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Pat Glaab: Everybody Wins

During the 1980s, in the spring of each year, halibut fishing in Sitka resembled a combat zone. Massed on the fishing docks and back decks of longline fishing vessels were (mostly) men – deckhands and skippers surrounded by endless buckets of stainless steel circle hooks connected to miles-long poly-line, gearing and baiting-up to hunt the (up to) 400-lb. flat fish.

In those days the catch quotas were filled by any fishermen who wanted to fish and it was known as a “derby” fishery. The fishery would open by regulation just two times a year – for fishing for 24 or maybe 48 hours, depending on when the allocated pounds were caught.

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Sandy on Sandy: Raising the Bar

You’ll definitely see “a bird with attitude” when you look at the cover of this year’s Sitka Harbor Guide.

So says artist Sandy Greba, who is lighting up a Harbor Guide cover for the second time in five years – this time with her watercolor painting, “Hooded Merganser.”

Sandy has a knack with color, light and water – you can see this both in “Hooded Merganser” and in her earlier cover art, “No Vacancy,” whose sea lions-atop-a-buoy-in-water graced the cover of the 2013 Harbor Guide.

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Harbor Notes 2018

The next major project slated for the Sitka Harbor Dept. is the re-building of Crescent Harbor, located in the center of downtown. A matching state grant has been applied for, to implement the project.

If the State of Alaska is unable to fund 50% of the project, bonding will have to occur.

According Harbormaster Stan Eliason, the harbor dept. now receives 100% of the fisheries tax. Fisheries tax collected for the 2016 season was $953,323.80. There is money already appropriated for the Crescent Harbor design phase, although more is still needed for construction.

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AMSEA – Teaching Safety, Saving Lives

Commercial fishing has always been at or near the top of the list of the most dangerous jobs in America. But after decades-long efforts from many organizations in and outside Alaska, as well as government safety requirements for vessels and mariners and a change in fishermen’s attitudes toward safety, the number of fatalities has been greatly reduced.

High among the groups helping to make fishing safer is the Alaska Marine Safety Education Association. Sitkans may be aware of AMSEA – its headquarters are in Sitka and have been for the past 30 plus years.

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Harbor Notes 2017

The transient float is complete, providing 980 feet of additional moorage to the Sitka harbor system. The float, located off Thomsen Harbor just north of the Harbor office, also acts as a protective breakwater. The $5.8 million project was funded partially with a matching state grant.

Harbormaster Stan Eliason said he was pleased with the completed facility, already in use. “It will serve Sitka well,” he said.

A complete refurbishing of Crescent Harbor is the next project to be addressed, according to the Harbor Master Plan. Costs are pegged at $13.5 million and Eliason said he would welcome a matching grant, like the one Sitka obtained for the transient float. The project scores high on state priority lists, but receiving state funds these days is uncertain. Eliason said he will be resubmitting the grant application and hopes for the best. Otherwise, the city would have to pay for that project itself.

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Phil Long: No Room for Mistakes

When herring return to Sitka Sound each spring, so does watercolorist Phil Long. This year’s Harbor Guide cover image is from Long’s painting “Net to Tender” that depicts an action scene from the Sac Roe fishery.

Long lives in Sitka for four months of the year during the herring and salmon seasons to oversee the movement throughout Southeast of refrigerated shipping containers. The containers are destined to be packed with fish and shipped, mostly to Asia. The rest of the year, he lives in Oakland, California.

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Harbor Notes 2016

The rebuilding of the Sitka Transient Float was underway this spring with hope to complete it by summer. The $5.4 million float provides the harbor system with nearly 1,900 feet of new improved facility, now including 50 amp and 30 amp electrical service. The float is used all year by transient boaters, those on the harbor waiting list and people who have to be moved from other spaces.

The float employs the same technology as the recently re-vamped ANB Harbor – wooden floats tied to steel pilings and buoyed by foam-filled polyurethane tubs.

“I’d like to attract some of these boats that go to Seattle for the wintertime,” said Sitka Harbormaster Stan Eliason. “They start their season here with sac roe. Then, they go out to the rest of the state. We’d like to catch them on the way back to Washington and give them a home in Sitka.” He said the addition of utilities will help attract these boats.

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Mike Mayo: Lucky Liner

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.

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Eyak’s Back!

What a difference a year makes!

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.

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Terry Pyles: Abundant Depth

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.’”

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Eyak Sinks, But Floats Again

About 4 a.m. on Jan. 19 near Goddard Hot Springs, the well-regarded Sitka mailboat and tender Eyak slammed into a submerged rock and tore out a chunk of her middle. Skipper Dave Castle was at the helm when he felt the impact. Castle had been dealing with finicky radar and heavy weather. A quick check of the damage showed a large hole.

“It was too big to even think about pumping,” Castle said. Three other people and Castle’s dog Olive were on board. After issuing a distress call, they donned survival suits and deployed the life raft. Castle plugged vents to keep fuel from leaking. Two people boarded the raft and a third held the line.

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New USCG Regulations for Commercial Fishing Vessels

Dockside Inspections

Some commercial fishing vessels will now have to undergo a mandatory Coast Guard dockside inspection, which was voluntary up until now. Commercial fishing vessels of any size – including catcher vessels, tenders and at-sea processors — that operate three nautical miles off the beach are required to have a dockside inspection prior to Oct. 15, 2015. Such inspections are also mandatory for those who participate in federal fisheries that carry onboard NOAA fisheries observers, mainly the black cod and halibut fisheries.

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Marcus Lee’s Metal Art

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.

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Harbor Notes 2015

When you have eight miles of harbor to maintain, there’s always something to do. The next major project for the Sitka harbor system will be the complete rebuilding of the Sitka Transient Float, a little to the north of the harbormaster’s office. The transient float makes a small V with Petro Marine’s new fuel dock. The rebuilding is pegged at about $6 million and is scheduled to begin in the fall of 2015.

The 40-year old transient float was originally built as a wave container to protect old Thomsen Harbor, and was laid out in an L-shaped configuration. After the rock breakwater was built, the float was straightened out to be used for moorage.

Harbormaster Stan Eliason said an inspection of the dock prior to the 2011 herring fishery revealed that the infrastructure was failing. The dock required an emergency repair just before the fleet got here.

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John Erp: Eye for Line

The cover image for the Harbor Guide this year is courtesy of John Erp, a Sitka-based photographer, sailor and troller. We reached Erp as he was rigging his trolling poles on one of his two vessels at the work float this spring. He lives on one vessel or the other.

Erp said the cover photo – which he has not named — was of an older wooden sailboat moored in downtown Juneau circa 2000. Erp, now 65, had just completed an intensive summer program at the Rocky Mountain School of Photography.

“What caught my attention was all the converging angles of the bow spit, chain and lines,” Erp said.

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