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Harbor Notes 2014

If you count it all up, Sitka has more than 8 miles of city docks – the largest small boat harbor system in the entire state of Alaska. One thousand three hundred stalls. But that’s still not enough – there are more than 300 vessels waiting for slips.

2014 welcomes a completely refurbished ANB Harbor. Sitka Harbormaster Stan Eliason said everything was replaced – floats and fingers, electrical and water hookups, even the main pilings. The approx. $7.5 million project was funded through a 50/50 match with the state. ANB’s new configuration accommodates 94 vessels of various sizes, a few less than the old setup.

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Eyak’s Castle

If you do thing often enough, it becomes habit. If you perform a service for enough people for enough time, you become infrastructure.

Skipper Dave Castle and his vessel, F/V Eyak, qualify as Baranof Island infrastructure. They are a vital link between Sitka and the few hardy people who live in Port Alexander, at the hatchery at Port Armstrong and at the government research station at Little Port Walter.

Once a week in winter and twice a week in summer, Castle delivers to these outposts food and all manner of supplies. What makes him infrastructure is that he also carries the U.S. mail.

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Chart Changes

In 1862, five years before the U.S. took possession of Sitka and Alaska, the government started printing the beautiful, color lithographic charts on heavy bond beige paper that were ultimately sold by private vendors, like Murray Pacific and Old Harbor Books. That era has come to an end.

Last year, the Federal Aviation Administration, which distributes both aeronautical and nautical navigation charts, announced that after April, 2014, they will no longer distribute the printed nautical charts (aeronautical charts will still be produced.) FAA took over chart distribution from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration in 1999.

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S.P.C. – Spectacular Products Continue

Fishermen are a famously independent lot who sometimes get accused of letting their independence get in the way of their own long-term economic interests. Well, the more than 500 fishermen-owners of Seafood Producers Cooperative (S.P.C.) can tell their accusers a story that shoots that reputation down.

It’s a story that goes all the way back to the 1940’s, picks up in Sitka in the 1980’s and continues big time today. The fishermen-owners of S.P.C. produce eight million lbs. of catch annually, netting $44 million in gross sales revenues. With buying stations up and down the West Coast, S.P.C today is the oldest, largest and most successful fishermen’s cooperative in North America.

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Artist’s Profile: Mark Bartlett

It might be appropriate that Mark Bartlett paints the Rockwell Lighthouse, because light is one of his main sources of creativity. “I’m always seeking light,” the 52-year-old Sitka-based artist said. “That’s what I’m looking for and where I start a painting.

“If I’m doing a mountain, for instance, I want some drama and the way the light is hitting the mountain is how I develop that drama.”

Bartlett’s subjects span Alaska – he explores the misty, defused light of Southeast and the sharper light of the Interior. A naturalist, he is nonetheless unafraid of taking some creative license.

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Welcome to Sitka!

With a port facing the open Pacific and the protection of Sitka Sound’s many islands, this town has been shaped by the sea.

Present-day Sitka is a top Alaskan fishing port and a much sought tourist destination. Cruise ships and yachts bring thousands of visitors from the sea – and many who arrive by air also venture out in boats.

Sitka’s ocean bounty and strategic port must have lured Tlingit Indians to Sheet’ka – their name for the spot where tall mountains, thick forests, and abundant wildlife met the edge of the sea.

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A Few Harbor Notes

ANB Harbor, first built in 1956 and last renovated in the 1980’s, is the oldest of the city’s five harbors. By 2014, it’s going to be the newest.

A complete replacement of the entire float system and pilings at ANB Harbor is scheduled for this year.

“The problem is flotation,” Eliason said. “We had a meeting down there (at ANB Harbor). There were four of us on the float and we had to disperse our weight to keep from sinking.” He said ANB Harbor has been costing a lot of money and staff time to stay ahead of the spreading deterioration.

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New Items to Watch for 2013

Affordably-priced 2-way texting is now available outside of the cellular area. The DeLorme InReach device (and free app) transforms your smartphone or tablet into a two-way text message global communications device and a GPS viewer.

The InReach device also offers a number of safety and navigational features. It costs about $250.

newitem1InReach allows you to compose and send text messages of up to 160 characters. You can even post to Facebook, Twitter or your own shared map. An interactive SOS feature allows mariners to describe their situation in detail to rescuers and stay in touch.

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Artist Profile: Sandra Greba

Cover artist Sandra Greba’s “No Vacancy” displays the vivid colors and sharp line that makes this watercolorist unusual for her medium. Watercolor paintings often use soft hues and soft lines. Soft would not begin to describe the strong red that dominates this work.

Greba is an Alaska-born, self-taught, Sitka-based artist who specializes in paintings of birds and flowers, but who occasionally takes on a different subject. She said she was inspired to paint “No Vacancy” from her experiences in Southeast viewing sea lions who have hauled themselves onto buoys to bask in the sun. She admits taking a little “artistic license” and packing in as many sea lions as she could.

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Alaska Pure Sea Salt

“Local surf & turf,” is how my sweetheart and I dubbed our 2012 Valentine’s Day locally-harvested dinner of stewed venison and pan-fried coho.

The melt-in-your mouth venison chunks and flakes of salmon were perfect, but, being a culinary barbarian and old-school, I reached for the salt.

And then I remembered that I had been given a sample of fancy finishing salt, made from the salt water right off our shore and produced in a building off Sawmill Creek Road. You can’t get more local than that!

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New Items to Watch for 2012

Do you consider a laptop computer an essential piece of fishing gear? If you answered “no” you may be a member of an endangered species. Mariners are finding laptop computers are increasingly valuable at sea as more and more useful hardware and software hits the market.

One nifty combination of hardware and software starts with the easy installation of a GlobalSat USB GPS Navigation Receiver ($59.95 retail). As its name implies, you just plug in the USB cable into your laptop. The software comes by accessing an Open Source, free website to access navigational charts – www.opencpn.org.

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Fish for the People

To most Americans, buying “Local Food” means a trip to the Farmer’s Market or out to a roadside farm stand.

But for a growing number of U.S. consumers “Local Food” is the fresh fruits and vegetables that come in boxes to their home on a subscription basis.

Organically-raised, humanely-slaughtered meat and meat products are sometimes added into the choices. These direct farmer-to-consumer relationships are promoted under the program acronym CSA – Community-Supported Agriculture. Subscribers buy a “share” of the harvest for a fixed price.

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Sitka at War

Unless you’re a fish, Sitka is a remarkably peaceful place.

But on Dec. 7, 1941 — and in the days and months thereafter – Sitka poised on the brink of world war. Soldiers and sailors scanned Sitka Sound and beyond and manned powerful shoreside batteries to blast enemy ships miles out at sea. Armed spotter planes flew over the Gulf of Alaska, searching for a Japanese fleet expected to invade first Alaska, then the rest of North America.

Six months later, the Japanese Navy bombed Dutch Harbor in Western Alaska. They seized the outermost Aleutian Islands, Attu and Kiska. Sitkans could well imagine they were living on the front lines of World War II.

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