Posts Tagged 'Ketchikan'

Log: North to Alaska with David

On Friday afternoon, May 20 2016, we finally shuttle selves and supplies from house to the docks, grab celebratory drinks at the Pourhouse and take out from 123 Thai and move onto Aurora for the next twelve weeks. We turn in early and are off before dawn, with David still tucked in under his goose down comforter in the V-berth.  Goodbye, Port Townsend.

Sat 21 May – Montague Harbour 48º53.6’N 122º23.8’W

Good old Point Wilson rocks and rolls us before we make a straight shot across Juan de Fuca on the ebb to pick up the push of the flood into Haro Strait. Search for orcas to no avail. David – whose father was from Sashkatschewan – does the honors of flying the Canadian pennant as we dodge a big ship in Boundary Channel.

DavidFlag

Sequestered on the boat at the customs dock at Bedwell Harbour, we watch Captain Jack make his way off the boat, along the float and up the long steep ramp to phone in our arrival. This time the officer up in the dock invites him to sit down and actually apologizes for the inconvenience. “Lots of people find the walk difficult,” he says. “We been trying for years to get this situation fixed.” So he gives Jack phone and email of the higher ups in Ottawa and encourages everyone to complain directly about this egregious accessibility gap.

We’d hope for an unoccupied mooring buoy at Montague Marine Park on Galliano Island so that David could enjoy the challenge and comedy of catching the ring with a pole and tying up. But as it’s a beautiful night with the locals out for the weekend and all are taken,  So we find a space, drop anchor and prepare David to be rudely removed at dawn from his bunk over the anchor chain locker.

Sun 22 May – Ladysmith 48º59.8’N 123.48.7’W

Up and down the coast our movements are determined by tides and currents as well as winds and seas. The Captain has calculated that a late Monday morning transit of Dodd Narrows – ever so narrow and so often clogged with log booms – is optimal. So we have some options of where to wait. I vote for Ladysmith and prevail. On the VHF, Harbormaster Mark tells us they’re full but if we’d anchor he’ll call us when 40 feet of dock became free. So we continue up past the log booms and the sawmill, drop anchor at the head of the inlet, and have a nice lunch.

The community-owned non-profit Ladysmith Maritime Society is the best. Mark and a young man, who was obviously being trained, appear on the dock to take our lines  – the last time anyone will do this for weeks.  Once off ship, Jack rolls right into the handicapped shower, David walks into town to do some last minute shopping for his culinary wonders, and we all wallow in the broad bandwidth.

Mon 23 May – Boho Bay 49º29.8’N 12413.8’W

Dodd goes flawlessly and we sail northeast across Georgia Strait to the little cluster of islands southwest of the mighty Taxeda. Alone in Boho Bay off Lasqueti, we drop the hook in our little spot near the big rocks just as a river otter swims around it in pursuit of dinner. His catch is quick and efficient but eating a whole foot-long fish is something sea otters do not do elegantly. They don’t use their paws but jerk their heads up, taking the fish head first. They snap their heads around, biting, chewing, and swallowing an inch at a time, fishtail in the air. The last time I saw an otter eating, I nearly called marine mammal rescue thinking the captive fish had snagged the poor otter with a stray hook. Now I know otters just look like they are gagging when they eat.

Boho Bay is our first distant, isolated, off-grid anchorage and gets us started on the definition of “wilderness”.  It also is the first of a series of technical adventures regarding our electrical system. It starts when our fairly new carbon monoxide alarm goes off. We figure that when we were anchoring, some diesel exhaust must have entered the salon. So we turn on the engine blower, open up all the hatches and port holes and hang out on deck.

The damn thing continues to scream and the reset works for about two minutes. We consulted Nigel Calder and finally dig out the leaflet with tech info in twenty languages that has not yet been filed in the three-ring binder marked “S/V Aurora Operations Manual – Vol IV”. Finally, I wedge in a piece of bamboo skewer to keep constant pressure on the reset button.

We’d wondered about our ever so slightly bulging batteries, even though folks in Port Townsend had assured Jack they weren’t ready to be changed out. Bank 2 is drawing 9.0 volts of DC juice while Bank 1 has 14. Something’s off.  We decide to check things out in Campbell River.

Tues 24 May – Campbell River 50º02’N 125º14.6’W

It’s a long long long day, but there are no joint Naval Exercises in Whiskey Golf so we power though the rough waters along Taxeda and motor-sail up Georgia Strait under vast clear skies, elated that the Comox glacier appears bigger than last year.  The light-and-color show of sky  on water continues all day. When the view on port appears white and grey and on starboard true blue, I remember to take a photo.

Georgia

Under still glorious skies, Jack catches the back eddy which takes us into the First Nations-owned North Coast Marina. On the adjacent shore is  a boatyard, the Ocean Pacific chandlery, Riptide Pub, a Starbucks, and the biggest supermarket I’ve ever seen. Campbell River is the last town with roads to serve the interior or Vancouver Island plus all the roadless small communities of the Discovery Islands, Desolation Sound,and the Broughtons.

It’s 4:45pm when we tie up so I run up to Ocean Pacific to see if someone can help us the next day. Lisa checks with the manager who says they’re  booked up but they’ll spread the word. Sure enough, Lisa calls the next morning to say someone will be around later in the day. Jack volunteers to wait around and handle it, dispatching David to Starbucks and me to the Campbell River Museum. In the end we gain four new “golf cart” batteries and lose a bit of confidence in our Port Townsend shop, which has recently changed hands.

Thurs 26 May – Shoal Bay 50º27.5’N 125º21.9’W

Could a passage of Seymour Narrows be any less dramatic? We encounter no line up of boats, share the space with no large ships, log booms or barges messily loaded with salvage timber. As we pass through the whirlpools above what is left of Ripple Rock, I tell Jack and David about the tremendous project undertaken to blow its head off. One of the must-see films at the museum is based on newsreels from the 1950s. It took some time for Canadian and US technocrats to rule out a nuclear explosion and years longer to put in place the tunnels required to do the job with conventional explosives. In the end, the massive rock on which so many ships and lives has been lost blew up into the air and the sea in a perfectly executed blast.

Morning rays brush hills
Lighter, brighter greens. Until
Canvas is complete.

North of the narrows everything changes. Is this where the wilderness begins? David is skeptical – there’s evidence of clear cutting. While we see no active camps and replanting of trees was well along, we pass a small tug towing a large log boom. I take David’s picture with it.

DavidNodales

Of more concern are the fish farms, great pens of Atlantic salmon (color added) that attract sea lice and foul anchorages. Nobody knows who owns them – Norwegian and Chilean technologies, yes, but managed by huge multinational corporations. Next to nobody knows anyone who draws an income from this business and if they did, they might not admit it. These farms don’t need farmers: fish are fed fish meal brought in on barges which serve all the pens in an area.

At the “magic chowk” where Cordero Channel crosses Nodales at Frederick Arm, we hang a left toward Shoal Bay with the usual great anticipation. Beautiful as always and there is space at the dock.

Iridescent flash!
Orange hummingbird visits.
“Rufous,” says David.

ShoalBay

Mark has made progress on the house and Cynthia has produced pottery over the winter and is working on a commission for a new lodge. We have drinks and guacamole on the deck as rufous hummingbirds swarm among the petunias, preferring the Mark’s sugar water from the red plastic blossoms on the feeder. There’s one other cruiser, plus several summer helpers, including a Nova Scotian who’s helping build for winter use a mini hydroelectric generator on the bay’s lone small stream.

Hummingbirds

Fri 27 May – Port Harvey 55º.34’N 126º16’W

Jack has timed our departure to so we’re near slack at Green Point and catching a favorable ebb through Whirlpool Rapids. The morning is glorious, the water smooth so we power down and have a nice breakfast when David emerges. We’ve done these rapids more than a dozen times so they present no trouble.

Mirror smooth surface
Johnstone winds cannot ruffle
Whirling Green Point pools

It’s Johnstone Strait beyond them that the huge question mark, no matter what Environment Canada has to stay. But it too is welcoming; there is no need to seek shelter in the bull kelp wilds of Port Neville. Instead we spend a long day going all the way to Havannah Channel, eager to see George and Gail at their mini resort at Port Harvey.

No Johnstone traffic
Save a cabin on its way
To summer moorage

Our Waggonners guide wisely counsels patience as the place is tucked in at the very tip of the inlet. Still the red and white two story lodge just doesn’t appear in our binoculars! What is going on! We decipher the docks, which look fine, and as we approach, George and his dog walk out to meet us.

The lodge has sunk! It’s gone. Totaled. Inventory, equipment, everything: lost. The fine structure with a hardware store/mini grocery down stairs and a deck and restaurant upstairs was on an inflatable bladder.

GeorgeGeorge is all smiles, undeterred. (Dog is sad; he only meets boats in hopes of finding dog friends.)  George and Gail are rebuilding. A sturdy old barge has been secured in place.  The lodge is being framed this month. It will be one story because “a lot of our cruisers are getting older and don’t like the stairs.” A tent is going up on a nice wooden float to shelter cruisers who feel convivial. Electricity will be restored to the docks soon. In the meantime, homemade cinnamon buns are delivered for breakfast and pizza for lunch or supper. Getting all the permits required for the café kitchen will take a little longer.

While David is devouring his enormous bun and chatting with George, I run up to the house to see Gail, the baker. She’s in a pink chenille bath robe and tennis shoes, grey like me, resilient and smiling like her husband. I condole, commenting on the effort before them. “It’s okay, she says, “I love to work.”

Sat 28 May – Waddington Bay 50º43’N 126º36.8’W

May 28th is Mom’s birthday. She would have been 106 today.  And she would have loved knowing that the United Nations chose this date for a new annual awareness day, one for which Anna is representing PHLUSH back in Portland.

Mom, sex ed leader,
do you know your birthday is
Menstrual Hygiene Day?

We cast off and make our way down Port Harvey and up Havannah Channel. Low hanging garlands of mist decorate the dark green hills.

My raisin wrinkles.
Thirsty for dew, face morn’s mist.
Grey skies! Silver sea!

Bleached white shells making an old Native kitchen midden highlight a patch of shore under the bright but shadowless morning.

Streak of bright white.
Bleached shell beach. Native people
Would’ve breakfasted here!

midden

Only David has indulged in cinnamon buns so I go below to make breakfast. Do I sense smoke as I as pass the aft stateroom? Sure enough, there’s a slender plume emanated from the the trusty inverter where we charge our cell phones and laptops. I shut it off, pull the plugs on the greater than usual number of devices there and call Jack down. He turns the switch on the battery banks, shutting down the whole DC system, then pulls the inverter away from the back and side walls of the cabinet and pulls out a bag of cough drops that’s blocking the vents. “See, here’s the problem” he says, chiding me for negligent housekeeping. He goes back to the cockpit to navigate the narrow, kelp-clogged Chatham Channel. “Let it cool down and we’ll try it later. It’ll probably fix itself like so much else.”

What?!  I quickly consider the consequences of an onboard electrical fire. Sure, our fire extinguishers are current, but we don’t even have the dinghy deployed. It’s still tightly wedged – deflated – in the forward locker!! But enough for now, I shift gears as I’m called to the deck to help with the tricky navigation. I stand directly behind Jack, back to back, finding the two red range markers on a distant hillside with my binoculars. When one appears to be directly above the other, it means the boat is on the required 270º bearing. I have to guide Jack in turning a degree or two to port or a degree or two to starboard until we’re precisely on course. Then, thanks to a dogleg in the channel, I turn forward and pick up a second set or ranges in the direction we’re headed. Finally we’re in deeper water emerging toward Knight Inlet and Jack is telling David to be on the lookout for the Pacific white-sided dolphin that like to play in our bow waves.

“Aren’t we going into Lagoon Cove to check out the electrical? It’s ten minutes from here!,”  I say.  There’s some resistance but I stand firm. At least I can deploy the dinghy. We head into The Blowhole and soon are hailing folks on the dock.

We haven’t stayed at Lagoon Cove since master story teller Bill Barber died – it’s just too sad. There’s never been much in the way of amenities, just an extremely caring welcome. The fuel dock serves neighboring shrimpers and crabbers and the people at the fish monitoring station who share their Internet with Lagoon Cove after work. Jean Barber still summers in the house above the docks but this renowned cruising stop in an unspectacular location is now for sale.

A very perky person welcomes us on the VHF and soon we see her bouncing around the dock. She waves us in, grabs a line and introduces herself. “My name is Jam.”

“Hi, Jan.”

“Jam! Like peanut butter and Jam.”

She’s a fellow cruiser. Points to a nice ketch, Sea Esta. Says Jean had to go away for a few days and she’s just helping out. There are only a few boats in.  Jack ventures the question, now with fairly low expectations. “Is there anyone here who can answer some questions about our electrical system.”

“Sure!” say Jam. “My husband is really good at that stuff! Right now he’s out helping someone set the trap so we’ll have prawns for happy hour!”

“You got boats coming?” I ask.

“All the time! Last weekend it was Victoria Day! We really packed them in here!” She does a little hand chop motion to show boats moored stern-in to the dock (rather than tied up laterally to it). Indeed, Lagoon is the only place we’ve ever stayed that practices Mediterranean mooring.

Gratified that people still come and that the host’s huge plate of prawns still graces the pot luck BYO happy hour table, I finish up deck tasks while Jack and David make lunch. After a while a young guy with a bushy red beard shows up. It’s Dave; he towers over Jam, who’s probably a Canadian Filipina. Dave looks at the ancient inverter, shakes his head, says it’s dangerous, you can’t use this. Another cruiser suggests using the cigarette lighter and offers a couple of USB plugs. They don’t work so Dave checks things out and finds out the lighter had just never been wired in and fixes it. Then Jack wonders whether the reason our diesel furnace won’t turn on is that the guy in Cambell River who installed the batteries just forgot to rewire it. This turns out to be the case. In less than an hour Dave has everything in order. By 2pm he’s sitting at our nav station eating the breakfast Jam has delivered because he’s been busy nonstop all day. We say goodbye, put some cash into Dave’s pocket and his name our 2016 Pantheon list.

Knight Inlet’s dolphins let us down but the afternoon has broken warm, dry and colorful. We motor thought a the ever-changing palette all the way to the low islands of the Broughtons.  It’s a long day and there is only a single sign of human habitation.  As we float past, I snap of photo of the First Nation longhouse, while David pulls out his phone, catches some waves from the village cell tower, and text Karen with news of our progress.

Gifford

We watch the sun set from Waddington Bay, the all-around sheltered anchorage with view holes that we discovered on our 2015 South of Cape Caution Cruise.

Sun 29 May – Allison Harbour 51º02.7’N 127º30.7’W

If the weather gods continue to cooperate and we get an early start, we should be able to make it all the way to Allison Harbour. This is the ideal jumping off point for Cape Caution and the weather should hold for a next day crossing.

We rout David from his berth, throw his bedding on top of ours, remove the mattresses, open the anchor locker, and send him up on deck with his first cup of coffee. He activates the windlass with his foot, bringing up the chain in small bites, letting the motor cool off every ten seconds and giving me the chance to flake it neatly in the locker below. Now that we’re in the wilderness, David will be subject to this routine every day.

Under clear skies and on windless seas, we motor on to Allison Harbour and snug into a sweet little cove. Let us remind the unwary reader that “harbour” is a geophysical term. This one bears no signs of human habitation apart from our ephemeral presence.

Mon 30 May – Pruth Bay, Calvert Island 51º39’N 128º07’W

Cape Caution really lived up to its name on our 2014 cruise. Fourteen hours of stomach churning rollers northbound, General Jackson in the fog southbound. This time? Easiest yet. Mirror seas reflect a cirrus-domed firmament with dappled blues and silvers. Small sandy beaches glow golden even though we give the Cape wide berth. The red roofs of the Egg Island light station and the gentle wave of the Maple Leaf flag assure us that someone is keeping watch.

cirrus.jpgWe learn one new lesson, however. Just south of the Cape, Jack hails the pilot of the lone southbound vessel we encounter – a tug towing a large barge. He just wants to confirm that passing port to port works best. He tries on 16 and then on 11, the Victoria Coast guard channel for commercial traffic south of Cape Caution. No answer. Why the tug didn’t answer the call on 16 is a mystery – it’s the law for everyone to monitor it. But not being on channel 11 is less of a mystery. The pilot was probably still on channel 78, which is the Prince Rupert Coast Guard channel used by commercial vessels north of the Cape. The lesson: Cruisers should toggle between channels 11 and 78 to track traffic and to announce their presence in fog. (In our case, we have three VHF radios and can monitor all at once. The reason we happen to have three radios is that in 2014 the handheld failed mid trip. Once back home we purchased the the same model, as it continued to get good reviews. Then we found the new charger charges the old radio charges perfectly well.)

Version 2We get past Cape Caution so fast that we suddenly have a new option. Jack’s conventional wisdom is this: if we’ve been beaten up by twelve hours of rough water, we turn into Fury Cove. If we’ve still got energy, we continue north to Green Island Anchorage. Southbound Fury Cove is preferable to Green Island because it gives a head start on the Cape. Going northbound, Allison is preferable to Blunden Harbour for the same reason.

The new option is Pruth Bay at the north end of Calvert Island. For years I have read about the Hakai Institute, looked longingly at the photos of the georgeous Pacific beaches, and perused charts of all the tiny islands in the Goose Group and in Hecate Passage. In fact the entire Hakai Luxvbalis Conservancy Area has hundreds of small western-facing islands in addition to the two main ones: Calvert and Hunter. This huge, protected, undeveloped provincial park extends nearly to Lama Passage.

So we head to Pruth Bay and have the hook down by 3pm. David and I deploy the dinghy, jump in and row to the Institute dock. Nearly a dozen of their boats range from solid inflatables to aluminum research vessels to small, fast passenger ferries. Several young researchers loading gear say they’re looking at oceanography and nearshore geology. The Institute, run by the Tula Foundation in a former fishing lodge, also studies First Nations culture. There are no services for outsiders apart from a welcome kiosk, a restroom, wifi and a path to the beach.

The Pacific beach is extraordinary, more beautiful than what you sail past as you leave Tofino. I don’t take camera or phone in the dinghy but David does – by accident it seems – and before we return slurps up the latest news on wifi.

Can your mind be free
If you need answers now?
Screw your devices!

Tues 31 May – Shearwater 52º08.8’N 128º05.3’W

We rout David from his slumber in the V berth to raise the anchor. I’m eager to go and bring the chain up in a ten second bights, which results in it getting stuck in the tube. I swear, tug from below, run up on deck, tug from above until I heard the tumble down into the bow. The David gets up in the bow, his foot on the switch, his eyes on his Apple watch stopwatch. We’re still not coordinated.

Anchor up, we’re off into Fitzhugh Sound, waveless, wind-less, whale-less. Gorgeous but disappointing. On clear still days like this you can hear whales splash and blow and flumes of mist linger in the air a bit longer.

leaving Hakai

We’ve never had a shorter passage to Shearwater. Seven hours later, we’re approaching the float, Christophe there to take our lines. Expectations are high: there’s wifi, water, public phones, a pub, and a chandlery. With luck, we’ll be able to charge our now-empty phones, iPads, and laptops as well as batteries for Jack’s scooter and the Milwaukee wrench. Shearwater is the only place between Campbell River and Prince Rupert where cruisers can stop to get things fixed.

While we are comparatively undaunted, David is mystified at the succession of problems we’ve faced. “Can’t you just read Consumer Reports and find a boat that’s reliable?,” wonders David. A skipper from Portland in a UofO cap finds this hilarious, thinks for a minute, and recounts – day by day – equipment failures and maintenance required on their similarly sized sailboat.

The guys go shopping and come back with an inverter that is a tenth the weight and three times the capacity of the old one and a double USB plug for the cigarette lighter. An hour later everything is recharged.

After doing laundry and slurping beer and election news at the pub, Jack needs some downtime. So I explore Bella Bella with David. The tin can ferry is terrifyingly fast – dock to dock in less than five minutes. Bella Bella is one of the largest native villages on the coast, the home of the Heiltsuk Nation. As we stroll through town a woman greets us, excitedly offering the first salmon berries of the season. At the fishing port and the solid waste center, we’re among hundreds of eagles, many flying just above our heads. I realize they have a variety of calls, not just the familiar multi note downward trill. The town has everything: a large school, a hospital, a tribal center, social and environmental non-profits, a good grocery, and variety of colorful totem poles. I am surprised that the wastewater treatment plant is on a hill. Good in a tsunami but it must need powerful pumps and efficient electricity generation.

Thur 2 June – Khutze Inlet 53º04’N 128º3’W

Leaving Shearwater, I bring up the fenders but drop the biggest one overboard. As Jack brings the boat around, I head forward with the fending pole and tell David to fetch the extra one from the shower. I belly down on deck and crawl out over the bow, held by the jib-sheet looped around my foot. One swipe and the fender i.e. retrieved. Thirty seconds. We could not have done that a few years back. Everyone is impressed.

We’ve always loved crossing Milbanke Sound and seeing the pretty light stations south and north of it. This morning however, it’s rough, beats us up, keeps David below, pretty miserable. Then we get the waves behind us and it’s a different day.

Oh, Great Pacific!
You throw us mighty waves.
Ha ha! We surf them!

Once we get in Finlayson Channel, I go below to start some soup. By the time we get to Klemtu, it’s ready so I turn off the gas as we approach the fuel dock. The attendant is not to be found: we call, ask around, have lunch. Finally I get a woman at the grocery store to call. “He’s in a family meeting,” she says. Which means someone has died and there won’t be anyone to pump diesel today.

We set out again, motoring up Graham Reach to lovely Kurtz Inlet. Rather than go on to where the Inlet shoals out into a bear beach, we drop the hook in the shelter a notch near the mouth.

Friday, June 3 – Hartley Bay 53º25.4’N 129º15’W

There is no stretch of wilderness less inhabited and more spectacular than the east coast of Princess Royal Island. This is where you find the tallest trees, the boldest waterfalls. It’s the land of the spirit bear, revered by tribes and adventurers alike and off limits to trophy hunters. Maybe someday we’ll see one.

Where Graham Reach turns into Fraser Reach we stop to take a look at the ruins of the old Butedale cannery. The rickety docks and likely fouled bottom of the bay there have prevented us from every spending the night. But while the decay continues, despite the efforts of a recently retired caretaker, a new aluminum ramp signals that things may improve in the future.

Butedale

Hundreds of canneries have been reclaimed by sea and the forest, however, and maybe that should happen here. (And how many have been saved. Port Edwards near Prince Rupert is the most extensive restoration and hardly anyone goes. Hoonah has turned one into a nice interpretative center and south of Craig one functions as a classy fishing resort. Astoria Oregon has saved a few buildings. Anywhere else? In the Pacific Northwest, weather and wilderness just take over.)

Icy old fingers
Scrapped earth, left waterways
For migrants. Whales. Us.

Liquid silk on stone
Mountain hearts open to showers
Rainforest cascades!

Mackay Reach. Slate grey
With white dots and dashes.
Weather’s Morse Code

By the time we’re in Mackay Reach the color of the water and wave action have changed, as if to tell us something. Wright Sound is rough. We take the waves on various quarters, with a couple of good rocking on the beam. David, having earned, is in the cockpit. We find standing, letting sea legs strengthen works. As we approach the channel into Hartley Bay, Jack says “Oh, no, the depth gauge seems not to be working.” A check of the chart, however, shows we have 1600 feet under our keel! At this depth soundings are impossible and useless. With a few minutes we are back to normal, cruising with 160 feet of water under our keel. Around the bend is the First Nations village of Hartley Bay, population 165.

HartleyPort

We’re barely tied up at the fuel float when the attendant welcomes us and sends down the diesel hose from the dock way above. She suggests I use the long handled hook laying on the dock to grab it and avoid falling in. As the diesel flows, she calls out our progress: 70 liters, 80 liters until I slow to listen for the bubbling that shows our take is full.

I go up to pay and ask to leave the boat a few minutes while I scope out 40 feet of dock space. At the moment there isn’t but it’s busy. We’re the only rec boat but local boats are coming and going including the RCMP -the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. Then the fuel attendant reappears and within earshot of the Mountie says, “If that RCMP boat could squeeze into that 37 foot space you could go there. I can’t ask, but you might.” Before I know it, the petite blond has moved her boat, leaving the best spot at the docks for us. So Hartley Bay and so Canadian. I am moved.

As soon as I step down to get one of Aurora’s lines on the new toe rail, I hear loud barks followed by a sustained and barely audible growl. A splendid young husky. I can’t help looking her in the eyes because one is blue and the other brown. When I feel the light touch of teeth through the many layers of cloth on my leg, I tug the second line under the rail and, bitter end in hand, jump back to the safety of the boat.

Later in the evening there’s a knock on deck. I emerge to this picture. The dog, her owner, Kyle Clifton, and an enormous crab he’s brought as a peace offering. Seems the elders told him about the dog drama.

Kyle

I dive into the lazarette for the 12-qt crab pot that hasn’t been used all season because we’re too busy to crab. Crab looks delicious. Huge scary claws, even looks too big for the pot. I ask Kyle if he can break him in two to clean him but he’s a purist, comes with the traditional recipe. I invite him on board to do it right.

Kyle is in charge of a team of wildlife specialists who monitor vast expanses of the Spirit Bear Coast for the Gitga’at First Nation. We pepper him with questions. He tells us where the whales are. We learn that approximately a third of brown bears here are albinos, Spirit Bear. No, there’s no store in Hartley Bay. Folks fish and hunt and provision groceries in Prince Rupert 60 miles away. If they run of sugar borrow from a neighbor. Everyone is in touch on Facebook. We wonder about the new houses along the boardwalks. Earthquake safe? Yep, says Kyle, they’re on still rods punched into the muskeg. Just waiting for folks to new furniture and move in. We hear the history and learn why there are places named Metlakatla north and south of the international border. What about Enbridge? Won’t the pipeline go through now that Keystone XL is stopped? Kyle is fairly confident it won’t. The evidence is in, the legal work done. The Hartley Bay Band of the Gitga’at Nation has been fighting for years. This is where we first heard about this impossible threat, where we got the bumperstickers and posted them on the port side of our salon.

Bumperstickers is probably the wrong word. Hartley Bay has no cars. Apart from several new houses it’s barely changed since our last visit seven years ago. Modest affluence. The foot ferry from Prince Rupert calls twice a week, tying folks here to their kin in the burg of 13,000 sixty miles to the north. Kyle’s family is there and will join him on his boat as soon as school lets out. His wife, who also works for the the tribe is East Indian, via South Africa and Vancouver. We figure that with grand-parentage from Kerala and Calcutta and the Tsimshian and Haida First Nations, nobody but nobody is “more Indian” than Kyle’s kids. Maybe we’ll meet the whole crew on our trip south.

Saturday, June 4 – Kumealon Inlet 53º25.4’N 129º15’W

With Davy still enjoying his zzzz’s, we cast off and get a smooth start on long narrow Grenville Channel.  There’s almost no traffic save a couple  of tugs pulling huge southbound barges with 40 foot containers of frozen fish stacked six-high plus equipment, vehicles, and boats on top of them.  As the second one approaches we hear, “Hailing the northbound sailboat!” on the VHF.  We switch to another channel for instructions on how to pass but the pilot – this must be a hell of a lonely job – just wants to share news of a pod of orcas ahead.  “I got some great video!” he says. I put down my book and focus intently, wearing my eyes out for the next half hour until I see a couple of spouts. No creative orca play but it’s good to know they are there.

A string of small gillnetters passes as does Sleighride, the Ducks from Portland we met at Shearwater.  We encounter them when we turn ino Kumealon Inlet, one of the few good anchorages along Grenville.

Kumeleon

Forgot spring ebb! Oops!
Watch anchorage walls close in!
Twenty-four foot drop!

Of course we should have looked at our tide tables before being tempted by that tiny little cove. We even make fun of Sleighride for dropping anchor in a less picturesque spot the middle of the bay.  We relax, take well deserved naps, pour drinks, go up on deck  and watch the tide roll away.  And it does. In this part of the world we have two high and  two low tides a day.  And this we’re coming off a big spring.  Yikes!  A 23.81 feet drop in maybe six hours:  that’s about a foot every quarter hour.   Like  someone has has pulled the plug.  We scramble to re-anchor a quarter boat length away from shore.

Sunday, June 5  – Prince Rupert 5 59º19.2N 130º19.2’W

SkinnyFloatLanding at one of the skinny metal finger floats at the ancient Prince Rupert Rowing and Yacht Club with current ripping below is challenging. So, too, must be keeping anything in place over 150 feet of water. But someone is waiting to take our lines.

Bald eagles swoop overhead. We have the tallest mast around and in a matter of time one perches on our windex, bending it, immobilizing the vane. We can live with this. We’re sailors and we don’t really need a wind vane to know which way the wind blows.

Prince Rupert’s deep water port has turned it into the biggest city on the Northern BC coast.  Of course, there’s no competition. We discover that the Alaska State Ferry calls there and both picks up and drops off passengers. This happens just after midnight so on our ferry trips we just hadn’t noticed.

Rupert

Wed 8 June – Foggy Bay 54º56.9’N 130º56.3’W

We head out in the fog, me on the bow blowing the horn, rousing David from otherwise undisturbed slumber. We navigate Venn Passage on a low but rising tide and head out into open water. Beautiful morning. We cross the border, haul down the Maple Leaf flag, and pick up some bars of AT&T. Jack calls Customs and Border Protection in Ketchikan to get permission to anchor just over the border, rather than continuing on all the way to Ketchikan. In the afternoon, we wind our way among the rocks through the hidden entrance to Foggy Bay.

It’s a perfect evening and so we hang out on deck. I do a photo shoot of David with Jack for the folks back in Pittsburg.

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Thurs 9 June – Ketchikan

David cheers. We’ve arrived!  We snug into Thomas Basin behind enormous cruise ships. Within minutes the customs officer appears from her office in the federal building overlooking the harbor and were free to roam.  In the monsoonal rains the city is famous for, we do our laundry, bring on a few provisions, and celebrate David’s last day with a trip to Totem Bight.

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Log: Back in the USA

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Down with that Canadian pennant!

Friday, June 6. Dixon Entrance and Foggy Bay. 54º56.9’N 130.56’W  We leave Prince Rupert at  5:30 am and wend our way through Venn, head north past Dundas Island and over the border where Jack and Cruz lower the Canadian pennant with ceremony and glee.

As soon as we pickup cell phone signals the blissful ignorance of Canada is replaced with pinging messages, Tweets, and emails. We also call US Customs for permission to moor at Foggy Bay, which is granted. Everyone knows us, we’re tracked by officials both sides of the border. Track record is good: we don’t smuggle cheap US booze and finish off produce purchased on one country before crossing into the other.

Dixon Entrance is beautiful. Clear skies, and flat windless seas.  Foggy Bay is a sweet little anchorage. Two other sailboats are ahead of us; must have left Prince Rupert really early.

Saturday, June 7 Ketchikan 55º21’N 131º41’W  In Ketchikan they measure rain in feet not inches. Thirteen in the past year.

So here we are, back in the cloudy drizzle that characterized our whole last passage to Alaska. Damp, dank, dusky, musty, moldy everything. We get a solid 36 hours of drops.  We’re moored at Bar Harbor rather than up downtown because we again have chores to do and the chandleries and markets are nearer. Turns out I need to make two trips back and forth from town. Through a mid-day dose of driving rain the wets to the skin two additional sets of clothes in addition to the fouliess that are already hanging outside under the dodger.

Then it stops. I get back on my bike and go back downtown in quest of the Portland Loo. It’s on the other side of downtown, south of The Creek, in the area of the waterfront where Stedman meets Thomas Street. This is where the Asians were forced to live. That is until the Chinese community was decimated by the Exclusion Act. Which left a bit of elbow room for Americans from Japan, until they were booted out to desert camps by FDR in 1942. In their wake came folks from the Philippines and they seem to have kept coming ever since. When we stop for lattes at McDonald’s to survive a drenching, all we hear is Tagalog. Ketchikan’s Filipinos are everywhere! They seem so upbeat. Maybe that’s just the way they are, or maybe it’s worked out. They have clubs and churches and normal teenagers and jobs and history. Middle class; don’t live south of the Creek anymore.

South of the Creek there’s a traditional-and-contemporary Skid Row, a national Historic District, and a tireless neighborhood association. Does this sound like Portland’s Old Town Chinatown, our old neighborhood? Yes. And the Portland Loo is on the dock right between the Salvation Army and the Salvation Army Thrift Store. It’s the Stedman-Thomas Neighborhood Association that inspired the partnerships and raised the funds to purchase and operate the Loo.

Monday, June 9. Meyers Chuck  55º44’N 132º15’W  Folks here do things so nicely. For example.

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Here’s the main entrance to the village. Bulletin board, mail box and emergency equipment.

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Welcoming paths with intriguing options. Boardwalks so you don’t get your feet wet.

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People here cheer on their wildflowers.

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There’s public art along the trails.

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The spider on the web is forged from horseshoes.

Blue Heron with fish.  Aurora at  dock in background.

Heron sculpture near dock with S/V Aurora.

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An elegant log cabins stands next to a simple fisherman’s shack.

The path to the beaches is bedded with fragrant cedar sawdust.

The trails along the path to the beaches is bedded with fragrant cedar sawdust.

Two crescent beaches meet on this spit at high water.

Two crescent beaches meet on this spit at big water.

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The school is closed but the play ground is carpeted with comfy moss and ready for play.

The mini sawmill that serves the town is run by the person who turned the school into a house.

The mini sawmill that serves the town is run by the person who turned the school into a house.

There’s US mail on Tuesdays. There are only a handful of year-rounders.  Others are fisherman or just fans. The wood smoke from their chimneys and the flags flying let you know that they are here.

Daryl is third generation and full time Myers Chuck except for construction work gigs that take him away. He first came here to visit his grandfather. Then his parents had a summer house here.  In time, he just decided  it just was his kind of place.  Upon hearing we’re from PT, he scratches his head and says think a couple of women come here from there summers.

He’s building an angled set of stairs up from the main path as we chat.  New house or what?   Land sale he says. State needs money so they sell off mental health lands.  What?  That’s what we call them he says.  So everybody has a generator?  Almost.  What about toilets?  Most of the year-rounders have flush. It goes into the bay.  Flushes from three sides. But I’m a honey bucket guy.  You don’t mix pee and poop, do you?  Course not.  I pee on my garden.

Tuesday, June 10. Wrangell. 56º27.9’N 132.22.9’W  Wrangell Harbor Master says Petersburg has renovated their docks. About time I say. And since they raised their fees, lots of their boats come here now.  New marina looks great I say. And the brand new red and white travel lift, which  announces Wrangell, Alaska, Home of the Wolves. But as for us transients, so glad you’ve left space right here in the middle of things.

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Crepuscular glow on Chief Shakes longhouse in the middle of Wrangell harbor.

Nice mix of neighbors.  Troller Hornet waiting for flood tide to put it up on grid and ebb so they can get bottom work done.   Annie B. from Port Angeles featuresTom Pope, Marine Surveyor. We’ve seen his name on bulletin board in PT.  He and Lillian had just adopted a pup – sort of a wire haired terrier named Sport. They ware thinking of changing his name to Peter because he tried to walk on water. Seems he took a running bound off the stern not understanding that water isn’t hard. Got fished out; all it took was a boat hook under his collar. Brown Sugar, a gill netter without a gill net, crewed by a couple, busy and cheerful, endlessly fixing things. First time the boat’s been in the water in four years. Then there’s a big Grand Banks from Napa CA. Polished people drinking chablis on the fly bridge started in Anacortes and are turning around here. The only other sailboat is Black Bear. More on Skipper Steve soon.

When we head home after drinks at Raymes, Wrangell’s finest dive bar, we find Jack’s scooter has given up the ghost and have to push him home. Cruz spends the whole next day taking it apart without riding anything amiss. In Southeast folks hang out on their boats so Jack can manage.

You can’t help but love Wrangell because Wrangell folks love it so much. They especially  brag about having the best Fourth of July in Southeast.  What a lead up to it!  The weekly Wrangell Sentinel  has given over three pages to introducing candidates in the Queen competition. Seems to  be a singular Wrangell tradition.  Candidates raise funds for the parade, for a favorite charity, and for themselves. Local businesses divide up their sponsorships am among them but the candidates put real effort.  They make posters, and sell tickets and proffer sandwiches at food stands decorated with the stars and stripes.  Candidates range from accomplished business women to a pair of twelve-year olds vying for the title of Co-Queens. With ingenuity like this, I figure they’ve come up though the ranks: another tradition is Lemonade Day, an entrepreneurship competition we’ve just missed.

House on stilts with troller in Port Protection.

House on stilts with troller in Port Protection.

Thursday, June 12. Port Protection. 56º19’N 133º36.8’W  We pass Point Baker, once the summer home of fisher poet Joe Upton, and go on to Port Protection, so named by George Vancouver himself. The two communities are close as the eagle flies but connect only by sea. Steve of S/V Black Bear has recommended this place.

Friday, June 13.  Kake.  56º56.8N 133º53.7’W We don’t register that it’s Friday much less the Thirteenth. Just as well as the long, formerly unnavigable Keku Channel and Rocky Pass is intimidating enough. The weather has turned and we need constant attention to tides, currents, charts and red and green buoys. Northbound seems longer than our last time through. We’re really tired when we tie up on the little Tlinkit village of Kake. Since the weather is rainy, cloudy and windless and dealing with various mishaps means we haven’t had a day off since we left PT so the Captain relents and we get one.

Kake is the perfect place for this. Its only claim to fame is an unattractive totem pole supported by guy wires which may possibly be the highest in the world. It’s not as tall, however, as the communications tower right next to it, which gives five bars of AT&T. We retether to the rest of the world.

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

Independent booksellers of the coast: Hats off to you!

 

Independent booksellers of the coast:  We salute you!
A tribute is in order.  If urban North America is starting to recognize their contributions to shared knowledge and community well being, how much more true is this for small towns and rural areas?
In Comox, British Columbia, for two years running, Martina Polson reader-owner-community activist, has made our experience richer.  The selection at Blue Heron Books blueheron@telus.net is not overwhelming.  In fact, the pickings could be described as rather slim.   But  Martina has read every single title and knows most of the authors.  In addition to a well-vetted selection of fiction and non fiction, she carries   books for children and young people and can inform parents and teachers of what is just right for their fledgling readers. She has post cards, a dying literary genre, and can give you the stamps to go with them.  She carries all the nautical charts and indeed the Canadian Coast Guard requires all mariners to have the printed versions on board.  
I choose Jeanette Taylor’s Tidal Passages:  A History of the Discovery Islands http://www.harbourpublishing.com/title/TidalPassages/, an oral history based work that complements the wonderful Desolation Sound that I bought last year.   Also choose (the choice is tough when Martina lays out the options) Cabin in Singng River, the autobiographic story of a woman who lived in the wilderness outside of Bella Coola, felling the timber, building a cabin and thriving for many seasons.  Today Chris Czajkowski lives on a high altitude fly-in lake in British Columbia’s Tweedsmuir Provincial Park and leads the Nuk Tessli Wilderness Experience.  www.nuktessli.ca  
“How about books on Alaska? ” I ask.  “That’s not ours,”  says Martina, librarian-like, with a slight frown, as if I hadn’t noticed the strict focus of Blue Heron Books.   But she’s got a foot on moral high ground:   it’s not right that the Russians and the Americans grabbed the coast, leaving the British with splendid rivers and upland, but minus access to the sea.   
Ketchikan, with its cruise ships clientele, doesn’t look promising for books.  But then I find Parnassus.www.ketchikanbooks.com  The small shop is up a flight of old stairs on Creek Street, a boardwalk over the Ketchikan Creek. 
I set foot over the threshold 25 minutes from closing and get a quick orientation from the owner’s assistant who tells me about the now very elderly woman who founded the business.  I leave with Joe Upton’s Alaska Blues.  The cover blurb by David Snow Falling on Cedars Guterson turns out to be dead on:  “…A beautifully written book about commercial fishing in coastal waters.  Joe Upton delivers the reality and romance of Southeast Alaska.”
In Petersburg has a 200 foot waterfront Chinatown known as Sing Lee Alley.  It’s not quite intact because at No. 14 is a Victorian bungalow that houses Sing Lee Alley Books.       
Tina, a fit, attractive, grey-headed fifty year old, is the owner bookseller.  We chat about environmental politics.  I mention that we lower 48 folks are sort of clueless.  What does she advise?    For local advocacy join the Southeast Alaska Conservation Council.  For the rest: population.  Which one?  Humans.  ZPG essential.  Hardline.  Seems very Alaska.  
We leave with exactly what we need. Ocean Treasure: Commercial Fishing in Alaska by Terry Johnson of the University of Alaska and the useful, inexpensive State of Alaska’s Inside Passage Wildlife Viewing Guide put out by the Alaska Department of Fish and Game and the US Forest Service.
Descending Seward Street from Hertiage Coffee (and wifi) to the cruise ship waterfront of Juneau, I see Rainy Retreat Books http://www.juneaubooks.com at number 113.  I remember “Rainy Day Books” from something I’ve read.  “Used to be that,” says the burly owner.  He goes on to explain how some peevish mid-western bookseller of that name decided to sue the nine other Rainy Day bookstores across the nation.  “Rainy days and books,” he says, exasperated. “Isn’t that the point?”
Royce isn’t a native Alaskan; he’s from Syracuse, New York.  He and his wife had always dreamed of owning a bookstore and then one day there was ad in the New York Review of Books (I think he said, but it may have been the New Yorker or the New York Times).   After checking the business out and finding a climate milder than that of Syracuse, they moved 9 years ago.  They shelve used books right next to new ones, like at Powells.  
After Royce gives me a quick introduction to the best books of Alaska, I leave with two which become highlights of the trip (quite possibly because I read them in Glacier Bay). The Blue Bear is a beautiful autobiographical reminiscence by wilderness guide Lynn Schooler about his friendship with the great wildlife photographer Michio Hoshino, who is killed by a bear on the Kamchatka Peninsula in the Russian Far East. The other book is The Nature of Southeast Alaska: A Guide to Plants, Animals and Habitats by Rita O’Clair, Robert Armstrong and Richard Carstensen.  Beautifully written, this is not your usual field guide.  Instead, it focusses on relationships and habitats and teaches you to look with wonder.
The busy summers of these independent booksellers balance out the long lean winter months, when they read, host local authors, and help tie together the social fabric of their communities.  Hats off to them.

A tribute is in order.  If urban North America is starting to recognize their contributions to shared knowledge and community well being, how much more true is this for small towns and rural areas?

In Comox, British Columbia, for two years running, Martina Polson reader-owner-community activist, has made our experience richer.  The selection at Blue Heron Books is not overwhelming.  In fact, the pickings could be described as rather slim.   But  Martina has read every single title and knows most of the authors.  In addition to a well-vetted selection of fiction and non fiction, she carries   books for children and young people and can inform parents and teachers of what is just right for their fledgling readers. She has post cards, a dying literary genre, and can give you the stamps to go with them.  She carries all the nautical charts and indeed the Canadian Coast Guard requires all mariners to have the printed versions on board.  

I choose Jeanette Taylor’s Tidal Passages:  A History of the Discovery Islands, an oral history based work that complements the wonderful Desolation Sound that I bought last year.   Also choose (the choice is tough when Martina lays out the options) Cabin in Singng River, the autobiographic story of a woman who lived in the wilderness outside of Bella Coola, felling the timber, building a cabin and thriving for many seasons.  Today Chris Czajkowski lives on a high altitude fly-in lake in British Columbia’s Tweedsmuir Provincial Park and leads the Nuk Tessli Wilderness Experience.   

“How about books on Alaska? ” I ask.  “That’s not ours,”  says Martina, librarian-like, with a slight frown, as if I hadn’t noticed the strict focus of Blue Heron Books.   But she’s got a foot on moral high ground:   it’s not right that the Russians and the Americans grabbed the coast, leaving the British with splendid rivers and upland, but minus access to the sea.   

Ketchikan, with its cruise ships clientele, doesn’t look promising for books.  But then I find Parnassus. The small shop is up a flight of old stairs on Creek Street, a boardwalk over the Ketchikan Creek. 

I set foot over the threshold 25 minutes from closing and get a quick orientation from the owner’s assistant who tells me about the now very elderly woman who founded the business.  I leave with Joe Upton’s Alaska Blues.  The cover blurb by David Snow Falling on Cedars Guterson turns out to be dead on:  “…A beautifully written book about commercial fishing in coastal waters.  Joe Upton delivers the reality and romance of Southeast Alaska.”

In Petersburg has a 200 foot waterfront Chinatown known as Sing Lee Alley.  It’s not quite intact because at No. 14 is a Victorian bungalow that houses Sing Lee Alley Books.       

Tina, a fit, attractive, grey-headed fifty year old, is the owner bookseller.  We chat about environmental politics.  I mention that we lower 48 folks are sort of clueless.  What does she advise?    For local advocacy join the Southeast Alaska Conservation Council.  For the rest: population.  Which one?  Humans.  ZPG essential.  Hardline.  Seems very Alaska.  

We leave with exactly what we need. Ocean Treasure: Commercial Fishing in Alaska by commercial fisherman and university professor Terry Johnson and the useful, inexpensive State of Alaska’s Inside Passage Wildlife Viewing Guide put out by the Alaska Department of Fish and Game and the US Forest Service.

Descending Seward Street from Hertiage Coffee (and wifi) to the cruise ship waterfront of Juneau, I see Rainy Retreat Books  at number 113.  I remember “Rainy Day Books” from something I’ve read.  “Used to be that,” says the burly owner.  He goes on to explain how some peevish mid-western bookseller of that name decided to sue the nine other Rainy Day bookstores across the nation.  “Rainy days and books,” he says, exasperated. “Isn’t that the point?”

Don isn’t a native Alaskan; he’s from Syracuse, New York.  He and his wife had always dreamed of owning a bookstore and then one day there was ad in the New York Review of Books (I think he said, but it may have been the New Yorker or the New York Times).   After checking the business out and finding a climate milder than that of Syracuse, they moved 9 years ago.  They shelve used books right next to new ones, like at Powells.  

After Don gives me a quick introduction to the best books of Alaska, I leave with two which become highlights of the trip (quite possibly because I read them in Glacier Bay). The Blue Bear is a beautiful autobiographical reminiscence by wilderness guide Lynn Schooler about his friendship with the great wildlife photographer Michio Hoshino, who is killed by a bear on the Kamchatka Peninsula in the Russian Far East. The other book is The Nature of Southeast Alaska: A Guide to Plants, Animals and Habitats by Rita O’Clair, Robert Armstrong and Richard Carstensen.  Beautifully written, this is not your usual field guide.  Instead, it focusses on relationships and habitats and teaches you to look with wonder.

The busy summers of these independent booksellers balance out the long lean winter months, when they read, host local authors, and help tie together the social fabric of their communities.  Hats off to them.


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