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Maxine's Adventures

Chapter 3: Lessons in Logistics

Last winter another fly in lodge owner gave me some real simple advice. He said "Never run out of toilet paper up there." Now that I've had a full dose of flight schedules and logistics, I see the importance of that statement. This is going to be one of the driest chapters I'll ever write. Usually I try to keep things funny and light but logistics can be mind boggling. It takes a clear head to make sure every person, bag, supply and item is going in the right direction at the proper time.

I'll take that pound of butter from Chapter 2 and try to explain its confusing and costly journey to the lodge. Most of our in season supplies come from Saskatoon. So to purchase our pound of butter we have a couple of options. It can be purchased by our expediter at a local grocery store or ordered from Sysco Foods. Either way it gets in a truck and heads for stage 2 of the journey.

This next step depends on the number of guests going from Saskatoon to Points North on our private chartered flight. The flight holds 16 guests each with their 50lbs of gear. Less than 16 people would mean that the butter gets to travel in luxury and fly to Points North with them. When the plain is full it lowers the cost per person but raises the freight costs because now the butter is getting on another truck and bouncing its way down the long lonely road to Points North.

Now if the butter came on a truck and we have no float planes going in or out that day there is an extra step. For a poundage handling fee, Points will refrigerate and store it for us until there is room on a float flight. Once again this depends on the number of guests. Depending on which float plane is used they can hold 4 people and gear or 8 and their gear. Any less than this allows for extra supplies and if that's not possible the supplies come in on a separate flight.

To add to the mix here, this pound of butter might need to go to one of our outpost camps. In which case sometimes it comes to the main lodge first so it can travel with other supplies to the outpost and sometimes it will go directly to the Outpost camp.

Finally here we are at the lodge. The guys unload it from the plain and haul it up to the back deck of the lodge. It's a good day when after all that traveling the poor pound of butter doesn't have eggs on it's face! Eggs and bread almost never fair very well on this long journey. Thanks to our marvelous chef Tracy, the bread and buns are always made fresh. When ordering eggs we count 2 per guest, 12 for baking, 1 per staff per day and 12 to slime up the cooler!

Speaking of coolers, this reminds me of the one huge logistics lesson. ALWAYS FILL EVERY PLANE IN BOTH DIRECTIONS! (I've actually had some pretty crazy dreams about this) All the butter and other supplies have came in coolers, rubber maids, packing crates and boxes, all of which have to go out clean and empty to be refilled and sent back in again. Recyclables, garbage, empty fuel drums and empty propane tanks also have to fly out, some to be refilled and brought back, some to be returned for deposit and some for land fill or a recycle depot. They go out on a float plane and then some get on the wheeled flight to Saskatoon, some leave Points North on a truck and some get refilled and wait for the next available flight back into the lodge or one of the outposts. Fuel and propane can't fly in with the guests so they get on a supply plane whenever space is available.

Well that should give you a slight idea of  the confusion that sometimes occurs when getting the guests and supplies in and out every 4 days. When that pound of butter doesn't show up it can be hard to find. It could be any number of places in a 650 km stretch.

What's the worst thing that happened this season with logistics? Gladly I can say nothing major. All of the frozen food that came in with the staff ended up staying on the plane dock overnight, which would have been disastrous had it been warmer. Luckily all 3 freezers worth of of food were still frozen solid the next morning. Once we almost ran out of coffee which some might call a disaster and once some guest bags came on a separate flight about 12 hours later. I'm sure I'll have some stories on this topic in the future but this year all was smooth.

Now for the cost, it greatly varies but the best price for shipping and handling is about $3.50 for a block of butter that had a purchase price of $3.29 The highest price, I hope never to find out. As soon as a float or wheeled plane goes one direction almost empty, the cost goes up and the longer it sits in storage the cost goes up. If the butter turns to oil or the toilet paper gets wet at some point along the way, then go back to beginning and wait another 4 to 8 days.

Previous chapters in PDF format:

Chapter 1: The Beginning
Chapter 2: The First Trade Show