If you see Sitka longliner Mike Mayo at the helm of F/V Coral Lee, you’re looking at a man of contradictions. Mike embodies the rough-and-rugged image of the Alaska fisherman, but he was initially trained as an accountant and didn’t wet a line, commercially, before his mid-20s.
He is a demanding captain, but is generous with those who work for him and in his adopted home port of Sitka, where he is well-known for his philanthropy. The head of a large family and a lover of life, Mike is quietly philosophical about his several close brushes with death. He can be alternately perceived as a hard-as-nails businessman, a holy man or Santa Claus.
The Eyak, an integral part of the Sitka waterfront, tore a chunk out of her middle on a rock near Goddard Hot Springs and sank on Jan. 19, 2015. On Jan. 24, 2016, the Eyak was back in the water, ready to faithfully carry mail and haul cargo to Port Alexander and other points on southern Baranof Island.
Skipper Dave Castle, three passengers and Castle’s dog Olive all escaped the sinking without injury, but the material loss was in the hundreds of thousands of dollars.
Ketchikan artist Terry Pyles had a brainstorm at the world-famous Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam, while staring at Alejandro de Loarte’s 1610 painting The Kitchen. The work portrays a jolly and prosperous European man, surrounded by fish and game ready for the cooking pot.
Pyles said he immediately thought of an Alaskan in his kitchen, surrounded by regional delicacies. “I’ve always loved still life (paintings) since I was a kid,” Pyles said. “I was drawn to de Loarte’s painting – (the man in it) reminded me of my friend Dave. I thought, `how perfect this could be just changing it out to Alaskan stuff.’”
At a number of Sitka embarkation and debarkation points, residents and visitors have been delighted by the distinctive metal signs.
At the entrance to ANB Harbor on Katlian St., a white and brown aluminum rendering of a troller on blue water floats above metal letters. Halfway up Raptor Way, the road to the Alaska Raptor Center, a metal eagle sports a prominent yellow beak and silvery white head feathers. At the cruise ship lightering dock beneath the O’Connell Bridge, a two-sided “Welcome to Sitka” sign is a 10-foot wide study in the textural, tinted and heat-induced color possibilities of art using steel, stainless steel and aluminum.