We’ve continued to have a long string of rainy weather, which is unusual according to the locals.  I didn’t mind since I was still dealing with a virus that kept hanging on, and we have plenty of indoor chores to keep us busy.  The cool wet days are perfect for knitting – making little gifts and warm things, and it’s especially nice since there are two knitting/crafting groups that I meet up with here in town – kind and interesting ladies.  I love to listen to the comments they make, especially since I’m one of the few women in town who have never been on a commercial fishing boat; most of the ladies either fished with their dads or their husbands, and many couples fished commercially in retirement.  There’s a wide variety of things to know in order to be successful: complex fishery regulations, species-specific biology, oceanography, weather, boat operation and maintenance… and on top of all that you have to be willing to work long hard hours in all weather conditions.  The more we learn about fishermen the more deeply we respect their intellect, commitment, and skill.

In addition to knitting groups, I confess that I’ve been doing a lot of knitting on my own lately – it’s challenging and fun to transform a little pile of fiber like this…yarn balls…into something spiffy like this.20150126 4136 fair isle hat rI’m trying to challenge myself and get my skills to the point where I can try to make a real Norwegian sweater (that actually fits).  All this knitting has resulted in yarn purchases that I might be able to avoid if I could make better use of the yarn I have aboard – the stash.  A lot of the stash was acquired from Mom (a knitting teacher) when I was a pretty Junior Knitter and didn’t really know what I needed or what to do with different things.  Combine an unruly stash full of mystery yarn and living in a small space, and it was way past time to get it organized.

The yarn lives under the long sofa, and it was so jammed full that the cushions sat higher in that section.yarn storageLiving in a small space means that any attempt to organize creates an unreal amount of chaos in the process.  It’s ugly, and I have to make sure Jim is adequately prepared for the extent and duration of the devastation.  The yarn project took 2 days, and we coped by going out for pizza and a movie.  There was yarn piled everywhere in the saloon (fancy name for a boat’s living room).yarn piles 1yarn pile 2The happy news is that the yarn has now been tamed, inventoried, reorganized so I can find things, and weeded out.  I took a huge bag of yarn to give to the ladies at the Manor, and Jim is guardedly optimistic that I might actually use some of what’s lurking under the sofa instead of dragging him to yarn shops whenever we’re in civilization.  (Actually I never drag him to yarn shops – he won’t let me go alone.  Sigh.)

Sunday the Sons of Norway hosted a “Meatball-palooza” pot-luck dinner where people brought all different kinds of meatballs.  Exhausted from the yarn reorganization, I wasn’t particularly inspired to cook, but Jim saw a recipe he thought would be interesting for sausage meatballs.  He did all his shopping and planning for ample quantities, and Chef Jim stepped up to the plate and (I am proud to say) hit a home run with his fantastic sausage meatballs!20150125 4122 meatball chef jim rThe Meatball-palooza event was great fun, and some people dressed in tropical wear to counteract the dreary weather.  With so few restaurants in town and almost no options at dinnertime, pot-luck gatherings are a popular activity.20150125 4123 meatball-palooza rMonday and Tuesday were glorious with bright sunshine and blue skies – a tremendous contrast after weeks of monochromatic dark days.  I had to run around and take a few photographs…wrangell narrows looking north…and we jumped in the car and took a ride out the road to look for wildlife.  We heard about a pack of wolves that has been sighted just south of town, though we didn’t see them.  We explored a logging road that cuts through the National Forest across the island, and savored the views even though it was late in the day and the light was fading fast.  We saw one panorama across the muskeg where we could see Frederick Sound, the craggy snow-capped Coastal Mountains, and icebergs at the mouth of Le Conte (glacier) inlet over 15 miles away – gorgeous!  Aside from the swans and other birds we didn’t see any wildlife.  We’re having such a mild winter that the deer haven’t come down off the mountains.  We’ll see what February brings.

Speaking of February, the tanner crab fishery opens soon and the docks have started to get busy with fishermen preparing for the season.  Our neighbor’s boat is sitting low, loaded down with crab pots…island girl crab pots…and Petersburg Fisheries has a big stack of pots sitting on the dock ready to go.petersburg fisheries crab potsTemperatures are supposed to drop into the mid-30s late this week and into next week, and the thought of heading out in the winter weather and frequent gale force winds sounds pretty daunting.  Think about all the hardworking fishermen when you enjoy your seafood!

At Least We Don’t Have to Shovel It

The rain, that is.  We’re living in the world’s largest temperate rain forest – we get that.  But this winter has been unusually warm and wet, and the forecast is getting monotonous with nothing but rain.  I mean RAIN… the pouring kind, which isn’t typical.  The weather out in the straits and sounds has been nasty too – the NOAA reports every morning call for gale force winds and 8 foot seas, and that’s on the inside passages.  Fortunately we’re protected from the wind and seas tucked in the harbor, and we’re glad we don’t have to go out in it like the fishermen do.

Anchorage has had much less snow than normal, and we heard on the radio this morning that the ski area in Juneau is closing its lifts for lack of snow.  Our skis and snow shoes sit neglected.  A little white stuff would be nice for a change.

On the other hand, to all our friends back in the mid-Atlantic states who think we’re crazy to live in Alaska in the winter – how are those ice storms working out for you?  It’s 47 here today.  (I’m sure the fates will remember my snarky words and make us pay.)

January has been a bit of a let-down after all the activities and fun of the December holidays.  A lot of retired people have headed south to Arizona or other warm places to “get off the rock” for a couple of months.  Fortunately I have my two knitting/crafting groups that meet every week, and the cool/cold weather really stirs the urge to knit.  I’ve made a few little things for gifts… handwarmer mitts and a v-neck baby sweater.mitts20141229 4021 baby sweater for wes rAnd I even received a knitted gift from one of my Canadian friends – hand-knitted socks in fantastic colors!  I adore these, and there’s nothing nicer than hand-made socks because they fit so well.  OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI’m working on tuning up my fair isle (multi-color) knitting technique so I can tackle some Norwegian style projects – mittens as a “warm-up” and then maybe a traditional sweater.

In other excitement we had an amazing “small world” event where friends who also live aboard in the harbor happen to be friends with a lady named Meg – they’ve known each other since the 70s in Seattle and have stayed in touch all these years.  It turns out that Meg is the younger sister of our very good friend Ted that we’ve known through boating for many years on the east coast… and we got to meet Meg and her partner Dee last week when they came up to Petersburg.  It was such a cool and improbable thing!20150113 4098 Dee Meg Robin Jim rIn other excitement, last week Petersburg hosted the start of the 2015 tour of the “Intergalactic Nemesis” show.  It’s a 30s style radio show with 3 (incredibly talented) voice actors covering all the different characters, a slide show with the comic-book style images illustrating the story, a Foley artist center-stage so you can see all the different sound effects made live, and a piano player supplying the soundtrack.  It was OUTSTANDING – this troupe from Austin, TX is well worth seeing, and we hope they return for the second installment of the 3-part story next year.  Check out their web site for performances and more information.

Jim joined the Elks Club in town to give us an option for dinner out Thursdays-Saturdays, and to get more involved in the community a bit.  This Sunday the Sons of Norway are hosting a “meatball-a-palooza” pot luck.  Living in Seattle Seahawks territory, there should be some good options to watch the Super Bowl the week after.  It’s a far cry from Julebukking and weekly concerts in December!

In another installment of “life in a small Alaskan fishing town”, I want to point out that getting mail and packages in Alaska (and I suspect Hawaii, too) is a pain – it’s expensive, and often suffers from silly delays.  Up here, the US Postal Service is our go-to carrier – they do a great job and everyone relies on them.  Postage is a bit more expensive between here and the Lower 48 when mere mortals send packages, and stupidly more expensive when businesses ship.  But as long as shippers use the Postal Service, everything runs smoothly and pretty quickly.  Things take a little longer to get here – some things go on the plane, and some go on the ferry or barge, but they get here in a predictable amount of time to our P.O. Boxes.  We don’t have mail delivery to homes or businesses up here – everyone just has a box at the Post Office.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWhere things go haywire is with UPS or FedEx.  Forget it – it’s hopeless.  Those buggers don’t care about Alaska, and they’re not even nice about it.  Some companies refuse to ship to a P.O. Box, and that means a long unpredictable wait for a package to arrive.  Despite the fact that we have two flights a day connecting Petersburg with Seattle, Juneau, and Anchorage (major cities), all UPS and FedEx stuff goes to Anchorage where it just sits.  For days, with no rhyme or reason.  “2nd Day Air” takes 4 days to get to Alaska, at best… but there are no guarantees.  Boxes pile up in Anchorage until the contract shipper decides the pile should be sent along to the destination city – probably by some scientific method such as a dart board or waiting for days that don’t end in the letter “y”… even though there are flights to those places EVERY DAY.  737s with plenty of room for a few packages.  None of it makes any sense but that’s how it works so people around here despise UPS and FedEx, and we avoid any shipper that won’t use the good old Postal Service as much as possible.  We understand why UPS is brown.

Northern Exposure

TV reception up here is hit or miss because we’re at such a high latitude.  We’ve switched to a bigger satellite dish, but if the weather is bad or the cloud layer is too thick it’s a struggle to hold a good signal here at the dock, and we have no signal at all when we’re cruising – there are just too many mountains in the way.  Living in such a beautiful place we don’t normally watch much TV, except around dinnertime.  We spend the entire day together in close quarters and there’s just nothing to talk about over dinner.  It’s the one time of the day that we need a distraction from one another, so we’ve gotten into the habit of watching some DVDs – most often a British mystery followed by something light.  It’s part of our evening ritual now, and we really like it.

Do you remember the series “Northern Exposure” that was on TV from 1990-1995?  We enjoyed watching it back then, and we thought it would be fun to watch it again now so we bought the whole series on DVD.  What’s more appropriate than a comedy about life in a small Alaskan town, though we’ve come to realize that there is a lot more truth and reality to the series than we imagined, despite a few overly campy characters.  “Northern Exposure” is a lot closer to reality than today’s so-called “reality” TV, which is just garbage.  Offer a bunch of money to a handful of whack jobs and call that entertainment?

As we watch an episode every evening we laugh at the parallels.  The show is about a NY doctor who got through medical school on a scholarship paid for by the state of Alaska.  Guess how some of the doctors in Petersburg’s little hospital and clinic got here?  You can’t make this stuff up.

KFSKOur favorite is the local radio station – “KBHR” on the TV show, and KFSK (100.9 on your FM dial) in Petersburg.  KBHR has “Chris in the morning” giving local news, birthdays, personal announcements, and town activities.  We have the same – birthdays and anniversaries are announced as well as the school lunch and retirement home menus.  We have “Tradio” where people can call in with items to buy, sell, or trade – our favorite the other day was someone looking for 1/2 pound of deer fat.  (I don’t want to know what one does with deer fat.)  Sometimes a lady will call in to give the Traffic Report – which gives people a heads up about any black ice that might be Out the Road.  KFSK also reports on the expected arrival time of the flights – we have two in/out per day.  The bottom line is that we understand a lot of things on “Northern Exposure”.  It’s not as funny as it is sweet and true.  …except for the deer fat – what’s up with that?

It has been a quiet week-after-New-Year, mostly because I was sick with a sinus/throat thing.  Now we need to put away Christmas and get started on the winter projects.  Town is more quiet too – it’s a bit of a let-down after all those concerts and all that Julebukking!  Speaking of Norwegian traditions, we have a Norwegian exchange student living in Petersburg this year, and the newspaper did a nice story about her.  The best part of her story is that she says Petersburg is much more Norwegian than Norway is.  She says that Norway tries to be more “western”, though the traditions and customs done here are much like those that her grandparents and great-grandparents talked about.  She’s looking forward to the May Norwegian Constitution Day festival here since it’s much more of a big deal here than in her home town in Norway.

We had the first snow of the year this week – it was very pretty but after about 2 days the temps rose and the rain came and washed it all away.  The harbormaster has an ATV with a snow plow to keep the main docks cleared, and the kid who runs that thing flies up and down the dock like a bat outta hell!  He was moving too fast to get a picture, and I was in no shape to stand outside for too long.january snowThe birds are plentiful in the harbor, with lots of scoters, long-tailed ducks, and some loons…20141102 3851 pacific loon rI hadn’t seen any sea lions for at least a month, but this morning I heard and then saw “big boy” cruising around the harbor.  Maybe he was off helping Santa deliver to some of the more remote coastal towns.

Holidays in a Small Alaskan Fishing Town

20141225 4049 boat xmas tree rI’ll continue to share a few photos from our holidays in Petersburg as we wish you all a very happy and healthy New Year.

People often ask us if we have a Christmas tree on the boat, and of course we do – it’s a boat-sized tree made for us many years ago by my old Sea Scout friend.  We enjoyed a quiet Christmas morning together, then joined a gathering of about 15 people for a pot-luck Christmas dinner – it was a perfect day, though the promise of snow turned into rain with warmer than expected temperatures.

Jim was busy baking his famous monster cookies, but I had to keep reminding him that Christmas is all about sharing them.20141221 3983 monster cookies rWe finally had a day without some rain so I could photograph the Sons of Norway hall – first at low tide on the slough…20141224 4004 son hall and low tide slough rAnd then at high tide.20141224 4009 sons of norway christmas high tide rOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe haven’t had many decent weather days in a while, though Saturday and Sunday were clear and cold with bright sunshine – finally!  We loaded up the cameras and decided to head “out the road” to see some birds, but lots of other people were out enjoying the good weather with their dogs, so the birds were pretty scarce.  We enjoyed hiking and exploring new parts of the island, and with the crisp temperatures the fallen leaves and the swimming hole were kissed by frost and ice.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe muskeg meadows were misty and frosty, and it was great to take the time to notice nature’s little details like this Spanish moss on the evergreens.20141227 4028 spanish moss macro rWe made it all the way to the end of the road on the island, making lots of stops to explore along the way.  The sun was getting ready to dip below the mountain but it still cast a nice light on the snow-capped mountains across the strait.  We loved the views with every twist and turn of the road.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe next day was clear and cold again, but we had a bit of fog in the early morning which froze into a very thick frost that covered the dock and everything.  I’ve never seen frost that thick, and it was very tough stuff since it remained intact even after two days of people walking on it.  The frost made everything sparkle like diamonds – so pretty.20141229 4045 thick frost rAnd from the beauty of nature, we turn to the insanity and/or hardiness of the people of Petersburg as the New Year is celebrated with a Polar Plunge.  Let me note that it’s a miserable rainy day – about 44 degrees which, coincidentally is the same as the water temperature!  Despite the weather, quite a number of people came out to take the plunge.  A safety swimmer was geared up and ready in his dry suit and the Volunteer Ambulance Corps was present… just in case.  The brave souls lined up on the launch ramp dock…20150101 4075 polar plunge brave souls rAnd someone counted down to the moment of truth!20150101 4077 polar plunge jump 1 r20150101 4078 polar plunge jump 2 r20150101 4080 jump 3 rMost people couldn’t get out of the water fast enough…20150101 4085 polar plunge get me outta here rBut a few folks paddled around for a little bit, enjoying a little harbor swim.20150101 4092 polar plunge swimmers r