnetters fish this four to six week seasons and fortunes are made by the tough old dogs who fight for every fish.





Jake reminisces about past business related adventures at the desolate North Slope and more genteel Alaska cities.


A young boy goes fishing in the family cruiser’s small dinghy in the early evening unaware of a school of gigantic manta-rays who are lurking just below the surface and stalking him.



An interesting story about making a difficult and dangerous repair to a severed ocean outfall line which dumps paper mill waste a half-mile out into into the Pacific Ocean off the coast of Northern California.



Jake remembers his boating days from the 1940’s to the 1960’s. Some interesting and funny stuff.



“You can take the man out of the boat, but you can’t take the boat out of the man.”

Jake chronicles his passion for boating over the years. A humorous look at Jake’s quest stay on the water.



A ten-day cruise aboard a small luxury liner, the M/S Paul Gauguin on its maiden voyage through the Tahitian Islands begins in Papeete.


A college kid takes a summer job aboard the Thelma Rose, a one-hundred-foot vintage yacht that caters to the wealthy cruise crowd. When the captain and the kid lock Max Dumas, an out-of-control, antagonistic, drunken guest, in his stateroom, he escapes, threatens to kill the captain’s and the kid with a 357 Magnum. When Max takes on a school of dolphins, killing the female, all hell breaks loose.





Jake wraps up a week of reunions, partying and visiting with a day or two spent with family just having fun.



The big day. Tonight is the Seattle Prep class of ’58 Reunion dinner at the Chateau Ste Michelle. Hang on to your hat, its going to be a blast.



Jake takes a few days to dart from town to town as he visits a brother, a sister and a close friends. His adventure takes him to Edmonds, Clear Lake, Bellingham, and back to Seattle. Great food and drink at an Edmonds bistro, the Oyster House on Chuckanut Drive and Evelyn’s Tavern. Never a dull moment here.



Jake bites the bullet and accepts an invitation to his Seattle Prep sixtieth class reunion. He hasn’t seen these guys in sixty-years and is a little apprehensive how that’s going to play out. Nothing ventured, nothing gained.



On a business trip to Dutch Harbor, Jake reminisces about his adventures in Alaska over the years. Anchorage, Dutch Harbor, Bristol Bay, North Slope, Ketchikan.