The New Cook Arrives in a Fog is a story by my dear friend Marcia Messier. I first met Marcia in July 2004, when she came to work as a cook at our lodge. Marcia is from Massachusetts and worked for the Massachusetts court system. After she retired, she moved to Arizona and decided on a whim to apply for a cooking job at a remote lodge in Alaska, and that is how she wound up with us.
Due to the maritime climate of Kodiak, fog can be a problem, especially in June and July, and when it’s foggy, all air transportation to and around the island comes to a halt. While this can be frustrating, it is a fact of life for us, and we’re used to it, but when Marcia arrived in Anchorage in route to our lodge and learned her flight to Kodiak had been cancelled due to fog, she found this unacceptable and was concerned she would be late arriving for her new job. She decided to take matters into her own hands, and I was impressed and amused when I heard Marcia had found a way to by-pass the Kodiak fog. I knew immediately I would like her, and I also knew Marcia was about to learn her first lesson about life on Kodiak Island.
The New Cook Arrives in a Fog
A little fog never stopped planes from flying back East, so why was I stuck in Anchorage, Alaska with every flight to Kodiak canceled? Fog..? This wasn’t going to work, after all, I had a new job lined up as cook at Munsey’s Bear Camp and was to report to work today!
I observed many people wandering about the airport with piles of luggage and groceries, grumbling about the weather situation. After a time, I struck up a conversation with two couples bound for a fishing lodge somewhere near where I was headed, at least I thought it was near where I was headed. After commiserating for a bit, one of the women said she knew a pilot who owned a small jet, and if we were all willing, she would call him and see if he would fly us to Larsen Bay. We agreed, she made the call, and he said he thought he could find a way through the fog and into Larsen Bay “the back way”. His fee was divided by 5 and after claiming my luggage, we were off to another runway and a private jet! I wasn’t able to see much of Kodiak during the flight, a few flashes of emerald green, and suddenly we were down on the runway at Larsen Bay. An impressive bright red Hummer was there to greet us, and I assumed to take us to the airport, but all I could see was what appeared to be a small village held up on pilings sunk into the muddy beach. This was the cannery at Larsen Bay. I had arrived!
Next, to find a phone and call Robin and Mike. I had no idea of the distance involved out here, only that I was closer to my destination than I had been in Anchorage. A nice young man in the cannery office seemed to know of Munsey’s Bear Camp and made a radio-telephone call to ask them if they were expecting a cook. After a brief conversation he told me Mike would pick me up in the Boston Whaler in about an hour. Finally, I could relax a little, sit down and observe life at the cannery. It seemed to be a happy place with college age kids running in and out of odd-looking buildings, and others all jammed up waiting to use the phone booths. No cell phones? No, but as I was about to learn, radio transmission news travels faster than cell phones!
Soon, a man’s head popped up beside me from the beach and introduced himself as Mike Munsey, was I Marcia?
I had made my job deadline: July 2, 2004!
The trip from Larsen Bay to Munsey’s Bear Camp was spectacular! The fog lifted, and I could see emerald green mountain peaks rising straight up out of Uyak Bay. I understood canceled flights due to fog, now. The water was calm, and at full throttle, the Whaler flew over the bay. Mike pointed out Fin whales spouting in the distance and seals on nearby (yikes!) rocks.
Robin greeted us back at camp and sat me down to a delicious dinner, a glass of wine, then guided me upstairs to my room for a much-needed sleep.
Next day I had a lot to learn. First, I was introduced to the generator. I learned to respect this growling monster in the shed. He ran a tight ship. His schedule was as follows:
7AM-ON All electrical work is done: computer, baking in oven, mixers, washing machine, dish washer, vacuum cleaner.
9AM-OFF No electrical work done. Prepare bread dough, cookie dough, soup, tidy up cabins & main house, burn trash… take a break.
5PM-ON Everything is on and the race is on to make dinner & clean up.
10PM-OFF Ah, quiet…time to have a glass of wine and celebrate the day!
I can hear the float plane approaching, the first guests are arriving! We rush to put on our boots and run down to the dock to greet them. Quickly, I had to run back to the kitchen and retrieve a baggie of cookies for the pilot. Cookies are a MUST, the pilot is always hungry! As the guests stepped out of the float plane, I immediately noticed their beautiful Italian leather shoes and smiled to myself. Rubber shoes and boots are standard footwear on Kodiak Island….I was learning.