Posts Tagged 'Hoonah'

Boat maintenance in an exotic location

It is said that sail cruising is mostly boat maintenance in exotic locations. We’ve given ourselves ten days to get Aurora ready before Selena and Brian arrive and, weather permitting, we head toward Sitka.  Here’s a running account of how we’re keeping busy.
Friday, May 21.  Wrestle full batten mainsail up on deck to free galley and port berth.  Take genoa and staysail up. Remove the buckets filled with rock salt, part of the winterizing routine that have kept the cabin dry. Put all the deck safety equipment back in place. Chat with Harbormaster Paul about the  mild winter.  Remove cushions – remarkably dry – from aft cabin. Find pots and pans under mattress they have held up and helped keep dry. Give surfaces quick wipe off to get rid of any mold.  Lunch on apple from Whitesboro, sausage from Portland, and granola bars from the galley. Tell neighbors, no we don’t have rats or river otters on board and brag a bit about the way we screened them out of the dorades.  Lay jib on foredeck and after a couple of false starts pull it up the forestay into place and roll it up. Empty out the duffel and stow away charts, books and our few clothes. Visit the legendary Hoonah Trading Company to read the bulletin boards and bring home fresh fruit, salad makings, mayo, mustard, and a pound of hamburger. Catch up with Bill at the liquor store while picking up gin and a box of Franzia Merlot. Have dinner. Make up the berth with fresh sheets, get the duvet in its big pillow case, wonder if our bedding will be this dry next year in Olympia, and, as the sun slowly starts to set, go to bed.
Saturday, May 22. Climb into the engine room.  Open both banks of batteries to check water level. Check fresh water in cooling system and transmission fluid in V-drive. Try starting engine and find the starter shorts out.  Move to deck work.  Get main out of bag. Slacken preventer and lower lazy jacks. Pull sail up on starboard atop dinghy and closer to mast. Start pushing slugs up the track while the Skipper urges me to fasten the halyard to the head so he can raise it.  Continue doing it my way, tying slugs to mast every so few, which is not necessary but which would work better if putting the sail on in a heavy wind.  Next the reefing lines and the cunningham.  Make many trips down into the cabin to look at the photos we took before removing them.  Finally pull the main up and realize reef lines tie below the boom.  Put them right, flake and tie the sail, put on the sail cover and bungie the halyard away from the mast.  Fasten the stay and hank on the staysail.  Next lunch of “Indian Tacos” to benefit the Mt. Fairweather Dance Group’s upcoming trip to Juneau.  Then go to the school/public library to catch some WiFi and clear mail. Come back and find Jack has WD40’d wires on the engine starter, which now works but still doesn’t crank the engine.  We distract ourselves by mounting the barbecue on the stern rail, which is going well until Doug walks by to say hello and I drop the Allen wrench in the drink.  It’s ten to six and the Hoonah Trading hardware store closes at 6.  I jog the whole way and arrive under the wire.   The sales people – think research staff in a tool library – immediately find the desired object and ring up my $1.59.  Return to boat and – more mindful now – tie all loose pieces to the rail  – wrench, barbecue, brace and brace knob – before putting them together.  Lose nothing to the sea this time. Tighten all the mooring lines, bringing above water levels the forward spring with a winter’s work of sealife growing on it.  Take a hammer to the barnacles on two fenders that have spent a couple of hours drying in the sun.  Things looking more shipshape now.
Sunday, May 23. Glowplugs most of the day. I’ve always thought the term glowplug sounds like some sort of kudos or award, where you bask in praise as others plug your talents. But so far nothing of the sort. Glowplugs are the little thingies that help the diesel in the high pressure fuel injected cylinders ignite.  No spark plugs on a diesel engine.  In fact, if you throw a lighted match into a pan of diesel, it won’t flame.  You need heat, glow, pressure, precision.  Thinking replacing the glowplugs would help start the engine, we set about it and took three and a half hours to change one.  Nothing like in marine diesel class at Portland Community College, where you work unobstructed on the engines that are rolled around on dollies. Nope, our glowplugs are really hard to reach: we work through two small doors in the aft cabin. Then you have to work around the fuel injector lines, which means you get about 15º purchase on each wrench turn. Add a trip to Hoonah Trading for the four different wrenches – two each for old and new plugs – but now we’re prepared there.  Since dropping tools in our engine room is only a bit less dramatic than throwing them overboard, we duct taped the wrenches and the flashlight onto a long cord.  We kept track of the little nuts that fasten down the wires on the top of the glowplugs by passing a length of sewing thread through them. It all worked.  As for the engine, it still doesn’t start.
Monday, May 24. The engine works.  We get some fuel in the system with  pumping and a full throttle.  In fact it starts better than ever with the new glow plugs.  It’s a hot day so we spend the afternoon on deck, slowly re-reversing the dock lines: for winter we’d put the eye ends on the dock cleats rather than the deck cleats. We scrub the cockpit with a brush and Simple Green, even the instrument panel.  Removed and washed the suction cups that hold a dozen of the 15 lines that run into the cockpit.  Arlen came by with the new dinghy and got the bilge pump working.  He’d taken it apart over the winter. Now we’re missing a clutch plate for the Torqueedo electric motor and have plumbing issues we need to decide to take care of or live with.
Tuesday, May 25 We decided we could flush the toilet with dishwater or bucket of seawater pending installation in the fall of an AirHead, the only portable composting toilet produced in the US and one with great reviews.  But Jack called West Marine in Sitka and ordered a new faucet for the galley sink.  Meanwhile I took some of the “Rescue Tape” that he had bought at the Wooden Boat festival to slow the offending leak.  Then Greg came by and we asked for a lesson on removing the secondary fuel filter, which is really hard to get to.   Since we’d just replaced the primary fuel filters during winterizing and found them fairly clean, he wondered why we’d wanted to remove it.  He pointed out that a diesel guzzling power boat uses the same filter.  Didn’t we realize that our engine only consume fuel teaspoon by teaspoon?  So filter is still in place.       Today was the day we gave away T/T Aurora.  I hated to see the pretty little skiff go but Mike, out fishing guide neighbor,   clearly likes her.  After hoisting her up on the halyard we dropped her down in the water, Mike got in and rowed her away, commenting on how nice she rowed.  Within the hour he had her in the shop for a bit of fiberglass repair and a new paint job.  Meanwhile Jack and I broke our new 8-ft inflatable out of its remarkably small bag and inflated it.  Jack had pored over the instructional manual for several hours.  The manual combines directions for a bunch of inflatables West Marine sells.  Not only was it hard to pick out which applied, the two pictures of how to put together the oars, clearly contradict one another.  But then we put it in the water and took a spin around the harbor and out past the island cemetery with its totem poles and Russian Orthodox Crosses, fish packing plant, to the fishing wharf  where we stopped to talk to a couple of  men who were reeling in fair sized Dolly Vardens.  I will warm to the new dinghy, which rows beautifully and is very light and easy to get up on deck.
Wednesday, May 26 Day off to go sailing!
Thursday, May 27 Emptied out all the lazarettes and hauled the stuff up on deck so that the sun (75º F) could do its work.  Brushed down the life jackets and washed the bags on the folding crab put and chair.  Cleaned out one of the bilge compartments, put in the former salt buckets and started to stock supplies.
Friday, May 28 We’re down to the easy stuff now.  Hauled the cushions from the V-berth and all the bedding.  Washed the duvet.  Cleaned out the nave station desk.  Mounted the solar powered windvane on the binnacle.
Saturday, May 29 Brought all the gloves, mittens and hats up  into the sun.  Moved canvas from V-berth locker to deck to air and to lazarette for the summer.   Aired all the ring binders with the technical manuals.  Sorted out of date port and marina info.   Filled the water tanks.   Failed completely to dislodge plastic plate from bottom of 10 qt pot being used as dishpan.
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From Bellingham to Hoonah on the Alaska State Ferry

This is the classic American journey everyone should take.  Public transportation through the wilderness.  The highway through roadlessness.  Part pajama party, part hootenanny.  The dreamers, those weary from work, the hopeful unemployed, ordinary folks going home or leaving home all in the same boat.  In how many places in America do you find yourself traveling alongside locals, particularly locals who can spot a grizzly on a far shore or predict  exactly when the humpback will dive right under your nose?
For an overview watch our slideshow.  Music is Jack’s composition Petersburg from the CD North to Alaska.

Alaska State Ferry 2-Mobile from Carol McCreary on Vimeo.

The journey offers amenities in just the right doses. The 400-odd foot long M/V Matanuska has three levels above the car deck, all served by multiple stairways and a single elevator. Kids range freely, the sporting do laps on the deck. If you pay a modest bit extra for a cabin, you get a berth with proper linens on good mattresses and your own hot shower.  If you’re traveling with your own gear, you stretch out on deck chairs in the heated solarium or pitch your tent on the deck. Or you leave your stuff in a locker, sleep wherever you like inside and then freshen up in one of the public shower rooms.  Why can’t we live this way on land?

A DIY ethic seems to be built in.  As you pull through the setting sun beyond Bellingham, Washington’s pretty little harbor the Purser kindly asks nurses, doctors and medics to introduce themselves.  After supper, the First Mate plays his banjo and other musicians join in; by the third evening they are a five-person orchestra.  The pudgy guy with the unruly mustache in a fisherman’s faded plaid shirt shows up on Sunday morning in a clerical collar as its announced that Episcopal Reverend so-and-so will lead a non-denominational service in the cocktail lounge at 9 am.
The food is spectacular. Halibut burgers with mountains of french fries. Platters of fresh spinach topped with mounds of shrimp. A pair of huge pork chops, fresh vegetables and mashed potatoes that barely fit on the plate.  We learned to order one meal and cut it in half. There’re daily specials, a very long a la carte list, a deli counter with soups, salads and made-to-order sandwiches, a hot table with too many choices and, best of all, old-fashioned short order cooks at the ready.
There is no Internet.
Every night is briefer than the one preceding it so you don’t miss much.  You sleep through Seymour Narrows on night one, the border crossing through Dixon Entrance on night two and Frederick Sound on night three.  But the route often dips far inside the Inside Passage, closer to the route Aurora took last summer than anything a cruise ship could manage.  To our surprise and delight, our Captain heads into Klemtu Passage, greeting the inhabitants of one of Canada’s most isolated First Nations villages with three stately blasts of the steam whistle and giving us a look at their spectacular long house.  He also navigates the shallow winding Narrows – which boast 62 buoys in ten miles – between the towns of Wrangell and Petersburg, which the cruise ships never visit.
But the best routes of the Alaska Marine Highway are the local ones.  Our final stretch takes us on the three-and-a-half hour ride from Juneau to Hoonah on the much smaller M/V LeConte.
For breakfast I go for berry pancakes and Jack for the eggs, toast, hash browns, and bacon.  The short order cook fills me in while I wait. Yes, the LeConte sometimes fills up with all 300 passengers for the Hoonah route.  It did a couple of weeks ago, before the summer schedule kicked in bringing three runs a week.  “On sellout days we just hope it doesn’t rain so people can spread out on the decks.”  I ask how they manage to plan for meals and keep the wonderful short order service which slows any food line.  “We just know,” he says.  It seems enough people show up with their own copious meals  – which they warm in on board microwaves – so everyone eats well and enjoys the trip.
When he flips my hotcakes I notice they’re still berryless and chid myself for yakking away and distracting him.   Then he flips the first one onto a plate, tops it with a soup-ladle full of marion berries mixed with raspberries and blueberries, and puts the second pancake on top.  As I admire the sandwich, another helping of berries is ladled on top.   Oh my, delicious!
After breakfast, I stay in the dining area. The dreamers on the ferry are up in the bow quietly gazing out on the ocean, the convivial sorts are in the starboard lounge, where curtains are drawn to create the movie house the village otherwise lacks.  But the dining area is the part of the ship where the industrious ones are: the accountant with a tabletop full of chits, an artist with a pad, a couple of folks with laptops, and people working on crafts.
A young woman sits fashioning a Tlingit quilt/ceremonial robe spread out on a four person table at a window booth.  A little girl crawls onto the seat opposite, admiring and inquiring why she’s chosen bright turquoise bound with the broad black band instead of the traditional red. “It pops out. You notice it.” she says.  As an employee passes her table, cleaning up after the wave of hungry breakfasters, she asks his name.  They link up in mutual recognition when she introduces herself as the payroll clerk for the ferries.  The man with the mop then strikes up a conversation with a bight eyed boy who’s just finished his sophomore year in high school.  Taking a break from  his work, the older man puts pen to napkin to share “the very cool way” that the early Greeks – “or maybe they were Arabs,” he says – used to come up with the mathematical concept of Pi.   How good it is to see this:  Elders claiming their space and kids joining them in it.  In Alaska, the village raises the kids.
Finally, we round Icy Strait Point and the old cannery that has been lovingly restored by the native corporation.  We disembark, grab our 42″ rolling duffel with the new nautical charts and set off through the village to the harbor. Everything is as we left it except for the early spring flowers and the snow on all the peaks. Heading down the ramp we see the fishing troller Happy Hooker still tied up beside Icy Lady, whose skipper busy getting her ready for the opening of the season. And there’s Aurora, looking beautiful and remarkably clean and dry.

From Port Townsend WA to Glacier Bay AK …… 2009 Cruise Summary

Here’s where the Aurora took Jack the Skipper and First Mate Baggywrinkles this summer.  We cruised a thousand nautical miles along the Inside Passage, north from the 48th to the 59th parallel parallel and west from 123º to 136º.    We sailed out of our former home port of Port Hadlock on Port Townsend Bay, Washington, on June 13th and arrived at our new home part of Hoonah, AK on August 1.

The year 2009 will be remembered for a magnificent summer that followed a monstrous winter. Our most difficult day was the very first – crossing Juan de Fuca Strait; our most difficult hour was also the very first, rounding Point Wilson for the umpteenth time.   As for the normally obstreperous waters of Johnstone Strait, Queen Charlotte Strait, Cape Caution, Milbanke Sound, Dixon Entrance,  and Icy Strait, they all behaved for us, as our endless stream of sun-filled photos show.   Next year when we come south through the usual rain, fog, or storms, we will have the vision of these spectacular vistas still in our heads.

Have a look at our pictures.  Those of the Skipper and First Mate together were taken by Piers Rippey, who brought welcome hands to our deck for ten days from Prince Rupert, BC and Auke Bay, AK.   The photos are arranged chronologically on one page; slide show takes 18 minutes.  No photo captions at the moment but here’s our route.

June 13             Mitchell Bay, San Juan Island, WA, at dock  48 34 N 123 10 W

June 14            Montague Harbor, BC on mooring buoy     48 53N 123 25 W

June 15            Nanaimo, at dock     49 10 N 123 56 W

June 16-17       Comox, at dock   49 40 N 124 56 W

June 18             Campbell River, at dock    50 02 N 125 15 W

June 19             Kamish Bay/Granite Bay, at anchor 50 14 N 125 19 W

June 20              Shoal Bay, at dock   50 28 N 125 22 W

June 21               Forward Harbor, at anchor 50 29 N 125 45 W

June 22               Lagoon Cove Marina, at dock  50 36 N 126 19 W

June 23               Laura Cove, Broughton Island, at anchor   50 50 N 126 34 W

June 24               Sullivan Bay, at dock   50 53 N 26 50 W

June 25                Blunden Harbor, at anchor   50 54 N 1217 17 W

June 26-27          Duncanby, at dock    51 24 N 127 39 W

June 28                Green Island, Fish Egg Inlet, at anchor   51 38 N 127 50 W

June 29-30         Shearwater, at dock    52 09 N 128 05 W

July 1                   Klemtu, at free dock    52 36 N 128 31 W

July 2-3              Khutze Inlet, at anchor   53 05 N 128 16 W

July 4                  Hartley Bay, at free dock   53 25 N 129 45 W

July 5                 Klewnuggit Inlet, East Inlet, at anchor   53 43 N 129 44 W

July 6-10           Prince Rupert, at dock   54 20 N 130 18 W

July 11                Brundige Inlet, Dundas Island, BC, at anchor   54 36 N 130 53 W

July 12-13           Ketchikan, AK, at dock    55 21 N 131 41 W

July 14                Meyers Chuck, at free dock    55 44 N 132 16 W

July 15               Frosty Bay, at anchor    56 04 N 131 58 W

July 16-17          Wrangell, at dock  56 28 N 132 23 W

July 18-19         Petersburg, at dock   56 49 N 132 58 W

July 20              Portage Bay, at anchor   56 59 N 133 19 W

July 21               Hobart Bay, Entrance Island, at anchor  57 25 N 133 26 W

July 22               Taku Harbor, at free dock   58 04 N 134 08 W

July 23-24         Juneau, at dock   58 18 N 134 26 W

July 25               Auke Bay, at dock   58 30 N 134 39 W

July 26-27        Hoonah, at dock   58 06 N 135 27 W

July 28              Bartlett Bay, Glacier Bay, at anchor  58 28 N 135 53 W

July 29               North Sandy Cove, Glacier Bay, at anchor   58 43 N 136 00 W

July 30               Sebree Cove, Glacier Bay, at anchor   58 46 N 136 10 W

July 31               Bartlett Bay, Glacier Bay, at anchor    58 28 N 135 53 W

Aug 1-present    Hoonah, at dock   58 06 N 135 27 W

Aurora goes into hibernation

It’s called winterizing a boat and we’d never done it before.  

In his hefty tome, Boatowner’s Mechanical and Electrical Manual: How to Maintain, Repair and Improve Your Boat’s Essential Sysetems, Nigel Calder offers his usual weighty, complex, comprehensive advice on the topic.   But when we actually, started talking to folks on the docks, we discovered putting a boat into hibernation mode involved lots Nigel missed, including a good mix of  common sense and folklore.

Harbormaster Paul assigned us a great slip near shore  kitty corner to his own boat and just opposite the  slip of Assistant Harbormaster Arlen.  He told us to dock bow out (or, rather, into the bad south winds) and to tie up real tight, lines dock to deck.   Some people, including wooden boat owners, go for loose tie ups but Paul says he tightens them all lines up no matter.     And woe to those who tie up deck to dock with leftover line laying about: those lines gets chewed up in the snowblowers.

HibernationJack

But we weren’t even there yet.  First we needed to change the fuel filters which meant retrieving the emergency supply of diesel from under the dinghy.   Easy lift using the halyard and the Milwaukee Wrench, the unsung hero of the cruise, which deserves a picture.  (Normally when sailors want to reduce effort they install spendy winches and hydraulic davits.  Hardly anyone realizes that a $400 Milwaukee Wrench with a little adapter can perform as well if not better.)

Then there was an overdue oil change.  Just when we thought we had it down to a system, it ended up taking all afternoon.   Suction pump on the blink, oil spraying about, horrible hot sweaty day, everything invisible behind the forest fire smoke drifting down from the Yukon.   To add insult to injury we couldn’t get the  oil filter off and spent an hour retrieving the wrench when it got stuck.  As we were taking a break from our discouraging slide down the learning curve, Howard from the Perseus walked by and told us to tell him if there was ever anything he could do for us.    So we squeezed him into the space , provided light and orientation, and he got the thing off.  Lesson learned:  hand tighten the oil filter.

Then we topped off the tank with diesel to prevent any condensation.  It was low tide and the attendant  up on the fuel dock at Hoonah Trading lowered the hose 45 feet to reach us.   Climbing up the little ladder to pay, I saw the Aurora from a new angle and realized I’d missed a photo op.

HibernationJack2

Tying up was heart wrenching:  the absolute end of our cruise.   Next we removed on to the sails, taking pictures of  the cunningham and the reefling lines so we can get them back in the right place next year.    The sails more or less flaked themselves right on the deck and we commended Carol Hasse for the generous cut of the sail bags, which helped us get them on with no trouble.   

One morning Jack woke up with a solution to a nagging problem.  On the deck of Aurora are three dorades or air vents big enough to accommodate a weasel  or other animal that might choose to shelter  their nests in Aurora.  He ran off the Hoonah Trading for supplies and set to work.   He cut ovals of wire screen, fit them over the dorade openings and clamped them on with 8-inch circle clamps.    Brilliant.   (I took a picture but it seems to have gone missing.)

The next job was to put new antifreeze into the fresh water system and, for good measure, into the raw water system: we closed the throughhull, dumped the antifreeze into the strainer, and briefly started the engine to suck it in.    

HibernatingAurora

On the last day we drained the water tanks, closed all the throughhulls, and dumped something pink and non toxic called Arctic Ban into the tanks, the sinks and the toilet.   We put pots under the aft cabin mattress to let air flow under it and piled other cushions and sleeping bags onto it.   We pushed the sails through the big hatch in the V-berth and brought them into the salon, where the mainsail goes clear from the head to the galley sink.    Into the V berth we chucked the rescue equipment from the cockpit.  

Then I hosed the mud off the anchor and scrubbed the deck, tying or bungee-ing halyards and lines off the deck surface, and fastened the dodger and covered the windshield, winches, hatches and rails.   

We didn’t tarp, although many of our neighbors said they do.   Sailboats are designed to  have water wash over them; power boats are not.  

We supplemented two small electric dehumidifiers with five buckets of rock salt, which are supposed to drink moisture out of the air.  We opened up all the lockers in hopes that air would move around our clothing and bedding 

That’s Aurora there in Hoonah Harbor, the tall mast behind the blue tarp.   It was really hard saying goodbye.

Icy Strait Point

IcyPoint

The Hoonah Tlingit have taken a bold approach to cultural tourism that may be a wave of the  future.

Inside Passage cruise ship tourism is a two edged sword.   It brings income to coastal communities and affords visitors an experience both spectacular and affordable.

We thought we’d run into cruise ships frequently.  As it happens, Petersburg and Wrangell take no large cruise ships.   A single large ship a day is allowed in Glacier Bay and they cannot dock or anchor.   Prince Rupert, British Columbia has only one a week, Vancouver of course a few more, but we didn’t go there this year.   In fact, in our whole passage through Canada we encountered underweigh a single  large cruise ship, one of the classic, never-very-large vessels of the Holland America Line.

Cannery

Unfortunately, Ketchikan and Juneau have fallen victim to what the an editorial writer in The Juneau Empire calls “the magic blingdom” on the waterfront.   Mind you, four ships a day can dump 56,000 people a week on towns with populations of  less than 8 and 31 thousand people respectively.    I assume the same is true of Skagway, Haines and Sitka as well, though some towns manage better than others.    In addition to obvious environmental concerns huge,  it’s very sad to see shops operated by the cruise companies themselves or by merchants from the Bahamas, who simply move their operations there every fall.

The attraction for visitors is clear.  Cruise line welcome all members of the family, able bodied or not.     Cruise ships can afford to take on leading scholars, naturalists and historians.   Many if not most cruise ship folks appear to be  foreign visitors to the US, for whom the week on the Inside Passage out of Seattle must be an affordable respite from land based travels.   But so many average foreign tourists traveling in foreign flagged ships probably weakens demand for historical, cultural and eco tourism.

IMG_0798

Enter the Hoonah Tlingit and their locally based approach.  The original people of Glacier Bay, they were forced south across Icy Strait to Chicagof Island when the glaciers advanced in the seventeenth century.   In the early twentieth century many fished for or went to work at the large cannery established at the entrance to their harbor by investors from Port Townsend.     From 1912 to 1953 the Hoonah Packing Company operated as a full fledged cannery.  After that, it turned to other types of fish processing and eventually served as a maintenance base for the purse seine fishing fleet until 1999.

In 2001, the Hoonah Native corporation, which had purchased the site, implemented the new concept of a private, purpose built cruise ship destination known as Icy Strait Point.   The wonderful old buildings of the cannery were renovated to accommodate a museum, restaurants, and thirteen, small Native-owned shops, including a bookstore.  The tribe constructed a new Big House for cultural presentations for themselves and to share.  Beyond the water front there’s a boardwalk with benches, totempoles and a daytime campfire.  Beyond are hiking trails and a ride down Mt. Hoonah on the country’s fastest longest zip line.    And visitors can walk the 3/4 mile to town or hire local guides for fishing, bear tracking, whale watching and the like.

IMG_0783There are no plans for a cruise ship dock at Hoonah; rather ships anchor out and tender passengers in.   Only one ship is allowed at a time for an average of 3.5  visits per week in the summer.

A really nice touch is that Icy Strait Point is open free of change to all local Hoonah people and to visiting fishermen and cruisers in Hoonah Harbor.   We spent a fine sunny afternoon there, a welcome break from oil and anti-freeze.    While the experience is was more packaged than our visit to the North Pacific Cannery with the well trained teenagers of Port Edwards, British Columbia, Ice Strait Point really does have something for everybody.

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.

The last frontier of the hunter-gatherer

*****The last frontier of the hunter gatherers
Use of tools is one thing that sets people apart from the other animals that share the planet.  Commercial fishing is the last vestige or the hunter gatherer phase of human cultural development.  The tools of fishing used today evolved directly from those of our ancestors.  Nearly all fish catching devices in Alaska are simply improvements on one of three basic types of devices:  hooks, nets and traps.
Over the years, fishermen have developed increasingly efficient gear designed to harvest specific species.  As harvest efficiency has increased, so has the number of commercial fishermen.  The combined effect is that today’s commercial fishing industry is, in most cases, capable of catching a lot more fish than the stocks can biologically support.
To maintain a long term supply of seafood, government fishery managers develop regulations to limit both total catch and fishing effort.  Regulations dictate what kind and how much gear can be used, establish boundaries of the districts in which fishing can occur, and determine what days (or even hours) fishing will be permitted.
Terry Johnson, Ocean Treasure: Commercial Fishing in Alaska.  p. 19

Commercial fishing is the last vestige or the hunter gatherer phase of human cultural development.  The tools of fishing used today evolved directly from those of our ancestors.  Nearly all fish catching devices in Alaska are simply improvements on one of three basic types of devices:  hooks, nets and traps.

Terry Johnson, Ocean Treasure: Commercial Fishing in Alaska

Here’s my take away and and what calls me back.    Time and space are different in Alaska.  It’s not just in a different time zone.  Not just long days suddenly reversing into long nights.   An ice age flows right into the present in Glacier Bay.   People there sense things differently.  Eventually, you do, too.

Alaskans practice the wisdom of the ages as they move across the waters and the land in search of subsistence.  Natives and settlers alike, share an age old ethic of self-sufficiency that distinguishes them from most other Americans.  Halibut hooks and other tools of the trade adorn totem poles.   Contemporary families budget time and energy to take care of their food needs and look forward to it.

halibut hook

Alaskan waters are so abundant that there is a thin line between subsistence and commercial fishing. Many commercial fishing vessels become the family home during the summer months.

Alaskans are genuine foodies who make most chefs and diners look frivolous.  Of course, they  have supermarkets.   In fact produce is amazingly high quality and fresh and the prices are just fine.   Summer nights are too short to grow corn in Alaska but it arrives with its silk glossy and damp.    Melons do well on the long trip are apricots, peaches and pears are respected and protected.  Local growers turn out beautiful summer salads and greens and families brag about the size of the cabbages in their household plots.    But meat and fish?  Nearly impossible to find at the supermarket.

It was great to see the excitement of the Blough family as they left for their annual reunion and caribou hunt.   All the Alaskan cruisers we met were looking forward to the hunting season.  Everyone takes their annual  allotment of deer, which is 6 small Sitka deer per adult.  Most of them were also hoping to get a moose.   Dianna licked her chops in anticipation while sharing her recipe for bear ribs.  Many folks hunt black bear  but seem to agree that brown bear is not very good at all.   Since Neal and Dianna have professional butchering equipment at home, they also order two cattle and two pigs on the hoof.

At Hoonah Trading Company, canning jars, rubber seals, and canning parifin were flying off the shelves as folks came out of the woods with pailfuls of salmon berries, then blackberries and next huckleberries.

IMG_0842

It was the fishing we saw up close.   Every dock has a number of simple fish cleaning tables with a fresh water hose.  Around 4 pm every day people line up to use them.   Huge sockeye, pinks and chum, many males with the hooked jaws of spawning season.    The largest halibut we saw was 170 pounds, but everyday we saw people bringing in lots of smaller ones.

Our cruising neighbors, some from the inland areas of Alaska, have promised to show us the ropes next year.   Most of them clean, cut into portions,  vacuum pack and freeze their catch on their boats.   Out of town sport fishermen take their fish to a small shop behind the Harbormaster’s that processes and packages fish for shipment.   The morning we flew out of Juneau airport, I felt pangs of sheer envy at the huge cartons of frozen fish that many travelers were checking with their baggage.

As for commercial fishing, we’ve had to learn about the rigs of the various fisheries just to navigate past them.   We learned about gillnetting from Joe Upton’s Alaska Blues and from the talkative Arnie.    After LaDonna’s dramatic story of the Wrangell purse seiners, we peppered seiners with questions.  Trollers were everywhere, from the lovely antique double ender in whose company we negotiated Green Rapids to the dozens in Hoonah Harbor.  Our favorite boats there,  moored side by side, are Icy Lady and Happy Hooker.

longlinerWe saw our first longliner leaving Frosty Harbor:  a bizarre non contiguous assortment of red balls and flags stretching nearly across the channel.      We consulted our Canadian charts book, which has good illustrations of  a troller, a gillnetter, a purse seiner, a long liner and a trawler.   Identifying how fishermen in each fishery set their lines and nets is an essential part of cruising the Northwest Coast.   (Alan Sorum’s artlcle “Identifying Alaska Commercial Fishing Boats” has the basics but poor pictures.)

This post has wandered and taken time to write.   As I try to finish things up here, I am distracted and feel a powerful call of the wild.  It’s the end of  August and the wilderness of southern Oregon should be spectacular.    So I’ll end this with quite from an anthology called Alaskan Stories (edited by John Miller) hat I picked up used during my final visit to Juneau’s Rainy Retreat Books.   (And read as I tried  to fall asleep in a hotel bed, which didn’t move the way our bunk on Aurora does.) All the other Alaska books are safely shelved on Aurora but this one sneaked back to Portland, making my reentry all the more difficult.

Robert Coles, the great psychiatrist, teacher and  Children of Crisis author, brings us these words of a fourteen year old Eskimo girl who once spent six months in Fairbanks.

I remember waking up in the house we had in Fairbanks; I went to the window, and I saw – another house.  I bent my neck and looked, and there was the sky, a small piece of it – the size of meat  or fish we have in the middle of the winter, not the fish or meat we eat in the summer.  Everywhere we went there were houses and stories.  We kept looking at walls.  I couldn’t see beyond a street; there were always cars and buildings.  The sky was not the sky I knew.  There was no ocean.  At school there was a playground but across the street there were stores.  My mother said she felt a lot of time as if she wasn’t getting enough air.  My father ended up in bars at night, drinking.  He didn’t see anything except the beer inside a bottle.

One day he came home and said he wanted to go back to our village; he wanted to stand near the ocean and look at the water, not drown in beer.  We left the next day.  My uncle has been in Fairbanks a long time, but we couldn’t stay, and  I’m glad we’re back here.  As soon as we got home, my grandmother told me to go say hello to the ocean, and to the ponds, and to take a walk through the grass, and to watch for foxes and say hello to them.  And to not forget the sky; she never does – she’s always looking at the sky and watching the clouds, and she can tell if the weather will change by the way the clouds go across the sky.   She won’t tell me her secret.  She says I’ll learn it by looking at the sky long enough myself!


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