Posted by: tlnemethy | June 15, 2012

Off the Beaten

Of all the beautiful places I’ve found on Baranof Island, there are none as interesting as the docks of Eliason Harbor. I ride down everyday in the meat wagon, a nasty smelling and foul creature just threatening to turn to scrap metal at any moment. ImageI put up with the scent as everyone else does, mainly out of sheer desperation, and ride with my head out the window like one of the many hounds of the area. The dock is off the beaten path for anyone not an avid angler or a commercial fisherman and I suppose I stick out quite a bit.

While nearly everyone on the docks strolls around with purpose in their slickers and Xtra Tuf boots, I have one soggy sneaker, a dark raincoat, and holey jeans. I am the picture of an outsider. Especially since what others have been ignoring for years I find fascinating in its novelty. There’s a boat named the Spanker and the baby salmon seem to flock to its shadow everyday, swarms of them gliding around in the dark dock waters until a bigger fish comes and makes them jump from the water. We never know for sure when all the boats will be coming in, only receiving a guidelineImage from when they hit the break wall. Because of this, there is generally a lot of waiting between loading fish coolers and gut bins into the meat wagon.

I caught a jellyfish the other day down on the docks, it was just a tiny thing propelling itself through the water, but I can’t say that I get the opportunity very often.  Apparently, later in the fishing season, the fishing lines will get pulled in covered in a goo of smushed up jellyfish because there are so many in the water. I thought that sounded really cool, but the deckhand I was with told me that it really messes up the fishing because you’ll be trying to tie a new bait piece on and be slipping all over the line. I guess that’s one of the reasons deckhanding is a tough gig.

The dock is full of an entirely different life system. People hustle across the gangplanks with rods and reels, fish buckets, crab traps, whatever they happen to need for the day. There are those who work on their boats with giant cranes and those who work by hand. I’ve seen men drink straight from the harbor water, regardless of the high fish-gut content. Men with beards, men with dogs, men with good fortune Imageand men without. The dock brings together a population so different that they only share the love of the sea.

No one goes to the docks without a reason. For me, the dock represents all that I wanted from my trip to Alaska, an adventure that I wouldn’t get to experience anywhere else. I love that Mt. Edgecumbe disappears into the clouds at times, while others it just seems to stand all alone. It is very representative of Alaskans. The skies roll, the rain falls, and the clouds walk up the mountainsides through the overgrown logging trails, yet nothing ever changes the scene at the dock. There are always those celebrating their catch, those mourning another rough day on the water, those seeking their own adventures. Somewhere on the dock, you are waiting, whether you realize it or not.


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