Lost at sea and now lost without him

April 25, 2016 by

rollie_alpha

One old friend writes:

It’s time to dust off this old blog and put it to work again.

You might remember when we started this blog in January, 2009. Alaska’s soon to be reality TV star, gun toting, moose eating governor was not a heartbeat away from the presidency but people were still keeping an eye on Alaska. Several Alaskan bloggers had gained national audiences during the campaign and their comment sections had turned into pop-up communities.

It was there we first heard about the dire situation facing native people that winter. Following a miserable fishing season and an early freeze that prevented the delivery of their winter fuel by boat, people were being forced to decide whether to use the meager cash reserves they had to buy fuel at inflated prices to heat their homes or food to feed their families.

The governor showed up at one village with a plate of cookies for a photo op with a religious charity, but other than that, the residents of remote villages across rural Alaska were on their own. This blog was created as a clearinghouse for a nationwide air mail food drive.

When the news of the situation in rural Alaska broke, two bloggers from separate villages chimed in to comment about how real the need was in their communities. They volunteered to distribute anything people were able to send to the neediest among them. People from around the country packed hundreds of flat-rate boxes and shipped them to Nunam Iqua and Ugashik, Alaska throughout the winter. They truly made a difference.

But that was then and this is now, and there’s been another crisis involving an ill-fated fuel delivery.

If you’ve read this blog in the past, you probably remember “ugavic”. Victoria Briggs is a long-time resident of Ugashik, a tiny village on the Alaskan peninsula. She and her husband Roland (“Rollie”), and his parents before them, have owned and operated a fishing operation that has been the economic heart of the area since the sixties.

When Vic left corporate life in the lower 48 behind to marry Rollie, she embraced his dream of improving the lives of the people of Ugashik and neighboring Pilot Point.

If you look back through this blog, you’ll read about her love of gardening and the community garden she worked to start in Pilot Point so people there would have a supply of fresh vegetables. She has live-blogged from cold weather agriculture conferences and fishing board meetings while sharing her interest in sustainable agriculture and her concern about salmon bycatch in the Alaskan fishing industry.

More recently, Vic and Rollie built an airstrip on their property and expanded their family business into air services by operating a refueling station at their airstrip that brings in commercial traffic.

 

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Victoria and Roland Briggs have been making a difference in their part of Alaska for many years where many area residents depend on the existence of their various enterprises for their livelihood.

peb with neonpebble and rollie napping

Sadly, Vic and Rollie’s dreams and future together ended abruptly last fall when Roland’s fuel run upriver and out into Bristol Bay ended in tragedy. He was to meet a fuel barge, off-load a fuel purchase onto his boat, and head back home.  He never made it back home.  When Roland was overdue and Vic couldn’t reach him, she notified the US Coast Guard which put everything it had into searching meticulously for Roland and his boat. The best equipped search-and-rescue talent, equipment, and aircraft, plus private pilots, air-borne state troopers, and a local airline’s pilots running their normal routes all looked for any sign of this lost Alaskan.  Altogether 8,000 square miles were crisscrossed with everyone looking for anything that would bring Roland home or answer the question of what happened to him. The only sign of him or his boat were three fuel tanks floating 25 miles out from shore; he would have been only about one mile offshore on his return trip. In February, he was declared legally dead, and Vic is left now to pick up the pieces of her life and her business — alone.

Another friend shares her view of this situation:

I am sharing this for one of my special friends, Victoria Briggs. The loss of their fuel barge at sea last October took her husband, her best friend, from her side. The business she is trying to run by herself now started as a salmon fishing cannery opened by Rollie’s parents in the early 1960s. Vic and Rollie dreamed big over the years to find a way to make the family business profitable year round so they could live in the place dear to Rollie’s heart and childhood.

6-23-2011 0227-09-2011 0018-23-2012 and before 069winter day fixing wind turbines

They backed up their dreaming with each investing all their time and funds into their individual areas of expertise. High tunnel greenhouses were assembled and planted. An airstrip began to take shape, which grew longer and less bumpy as time went on. This allowed more air traffic in the area to serve charters, guides and 2-way deliveries. Fresh salmon could now be flown to market and not be limited to river-based fishing tenders who might just fill up and leave on a moment’s notice. Now everyone needed fuel! They began to build up their fuel business. As the fuel demand grew, they decided to add their own fuel barge to the mix so they had a dependable supply to meet the demand when a larger commercial fuel barge could not make it up river to refuel their operations. However, tragically, Roland’s first voyage for fuel was also his last. A proven, sturdy craft with a top notch captain / MacGyver clone at the helm disappeared completely, $50,000 worth of fuel gone, with none of it paid for or recovered.

Rollie was the “I fix everything under the sun but don’t ask to me to file” kind of guy and not only did he build, repair, install and monitor many different systems and equipment on his own property, he was for hire to any who needed his skill set so he traveled a lot! There was never a mechanical item he came in contact with that he didn’t know its language. He was a pilot, a captain, an equipment operator and a character. His heart was made of gold, and he loved to laugh.

Rollieand BB....about 2005

Their ideas and work ethic were rock solid, and the business began to grow as they branched into serving more needs in the remote community which depends on fuel to run everything. Vic was growing food, raising poultry, keeping crews fed, and pumping fuel into anything that moved. They each had their talents and work experiences, but they also worked as a team, with Roland sharing most of what he could with Vic.  However, today, his lifetime of skills that applied to everything they did together is also lost.

Vic now has to learn to run everything herself, which she is willing to do – wants to do – but she needs a helping hand to get the fueling business back on track. Her goal is to maintain a sustainable life in rural Alaska, which is not an easy task to begin with. Her business will help other businesses prosper and grow. Her delicious salmon products get shipped far and wide, sharing the Bristol Bay area’s super yummy and healthful bounty with all of us.

Locally grown strawberries

rollie with HIS raspberries and strawberries...now not just a fisherman BUT also a farmerfarmer and HIS corn

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A GoFundMe account has been set up at https://www.gofundme.com/2cdnh7fw to give Vic a chance to pick up the pieces and get back into full operating capacity.  Besides the sudden terrible loss of her beloved husband, she’s also suffered financial losses in the last several months.  High winds in December twisted and collapsed one of her high tunnels, so that’s a $20,000 loss.  The lost fuel remains a $50,000 hit.  The fuel boat itself is a loss. Plus several things remain to be done in order to get back to full capacity and continue where they left off as a company last October.  Please help if you can, no matter how large or small.

Thank you!

Please share, Alaskans especially!

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Will We Have A Winter?

December 22, 2014 by

Usually a common sight in the winter.

Usually a common sight in the winter.


While so many parts of the lower 48 are having a colder than ‘normal’ winter most of Alaska has been basking in temperatures that resemble fall more than winter!

In Bristol Bay much of the area remains less than fully frozen, causing many to be watchful. Other areas of the state share many of the same concerns.

The winter activities so many of us not only enjoy but count on cannot happen with these many days above freezing temperatures. Our rivers are not fully frozen over, the creeks are dangerously open in many places and lakes still have only a thin coat of ice.

A river that should be mostly, if not totally, iced over this time of year.

A river that should be mostly, if not totally, iced over this time of year.

Travel to accomplish things like setting and checking winter trap lines, a source of income for some and hunting for winter meat are hampered. For those who do ice fishing, it is very dangerous without a nice thick layer of ice.

Being able to visit with others, important to so many in the winter, has been slowed to include the only more expensive methods, such as using an airline. If this keeps up many winter festivals will have to be rearranged and different activities thought of.

Without a nice layer of snow to insulate things the frost level will go deeper into the soil, causing more winter loss on such things as native berries, trees and of course all those beautiful peonies our state is becoming well known for.

Wildlife surveys that are accomplished during the winter months have been put on hold too, waiting for a good snow covering so tracking is easier.

While these warmer temperatures are nice in that we are not using up our winter budget as quickly on heating fuel, it does make most wonder if that will be offset by some really long, cold snap later this winter. The lack of wind, that often comes with winter weather, or even strong sun is cutting into the renewable energy output for some communities.

For those of us who either farm or garden it has allowed for more fresh winter produce to survive than might normally be possible. (this news has traveled around the state with much excitement!) Many of us are also seeing our chickens continue to lay eggs at a higher level, due to less feed needed to just stay warm.

Long term forecasts call for this weather pattern to continue into late summer of 2015. We could well move into still another summer of almost ‘hot’ weather, more forest fires, lots of bugs and winters that leave us wondering if this is going to be more the norm than not.

So for those in the Lower 48 that are dealing with still another winter of tough temperatures and travel conditions, know many are wishing the weather pattern would send the snow and icy temperatures north again!

A Wednesday Moment

September 10, 2014 by

mama chicken and babes 004

A Wednesday ritual*. A single photo – no words – capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment.

*inspired by a great flower site –floret

A Wednesday Moment

June 4, 2014 by

 

 

A Wednesday ritual*. A single photo – no words – capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment.

*inspired by a great flower site –floret

A Wednesday Moment

May 28, 2014 by

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A Wednesday ritual*. A single photo – no words – capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment.

*inspired by a great flower site –floret

A Wednesday Moment!

April 2, 2014 by

march_30_and_31_2014_up_for_a_Sunday_ride 007

A Wednesday ritual*. A single photo – no words – capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment.

*inspired by a great flower site –floret

A Wednesday Moment

March 12, 2014 by

A Wednesday Moment

A Wednesday ritual*. A single photo – no words – capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment.

*inspired by a great flower site –floret

Spring and Off We Go…..

March 11, 2014 by
The morning steaming event.

The morning steaming event.

Our mostly mild winter here in Alaska has been trying to push us into spring. First we are warmer and cloudy, then sunny and cold but the warm and at least partially sunny is coming right around the corner.

The warmer winter this year  has allowed us to harvest things like Kale and Leeks all winter long. However it has many of us worried about the effect on the growing number of commercial peony fields and native berry crops. The lack of snow cover with  freezing and thawing cycles will extract a toll. It is just a matter of seeing how much once our warmer weather gets here.

A Wasilla peony farmer says he’s worried that recent warm Alaska weather will damage his crop.
Harry Davidson of North Star Peony says that the thaw-freeze cycle could kill the roots of his plants.
He planted about 7,500 roots of the perennials when he started his farm and estimates he’s lost half over the last two winters.
The plants lose thermal protection and when it gets cold again, it kills the roots.
Alaska peony growers last year harvested and sold more than 100,000 stems. Most were shipped out of state.

Recent weather!

Recent weather!

Our last short spell of cold, down into the single digits, seems to have left this portion of Alaska. The river is flowing, but still ice choked at times. At the same time the ground is slowly thawing, especially in the open areas.

For farmers, seeds and supplies are being ordered. Grow lights and greenhouses are being dusted off. CSA memberships are being offered and Farmers’ Markets organized.

Spring is coming forth, at least in the seed department

Spring is coming forth, at least in the seed department

Fishermen follow much the same cycle. Ordering nets and supplies. Outboards and boat engines are overhauled. Upgrades are being finished up. Processors are completing contracts and projected start dates for their plants.

Although many think of Alaska as ‘going quiet’ in the winter months, they are actually filled with a furious set of activities prepping to burst forward in a few short months.

Wednesday’s Moment

February 19, 2014 by

DLG_trip_feb_2014 002

A Wednesday ritual*. A single photo – no words – capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment.

*inspired by a great flower site –floret

Wednesday’s Moment

February 5, 2014 by

sunset feb_4_2014 003

A Wednesday ritual*. A single photo – no words – capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment.

*inspired by a great flower site –floret


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