Phil in Alaska part 5
As we get closer we can see several boast circling and waiting, this was a good sign. These are tourist boats, so we know there must be plenty of whales in the vicinity.
Whilst we wait Tyson gets out the fishing rod and asks if I want to fish. Within 15 minutes we have 5 King salmon all well over 15lb, wow, in the UK you can wait 2 weeks for 1!
The whales do not disappoint, within a few minutes they are everywhere. Bubble net feeding and keeping us all entertained. One pod even head straight for our boat, then dive at the last second. I did get slightly concerned at that point. Then in a flash they were gone. Its not often in life you are truly stunned by what you see. This is one of those very special moments.
We head back, still chatting about what we had seen say goodbye to the lads and head off to lunch. Over lunch in Juneau the conversation continues over what a fabulous morning it had been. We spend the afternoon trying to get GV's but the weather is not helping us. Its raining and a bit miserable.
I spend the afternoon wandering around Juneau. Its a nice place, small and compact jammed full of trinket and tourist shops. In the season there is an average of 5 huge cruise liners here every day, so its big business. I try to negotiate a price on a Walrus head, but to no avail, she was not going to budge from her $5000 price tag...
I get back to the hotel and have a quick kip, jet lag was really kicking in now.
Later we eat dinner in the hotel restaurant, eating snow crab on Steve's recommendation, its was delicious and something I will remember for a long time.
Next day we have to get up very early to meet a ferry/catamaran that is going to take us to the location for our second film in Petersberg. We can fly, but the weather is not too good so it was better not to risk it. The boat is a 700 ton catamaran that travels at high speed, and the trip will take some 41/2 hours. After a slight delay with tickets and travel docs we get onboard and settle down with a nice coffee.
The trip is a good time to reflect on what we had seen and experienced so far. JD is very focused on the next couple of days so we put a plan into place. We were going to film Halibut fishing, another of the sustainable fish on offer here, plus cooking for the mayor of Petersberg.
JD asks half heartedly if the captain will let us film on the bridge. The answer comes back no problem, so off we go.
When we emerge from the labrythinth of corridors and locked doors onto the bridge there is an air of complete calm.
Captain Wayne and 2nd mate Pat are fully focused on the sea ahead, plus 2 or 3 spotters with huge binoculars.
I try to chat to the Captain, he answers whilst looking straight ahead; he is looking out for whales, helped by his team spotters.
He tells me that they are here feeding ready for a long trip to Hawaii or Japan. The females and calves leave first, then males and finally the pregnant females, eating as much as they can. They are everywhere and I ask Captain if he has ever accidently hit a whale the answer is a resounding no.
I explain to him what a privilege it is to be here and ask him if he ever gets bored. He replies 'No, I get to do this shit everyday' I laugh. After an hour we are clear of the whales and we thank Wayne and his team and get ready to dock in an overcast Petersberg. We disembark and I have to film several sequences me leaving the ship. All a bit strange really, me leaving a huge ship several times to the amusement of the local deck hands.
I meet up with Sue Paulsen a Petersberg PR lady and local resident. We then head off and she shows me the town, which is basically a long street with shops either side a mix of fishing based shops and businesses and hardware stores, not many trinket shops here.We check into the small, clean hotel that weirdly smells of bleach and have a coffee at their small coffee bar, very good it was to.
After a quick lunch, we head off to get the ingredients for my cooking strand for the mayor. I thought I would do a British themed idea but using Alaskan ingredients. I prepared a King crab cocktail with spring onions and coriander. Marinated Halibut cheeks with sesame, soy, chilli, olive oil, ginger and pepper. King crab legs, split and filled with a mild, fragrant curry butter with extra cumin, turmeric and cardamom. And sautéed halibut cheeks coated in breadcrumbs with a bacon, mushroom and parley sauce. All helped by Aimee and her colleagues, what stars they were.
The evening started with a quick speech to say thank you to all the residents and the Mayor a cookery demonstration outside (this coupled up with my cooking section to the film) and a good chat with the locals. The only downside was the weather, raining all the time, but hey that never stops us, gazebos, and umbrellas and we are fine!!!After a beer or two I head off to bed, knackered.
The following day we are up fairly early, but have to go down the street for a bite to eat as the hotel has no restaurant. We feast on hash and eggs and coffee head off to the local radio station for an interview on why I am here. We chat about sustainable fishing and how important it is to the local economy. I explain that in the UK the public are becoming increasingly interested in how and where their food comes from. We then head off to meet Aimee again who has a couple of restaurants to interview her about the fact she is a fisherman's wife. She is in fact a fisherman or women herself and spends all winter squid fishing off the Californian. She is very quick to correct me. She is attractive, charming and engaging. She is also quite scary, very toned and strong. Her father was a fisherman and she has been around the industry for many years so she has fished all her life.
She is more than qualified to answer questions on film about sustainable fishing. We have a great lunch at her place of Halibut burger with salsa, salad, cranberries and feta cheese, its delicious.
After a quick rest stop we stop off to meet Captain Dan O'Neil, to see if we can catch a huge Halibut. We head out of Petersberg, past a couple of canneries and out past Hungry point for an hour's trip to the best fishing spot. Again we see sea lions again resting on a buoy.
We bait up with salmon and herring and get ready. Halibut fishing is dropping bait and weights some 200feet then waiting and waiting and waiting.....
We finally get a bite, or Russel did, he then passed over the rod to me to reel in on camera (what a gent) It took a good 10 minutes, it was very heavy and kept diving again and again. Dan teases me and comments 'Come on Phil we will all be old by the time you reel this in'...
Finally it surfaced, but no... its was not a halibut but a 70lb skate. It was enormous, covering most of the deck, when we eventually landed it. It was flapping about a bit and we were told to steer clear of the tail, its has a large spine on it.
As it was not what we were trying to catch, we gently placed him back into the water and way he wafted.
We tried several other areas, but to no avail, never mind, we tried. Dan suggested we took a look at the ice bergs way across the bay; they looked tiny in the distance.
As we sped across the bay they got bigger and bigger. The icebergs were from a glacier 10 miles away and in summer large chunks fall away and float about whist they defrost.
We sailed amongst them, the temperature dropped rapidly; in fact it was quite eerie. Dan said we had to be very careful as small chunks office can rip through his keel easily.
He stops the boat and picks a large chunk office out of the water for me to hold and taste. We film a piece to camera. He also suggests we take it back to the hotel for our post filming gin and tonic.
The shapes colours and size of the hundreds of icebergs are amazing and the chill almost takes my breath away. It was like being on a film set.
I ask JD if I can do a piece to camera on the iceberg, he reminds me of 'elf & safety' and my young daughter and wife!!!!! We speed back to Petersberg as the light is fading, all chilled to the bone but stunned by what we had seen and been amongst.
That night we all head out to dinner at a restaurant called Beachcomber, a short drive the other side of Petersberg.
I eat black cod, smoked an acquired taste I'm told due to its high oil content. Its served with red spuds, and vegetables. Its also delicious I also have a green salad with blue cheese and hot smoked salmon, very nice.
I fall into bed, full and reflecting on another wonderful day.
Our last day in Petersberg starts with a salmon burrito and coffee with the team at The Seafood cafe. We film here showing large Dungeness crabs, a medium sized halibut and the biggest salmon caught this season to date. It weighs in at a whopping 50lb, and certainly dwarfs our 4 at 20lb! The last few hours we film around the town with Sue, finally dropping her off before boarding our large seaplane back to Juneau.
The flight is amazing, as we fly over some of the most spectacular scenery in America. I film an opener to the film and then wonder as we circle over Herbert glacier before we land in Juneau. We have another good dinner and finally to bed.
I and the crew leave early and catch our flight to Seattle. We pitch up at the same restaurant I ate at on the way out. We all feast on fried oysters and squid I then we split up I go to Vancouver the boys go to Washington.
On the plane back to Heathrow, I scribble many notes, and pinch myself on how lucky I am to have had the chance to film and write about one of the most unexplored parts of the world we live in. Its been an incredible experience.
Thanks to all the following people who made this trip such a success.
- Alaska Seafood: Hannah, Andrew, Joe, Tyson, Bill Thomas, Cherry, and Jocelyn: www.alaskaseafood.org.uk
- Historian Sue Paulsen and People of Petersburg.
- Keith Skaflested TECKK Outfitters, Hoonah.
- Dan O'Neil Secret Cove Charters Petersburg.
- More Charters LLC.
- Michael McGinely, Ocean Beauty.
- Mike, Excursion Inlet.
- Tyler Hickman, Icy Straight Point.
- Representative Bill Thomas.
- Minnie and Jimmy Dalton.
- Anthony Lindoff.
- Susan Christensen, Sons of Norway.
- Amyee Peeler, Inga's Gallery.
- Joe Viechniki, KFSK FM.
- Gary and Dorothy McConnell, First Choice Charters.
- Randy Lantigne and Mark Tupper.