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The International Writers Magazine - Our Tenth Year: Alaska Found

North To Alaska - Part Nine
Sam Black

We left the Army RV Park at 0800 and headed toward Homer, Alaska a 180 mile run. The scenery once again was magnificent. We passed through another small berg called Copper Landing the name is bigger than the town of 358. The Kenai River, a famous salmon river sits along Copper Landing. This place booms when the salmon run.

Sterling is the next city with a population of 4888. Our old Air force buddy Tom Bailey lives outside of Sterling right on the Kenai River with his wonderful wife Sandy. I dialed Tom on my cell phone and he informed us to be at the fishing boat dock at 0600 the next morning. Tom scheduled us a charter boat several weeks ago.

We entered Homer around noon and stopped at local restaurant and had lunch. Homer is the fishing capital of Alaska. I’m not saying everyone in Homer smells like fish but they darn sure look like fisherman. The weather was miserable at best.

Homer’s fishing docks sit on a spit or a very narrow strip of land that runs out into the bay. They are building high rise condos at the very end and selling them for somewhere around a million a piece. The price per pound of fish gets pretty steep in Alaska.

We parked our RV at Heritage RV Park. Cost for full facilities, and water, sewer, and electric $89.00 per night. I’ve stayed in real nice motels for less, but you could eat off the bathroom floors. The place was spotless.
Shortly after we were all connected and opened a bottle of wine the wind started to blow. Our RV was rocking and rolling and the cold rain began. It lasted for a couple of hours.

The next morning we met Tom and his son-in-law and his brother-in-law at the marina. The temperature was in the low thirties with winds gusting around 30 mph. The charter boat captain canceled the trip for today. He said it would possibly be two days before we could go out. He would call Tom tonight if tomorrow looked okay.

We headed for Tom’s home on the Kenai River. Tom bought this place many years ago. It was a large A frame. Since then he and his wife added a two car garage with a large living area above it and remodeled the original area. The home is now completely winterized and has views most people see only on post cards.

We pulled onto his driveway and right in front of the RV is a full size parking meter. Tom informed us it wouldn’t cost us $89.00 per night but the meter is empty and he expected it to be full when we left. Tom was only joking, but the parking meter does get your attention.

Two days of eating our stomachs are full of Sandy’s cooking, including home smoked salmon, home made rhubarb pie, and Toms’ sisters cooking was all made from scratch. We all enjoyed lots of laughs and stories dating back over 45 years ago when we were in the Air Force together.

Homer was sunny, cold and with a calm wind at 0600 when the twin diesel engines on the charter boat sprang to life. We headed out of the marina to the north passing several snow capped mountains. The seas were calm and the captain poured the coals to the twin engines running at 25 knots.

We arrived twenty five miles later at the Barren Islands. They were barren except for thousands of sea galls. We pulled along side the islands and dropped our lines into 185 feet of water. We are fishing for halibut. We landed the first halibut in ten minutes. We had six large halibut in the boat within an hour. Arms were already tired.

We were all busy with our lines when someone spotted a large hump back whale off to our left. He was bigger than our boat, but he only surfaced twice before heading elsewhere. Not one picture was taken, too busy fishing. We had our limit of two halibut per man in two hours. Jim brought in the biggest at 109 lbs. I was right behind him at 90 plus lbs., but I must add that Tom helped me bring him in as his line was tangled with mine.

We headed back to Homer all happy and tired and arms sore from dragging these monsters from the bottom. We had Buttwhackers a fish cleaning company clean and freeze dry our fish. All the halibut dressed out at 370 lbs.

We partied over at Tom’s sister’s home only a couple of miles from Tom’s home that evening until our pillows called. We ate a large breakfast the next morning at Tom’s sister’s place and said our goodbyes to everyone. Jim and Mike each had 30 lbs of vacuumed sealed frozen halibut in a Styrofoam box. I had 50 lbs in another box. Cost per pound including charter boat, cleaning, license, freeze dried vacuumed sealed: $17.56. Not bad for fresh fish that we caught.

We put on 6002 miles on the RV since we picked it up in Indiana. We spent just over $2100.00 in fuel. I won’t give you the liquor bill it might sound high to some folks. Jim and Mike were scheduled on the same plane and I was scheduled on another plane. My plane was to depart at 0012 at gate #2 and fourteen of us missed our plane because they failed to tell us the gate number changed. With 50 lbs of fish that cost me additional $50.00 to put on the plane heading to Portland and my next flight two hours later heading to Seattle and temperatures hovering around 107 degrees in Phoenix I used some words I normally don’t use in front of a female agent.

I arrived in Phoenix an hour later than scheduled thanks to some shuffling at Seattle. My halibut waiting for me in the air conditioned airport. A good friend of mine grabbed my luggage off the conveyor. Thank You!
Mike and Jim were held up in Atlanta for six hours and they lost some halibut due to thawing.
For those who are thinking of dragging your butts off the couch and doing some traveling don’t wait for the fuel prices to drop. Go now.

© Sam Black April 2009

Planning the Trip
Sam Black in Alaska
I believe in having goals.
North to Alaska Pt 2
Sam Black
Petoskey sits on Lake Michigan I suggest you visit it someday.
North To Alaska - Part 3/4
Sam Black
We headed out at 0600 on Highway 2 westbound. Our goal is to drive as far as we can. The state of North Dakota is rather boring until you get to Devils Lake
North to Alaska - Parts 5/8
Sam Black
We left Jasper National Park at 0600 hoping to find a bear early in the morning. We are on highway 16 heading northwest to Kluane Glacier



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