Thursday, December 3, 2009

Hoonah Harbor

I went down to my boat on Thanksgiving Day to check on it- make sure that the stove wasn't running out of control or anything. In years past I was a cheapskate and didn't run the stove- tried to save a few bucks on fuel. Not a good idea. The inside would condensate every time the weather warmed up a little bit, and start dripping all over the place. I have more than a few nautical charts that have mold on them. Anyway, I learned my lesson and leave the stove on now, but it can be kind of scary to do. The only thing worse than having the boat rot from the inside out is to have it burn down. It seems like we've had at least two boats burn right in the harbor. It's more common for them to sink while tied up to the dock- especially in the winter if the owners aren't keeping them shoveled. An accumulation of snow and then a heavy rain thereafter can present a real problem.

While I was there I wanted to get a few pictures of my friend Barbie's boat, the Talatche. She wasn't able to come up this year like she usually does, so I thought I would send her down a picture or two so she could see it was doing fine. She bought the boat from my good friend Buffalo Bob Holden. Buffalo, Marlin Ryder and myself all bought wooden trollers in the same year. At the time it seemed like commercial fishing was a profitable venture, even though I hadn't had too much success up to that point. However, I knew a number of fishermen who were making a pretty good living at it, so I figured all I needed was a bigger boat and the bucks would come rolling in. What do they say about the best laid plans of mice and men? Anyway, after a few years Marlin started building aluminum boats and doing other welding work and sold his boat and eventually moved south to Maryland or Pennsylvania. Bufffalo sold the Talatche to Barbie and moved back to Vermont. Being the slow learner that I am, I'm still fishing the same wooden boat that I bought nineteen years ago. Some things never change I guess.

In any event, the boat is safe and fairly warm and dry in it's stall down in the harbor. From what I've heard from other people, Hoonah has one of the better harbors in Southeast Alaska. We're well protected and after the improvements of the past few years most of the floats are in pretty good shape. They just recently expanded the number of floats available because of the popularity of the harbor. We're in pretty close proximity to Glacier Bay and not all that far from the Pacific Ocean and we have the added benefit of not being as expensive as places like Juneau. The harbor is a vast improvement from the days when all the boats were moored at the cold storage dock or downtown floats. Depending on the wind direction the boats could really take a beating there.

I remember when they dredged out the harbor and set in all the rocks for the breakwater. It was quite the project. At the time the water was still pretty shallow and at low tide you could catch Dungeness crabs with a dip net at the harbor entrance. There are still a number of people who set pots inside the breakwater. One year I watched herring spawning on the creosote pilings at high tide. There were thousands of them on every piling. Unfortunately, when the tide went out, all the eggs were exposed to the air as well as the seagulls. Even though we still have herring come inside the breakwater, I've never seen them again in such numbers.

In recent years there have been a couple of sealions that have worked their way into the harbor. I don't know what they are eating unless they are trying to get some of the salmon that pass through on their way to Garteeni Creek on the other side of the breakwater. Maybe they're satisfied with the flounders or small cod fish off the bottom. I know that flounders seem to be one of the favorite foods of the the otters that hang around the floats. Every now and then I spot the remains of a fish on the dock that was left when an otter got spooked. Now and then a mink finds it's way onto one of the boats too. That's bad news. They are a filthy animal. One found it's way up the air vent on the Talatche one year and set up home on the bunk. It dragged herring in to eat and used the mattress as a toilet. Needless to say the mattress had to be discarded. So far I've been fortunate. I think the sides of the boat are too high off the water to afford them access.
The bad part of that is, the older I get, the less access I have to the boat. One of these days I'll probably be on the float with a mink trying to figure out how to climb aboard.

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