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The Excellent Fishing Boats of Sitka, and their excellent names

July 19, 2012

I remain near the docks my first few days in Sitka.

Stretching from old St. Peter’s By-The-Sea on the east side of town to well past the bridge and the Coast Guard station and way down the channel to the west, these docks are the area’s main feature after subtracting out the mountains.  In Sitka there is one boat slip for every eight of its 8,000 residents, a proportion not seen by Murre and me in all of our travels. Sitka has more slips to rent than it has apartments or hotel rooms.

But that’s not why I can’t pull away.

The fishing fleet is in. The King Salmon season has closed and Cojo opens in just a few days.  The harbor is jammed with seiners and trawlers of all kinds making last minute preparations, and I wander this city of workboats content never to go further ashore than the pub.  My own private heaven is floating here.

These were the boats that captured my imagination as a child, and to me they still seem the perfect combination of purposefulness and grace, individuality and efficiency.  I think of Jeffers Boats in Fog: “It is bitter earnestness that makes beauty, the mind knows, grown adult,” he says of similar boats and their fishermen of Monterey. After the romance fades, when the work is just work and not even very profitable, still there is the beauty of the boat, her ability, her fitness, even when the fish are gone.

I am old enough to know better, yet I want immediately to sell Murre, to buy an old wooden trawler, to become a full-time fisherman. I make the mistake of describing this fantasy to my wife and receive a veto whose earnestness and efficiency nears the deadly.

The uniqueness of each boat is carried right through to the name, as if the owner could see to the heart of the matter or the boat, a clairvoyant of her own destiny…


  1. Unintended permalink
    July 20, 2012 9:58 am

    I wonder if you could hire on as a hand for the Cojo season; maybe get it out of your system? Or further in, as the case may be…

  2. Unintended permalink
    July 21, 2012 12:29 pm

    LOL! Well, there it is.

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