Petersburg, AK

Petersburg, Alaska is a quaint little fishing town. A sea lion greeted us when he arrived yesterday, so I thought I’d post his photo–he really enjoys all the ground up fish waste that comes from the hatchery and clearly the seagulls enjoy it as well! As I last posted, we had a chance to take an evening walk around the town last night. We docked for the night and had the opportunity to go on and off the boat as we pleased. The tide was so incredibly low that many of the boats were completely stranded.

Being a Norwegian settlement, the style of houses here were right out of a gnomish fairy tale, with their blue shudders, lace curtains and overflowing flower buckets. Ray and I went to the only Catholic Church in town and as we walked back, I was taking in all the colors of the houses and the beautiful murals drawn all over the town against the grey sky. It’s hard to imagine that most of the year it is only light from 11-3pm and then when there is light, is either rainy or grey, as the whole inside passage is part of the Tongas, a rainforest. My Alaskan friend, Cara, told me that when there is a sunny day in Alaska, stores shut down and people don’t go to work. In Chicago, we had snow days, here there are sun days!

As I was posting my blog in the video store, one of the two places with internet access(the library was closed on Sunday), Ray and I chatted with the owner. He explained that he owned two businesses in town and his wife just purchased the only fabric store because she put so much money into the store with her love of quilting. He said that even though they owned so many business, he still has to supplement his income by working in road construction, where you can earn $45 dollars an hour and the work is stable. He actually had worked on a boat for 3 years(making a very good amount of money) as a crab fisherman; however, it was a dangerous position and there is difficulty in being away from your family for months at a time.

After the video store, we went on a tour of a fish processing plant, where a variety of immigrants from all over the world work 14-16 hour days, 7 days a week at around 5-8$ an hour. We watched as halibut were thrown onto a table: two guys chopped the heads off, six guys made sure to clean out the inside of the fish with a scraping tool and two more men at the end sprayed the fish down with water and tossed the heavy fish into a blue plastic bucket that would be taken immediately to be refrigerated. The chopped heads were given to two women, who cut one tiny portion of fish meat out of the cheek, which is a very tender (and expensive) portion of the fish and apparently tastes like scallops. What a cold and difficult job–I suppose there isn’t a lot of choice for work in Alaska.

When you’re on a trip liek this, it’s hard not to contemplate what life is like on this end of the country and what possibilities are out here. What would it be like to own a fishing boat. Our chef has a boat and he said that in 6 weeks he made $150,000. I’m not sure if that’s net or gross or how its split up, but there are many people out there in these tiny little towns who somhow afford the $500,000 ocean front property(yes, that is how much a home in Petersburg and in Ketichkan costs).

I love traveling and learning all these interesting things about how people live. One of the crew members, Danny, has an incredible story. Since he was born, he lived on a boat. He did that until he was 14 and then lived in a house on land throughout high school. Then as soon as he could, he got back out on the water. He learned to read, write and walk on a boat. That concept just blows my mind! He seems to have a better grasp on life and morality than most people because his parents raised him and not the goverment through some poor educational system. His life lessons by traveling the world on this boat gave him a good understanding of who he is and who he wants to be. The best part of his adventures, he said, was that he got to do all of this with is family and really get to know them. He plans to do that with his children.

The more I travel, the more I think that there really is no one path that will lead you to happiness. It seems through prayer and meditation, we can feel out what we need to accomplish and how to best bring out that joy.

Well, I need to get out of my hiking boots after our hike through the Muskeg forest, a forest with peet moss on the ground. You have to be careful as you step because you’re not sure how far you can fall with the camoflauged ground! It’s almost time to kayak around some bergy bits, a term for iceberg pieces floating in the water. There are many names for glacier pieces. I’ve heard is “ice krispies,” since there are pockets of gas in the ice and as they heat up, they pop! Or even “growlers,” when the ice cleaves off, they make a growl!