My brother Robin, who splits his time between Ketchikan, AK and Meyers Chuck, AK, our two Alaskan hometowns, wanted me to paint a special painting of his boat the "Sultan". Hope I did it justice! (Megan Duncanson)
Robin lives in Ketchikan, Alaska, and works at the local shipyard in the winter months, he also has a Salmon troller that he fishes out of in the summers in our little hometown village of Meyers Chuck, AK called "Sultan". He is an avid San Francisco 49ers fan, so of course he had to give ode to them with his boat, haha!! Hence the colors and the flag proudly saluting fellow 49ers fans...or taunting their rival Seahawks fans, all who pass him by on the Alaskan fishing grounds.
The "Sultan" is the oldest active troller in Ketchikan, and is being recognized by the Ketchikan Historical society for it's long standing history of fishing the Alaskan waters for almost a century. The wooden boat was built in 1926, in Seattle, WA. Some of the characteristics of the Sultan are: it is a double ended fir planked power troller, OAL 43'' long with a 10' beam and has a 6' draft. It is documented with the USCG, number: 226195, and more information on the boat can be found by entering the doc number on the Coast Guards website.
It's been my brothers dream to own his own fishing boat for as long as I can remember, and in May of 2019 he decided to make his dream come true. He first found a boat in Hoonah, AK that he was interested in, and so him, and our oldest brother James, traveled up there, only to find the boat was in horrible condition. So, back to square one and the hunt for the perfect troller. He then heard about a boat in Sitka, AK and they went to check that one out, hoping it was the perfect dream boat, there he met the "Sultan" and a couple days later she was on her way to Meyers Chuck, AK, her new home.
Of course with a boat that is almost a century old, and made of wood, living in the harsh climate of Alaska the boat requires continuous maintenance and costs to keep it seaworthy, but my brother is up for the task and regularly spends 300 hours, and $5,000 a year to keep her running. But, it is worth it to live out his dream and join the ranks of all the other Alaskan fishermen in our family.
Interesting side note, it is the 2nd red power troller boat in the family that is unmistakeable in Southeast Alaska. Our uncle and aunt, Rory and Marion, also fish the same grounds with their boat the "Isis". Maybe our brother James, and cousin JoDean and her jusband Joe, need to paint their trollers red now too, hmmmmm.
Looking forward to seeing the colorful Sultan pass by in front of MAD Island while I am working up there this summer, building my dream artist retreat and seeing his dream boat fish on by.
Click on the photo below to watch the making of the original painting on YouTube
Imagine you're on a trip to SE Alaska in your yacht or your sailboat and you see a fishing boat up ahead of you on a broad bay along the Inside Passage. As you draw closer you realize something's not right. The boat isn't under power and there's no movement on deck, no sign of anyone onboard. What would you do? What made me think about this is something my brother told me recently after he fetched some fuel and groceries for us in his fishing boat. The tides were a mess, they were super low high tides that came in extremely slowly. Our skiff wouldn't float so I wouldn't be able to go out and meet him to offload the fuel and groceries from his boat. He thought he could bring his boat into our little tidal bight later on in the evening just before dark, but even then our skiff wouldn't float. It was decided that I'd walk out on the big breakwater log that stopped the worst northerly swells from assaulting our floathouses to meet his boat. The problem was, the breakwater log had been out there for a long time and had been severely eaten up by wood-boring sea gribbles. It wasn't much more than a floating slab and wasn't as stable as it used to be. It was the only option, though, so when Jamie called and said he would be here in a few minutes, I left my floathouse, clambered over the rocks and stepped onto the big log that was tied to shore. It has a lot of burls and moss growing on it, but wasn't as tippy as I'd feared it might be. I got to the very end of it where it had the least stability and balanced there, waiting for Jamie to arrive. I could hear his boat growling along, but it was taking him longer than a few minutes. I occupied myself by swatting noseeums, taking photos of the sunset, and trying not to fall off the log into the jade green water. Jamie's boat finally entered the bight. He was having some engine problems and I wondered if that had been what had delayed him, but when he finally reached the log and I helped tied his boat to it, he said, "I'm sorry it took so long to get here. I was drifting farther out than I realized." "Drifting?" I asked. He said that he'd shut down his engine and let the boat drift while he slept, waiting for the tide. "It made me think of Ray. He used to do that all the time." Ray was a close family friend who died last year and had been the captain of the large fishing boat Jamie had been a deckhand on for many years. "You mean," I said, "that you guys would just drift around in some bay with everyone sleeping inside?" "Yep. It was super peaceful." I'd never heard of such a thing, but I couldn't see why not when I thought about it. In the more remote areas there's very little traffic, and most of the water is extremely deep out in the middle of bays, and if the weather was nice--why not? As I thought about that he handed me out 9 jugs of gasoline, each weighing around 40 pounds. I had to carry them along the log and line them up, walking back and forth as the log rocked. They took up most of the space on the log so it was tricky getting around them. Finally he handed out a bag of potatoes and assorted other groceries. "Where are you off to now?" I asked as he started the engine back up. "I don't know," he said. "Maybe I'll go back out there and drift some more."
It's bear season so I'm once again packing a gun everywhere I go and seeing bears behind every tree--thankfully, so far they always turn out to be figments of my imagination. Sort of like the bear mentioned in the "Grizzly Country" section of Bjorn Dihle's book, NEVER CRY HALIBUT.
Brown bears bring out no shortage of strangeness in people. For the last six years, I've guided folks and a few film crews who wanted to look at or film brown bears....[One] summer I was offered the chance to become a Hollywood star.
"Hi, sport," a reality television producer said over the phone. "Are you interested in being part of a team that tries to track down the biggest brown bear in the world? Some say it's not even a bear! They say it's, like, fourteen feet tall!"
"Where's this 'bear' supposed to live?" I asked, beginning to shake with excitement. Maybe a brown bear had successfully mated with a tiger, creating a "tigear" or "beager," and I was about to be offered a ticket to the Kamchatka Peninsula.
"On the island of Angoon," the producer said.
"You mean the village of Angoon on Admiralty Island?" I said.
"What? Yeah. The village of Angoon," he said.
"Who gave you this exciting information?" I asked.
"The Langat People."
"I never heard of the Langat people. Do you mean Tlingit?" I asked. The conversation grew increasingly strained. The producer said something about isolated DNA and there being some sort of super bear near Angoon....
My life dream is to be cast as the villain in a James Bond movie, but I was tired of all the nonsense being perpetuated about bears. It's like when Allen Hasselborg, the bear man of Admiralty Island, said about so many people's apparent need to dress up bear stories--the truth is plenty interesting already. Still, a small part of me died when I declined to be on the show.
End of Excerpt.
In the book, Bjorn tells stories not just of his close encounters with bears, some of them frightening enough for me to sleep with a light on all night after reading them, but he also describes some of the strange people he's met deep in bear country. Before I read his book I was, it turns out, considerably naive about the varied reactions people can have to meeting their first brown bear.
One of the funniest parts of the entire book is where Bjorn details his interactions with various TV producers and clients he guides into the wilderness. If you want to know what not to do in the wilderness, this section is a great primer.
At any rate, I wanted to put a reminder out there that Bjorn's book of Alaskan hunting and fishing tales is currently available both in Kindle and print formats. Here's a link to Amazon's page for NEVER CRY HALIBUT:
Now I better strap on my gun, pocket my pepper spray, take my handheld VHF with me, and head into the woods and over to the beach with the good Internet signal to post this. Here's hoping I don't meet any bears or reality TV producers in the process....
Note: All Photos except the top one courtesy of Bjorn Dihle.
Tara Neilson (ADOW)