The “After Season”, that wonderful time after the last group of guests head south and before fall turns into winter, started a lot earlier this year. The last guests left on August 15th. The shorter season, while unfortunate, gave our shut down crew an opportunity to get a lot of work done.
The 2010 season was recession challenged. For many years we operated at the very edge of weather allowance. This year we operated with customers only 60 days compared to an historical average of 99 days over the eleven seasons prior to 2008. A little history: our longest season was 2002 when we ran 109 days, starting on June 2nd , running right until the first snows on September 19th. The weather was very cooperative that year and it was a bit easier to fill the Lodge in that year. In February of 2002, for instance, one US dollar turned into $1.61 Canadian, the recent high point of US currency value. Back then our 5 day trips cost the customer only $2,795 US but that price purchased for the Lodge $4,499 in Canadian goods and services, allowing the much lower package price than we have now. In 2010 our Book-at-the-Lodge repeat guests paid $4,295 for the 2011 season. After many price increases over those nine seasons we are actually in the same place, just paddling faster and absorbing nine years worth of inflation including the big jumps in post 9/11 insurance, plane and fuel costs. In short, that’s why the 2010 season was short and that fall work began in mid-August. But we are very optimistic that next season will stretch out a bit. On August 15 when the final 2011 deposits were taken we had 246 people booked for 2011, only 34 less than we had for the 2010 season, and we still have eight months of selling season ahead of us. Next season the shut down crew will be catching some trout on the rocks.
For this season the crew staying on through August 30th had to focus more on work than fishing. With great weather we took full advantage of the early close to attack some major projects, including the building of two new docks. The top priority was the back dock, the entry for what could be called the industrial side of our island in the north. On that platform about a quarter of a million pounds of food, fuel and other supplies reach the Lodge each season. The old dock must have handed at least 4 million pounds over its lifetime. It was due its retirement. It was rebuilt from stem to stern and should be good for another 4 million pounds. The north customer dock on the front side of the island got the same treatment. It was the father/son duo of Jerry and Steve Yanish and the dock avenger, Paul Hamilton, who did the heavy lifting for the dock work. Spruce logs for rock cribs, tons of rocks, lots of 2X6s, huge spikes and an incredible amount of muscle power were the ingredients for the job. Both docks look great.
Painting was the other after season priority. Keeping the 30 buildings on the island looking good is a lot like the painting of the Golden Gate Bridge: you start at one end, keeping painting until you’re done and then start again. Bartender turned painter Allison Whelan was the driving force in this year’s effort. She quickly found out that applying the stain and paint was the easy part. Sanding and scrapping was the tough work. With help from Jeff Walker, our chef for the two weeks, she attacked the job with steely determination. The expansive deck at the main lodge has never looked better.
Having no handyman talents what so ever, owner Tom Klein found himself cutting firewood and replacing the spruce log walkways around the island. Of course he did some fishing too in the good company of Mel Linder, the father of Scott guide, Steve Linder aka, Biff Piston. The trio had to shut down the fly out lakes and give those fish one last exercise session before their long winter’s rest. Ivanhoe was smoking, as was Smalltree. Late August is exciting fishing with a lot of very heavy fish that attack with savage abandon.
The Yamaha 40s were given a comprehensive work over by Don Klassen, a LaRonge Yamaha dealer, who flew in during the worst storm of the season. He will be back in the spring to tackle tune ups of the two dozen Honda 25s and 30s used on fly out lakes. Yes, it takes a lot to keep a fishing lodge finely tuned. But the place was put to bed nicely this fall: all the water lines drained; windows boarded up; plumbing fixtures and all motors winterized; kitchen cleaned within an inch of its life. With two weeks of hard work behind them the shut down crew jumped in the Beaver on August 30th and, like the geese and loons, headed south, leaving the island ship-shape, almost ready for the 2011 season. See you then.