Yesterday was the Summer Solstice – the longest day of the year. Up in this latitude there is over 18 hours between sunrise and sunset, and it’s light well before sunrise and after sunset for a total of about 20 hours of daylight. Now the days will start getting shorter – today will be 16 seconds shorter than yesterday. We’ll pay the price for all this daylight in December and January!
We arrived in Sitka earlier in the week after wiggling through the twists and turns of Peril Strait, which only had a few spots that we might consider “perilous”. As we were maneuvering into a slip I lost the ability to control the port transmission – but luckily we were moving slowly and I had just enough room to adjust to having only one engine. It turned out that the little retaining clip connecting the control cable to the transmission came off – easily fixed afterwards, but unpleasantly exciting at the time.
Sitka is another serious fishing town, and the commercial boats have been very active in the harbor, making repairs, loading nets, and generally getting ready for opening day for the various kinds of fish. The dominant type of boat here is the purse seiner.Seiners set out a large net drawn out across the water by a small tender. After a certain amount of time the tender draws the end of the net in an arc back towards the big boat, while the bottom of the net is drawn together – creating a “purse” that encloses the fish.The nets need a bit of maintenance and repair, and the crews have been keeping busy.Nearby is a Coast Guard Station with helicopters and a 226′ buoy tender. The station here has been featured in a number of episodes of the Weather Channel’s “Coast Guard Alaska”, and we see and hear the helicopters every day. These folks are real heroes, providing a vital emergency medic and air evacuation service for the fishing fleet and the remote communities around here.
As far as wildlife goes, this place feels like an NFL game – ravens and eagles everywhere! Ravens and bald eagles here are like seagulls in other places, perched on light poles (we have to be careful walking back to the dock), perched on church steeples, boat masts, and gamboling around the skies calling to each other. We constantly stop to watch the eagles swooping and fishing. We did see one bear in town, but he looked pretty harmless…Evidently, they let just about anyone drive in Sitka…I had to stay up pretty late to get a sunset photo, and we don’t get to do much stargazing these days. The good news is that it will be easy to stargaze in the winter, even before dinnertime.