A taxi ride along on a Naknek summer night

Jul 27, 2017

Redline is the sole taxi service in the Bristol Bay Borough. It is the main transportation method for many summer fishery workers. KDLG's Caitlin Tan rode along Saturday night during Fishtival weekend.

Redline was moving about 1,000 per night over Fishtival weekend. People were mostly going to and from the bars, such as the Red Dog.
Credit Caitlin Tan KDLG

The Bristol Bay Borough has a year-round taxi service called Redline. In the winter it’s one Subaru making the rounds; however, in the summer it’s three to four vans servicing the area.

Over Fishtival weekend there was music every night at Naknek's bars, and this meant a big boost of activity for Redline as fishermen, seafood workers, and locals were coming and going all hours.

Kelly Aeillo’s taxi was acting as a "cash cab" this particular night. For Fishtival weekend several of the vans offer games for customers to play, one being ‘Bop-it.’ If customers can play the game for the whole ride without losing, they get the ride free. Most fares are between $5 and $12.

Fishtival weekend is one of Redline's busiest of the year.

“We have the push-in which is we bring everybody in and they are getting their boats, but when we hit Fishtival and all the boats come in in the same weekend it’s like when you go down here you will think you’re at the Mardi Gras," Aeillo said. "They will be like, ‘I’m drunk take me home.’ You’re like, ‘Alright play bop-it.’”

She said this weekend they have been moving about 1,000 people a night.

On busy nights she said they take calls, but they also do drive by’s at the bars to see if anyone wants a ride.

“So what we do if we don’t have a direct call we will just swing by and see if anybody wants to jump in," Aeillo said. "Listen to their lovely language. Going by, going by, and gone.”

The Borough is somewhat of an international melting pot of workers in the summer, so sometimes people do not speak English.

Luckily, Aeillo speaks broken Italian and Spanish.

On this particular night several Spanish-speaking cannery workers wanted a ride to the ATM downtown. Aeillo tried to explain the ATM’s are broken.

“Open the door.” [speaks in Spanish] “Where do you want to go?” [more Spanish] “The ATM's are broken.”

Offering information or services other than taxi rides is all part of the Redline operation. It’s not uncommon for the taxis to deliver pizza, drop off packages at the airport or even serve as a call-in directory service.

But tonight, it is almost exclusively rides to the bars. Aeillo's phone rings and a fisherman is on the other line. 

"Hey can I get a taxi from Leader creek volleyball net to Fisherman’s please?”

"Absolutely. Can you just be waiting out by the net? Thank you," Aeillo said.

“Cheers.”

Aiello’s work hours generally go from 4:30 p.m. until 5 a.m. Redline works with the bars to coordinate a closing time. Typically last call for taxis and drinks will be 3 a.m.

Aiello said her 12 hour shifts remind her of fishing.

“We work in the fisheries whether cannery worker to boats and crews when it’s the season you just go for it. The adrenaline of everybody’s energy keeps you going," she said. "We crash hard when we get home and are dead to the world. But then we get up and do it again just like anybody else.”

Sometimes the taxi can get rowdy. Aiello said the riders usually police themselves, but sometimes she gets tough.

“Okay get out," Aielllo said to a loud passenger. “You gonna show some respect or are you gonna get out?”

“I love you. I’m sorry," the passenger said.

“Thank you baby," Aiello said.

And sometimes the rowdiness is harmless. Tonight Nathan Sitsman, a fisherman, breaks out his mandolin. He serenades the van full of people with a song he wrote about ‘tender girls.’

“Well this song is about tender girls," he said. "About those rays of sunshine that you see when things are so dark...'"