Hoonah, population 715

 

As much as we liked Wrangell, we’ve decided to make Hoonah our temporary Alaska home.  We’d first heard the name from a neighbor in Port Hadlock when we were asking about the best places to leave a boat.  Hoonah is blessed with comparatively mild winters, a small protective harbor and the uber competent Harbormaster, Paul D., and his assistant Arlen S.  
Hoonah also gets accolades from Don and René Douglass in their fat, indispensable cruising guide Exploring the Inside Passage to Alaska: A Cruising Guide from the San Juan Islands to Glacier Bay.   In general, the authors take pains to explain to recreational cruisers that Alaska is different; since there are no marinas specifically serving recreational boaters, one should not expect help with lines or any of the fawning service that typifies facilities in the San Juans and Gulf Islands. (Think Roche Harbor: who needs it?)  
It’s so much better to tie up next to commercial fisherman with local knowledge, news of the day, and a knack for predicting the weather. In addition to fishermen, fishing guides, local working and family boats,  Hoonah, Harbor serves Alaskan cruisers who reside inland and several boats from the lower 48.  Harbormasters check dock lines and water lines every day.  When the temperature plunges, they go on board and plug in our heat lamps.  When the snow gets thick, they hire folks to shovel it off the boats.  For our 40 foot slip and this service we pay $850.  Electricity is additional.   Last winter, a hard one, total snow shoveling amounted to $50.   
The largest Tlingit village in Alaska, Hoonah is on an inlet known as Port Frederick.  It’s accessible only by air and water, although there are a few cars and several roads out the town to the sawmill and areas where residents fish, hunt and pick berries.  The village itself stretches along the waterfront from the old cannery on Icy Strait, passing the ferry terminal, the brand new not yet used TravelLift boat hoist, the Hoonah Trading Company, a public wharf and float, the food processing plant, the school, the float plane float, the harbor, the post office and a small airport that accommodates the tiny planes of Alaska Wings.
Hoonah Trading Company is the kind of store you dream about.  It has only what you need but everything you need.  It sits atop a long wharf with a fuel dock at one end and a gas pump at the other.  Between are a fully stocked Ace franchise with lumber, hardware and housewares and a small supermarket with abundant, inexpensive fresh produce.
The school is a stone’s throw from the harbor.   It doubles as a community center, the tribal big house being out at Icy Strait Point and the halls of the Alaska Native Brotherhood and Alaska Native Sisterhood needing repair.  The school houses the public library where we access Internet and the gym always seems to have kids playing basketball.  The school curriculum seems to include native Tlingit skills such as red cedar bark weaving and wood carving.  I should have asked about language study and whether the kids compete in canoe races using the dugouts parked out front near the totem poles.  
As for housing, it’s not Hoonah’s strong point.  Although there are attractive and well constructed homes up on the hill and toward the airport, most of the homes near the waterfront are scrappy little salt box bungalows.   Small and weather beaten, many have a single downstairs room with a put belly stove in the middle.
Then we figured it out.  The museum has before and after pictures of a 1944 a fire wiped out the wood-planked front street and the contiguous buildings on either side.   The wharves over the water and the small Russian Orthodox Church on a knoll behind were spared, but the heart of the village disappeared.  The fire had spread from a household smoke house and it seems that the chief of the clan to which the family belonged offered gifts and then committed suicide.   Then emergency housing came in on a ship that had been on its way to Hawaii; it was temporary military housing designed for an entirely different climate.  
We didn’t carry a camera around Hoonah, so these are cell phone snapshots.  Fortuntely the Hoonah has a very informative website http://www.visithoonah.com/ with a slide show tour http://www.visithoonah.com/images/slideshow/Hoonah%20Life/html/89.htm  of the “city” and good information on Hoonah Harbor  http://www.visithoonah.com/harbor_facilities.htm

Hoonahflowers

As much as we liked Wrangell, we’ve decided to make Hoonah our temporary Alaska home.  We’d first heard the name from a neighbor in Port Hadlock when we were asking about the best places to leave a boat.  Hoonah is blessed with comparatively mild winters, a small protective harbor and the uber competent Harbormaster, Paul D., and his assistant Arlen S.  

Hoonah also gets accolades from Don and René Douglass in their fat, indispensable cruising guide on Southeastern Alaska.  In general, the authors take pains to explain to recreational cruisers that Alaska is different; since there are no marinas specifically serving recreational boaters, one should not expect help with lines or any of the fawning service that typifies facilities in the San Juans and Gulf Islands. (Think Roche Harbor: who needs it?)  

It’s so much better to tie up next to commercial fisherman with local knowledge, news of the day, and a knack for predicting the weather. In addition to fishermen, fishing guides, local working and family boats,  Hoonah, Harbor serves Alaskan cruisers who reside inland and several boats from the lower 48.  Harbormasters check dock lines and water lines every day.  When the temperature plunges, they go on board and plug in our heat lamps.  When the snow gets thick, they hire folks to shovel it off the boats.  For our 40 foot slip and this service we pay $850.  Electricity is additional.   Last winter, a hard one, total snow shoveling amounted to $50.   

seinersThe largest Tlingit village in Alaska, Hoonah is on an inlet known as Port Frederick.  It’s accessible only by air and water, although there are a few cars and several roads out the town to the sawmill and areas where residents fish, hunt and pick berries.  The village itself stretches along the waterfront from the old cannery on Icy Strait, passing the ferry terminal, the brand new not yet used TravelLift boat hoist, the Hoonah Trading Company, a public wharf and float, the food processing plant, the school, the float plane float, the harbor, the post office and a small airport that accommodates the tiny planes of Alaska Wings.

Hoonah Trading Company is the kind of store you dream about.  It has only what you need but everything you need.  It sits atop a long wharf with a fuel dock at one end and a gas pump at the other.  Between are a fully stocked Ace franchise with lumber, hardware and housewares and a small supermarket with abundant, inexpensive fresh produce.

fish factory

The school is a stone’s throw from the harbor.   It doubles as a community center, the tribal big house being out at Icy Strait Point and the halls of the Alaska Native Brotherhood and Alaska Native Sisterhood needing repair.  The school houses the public library where we access Internet and the gym always seems to have kids playing basketball.  The school curriculum seems to include native Tlingit skills such as red cedar bark weaving and wood carving.  I should have asked about language study and whether the kids compete in canoe races using the dugouts parked out front near the totem poles.  

As for housing, it’s not Hoonah’s strong point.  Although there are attractive and well constructed homes up on the hill and toward the airport, most of the homes near the waterfront are scrappy little salt box bungalows.   Small and weather beaten, many have a single downstairs room with a pot belly stove in the middle.

hoonahhillThen we figured it out.  The museum has before and after pictures of a 1944 a fire wiped out the wood-planked front street and the contiguous buildings on either side.   The wharves over the water and the small Russian Orthodox Church on a knoll behind were spared, but the heart of the village disappeared.  The fire had spread from a household smoke house and it seems that the chief of the clan to which the family belonged offered gifts and then committed suicide.   Then emergency housing came in on a ship that had been on its way to Hawaii; it was temporary military housing designed for an entirely different climate.  

We didn’t carry a camera around Hoonah, so these are cell phone snapshots.  Fortuntely the Hoonah has a very informative website  with a slide show “city” tour  and an introduction to Hoonah Harbor.

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