After our adventures in Kalinin Bay we decided that it was time to catch up on some laundry and pick up some fresh groceries, so we headed into Sitka for a few days. We had a happy surprise there, finding our friends Knut and Gerry on the next dock. Unhappily, the weather was not the best – gloomy and rainy, sometimes raining hard enough that a few fishermen actually broke out the umbrellas!
Although our main reason for stopping was practical, we always enjoy seeing the signs of Russian culture around town, especially the Orthodox church in the town center.We enjoyed lunches or dinners out – always a treat after weeks of eating nothing but our own cooking, and I was happy to visit the yarn shop to see what’s new (though I resisted buying anything this time). In between chores we decided to re-visit the National Park Service totem park, talking with a Tlingit lady tanning and sewing with various types of fish skins, talking with a master carver whose designs come to him in dreams, and visiting the carving shed where some young guys were working on a log canoe.The Tlingit log canoes are carved from a single log, hollowed out by hand using an adze. Unfortunately this log developed several cracks, and the carvers were spending a lot of time making plugs to repair them. When a log canoe like this is completed it’s soaked in salt water, then filled with water and extremely hot rocks to steam the wood. The sides of the canoe are slowly spread apart to make the canoe much wider, also causing the ends to rise up. It’s time-consuming and requires a lot of work by a lot of people – in the spirit of cooperation that’s integral to the culture of the tribe.
We enjoy seeing all the different totems, and I like to study the many details in each pole’s design. The rain held off long enough for us to enjoy the totems and a nice walk through the woods, and we even got to see a little bit of the sunset one evening, looking over the harbor.