Saturday, July 25, 2009

Another Alaska anniversary

I am so excited! Robin and I celebrate our two-year anniversary with a trip to Kodiak, Alaska. This will be my first trip to Kodiak (Robin lived there for several years).

We will see The Boys (both in their mid-20s), friends, some property for sale, some wildlife (whales, bears, etc.) and all that this area of Alaska has to offer. And yes, of course, we will be FISHING for salmon and halibut.

In preparation for hauling back all that fish we plan to catch, I actually had to research and read baggage requirements. Here are some interesting things I learned:

Allowed in carry-on luggage:
  • Human organs: They did not specify how, what or why. I guess anything goes. I assume you would be questioned, regardless, so be prepared if you're traveling with an extra kidney on board.
  • Ashes: Provided they are in a sealed, leak-proof container that fits in an overhead compartment. They did not specify what type of ashes so I assume this applies to all ashes, human and otherwise.
  • Reading material: Provided it is a "reasonable amount," reading material does not count towards carry-on luggage. (It scares me that they think people can determine "reasonable" for themselves. So far, my experience hasn't led me to believe that people are very good at determining "reasonable" on their own.)
Allowed in checked luggage:
  • Alcohol: If you can keep it under 5 liters per person and it is less than 140 proof, have at it! Just keep it in "retail packaging." However, forget about it if you are traveling to Barrow, Bethel, or Kotzebue, Alaska where you no longer have all your basic American rights and can't possess such contraband. Then it's a big no-no. I guess residents there could learn something from the folks in Santa Rosa where they can control their alcohol consumption. If you travel out of Santa Rosa, you can check one box of wine per person at no cost.
  • Critter stuff: Un-mounted antlers and horns, raw capes from big game and bear hide, provided it bears special labeling and meets normal size and weight restrictions.
  • Pepper spray or chemical repellent: Provided it is less than 4 ounces, a less than 2% active ingredient and a cap, case or other mechanism in place to prevent accidental discharge. (Unfortunately, most bear sprays exceed the active ingredient percentage allowed so they suggest you buy such items at your destination and leave them behind upon return.)
  • Ammunition: Provided it is securely packed in the original manufacturer's package or in a container designed for ammunition and of sufficient strength to protect it from accidental crushing or discharge. (Note: having a single 22-bullet is not acceptable in your carry-on luggage, regardless that you have no weapon whatsoever. Just ask Robin.)
  • Firearms: Defined as "designed to or may be readily converted to expel a projectile by the action of an explosive." They must all be unloaded and packed in a hard-sided container that is locked and you must have the key or lock combination in your possession. All parts of the firearm must be packed in the same container as the firearm itself.
  • Paintball cylinders: Provided the regulator valve is completely disconnected from the cylinder and the cylinder must have an opening to allow for a visual inspection inside.
Not allowed in checked luggage or carry-on:
  • Wet ice: That's frozen water, folks. I know I always considered this a dangerous item so I'm glad travelers can't posses it! But, you can have dry ice ... up to 5.5 pounds per item, provided it allows for the release of carbon dioxide gas. (FYI: Gel ice is the preferred type of ice and styrofoam is not an acceptable container.)
  • Radioactive materials: If you have something radioactive, leave it at home, along with any other hazardous materials such as poisons and infectious substances.
  • Self inflating rafts: Although I think this would be better as a carry-on, leave your raft at home ... or anything else in a pressurized container such as butane fuel, scuba tanks, propane tanks and C02 cartridges.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

The unemployed

My nephew Scott, recently laid off from his civil engineering job, joined me for some fun in the sun at Fort Jefferson. What better way for two recently unemployed workers to spend some time but by kayaking (in a kayak that had a hole in the hull and was taking on water -- a lot of work to paddle that thing!), snorkeling and exploring?

See the photos of our adventures.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Shark porn

Now that I have some time on my hands, I can take advantage of some of the cool stuff around here. For example, I spent a morning with Wes, a researcher studying the mating habits of nurse sharks and learning all about shark fornification.

A step ladder is a primary tool in this process, along with standing in waist-deep water. Pretty neat stuff!

See the photos of how all this stuff works.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Fort headlines

  • Leaking toilet wastes 3,000+ gallons of water: Due to a negligent resident who continues to ignore repeated pleads from maintenance to make sure the toilet shuts off, non-potable water loss has exceeded 3,000+ gallons over the course of three days, a 300% increase. (Maintenance has turned off the toilet until repair parts arrive.)
  • Population explodes 85%: A huge influx of people has elevated the population to a whopping 37. This far exceeds system capacity of 20 people. Potable water usage is expected to skyrocket 400% to 1,600 gallons/day. This population explosion follows a brief week of relief for the much-overloaded system when the recommended 10-12 residents held potable water usage steady at a respectable 400 gallons/day. Non-potable water usage was around 350 gallons/day.
  • Extreme water shortage expected: Due to all of the above and a project for dredging out the sand from the moat, maintenance expects that all water making activities will cease due to stirred up sand and salinity in the moat. Rain is not expected.
  • Water shut off 10 p.m. to 6 a.m.: Due to a potable water leak somewhere in the thousands of feet of PVC piping, water was turned off nightly for 3 days while digging commenced. This saved 1,200+ gallons of potential wasted, good drinking water. (Maintenance dug, located and repaired the leak.)

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Ice cream!

What originally was going to be a gathering of 10 turned into a crowd 25-strong for my Independence Day celebration. Robin cooked up a mess o' meat, including deer and beef burgers (all was dee-lish).

We had both vanilla (two gallons) and chocolate (a big 5-gallon container) ice cream. We had all the toppings we could think of: hot fudge, raspberry sauce, strawberries, bananas, Robin's peanut butter sauce, pralines, whipped cream (real and canned), peanuts, sliced almonds, cherries, caramel, Twix candy bars, M&Ms and more. It was AWESOME!

See photos.

Friday, July 3, 2009

Independence day

My seasonal Park Service job is officially over. We are having an Independence Day party to celebrate the event. As with most island gatherings, this will be a potluck. We're cooking a deer haunch ... thanks to Robin's Kentucky Kill from last fall during our roadtrip and move here. I hauled it out of the deep freeze and it's thawing now.

In a herculean effort, we also have ice cream to commemorate this occasion in a memorable way. Getting ice cream to the fort entailed the coordinated efforts of island support on Garden Key and in Key West, plus the vital assistance of the M/V Fort Jeff crew and the ship's freezer. It is going to be an ice cream social event, complete with $40 worth of toppings. I can hardly wait!

Although fireworks are not allowed at this national park, I foresee a "kitchen accident" with sparkley things. Stay tuned for the photos!