Tag archive for "Dutch Harbor"

Alaska, Books


No Comments 11 July 2013

McCloskey makes his last set as this fine trilogy comes to a close.  Raiders characters mature just as the subject matter comes of age.  Political drama, personal intrigue, cultural differences.  Even though the story and characters are fictional, the events and emotions are very real and certainly command center stage today just as they did in the 1980s.  One of the more interesting themes is the cultural interaction between the Japanese, native Alaskan and the American fisherman.  By looking at the evolution of the fishing community we can extrapolate to predict the future of the fishing industry.  A further generalization predicts the future of many industries.  But the old days, the last third of the 20th century in this case, are gone.  It was a bold time, when men could live large, when risk rode with brains and muscle into the eye storm seeking buxom reward.  Not just to make a living, but to make a point.  A very personal point, shared with crew and friends, often, spoken only with tears.  The romance, like that of the Old West, will live on far into the future.  With the same salt crystals at the corner of the eye as grace the gunnel at sunset.

Alaska, Books, Velkommen


No Comments 24 March 2013

The second novel in William McCloskey’s trilogy.    The characters mature and the fishing grows from smaller boats to bigger boats.  The politics get interesting, as foreign interests endeavor to use every loophole to obtain the Alaskan bounty they lost when the 200 mile limit on fishing was imposed.  Breakers is  a great read, factual in many aspects, but fictional and romanticized just enough to keep the pages turning rapidly.  It captures  the energy of commercial fishing, and superimposes human faces to weave the story.  Fishing fans should read it twice.  It is a well told story, McCloskey talking about what he knows and loves.  No more pretentious than that.  If you love big water  and big adventure.  This book’s for you!


Alaska, Books


No Comments 21 February 2013

A fun and entertaining read.  Nothing too weighty; just right for a cozy night at anchor.  Highliners is book one of a trilogy including Breakers and RaidersWilliam McCloskey begins the tale of Hank Crawford, August, 1963, fresh out of college on his way to a cannery job on Kodiak Island, looking for overtime and big dollars.  The volume ends in 1975, with the fisherman characters and the changing nature of the fishery filled out.  The story is timeless and well told.  Plucky, rebellious young man leaves home to follow a dream despite parental opposition.   Gradually he finds his sea legs and charts his course.  Gradually he becomes part of a dynamic close knit community.  A viking-like adventurous lifestyle is portrayed and a bit romanticized.  Fishermen competing among themselves and then bonding together as a group, lobbying government to protect their interests and limit foreign fishing.  The story builds on its own with little need for gratuituous language.  The rhythm of the sea underlies every chapter and although the characters are fictional the times they occupy are factual.  A must read for all salty fish lovers because it defines fishing commercial fishing in Alaska.  The last frontier.

Books, Velkommen

Lost at Sea

1 Comment 12 December 2011

Patrick Dillon writes a decent story and one that needs telling.  Most of the facts are there, a bit thin in a couple of areas and definietly biased in a few others.  What really ticks me off is that Lost at Sea is a whitwash on two levels.  First, you have to ‘read between the lines’ to get a glimpse of the real story; the really compelling one. And second,  Lost at Sea is written to aggrandize Patrick Dillon instead of really probing deeply into the lives and community directly involved in the tragedy.  He gives ‘lip service’ to real human tradgedy and pathos instead of doing his homework.  The story should flow with empathy and  detail.  Since I knew many of those involved, it grates on me that those valuable details will soon be lost, despite our lightening fast hard drives and terrabyte servers.

Nevertheless, it is a highly recommended read, but look beyond its scope at a bigger landscape and you will find the real story.  The one Patrick Dillon didn’t tell.   First of all the book needs pictures.  Pictures to focus the imagery in the minds of the readers.  These are recent events, with real people and the small town of Anacortes is a pretty good mirror for every other small community.
This is what Dutch Harbor might  have looked like in the early morning hours of Valentine’s Day, 1983.

Images of the Altair and Americus are not easy to find. But if you scour the web you can find these old black and whites, taken before the trawling gear was added. Their Valentine’s Day voyage was truncated; the locations well known. No doubt they were overloaded and top heavy, but the seas were nearly calm, probably a modest swell, but no unusual conditions were noted by other vessels in the same general area.
Running out of Dutch Harbor, past Priest Rock standing in front of Lava Point in search of King Crab. Tons of it. There are a number of unanswered questions, some missed completely in Lost at Sea. The two boats left port 6-1/2 hours apart. Why were they found 3-1/2 miles from each other. Did the Altair slow down and wait for the Americus? Isn’t unusual that both should capsize so close together. Was it a simultaneous event, or hours apart? Questions without answers.
Morning Star is a sistership. Stability test show it actually weights in 60 tons heavier than it’s recorded weight. Why? No explanation.
But a few pics are informative and they show the trawl gear added to the stern.
The unanswered questions keep on coming. The stability expert, the naval architect, the shipyard, the Coast Guard, the owner. Everyone owns a piece of the tragedy, but no one claims their piece of  responsibility. Even politics plays a significant role. Unfortunately, with Dillon’s sophmoric bias for the Democratic party, the reader gets a myopic view, intead of the 360° panorama. It’s just one more example of the real story being embedded between the lines on the pages.
But enough of Dillon’s faults (yes, it sucks to be him); let’s look at some Anacortes features to sharpen the focus. The original location of the Seafarers monument was near the pay phone at the head of “B” dock. The gas light was placed here after the A-boat loss. But the gas light kept blowing out in the wind and the heavy monument developed a list from the unstable fill on which it was placed. When Cap Sante Boat Basin underwent a redevelopment in 2004, Seafarers Memorial Park was created and the light moved and electrified and the monument moved and placed on a substantial foundation. There is an interesting plaque on a stone at the head of “B” dock. In a few lines it captures the spitit of the Anacortes townsfolk. The spirit that Dillon missed.
Beyond the Seafarers Memorial is the eternal flame.  A lamp, shining with the eternal hope of a happy ending, and lighting the path to the Lady of the Sea, forever looking out over the bay. The park is nicely done and well worth visiting.

Dakota Creek shipyard is the birthplace of the A-boats; a long walk down Commercial Avenue is the Anchor Inn and the salty characters found therein. In particular, George Nations gets painted with a dark, moody and jealous brush. Perhaps Dillon felt his story needed a dark hero, an antagonist, of sorts. In any event, by trying to describe people he does not know, Patrick Dillon looks like a carpetbagger and a lightweight.  The more polite fisherman would call him a puke.

So, without delay, read Lost at Sea. Patrick Dillon lays out the story along with plenty of facts and figures; names and places. And for that I commend him. But Patrick Dillon is all about Patrick Dillon. He missed the real story; the great and universal story; the human and empathetic story. Yes, it’s a tragedy. So many of them are.

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