Posts Tagged 'salmon'

Log: POW Circumnavigation

Prince of Wales – land of watery wonders and deep culture.

A sign pasted on the inside of our pantry door at home proclaims says “Dream POW-ABC.” It’s the fruit of a collision between my January resolutions and a list of the largest islands in the USA. Did you know that four of the largest are in Southeast Alaska? Prince of Wales, Admiralty, Baranof and Chicago. We’d already done a major part of the shoreline of each one, so why not go back and systematically circumnavigate all of them?

Prince of Wales is the largest of the bunch – the third largest in the USA in area, plus a thousand miles of coastline, which are magic to look at even on a map. With hundreds of small protected coves in which to drop anchor, there would be no need to hurry. All spring we looked forward to our DIY luxury cruise. The true surprise was finding not only wonderful wilderness but also an variety of intriguing small “cities” and villages. Since available books on the area are so out of date we wrote our own Cruisers’ Guide to Prince of Wales Island to document port facilities and other amenities.

Sat 11 June – Kina Cove, Kasaan Bay 55º20’N 131º31’W

Once we flee Ketchikan, we head up Chatham Channel to Kasaan Bay. Kina Cove is the perfect place for a much needed weekend of rest. It’s not the most beautiful spot as there has been recent clear cutting. But no one is there, holding ground is good and we have five bars of AT&T and tether to strong wifi!  I even manage to post the first part of our log.

Mon 13 June – Kasaan 55º32’N 132.23.9’W

This greenhouse with hydroponic and traditional produce can help feed all 65 residents of The Organized Village of Kasaan.

With both hydroponic and traditional produce this beautiful greenhouse helps feed all 65 residents of The Organized Village of Kasaan.

In their decade-old cruising guide the Douglasses say don’t even think about spending the night tied up at Kasaan’s rickety docks. As we glide by, even at a distance, my binocs pick up some rather splendid infrastructure for a village of 65 people. It’s right there on the vast uninhabited shores of Kasaan Bay. As we approach we see the float plane dock, lots of empty slips for boats of all sizes and a hefty float capable of handling a large barge.

Totems stand in old growth forest around the historic 1882 Whalehouse, to be rededicated on September 3, 2016.

The poles in the Kasaan totem park stand in spectacular old growth forest.

We walk up the ramp, along the shore, past the fire hall and a handful of houses. Up the hill are the offices the Organized Village of Kasaan, the health clinic, library and a small modern school that features a climbing wall and a new green house where the villages vegetables are growing in traditional containers and hydroponic tanks. The library seems like the appropriate place to request permission to visit the totem park and get directions to the path. The lure of Kasaan is one of the finest collections of Haida totem poles on coast. “Of course” say the folks in the library, “and place don’t miss visiting the carving shed as well.”

Kassan ege

The turquoise eyeshadow and black mascara are typical of Haida design.

The path through old growth is beautifully maintained and no problem for Jack on his scooter. Just before the totem park, however, the steps onto an otherwise fine log bridge block his progress. I cross and go onto the narrow paths around the poles and take lots of photos. The longhouse, however, is surrounded by orange plastic tape that marks it off limits.

Back down the trail we visit the Carving Shed where Stormy Hamar is carving the top motifs of an enormous yellow cedar log. The drawing he shows us speaks to the sophistication of Haida art (confirmed in the collection of the BC Museum in Victoria.). It represents the fruits of hours of interviews he, in collaboration with master carvers, has carried out with elders. Stormy, who seems barely in his mid thirties, insists he is not a master carver.

KasaanFace

The detail of these poles is so rich it makes you wish you were a bird and could get closer.

Again and again on this trip we meet young, dynamic, smart, focussed Native artists, naturalists and political types for whom deference to elders is the norm. I wish I lived in a society like this.

The orange tape, Stormy explains, is because this Whalehouse, one of the oldest Haida structures on the coast, is being restored. Artisans and carvers from neighboring Tlingit tribes are helping these northernmost – and hence minority Haida – with the work. In fact, everyone is preparing for once in a lifetime ceremony to rededicate the Whalehouse on September 3, 2016. Their kin from Haida Gawaii and the coastal mainland BC from whom they are cut off by the international border will be among the guests of honor.

Stormy Hamar and Jack with the enormous yellow cedar being transformed into Kaman's newest pole.

Stormy Hamar and Jack with the enormous yellow cedar being transformed into Kasaan’s newest pole.

On the walls of the carving shed are hung red cedar strips for basket weaving, small ceremonial paddles made by kids and a splendid small Haida canoe with a delicate design burned into its gunwales. I comment that it is very sad that in recent years there’s been no native canoe at the Port Townsend Wooden Bast Festival.

On the wall of the Carving Shed is an exquisite small canoe by Stormy's son Eric Hamar, who is currently studying wooden boat building in Port Townsend.

On the wall of the Carving Shed is an exquisite small canoe by Stormy’s son Eric Hamar, who is currently studying wooden boat building in Port Townsend.

Stormy smiles proudly and says the canoe is his son’s work. In fact, his son is a student at the Port Townsend School for Wooden Boats. Jack and I perk up in recognition: this spring the Port Townsend Leader profiled a young Haida carver. I have the profile of Eric Hamar on my desk and Kasaan Carving Shed has a computer print out tacked to the wall. Our communities are linked.

Tues 14 June – Thorne Bay 55º40.9’N 132º31.4’W

S/V Aurora near Toccata, built by resident crew Greg and Cheryl and launched in Port Townsend.

S/V Aurora near Toccata, built over 28 years by resident crew Greg and Cheryl and launched in Port Townsend.

A tiny break in the thickly treed shoreline marks the long winding entrance to Thorne Bay. Unable to find the fuel dock we call it a day and tie up at the mostly empty new docks, Greg jumps off the 50 foot sailboat docked nearby to welcome us and help with our lines. He and Cheryl are Thorne Bay liveaboards on Toccata, which says Greg, “We’ve been building for the past 28 years.”

Toccata looks pretty shipshape to us and when we’re invited for drinks the next day, we get the whole story. Yes, Greg and Cheryl launched their dream 28 years ago, not to sail blue waters, but to live in mindful comfort in the coastal wilderness. We look through the photos of the long construction process, every stage of which they managed hands on. The splash day in Port Townsend is celebrated with a part for all the people from the boatyard who helped out with this a small floating house for two people. Exquisite woodwork. Wonderful head with colorfully tiled shower. Hasse sails and rigging by Lisa and Dan.

Gary the guy to know in Thorne Bay. Brings fuel right to the boat.

Gary’s the guy to know in Thorne Bay. Brings fuel right to the boat.

We hear that the fuel dock is best visited on a high tide so we head deeper into the bay the next morning. As we prepare to tie up a float plane arrives with the mail and we’re asked to wait. First plane leave and a second flies in to drop another dribble of cartons from Amazon.com and first class mail on the dock. Then we pull up only to find there’s not a single cleat so we use the short lines the float planes uses. Then we discover the electricity is out and the pump won’t run. Gary, the owner, says, “Never mind, it’s pretty shallow here for you anyway, I’ll just bring your diesel over to the dock later.”

After Gary’s visit to us we stop by his store that sells fishing and hunting gear and licenses. We talk about bears, learn that there are no grizzlies, only black bears on the Island. Last year nine bears were taken, some by locals who hunt them mid season for their meat and some by trophy hunters who take them later in the season, when their meat tastes fishy but their coats are thick.

Thur 16 June – Coffman Cove  56º00.6’N 133º37’W

Coffman Cove's large fleet of small boats serves Alaskan families catching salmon to get them through the winter.

Coffman Cove’s large fleet of small boats serves Alaskan families catching salmon to get them through the winter.

Unlike Thorne Bay, Coffman Cove doesn’t hide. It’s houses string along shore and it’s easy to find the docks.  The Doglass guide is again way out of date on the the condition of the facilities. Docks and floats are new, with steel ramps that let folks drive right up to their boats on the floats. There’s lots of space.
The fishing fleet is small, it seems to be mostly personal use and subsistence fishing. Small fleet. Community seems to serve local folks, although I meet an RVer, an Oregonian from Salem, who comes to fish and consume everything he catches on the spot.

We really need a fisherman on board. Just a little bit too much to manage ourselves what with navigation, sailing, VHF underway and cooking, eating, planning, chart organization, exploring, talking to folks on the docks, journaling, reading, and fixing things when we’re not.

Minus tide reveals  Look!  
Two rocks. I snap photo degrees
To remember you 

Unless you get mixed up with those rocks that mark the start of the lagoon beyond the docks, Coffman Cove is easy to enter and exit.  The islands just to the north are rich with sea life.  Humpbacks dive and blow.  Steller Sea Lions swim around our boat to join a huge group of their kin on a rocky shoal.

Again today!
Three hundred sixty degrees
No other humans!

Sat 18 June – Point Baker 56º21’N 133º37’W

Long enchanted by fisherman-author Joe Upton’s accounts of life at Point Baker in Alaska Blues, I want to go. Jack thinks we were there in 2014 but he’s confused it with Port Protection, which is several miles south. Both tiny off grid communities are at the very tip of Prince of Whales above the 56th parallel.

All of Point Baker's government and commercial float.

All of Point Baker’s government and commercial float.

Point Baker will be our northernmost stop. Founded in the 1930s, it has about 35 residents on boat and in houses clustered around a tiny bay. At one end of a long float are the public buildings – post office, community center with library, and fire hall. At the other, the businesses – fuel dock, grocery, bar, laundry and showers – apparently all operated by one family. Up on the hill there’s a communication tower that doesn’t include cell service and a shiny new cluster of lights like you might see around a fancy tennis court. I discover it’s a new tank farm adequate to meet the fuel needs of the gill net and troll fleets. Less than two miles away, in a slightly larger bay is Port Protection, population 63, which offers a similar mix of services.

I go chat with a pair of fisherman, shuttles in hand, who roll their gillnet off the drum to check and repair it. There’s a good rhythm to the work of this father and son as they prepare for this week’s Sunday noon to Thursday noon salmon opening. The knife clenched in his teeth does not deter the father from conversation. They’re out of Wrangell.

A cruise ship, too big for anywhere on POW, is glimpsed through the narrow entrance to Point Baker.

A cruise ship, too big for anywhere on POW, is glimpsed through the narrow entrance to Point Baker.

The net is 24 feet wide and 3/8 of a mile long. It’s a five and one quarter inch net – that’s the distance between knots on opposite side of each individual “net square” when pulled away from each other. There’re aren’t a lot of tears in the net itself because the float tine at the top and the leaded line at the bottom are bound to the net with the lighter thread on the shuttles. Consider it sacrificial: if something big like a shark gets caught in the net, the thread breaks not the net and the shark leaves. They are fishing sockeye and hopefully kings. Last year their best haul netted $3200. Yes, cloudy days are better; when it’s sunny the fish go deeper.

A pretty girl arrives, fresh laundry in hand. She’s the son’s partner, the third fisherman on a pair of 32 foot boats fishing together.

So, I ask, what are rec boats supposed to do when we see a working gill netter? The tiny red buoy that marks the end of the net looks just like what crabbers deploy over their traps. New rule of thumb: Head toward the boat itself. These guys watch for boats, using radar in the fog. You can call them or they will call you.

Point Baker’s float plane dock is extra large because it doubles as a helipad, the communities emergency evacuation point. Unattended boats don’t tie upthere but on a calm sunny day in fishing season this large float makes the perfect net loft.

Monday 20 June – Devilfish Bay 56º05’N 133º22.5’W

This is most varied passage of the trip is from Devilfish Bay.  A garland of splashing Dall’s porpoises crosses our bow as we make a pre-dawn departure from Point Baker.  Heading west we round Port Protection at the tip of  Prince of Wales. Sumner Strait is full of whales.  The rock outcroppings of nearby peaks rise  above the clouds.  Isolated sea otters enjoying the ocean swells give way to larger groups as we  enter Shakan Bay.  Near the mouth of Dry Passage, I spot what looks like a tidewater glacier but cannot be.  It turns out to be the marble mine, newly reactivated if mining mostly marble dust.   I’m at the helm as we wiggle through Dry Passage.   Jack has his iPad open to Navionics and  all we have to do is get the countless red and green aides to navigation in the correct order. We’re just coming off a low tide.  Next is El Capitan, narrow with peaks all around.

When the waters open up again we see an UnCruise boat at anchor.  The Wilderness Discoverer takes only 76 passengers and it would seem a kayak, SUP, skiff or inflatable for each one.  Then again, they are too big to get into where we have come from.

A fleet of tiny boats allow passengers to explore some of the narrow passages we've just exited.

A large fleet of tiny boats allows passengers of this mother ship  entry to the narrow passages S/V Aurora has just exited. 

Tuesday 21 June Kaluk Cove 55º44’N 133º17.5’W

Such a choice of beautiful coves off Sea Otter Sound!

The choice of beautiful coves off Sea Otter Sound is difficult. We’re alone in Kuluk Cove as we are everywhere else.

Day starts with windlass problem. But I’ve got a strong back that I take good care of and the ergonomics of the manual raising are okay. Later it dawns on us that I am the culprit. Jack had suggested that the new inverter should be mounted on the wall of locker in the aft stateroom. The mounting brackets allow air to pass around it. To find a suitable place for it I pick it up only to see a flicker. One the red plastic screw on the back is loose and the copper ring collides with the one on the black screws, causing the short. The new inverter is dead.

We have our pick of pretty coves off Sea Otter Sound and choose Kaluk, which is perfect.

Wednesday 22 June – Klawock 55º33.4’N 133º05.9′ W

From the Tlingit village of Kwalock, a diversity of poles look out over the water.

The hill above the barber in the Tlingit village of Kwalock has a fascinating variety of poles.

To raise the anchor without the windlass we run a line from a winch in the cockpit and snapshackle it to a link of the chain.   Soon the chain is up on deck and even easier than usually to flake in the chain locker.  We embark on another day of whales and sea otters.

Have you ever seen anything like this pair of common murres, the eggs with their future progeny floating to the ground?

Below this pair of common murres, eggs with their future progeny float to the ground.

Perhaps the excitement of it all has left us tired. When we enter the protected bay at Klawock on a lowish tide, we’re not sure how to get to the public docks. So we tie up in an empty space at the Tribal docks next to the cannery.

I call on the good ladies inside who are cooking lunch for their members and organizing the food bank. They say, no, the boat in the place where you are will be back later today. But there should certainly be space at the public harbour.

Is this a Tlingit Guy Fawkes?

Is this a Tlingit Guy Fawkes?

There is indeed. After not getting the Harbour Master on VHF we tie up at an empty space. Nice view of Klawock’s deservedly famous totem park. A fisherman says call Rose and gives me her cell phone. Find this strong little wisp of a woman near on the street. She’s ben Harbour Master for 17 years. Part time no benefits. Her house is across the street. I pay moorage in cash – 11.45 for boats of any size – and thank her for the well designed and maintained restrooms and showers on the ground floor of her office perch with view of ships coming and going.

This large Tlingit village – population 850 – seems like a good place to moor a boat to winter over.  While hardly in the thick of things, Kwalock has a real airport and a harbor that charges an annual moorage rather of only $11 a foot!  Look up from your boat and there is Kwalock’s renowned totem park.

Thursday 23 June – Craig 55º28.6’N 133º08.6’W

We’re in AT&T land so Jack is on the phone with Michele in Craig, a town that captivated us on our last visit. She has a place for us. Jack writes down where it is- behind a blue hulled trawler. After stopping for fuel at Craig’s fuel dock – a first class docking adventure facilitated by young strong life-vest-clad attendants – we slip past the fish packing packing plant and into North Harbor. Narrowness, rocks, traffic, current, you name it. Man, I can’t find that trawler. There’s a blue hull but it’s a troll rig! We go on almost dead ending into shoe and there’s a space. It’s behind a recreational boat resembling a fishing trawler and style recognized as such.

Jack tight turns into the dock for his usual flawless landing for a starboard tie. But something is off. I get down on the stern rail to fend off the trawler, whose crew appears to help. Easy landing, but this is the first sign transmission is awry.

Trawler crew – sixty something Jack and Jills from Washington State are nice. They’re in Alaska for the summer. Going to Kasaan for the September 3 Whale House rededication. A daughter has become Alaskan. They’ve been coming for years. Man says, “It’s addictive.”

When I go to pay moorage, Michelle and I laugh about the “troller” and “trawler” confusion – the two fishing boat styles sound almost the same. From the emergency preparation handouts on her desk, I discover she’s a community activist. Completely attuned to infrastructure vulnerabilities and the need for politically powered community resilience.

Craig docks are wonderful, even better if you’re tied near the ramp to the street and can follow all the comings and goings of the whole community. The last time we were here it was the Fourth of July, Three years olds casting baited hooks in the fish derby; older kids in the log rolling competition. Tradition. Alaska style chaos.

Just across from us is Mixie, crewed by aging commercial fishermen Charlie and Lee. She’s from Craig. They troll in the summer and retire in the winter. And like Greg and Cheryl in Thorne Bay, they built their boat themselves and sailed up from Port Townsend! I learn it’s a Hoquiam hull, distinctively curved, and that there are four similar boat at Craig, including one built by their son.

Mixie has a distinctive Hoquiam hull as does the boat next to it. It was built by Lee and Charlie, Alaska commercial fishermen who spend their off season in Port Townsend.

Mixie has a distinctive Hoquiam hull as does the boat next to it. It was built by Lee and Charlie, Alaska commercial fishermen who spend their off season in Port Townsend.

At Napa store we ask Mike who might be able to answer some of our questions about our inverter. He says find Dave. Retired Master electrician who lives on a sailboat near yours. We find him and sure, he’ll take a look. Climbs around following wires, talking to himself. “What is that I wonder? All right. It’s right there. Okay. Al righty.” There must be a breaker

Like most single handed liveaboards, Dave’s a talker. He worked all over Alaska, turned to alcohol, as many do, lost his family, heard God, embraced an orthodox Catholicism. I find him better informed about Church history and politics than anyone I’ve talked to in a long time. Today his technical smarts make Dave a local legend. Slowly he’s getting back close to his kids.

Wrong headed morning!   
Tired. Spooked. Not ready.
Narrows called Tlevak. 

I recuse myself. 
Jack calculates, navigates.
Gets it right.  Dead on.

Monday 27 June Hydaburg 55º10.1’N 133º41.7’W

Hydaburg

The largest Haida village in the United States, Hydaburg is home to one of three large totem parks on Prince of Wales.

Hydaburg is the largest Haida settlement in the United States. We’re the only visiting boat at the spacious and largely empty so everyone knows who we are.   A few people greet us.  Lisa, Chair of the Native Corporation, does so in Haida.  She lets us struggle with a few words before filling us in in English.  Hydaburg’s  big, two-day Fourth of July celebration is coming up and then at the end of July there is culture camp, a week of workshops in traditional skills, arts, and music as well as language classes.

RedCedarBark

Someone has been collecting red cedar bark, perhaps for the hat and basket weaving workshops during the annual cultural celebration in July.

The houses are modest ranch-style while the school, the health clinic and city hall are stately and well-designed, which seems appropriate for a people of a round shared culture.  The foundation for new longhouse is being built and carvers in the shed are working on the poles. There’s a tiny Alaska Commercial Company store and emergency medical services and a small fleet of three village busses to take people around the island via a road that is slowly being paved.

Hydaburg is the largest Haida settlement in the United States but residents are separated from their Canadian cousins by customs requirement that make the journey between the communities onerous.  Like us, they must enter Canada at Prince Rupert rather than going directly to Haida Gawaii.  And returning from there, they must pass US Customs at Ketchikan.  This is surprising given the special status of Native Communities in both countries.

The weather for crossing back south looks good for the end of the week.  So we leave, curious to come back.

Water’s lavender   
Blues, silvers, sun mirrors mix
Surfaces deceive. 

Wed 29 June – Nichols Bay 54º43’N 132º08’W

Nichols Bay is at the very south tip of Prince of Wales, reached though many hours of wilderness. Forgotten by all save a few commercial fishermen, it lies a couple of miles from the Canadian border. We snug into a little nook off the first bay and turn in early as we have long day ahead.

Thurs 30 June – Prince Rupert 

In the predawn darkness of Nichols Bay, some seaweed “floating” off our stern turns into rocky bumps as the tide ebbs out. We bump into the uncharted drying peaks as we exit but gradually find our way out into the light of early morning.

We sail from the cape
And a flat line of horizon 
Closes around us.

Silky silver sea
Your billowing swells push us.
Where we need to go.

Humpbacks spout, cross bow  
Just as sun burns hole through clouds 
Giving whales haloes.  

Bull kelp grows longer
By a foot each shorter day!
Guiding us past shoals.

The Gnarled Islands   
Misted monochrome west 
Depth, color to east.  

Green Island, the northernmost of Canada's manned lighthouses, welcomes us back south.

Green Island, the northernmost of Canada’s manned lighthouses, welcomes us back south.

After passing customs in Prince Rupert we discover the Prince Rupert Rowing and Yacht Club has a space, albeit it a port tie. Jack attempts a bow out-stern in but the transmission is suddenly funny and the current strong. So we give up on that. As I scramble to move fenders and lines to the port side, the usual helpful and competent contingent appears on the docks and helps us in. We sleep soundly leaving boat issues for the morning.

Log: Wild Fires, Wild Lives

By early July we’re fully on island time. Swinging at anchor, reading books, and day dreaming. When we’re low on bread and eggs and our laundry bag is stuffed to the limit, we head for our favorite resort, Gorge Harbour. Then back into the wilderness.

Looking out on morning blue and Vancouver Island.

Looking out on morning blue and Vancouver Island.

Wednesday, July 1 Von Donop Inlet to Gorge Harbour Marina 50º05.9’N 126º01.3’W

Ochre Sea Stars are back!  Mostly purple ones.

Ochre Sea Stars are back! Mostly purple ones.

We reluctantly weigh anchor from our lovely anchorage and motor down long narrow Donop Inlet, an excellent find, able to manage dozens of boats. On the way out we spot a cluster of bright purple Ochre Stars: they are back after almost being wiped out by a mysterious disease. This winter, after hundreds of marine study centers and citizen scientists had submitted samples, Cornell University researchers identified the virus responsible for star wasting disease and the mysterious die off from Alaska to Mexico.

After entering the narrow opening of the nearly enclosed Gorge Harbour, we see a resort staffer on near-empty docks waiting to help us tie up. That done, our first question is whether marriage equality has prevailed in the US. We’re relieved to learn it has.

It’s hot. After stripping off clothes and shoes, I go to pay our moorage. “Oh, great”, I say to Sarah, the dock girl, “The last two days of June means lower mooorage fees.” Only later do I realize I’m on a mental time lag, two days out of sync with the rest of the world. I struggle to see where my log has gone a askew and, having made corrections, go online and make a couple of posts.

Since it turns out to be July 1, it’s Canada Day, one of those holidays we’ve almost always missed celebrating. The dock is lined with flags. In the evening, a funky band made up of of what ten years ago I would have called “old timers” sets up under a couple of tents out of the still-hot sun. They play the gamut but square dancing is on the agenda. As families and dogs arrive from the campground and docks to play on the grass, the band’s caller invites them to form squares. Soon the entire deck is filled with dancers.

Canada Day's sunset and moonrise.

Canada Day’s sunset and moonrise.

Though not one to miss celebrations, I’m worn out from the modest effort of laundry and the extreme heat. My single celebratory gesture is to take down the pink and white maple leaf pennant, flapping in tatters under the spreader. Nelson gave it to us the year he and Mona and draft-age American son emigrated across the border, the same year we’d finally learned enough to sail across it. Summers along the BC coast had worn it to shreds so I replace it with the spanking new Canadian flag we’d bought in Campbell River. Soon things quiet down, the tables are pushed back on the dancing deck, and as the sun sets, the moon rises.

Gorge Harbour is great. Local farm goodies from the resort’s grocer. A bike and scooter ride to the ferry dock where Jack finds a phone signal strong enough to restock his Kindle with three new titles. Sun salutations every morning with twenty other yogis and a fine leader. Nightly soaks in the hot tub. But Desolation Sound is waiting.

Saturday, July 4 Gorge Harbour to Homfray Channel 50º16.3’N 124º37.3’W

The sailing is great. Strong winds on the south end of Cortez take us safely around the island’s two long rocky-toothed shoals and past Mink Island. I think to take minute’s worth of video.

VIDEO

Then we head into the Desolation Sound, where winds are just steady. We reach 7.5 knots and are just as smooth as can be. A most beautiful day and nobody out. So I pull out my iPhone for another minute.

VIDEO

Desolation Sound.  Vancouver's misnomer. Always a play of color and light.

Desolation Sound. Vancouver’s misnomer. Always a play of color and light.

We imagine everyone is sleeping in after Canada Day celebrations, with Prideaux Haven and Laura Cove packed to the gills with boats. Not eager to stern tie, we sail up the Sound until the wind dies and the water flattens.  Desolation Sound leads north to Homfray Channel, which in turn connects with Toba Inlet and one of the principal glaciers that feeds the Salish Sea. When we were there in 2012, the water was bright, light aqua, color heightened by white glacial till. But now in this second year of severe drought, the Toba River is likely to be sluggish, its glacier anemic.

But didn’t Helen and Ron mention something about new place on Homfray? Slowly we motor up the long, vast passage that is fairly bereft of anchorages, watching the colors change with the waning day. Ahead I spot what looks like the end of a particularly large log and pick up the monocular. Could that be an elephant seal? Like a piece of wet, shiny, mottled born driftwood, it holds its ugly snout firmly aloft. Finally he moves!

Homfray Lodge is a fine surprise at the end of a long day.

Homfray Lodge is a happy surprise for s?v Aurora and crew at the end of a long day.

At last we turn the corner of Foster Point, and there is Homfray Lodge. A man meets us at the dock, catches the lines, introduces himself as Matt. “Was that an elephant seal we saw?” I ask. Sure thing.

Matt and his brother Dave and at least one other brother acquired the land and built the main house themselves. It was to be a family hideaway. That was until they they looked at the bills and decided it wise to share it. From an old logging operation, they towed in a large float and covered it with smooth planking and a floating garden.  They added a couple of cabins and a micro hydro, which alas, this year they’ve needed to supplement with a diesel generator. Now they host conferences, weddings, retreats and the odd boat that ventures up this way.

My iPhone let me take this pano of the whole Homfray Lodge scene/

My iPhone let me take this pano of the whole Homfray Lodge scene.

When I awaken later that evening and find it’s finally dark, I go to deck to see the stars. There are none! And I smell smoke.

Morning is pea soup, The sun never appears. We can’t see across the channel. We figure the sunset will be vivid beautiful sunset but the sun just disappears altogether in the ochre haze.  Fortunately, Matt is a good story teller.  He teaches us to hear the individual voices of members of a misplaced family of  alpine Pika,  who have chosen to live at sea level here.  He tells us about fishing “outside” off the Brooks Penninsula. About selling his boat and driving a truck on long hauls. About his take on fish farms.  And about how he just stopped fishing.  “Sometimes a guest goes out there in the channel and hooks a big salmon. I think of everything that fish has gone through. Five years of survival against the odds. Not getting eaten as  a fry, making it all the way out.  And then, just when he’s almost home, ready to spawn,,,,,,,” His voice trails off, he shakes his head.

Monday, July 6 Homfray Lodge to Lund 49º58.8’N 124º45.8’W

One hundred eighty fires are blazing around British Columbia. Neighborhoods in Port Hardy have been evacuated. The Spourt Lake fire near Port Alberni grows and grows. But it’s the Pemberton blaze that’s sending its burnt particles down both Toba Inlet and the valleys behind Vancouver.  To escape the choking air, we take off for the open waters of Georgia Strait. On the way out we run into into Mrs. Elephant Seal. She is not quite as ugly, but almost.

Lund's historic hotel, owned by the Sliammon First Nation, and the public boat launch.

Lund’s historic hotel, owned by the Sliammon First Nation, and the public boat launch.

Lund is the tiny town at one end of Route 1. The other end is in Patagonia. It’s a fishing community with 300 year rounders. It’s jointly administered by members of Sliammon Band and non-tribal residents, including cross-continent escapees from the Vietnam War, the draft and Columbia University.

This fine boardwalk has places to sit and planks carved with the names of those who maintain it.

This fine boardwalk has places to sit and planks carved with the names of those who maintain it.

It’s a very fine place. The historic Lund Hotel resembles the Haro in Roche Harbour but is larger and more distinctive. It’s managed by the First Nation and has a general store, with liquor agency, so ingeniously hidden in its lower level that we cannot at first find it even though we’re repeat customers.

Everything else is stretched out around a sweet little bay with a boardwalk. Fresh-from-the-oven loaves, croissants, muffins and cinnamon buns from Nancy’s Bakery infuse the fresh air of every dawn.  Locals hang out there, visitors pick up lunch before boarding the water taxi to Savary Island, the only sand island along the coast.  Not sand, really.  Make that glacial till.

Moorage fees at Lund are the least expensive of our cruise (not counting, of course, days at anchor when we can’t spend a cent) and the facilities among the best. Great restrooms and showers are open to the public 24/7. At night, lamps bathe the wood docks in golden light, while fisher folk relax on the decks of their boats.

Lund's public wharf  after dark.

Lund’s public wharf after dark.

We stay an extra day so I can take a kayak tour to the Raggeds, as the locals call the Copeland Islands. But the air quality isn’t good enough and it’s cancelled. Now there are blazes all over the North Pacific – Siberia, the Arctic, Alaska, BC, Washington and Oregon. Instead I join a peaceful session of yoga at the community center.

Wednesday, July 8 Lund to Pender Harbour 49º37.8’N 124º02”W

Late in the day, after our fill of Malespina Strait, we motor into Pender Harbour and call Fisherman’s Bay Marina on the VHF, no longer worried about whether there would be space. Not many people are cruising right now for some reason. We’ve run into former owner Dave Pritchard farther north on the coast and learned that he and Jennifer have sold the place and settled elsewhere on the Sunshine Coast. New guy managing the docks is great.  Lives in an interesting doubled ended wooden sailing vessel designed by Sam Devlin. Great meal at Garden Bay pub before retiring below deck where new owners have brought strong internet all the way to the nav station.

Thursday, July 9 Pender Harbour to Lesqueti 49º29.8’N 124º13.8’W

In Boho, the best place to drop the hook is next to this rock, topped with a shell midden, courtesy the gulls.

Lots of boats as we approach the roiled waters at the south tip of Texada after crossing  Malespina. Whiskey Gulf is active and boats converge here. Jack rails against Whiskey Gulf and notes how once daily war games become part of the nautical chart, a whole great area of open seas often off limits to fishermen, researchers and recreationists. Boats have to go way out of their way whenever Whiskey Gulf is active and when they stray into the boundaries they get called out on VHF 16.  We worry about the same thing happening in Olympic National Park if the Navy wins the long drawn out fight and gets to conduct electronic war games there. I sit up with my back to the mast listening to KUOW for the first time in over a month and looking out for military patrol boats.

Ah!  At last we’re tucked away for another two days in Boho Bay, large enough to permit a beautiful view and sunset, protected enough to be absolute fun on a day when it rages out on the Straight.

Sunset

This is our third time here and it’s a keeper.  If you’re going to get to know, love and trust and anchorage, it makes sense to keep going back. We drop anchor in 30 feet of water in more or less the same place but radically different conditions. We watch other boats bounce in the new southeasters but we’re in a little hole on next to a big rock and a reef with a nice fix on the setting sun.

This time the birds are all out.  Vultures, heron, eagles, and lots of young pigeon guillemots.  The latter swim up to check us out and then dive, their silly bright red legs splayed out like the toddlers they are.

Saturday, July 11 Lesqueti Island to Ladysmith 48º59.8’N 123º48.7’W

Our early departure from Lesquiti gives us time to sail but the southeaster does not cooperate. Every tack east requires one to the west. Our VMG – velocity made good – is no good at all. In order to make slack at Dodd Narrows, we turn on the engine and furl sails. Fatigue is setting set but we are not without options. Glaciers have scratched long, narrow, northwest-southeast inlets into all the nearby shores. Ladysmith Harbour is a long gash in Vancouver Island.

Monday, July 13 Ladysmith to Stuart Island

Kayaks at the Stuart Island dinghy dock.

Kayaks at the Stuart Island dinghy dock.

The wind is all wrong for sailing so we watch the seals and the birds. We’ve only been down this channel once before so we try to commit it to memory, particularly where huge ferries from Vancouver weird turns to deliver hundreds of cars and people from Vancouver to south Vancouver Island.

There’s lots of space for rec boats at the State Park floats, buoys, and the dock at Reid Harbor. But all the camping spots available only to crews of non-motorized boats are taken. I count 20 kayaks in Reid and another 20 in Prevost. Latecomers tie up at the dingy dock and have to pitch their tents on the rocky slopes above.

Wednesday, July 15 Stuart Island to Jones Island

The shortest passage of the summer takes us five miles along Spiden Island, where we see a rainbow of sailing kayaks against the low tide shore. Timing is perfect for a mooring buoy.

A rainbow of kayaks sail along a low tide bank on the north side of Speiden Island.

A rainbow of kayaks sail along a low tide bank on the north side of Speiden Island.

Friday, July 16, Jones Island to Friday Harbor

We want to sail down the west coast of San Juan Island. Haro Strait is generally smooth – hence all the kayaks – and the J, K and L pods have been hanging out there. Our intention is to gunk hole somewhere around Henry Island. We check out Mitchell Bay and see the Snug Harbor Resort takes up most of it and private buoys the rest. Just another reminder that Washington is not Oregon, where the coast belongs to everyone. Last fall we’d had a great visit to English Camp, going in by road from Roche Harbor, and checked out Garrison Bay. Motoring toward it, a couple of bullying Nordic Tugs push us to the side of the channel where we hit mud. It’s not troublesome but inching along trying to find ten – even six – good feet of water on a falling tide is not fun. We’d noticed only ten sailboat at Roche – lovely in the fall but not our kind of boats today.

So we just put up the sails and head back though Spiden Channel and down into San Juan. We see three historic schooners with sails unfurled but when the wind dies, we assume they are motoring. We tie up at the breakwater float where people come and go and there are never any reservations required. People come and go, including a pretty steel schooner, 36′ on deck, 50′ overall, with a motely crew of about 7. Portlanders, they come over to chat about the Valiant and actually ask to go below deck. We say sure. Throughout the evening the place grows on us. Ferries disgorging weekenders. Friday Harbor is just nice. Unpretentious. It’s chaotic in places, unruffled in others.

Saturday, July 17 Friday Harbor to Port Townsend

I’ve wondered about this before The Prettiest Town on the Inside Passage?

Mid-Summer’s Light

Mornings are good, but there is nothing like evenings. The slow “set” of the sun in a great arc is what helps you notice. Oh, I know, the sun doesn’t set and the earth is not turning at a reduced speed. It’s the length of the northern rays. The way they can slowly disappear behind the rise and then sneak back into the bay through the clearing. When you least expect it. You’re getting ready for bed and suddenly you run up to the deck to catch the last act. It’s magic.  Some examples.

  • The beautiful double ended sailboat across the bay at Port Protection. The light on the shrouds and halyards Christmas treeing up its low mast. The shadows on the lapstrake woodwork of its yellow hull. Its reflection in the still water.
  • The golden glow of the hand adzed cedar of the long house on Shakes Island in the middle of the old port. At last light the three frogs on the famous totem flash red smiles.
  • A lone boat returning across the board bay to Wrangell. A dozen shades of blue, silver and rose gleaming in its wake.
  • The play of eagles and ravens on the wing with mist, sky blue and yellow sun dancing against snow capped peaks around Sitka Sound, beyond windows of Centennial Hall as pianist Natasha Paremski pours power and passion into Chopin, Brahms, and Prokokiev. (We’ve all watched nature films with great soundtracks. Imagine Nature’s visual tracks rolling in the background of performances of Sitka Summer Music Festival. Wow.)

Here it takes the earth hours to roll away from the sun.

It’s not like this in the lower latitudes. On the Equator the sun plunks down. One minute it’s light the next it’s dark. Uganda is certainly as colorful a place as Alaska but how sad that no one there can really see the colors! Imagine the bright green of a tea plantation and with a line of colorfully attired women picking the buds. Imagine what it would be like if the sun took many hours on to transit from low in the sky to the horizon. What a light show! But maybe it’s just as well as those workers would likely be pressed into longer days rather than being set free by the night. Alaskan workdays are long. Multi-day fish openings take stamina. Other days the mysteries of salmon runs take over, with some boats pulling out at first light, others at last. If you’re building something it has to be squeezed into a couple of months. Four seasons in the Pacific Northwest says Jack. Almost Winter. Winter. Still Winter. And Road Construction.

Sitka’s Harbormaster assigns us a spot at the “L” where the main docks of Old Thomsen Harbor converge. Which means everybody has to pass us. Eighteen hours of greetings and chat from the standard “Beautiful boat” to “Where you off to?” and “I’d love to sail” to “Crew of three, right. Here’re some sockeye steaks for your supper.” Wow.

Sailing Fishing Boats

Tango loading lumber in Portland, 1942.

Not too long ago nearly all working boats sailed.  I keep this photo at the ready to remind myself of that. The year is 1942 and the magnificent six mast schooner, Tango, is loading its cargo at a Portland wharf.  Steam-driven passenger ships and new vessels with diesel and gas engines would be moored nearby.  But the War has abetted Tango’s longevity.  I like to think that Rosie the Riveter and her Portland girlfriends have walked past on their way to the Kaiser docks to build Liberty Ships.

This puts my life in a new pocket, a different frame of reference: I arrived on the planet shortly after the end of an age of sail.  As I exit, sometime toward the end of the short Age of Fossil Fuels, sailing working boats will likely have made their comeback.  At least, that’s what I’m thinking.

Along the bountiful North Pacific coast where so many souls fish and so many souls sail there are certainly memories of doing both at once. Joe Upton, a superb writer who fished commercially for decades, says that Alaska’s gillnet fleet was not allowed to use power until the 1950s. Regulations favor fish and motors do not. Somewhere in the minds of old fishermen lie the memories and knowledge of wooden boats rigged with both sails and gillnets.

Sailing fishing ketch Tora in Kake, Alaska

Halibut schooners are still around, though no longer operating under sail. There’s one at Sitka and we’ve chatted with the crew during their long hours of baiting hooks and arranging them artfully around the edge of the baskets (or are they plastic drums?) on top of the coiled longlines. While the schooner had been missing a mast, by this summer the bow spit – a magnificent 40 foot yellow cedar – had broken off.  But she’s still pulling her weight.

Michael Crowley fell in love with halibut schooners as an aspiring greenhorn deckhand in Alaska in the late 1960s. When the docklines of the 65-foot schooner Attu were being thrown off and its cook hadn’t appeared, Crowley began his first of many seasons on halibut schooners out of Seattle. Not a single one was built after 1927 and most came from Ballard where he says “they were shaped with adzes, slicks, steam-powered ship saws, and the brute force and ingenuity of square headed ship carpenters and designers.”

S/V Blue goes fishing

But I only started thinking about sailing and fishing after Tora caught my eye.  It was in the sleepy but well laid out harbor of Kake, Alaska.  What is that?   A sailing ketch with a trolling rig on the aft mast.  Wow!   That was on our northbound leg.  (Coming southbound, on the cusp of salmon season, we followed Tova out of Kake Harbor into Rocky Pass toward the famous fishing grounds off Prince of Wales Island near Point Baker.)

I doubt that it’s efficient to simultaneously sail and operate a commercial troll, which involves managing a couple of dozen individual hooks and handling each salmon with respect.  But sail boats are lightly powered and work well at the 4 knot trolling speed.

Blue with her long trolling poles

In any event, my eyes were opened.  I started to look out for these hybrids.  And Alaska revealed them (while British Columbia did not…probably having to do with commercial fishing regs).

Leaving Sitka – no one leaves Sitka without a smidgen of wistfulness – we spied a small sail wooden sailboat.  And lo and behold she was rigged to troll.   At Baranof Warm Springs, balm to all commercial fishermen, we saw S/V -F/V Blue raft up to a seiner at the dock.  We never got to meet the skipper, who must have headed for a high altitude hot soak, but we learned Blue has a female captain.

When our Aurora made fast at Craig on Prince of Wales Island, an attractive neighbor captured my attention.  Abundance is a triple whammy: a steel boat (I have a thing for steel boats), a sailing ketch and a fishing troller.   I hung around, making numerous trips along a very long float to Craig Harbor’s laundry, showers and restrooms, hoping to get a glimpse of the captain.  My heart sank when I looked up from my boat work to see Abundance leaving the harbor.

Abundance returns to unload her catch.

But the next day, she was back!  Not at dock, mind you, but selling the catch at Craig’s packing plant.  It must have been good because it took a while.  I know because I watched and waited, hoping to welcome Abundance back at the dock.  But the sailing troller just turned around and went back out to fish some more!

Sources:  The photo of the Tango is, I believe, from the archives of the Oregon Historical Society.  I got it from the Facebook page of the Oregon Maritime Museum, which is on the waterfront in my Portland neighborhood.    Joe Upton educated me about trolling and gillnetting in Alaska Blues and about the Alaskan crab industry in Bering Sea Blues. Michael Crowley’s story “Greenhorn” appears in Leslie Leyland Green’s wonderful book Hooked!)

Salmon in the Trees

How’s that?   Actually, I get it now.

Fishing Tongass Forest Salmon

Salmon in the Trees is the title of Amy Gulik’s recent collection of photos and essays by Alaskan environmentalists, which draw on the genetic science of the temperate rain forest. The name was borrowed for the art installation we experienced on our way to a noon chamber music concert deep in the woods near Sitka; hanging in the trees were yard long salmon interpreted by local artisans, native grandmothers, and child artists. And it was David Suzuki who helped me unpack this concept one lazy afternoon as I sat on the deck reading his Autobiography.

“Science,” he says, helps us “tease out nature’s secrets.”   Awed by its intricate, complex interconnectedness, we start to understand the folly of “managing” the environment.

Temperate rainforest supports far more biomass than any ecosystem on earth. Ours extends from Northern California to Alaska in a narrow band between the Pacific Ocean and the coastal mountains. Prodigious rainfall on the great trees carries nutrients away from the forest floor. How then does the forest continue to support huge red and yellow cedar, Sitka spruce, and Douglas fir once the nutrients are swept into the sea?

Summer reading included David Suzuki’s Autobiography.

Suzuki explains.  “Terrestrial nitrogen is almost exclusively 14N, the normal isotope of nitrogen; in the oceans there is a significant amount of 15N, a heavier isotope that can be distinguished from 14N.” The temperate rainforest is laced with thousands of rivers and streams and if the forest is clear cut, salmon die off. The shade of the canopy keeps water cool, tree roots keep soil from washing into spawning grounds, and forest creatures nourish young salmon as they make their way to the ocean. So salmon need the trees. And the trees need the salmon.

“Along the coast,” writes the Canadian environmentalist, “The salmon go to sea by the billions. Over time, they grow as they incorporate 15N into all their tissues. By the time they return to their native streams, they are like packages of nitrogen fertilizer marked by 15N. Upon their return to spawn, killer whales, and seals intercept them in the estuaries, and eagles, bears, and wolves along with dozens of other species, feed on salmon eggs and on live and dead salmon in the rivers. Birds and mammals load up on 15N and, as they move through the first, defecate nitrogen rich feces throughout the ecosystem…A single bear may take from six hundred to seven hundred salmon. After a bear abandons a partially eaten salmon, ravens, salamanders, beetles, and other creatures consume the remnants.”

Researchers at the University of Victoria have demonstrated this redistribution of nitrogen: years when there are large salmon runs produce wide growth bands in trees and increased amounts of 15N contained in them. Salmon hold everything together.

“Our fragmented human efforts at environmental protection pale in comparison. They do not respect interdependence.” Referring to his native British Columbia, Suzuki explains why.   “The whales, gales, bears, and wolves come under the jurisdiction of the ministry of the environment, and the trees are overseen by the ministry of forests. The mountains and rocks are the responsibility of the minister of mining, and the rivers may be administered by the minister of energy (for hydroelectric power) or the minister of agriculture (for irrigation).”

And the salmon? They come under the Department of Fisheries and Oceans for commercial fishing, under another department for the First Nations’ food fishery and under the tourism ministry for sports fishermen.

In 1992, years before all this was well understood, the co-founders of the fledgling David Suzuki Foundation went to Earth Summit at Rio with this Declaration. It captures my evolving awareness.

Declaration of Interdependence

THIS WE KNOW

We are the earth, through the plants and animals that nourish us. We are the rains and the oceans that flow through our veins. We are the breath of the forests and the land and the plants of the sea. We are human animals, related to all other life as descendants of the firstborn cell. We share with these kin a common history, written in our genes. We share a common present, filled with uncertainy. And we share a common future as yet untold.

We humans are but one of thirty million species weaving the thin layer of life enveloping the world. The stability of communities of living things depends on this diversity. Linked in that web, we are interconnected–using, cleansing, sharing and replenishing the fundamental elements of life. Our home, planet Earth, is finite; all life shares its resources and the energy from the Sun, and therefore has limits to growth.  For the first time we have passed those limits.  When we compromise the air, the water, the soil, and the variety of life,  we steal from the endless future to serve the fleeting present.

 THIS WE BELIEVE

Humans have become so numerous and our tools so powerful that we have driven fellow creatures into extinction, damed the great rivers,torn down ancient forests, poisoned the earth, rain and wind, and ripped holes in the sky. Our science has brought pain as well as joy; our comfort is paid for by the suffering of millions.  We are learning from our mistakes, we are mourning our vanished kin, and we now build a new politics of hope. We respect and uphold the absolute need for clean, air, water, and soil.  We see that economic activities that benefit the few while shrinking the inheritance of many are wrong.  And since environmental degradation erodes biological capital forever, full ecological and social cost must enter all equations of development.   We are one brief generation in the long march of time; the future is not ours to erase. So where knowledge is limited, we will still remember  all those who will walk after us, and err on the side of caution.

THIS WE RESOLVE

All this that we know and believe must now forever become the foundation of the way we live. At this Turning Point in our relationship with the Earth, we work for an evolution from dominance to partnership, from fragmentation to connection, from insecurity to interdependence.

Fish Politics

Intro to an ongoing reflection on a key issue of our day

Cruising is an opportunity to use time generously and seek knowledge differently. It’s a chance to ask questions and to take the time to talk to people you meet, to hone questions so you can make good use of rare opportunities to use the Internet or to visit libraries.

Trollers on Neva Strait

One big set of questions carried over from last year involve fish as food and the political economy of fishing. ......

What exactly are the issues that seem to be tearing apart communities?   What’s with those Prince Rupert fishing families who hate fish farming with a such a vengeance?  What about the commercial fishermen in Sitka who refer to sports fishing guides as “charter scum” and called them even worse a few years ago.   And what about Native people lamenting the loss of their shellfish to the protected sea otters, that they alone can hunt but whose pelts that cannot legally take to market?

After another six weeks in fishing communities this summer, I confess to being nowhere on my fish politics.   Fishing is at the heart of Alaskan politics and in the hearts of Alaskans who feel the pain and loss the BP sea floor gush has wracked on the communities in the Gulf of Mexico.    I just know that the issues are unfathomly complex and cut across predictable orientations.  So far my political analysis goes little deeper than noticing the bumper stickers on fisherman’s cars in the harbor parking lot.  The whole time in Alaska, I saw only one McCain-Palin sticker and it was coupled with the terse four-word classic –  CUT – KILL – DIG  – DRILL –  as well as a whole set of fairly nasty right wing ones.  But the worst stereotypes of Alaska are hardly prevalent in Southeast.  (By the way, parking lot slide show includes dogs.   Dogs in Alaska seem to stay put untethered; you often encounter them peering down patiently from the roofs of the cabs of their owners’ pickups.)

Seiners in Sitka Harbor

When the conversation is about the depletion of stocks, the dying of seaside communities, the dangers and risks of commercial fishing,and the very different dangers and risks of fish farming, it seems our duty as consumers to engage wholly, to figure it out.  Please be patient with my attempts to do so.

Paul Greenberg and his Four Fish

After hearing Terry Gross interview Paul Greenberg, Four Fish:  The Future of the Last Wild Food, I realize I need to read his book.    Greenberg looks at salmon, tuna, bass and cod, the fish that have  fallen victim to our dams and to the “global sushi binge”.  He asks us to get rid of the term seafood (fruits de mer) as it implies that we have the right to just reach down and take).  He begs us to start thinking of fish as wildlife, as animals to be protected rather than consumed.

Says Greenberg, “The way humans have used fish, we started inland and moved further and further offshore. Salmon represent that first step. Salmon spawn in freshwater rivers. They’re nearby. And we have this very close interaction with them where we live. So they were one of the first fish that we really hit hard with industrialization. Dams and pollution and all of these different things caused wide-scale extirpation of salmon, particularly Atlantic salmon, throughout their range. And now what we’ve seen is, salmon was really the first large-scale domestication project for the fish that we eat. There are many more farmed salmon in the world than wild salmon, and it’s a kind of replacement of a wild-food system with a domestic-food system that has started to kind of be kind of a model moving forward.”

Four Fish is a timely and insightful book; try this meaty excerpt.

Update: Conversation with Paul Greenberg

Back home in Portland on August 10, I had the chance to hear Greenberg speak at Powell’s.  After a short intro and a passage or two from Four Fish, Greenberg turned the floor over to his well-informed audience, largely made up of commercial and sports fishermen and chefs.
Greenberg started by explaining his book’s title. In doing research, he waded through old menus from 19th century New York restaurants.   Among the offerings were dozens of sorts of game, fowl and fish.  In contrast, today’ menus seldom offer more than four kinds of meat (beef, pork, lamb and perhaps goat) and four kinds of fowl (chicken, turkey, duck and goose).  As the biodiversity of the wild food of the sea becomes diminished, we are seeing the domination of four fish: salmon, cod, bass, and tuna.  In the book he traces each of the fish through wildness and domestication.  fast.
Then came some hard hitting points:
  • World catch has remained a fairly constant 80-90 million tons
  • World population has doubled.
  • The amount of fish American are eating has doubled.
  • We’re marketing and eating the large fish rather than the ones farther down on the chain.
  • “The consumer has led us to the Boneless Era.” Boneless fish is in demand everywhere.
As for cod, the fisheries collapsed in North America in the 80s and so the East Coast cod banks were closed.  Now cod are slowly coming back – Greenberg caught one recently within view of the Empire State Building – and there’s pressure to open the fisheries.  Pollock fishermen insist they middle trawl, that is they drag their nets neither near the surface not on the bottom, but Greenberg says there is evidence to the contrary.   Another issue with this type of cod is that pollack eat pollack.
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Of course, Atlantic Salmon are key for Greenberg, who fishes in the waters near his New York city home. In fifty years all the wild ones disappeared.  Today all Atlantic salmon are farmed.  And there are rather terrifying developments in transgenic salmon.   The introduction of a Chinook gene into farmed salmon has created a monster that grows twice as big twice as In defending their genetic engineering, Aqua Bounty points out that three pounds of forged fish are currently needed to produce one pound of salmon.  The company claims that transgenic monster fish will not deplete forage fish stocks as much.
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As for  fish farming:
  • It’s fairly new, launched in the US by former Peace Corps volunteers who had worked in Africa.
  • Since there are no wild salmon south of the equator, Chilean farmers do not have to face issue of whether farmed salmon can compromise wild stocks.
  • Farmed striped bass is a hybrid.
  • A positive development in fish farming is polyculture in which salmon, mussels, sardine and sea cucumbers might all be farmed together.
In response to a question about programs to certify fish as sustainable, Greenberg says be aware of two ecologies at work.  First is the wildness of the ocean, where  you are never sure what the catch will be.  Second is supermarket demand, which is certain and growing.
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“What about hatcheries?,” someone asked.  Greenberg says they are understandable on the damned Columbia but questionable in Alaska, as it is not sure necessary and they certainly reduce genetic diversity.
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Several folks asked about Alaska’s Pebble Mine, at the headwaters of Bristol Bay.  The mine promises yield of $300 billion in gold, molybdenum and copper, whereas Bristol Bay salmon is valued at $300 million per year.  Injunction and court order on this case will come in November.  Action to stop mine is led by  Save Bristol Bay.  The mine is on tribal lands, but tribes are split between for, against and not taking a stand.
Update:  Ah ha!   It’s wild chum we’ve been eating.

The food section of The Oregonian for August 17, 2010 brings an article lauding “keta salmon” The sometimes maligned “chum”, or “dog” salmon, this fish combines affordability, sustainability and flavor.
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My online dictionary large North Pacific salmon that is commercially important as a food fish. The unfamiliar name comes from the Latin genus Oncorhyncus keta, family Salmonidae.   This solves the mystery of how I’ve been buying wild salmon for $3.999 a pound, occasionally less on special.  In fact, the Kroger supermarket QFC, where we shopped in Port Hadlock, is specifically mentioned as an outlet; Fred Meyer is part of the same group.   But try to find wild chum among the vastly more costly chinook, coho and sockeye at a high end fish monger? No way.    Best fishing grounds are Southeast and Prince William Sound, where it is caught by seiners and gill netters of Seattle’s Trident Seafood, among others.
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Earlier this summer  Yukon River  chum won an award which suddenly pushed the variety to the foodie front pages of the lower 48 and to the front pages of the Alaska papers.   On August 13, 2010, the Seattle P-I posted  “Yukon River chum: Fairy-tale ending for salmon’s poor stepsister.” After swimming 2,200 miles upstream, the chum are oilier and contain more Omega-3s than kings and coho from elsewhere.    Here’s some market data for this season’s range of salmon prices in Seattle:
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For starters, the fish are available, enjoying a relatively healthy run at a time when many other fisheries are crashing. The famed Yukon king salmon, which won a cover spread in Saveur this year and was dubbed one of the year’s “best new ingredients” by Food & Wine magazine, was practically nonexistent this summer. The Copper River run was poor, and prices for kings began at more than $40 a pound, placing it firmly in luxury territory. Consumers want more options when it comes to buying fish: They’re regularly bombarded with advice to eat more of it for better health – yet they’re also constantly warned about pesticides, depleted supplies, contaminants, environmental crises and other red flags.

Affordability is another big selling point: It’s a serious investment to fly fish in from remote Emmonak, but the chum is still cheap compared with its more respected Alaskan cousins – most recently $5.99 per pound for whole fish or $8.99 for fillets at Wild Salmon (compared with $2.99 for non-Yukon chum.)
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Social factors are also influencing consumer choice.  The 320 Yup’ik fishermen of Emmonak have had a rough year with the shrinking  of the chinook, or king, harvests.
Says one high end fish monger, “You’re supporting an economy, you’re supporting a people that have got a history and a culture that also goes with the fish. … Everybody wins.”
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Fishy Links
Over past three years since this post was first written, I’ve become more aware of the complexity of Fish Politics, particularly the vulnerability of fish stocks and of the lives of the those who catch them for us.   I continue to add to the list below.

“Drug waste harms fish: Discharges from pharmaceutical factories contaminate rivers on three continents. Nature. 15 Aug 2011.  Here’s a quote: United States, the European Union, the United Kingdom and France do not have regulations limiting the concentrations of pharmaceuticals released into the aquatic environment in either municipal wastewater or in effluent from manufacturing facilities. “People think drug release is regulated, but its not,” says Joakim Larsson, a pharmacologist at the University of Gothenburg in Sweden, and an author of one of the Indian studies.”..

“Alaska Fishermen Circle their Boats to Fight Mine.” By Kim Murphy, Los Angeles Times, Aug 4, 2010.

The Pebble Blog is a developing online discussion moderated by the Anchorage Daily News.

The Monterey Aquarium has just updated their Seafood Watch pocket guides for consumers.  There are guides for every region of the US and for sushi eaters.

Sea Grant Alaska’s bookstore has great publications on the various fisheries, seafood handling, marine research, identification guides, aquaculture, safety, coastal development, marine recreation and conservation, and response to oil spills.  A favorite is Terry Johnson’s OceanTreasure:  Commercial Fishing in Alaska.

New England cod and haddock fisheries are 37 times more dangerous than being a cop!  Fishing in Alaska, however, has become safer (possibly prompted by two disastrous same-day capsizings of new mega crabbers and the deaths of 14 young people from Ancortes, Washington, poignantly reported by Joe Upton in Bering Sea Blues.)  “Trying To Tame The (Real) Deadliest Fishing Jobs” is an August 22, 2012 report from the Center for Public Integrity, WBUR in Boston and NPR News.   See also CPI’s Hard Labor reporting. on workplace safety.

 

 


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