Photo: Moon over Thomas Basin, Ketchikan
"Ketchikan Harbormaster, Ketchikan Harbormaster this is Osprey, Osprey." We'd just arrived in Tongass Narrows outside Thomas Basin and were looking for a slip. The Harbormaster came back and returned our VHF radio call. We requested a slip in Thomas Basin, then held our breath.
Marinas in SE Alaska are built and operated for fishing boats. But the fishing boats are out fishing in the summer so their slips are often available for transient boaters like us. We never know until we get to a town whether they'll have moorage for us or not (although almost always they do) or where it will be.
The harbormaster came back to the radio, "Slip 5-16 should meet your needs."
In Ketchikan we always choose Thomas Basin if we can. It's an enclave of real Alaska surrounded by cruise ships. Just blocks from the harbor is Tatsuda's IGA grocery store that caters to fishermen and locals, a commercial laundry that washes, dries and folds your clothes, the Potlatch fishermen's bar, the Union Machine Shop, and a smattering of almost good restaurants. Many boaters choose Bar Harbor to the south of town instead because it's close to the Safeway store. But we prefer to be in the center of the action. If we need the Safeway, there's a shuttle bus.
Our goals for Ketchikan were to order new replacement parts, do some additional repairs and provisioning, and if time permitted, enjoy the museums and other tourist attractions.
But it was Sunday afternoon. Nothing would be open so we decided to take a walk. We walked on empty sidewalks past shuttered jewelry stores and T-shirt shops. On the cruise ship docks Ketchikan residents were reclaiming their town and enjoying the last of a heat wave that had gone on all spring. A group of teenage boys were diving from the dock into the cold waters of Tongass Narrows. Other residents were enjoying the view minus cruise ships. The temperature might have reached 70 F that day. To them that was warm.
The next morning Steve started the task of replacing spares. "I've learned to order from Seattle," a fellow boater who kept his boat in Ketchikan over the winter told us the next morning, "but there are a few exceptions." One of his exceptions was the Union Machine Shop at the head of the dock. They agreed to fix our propeller and mail it to Juneau, our next mail stop. Another exception was a shop in Juneau that agreed to fix the alternator if we mailed it to them. The idler sheaves we ordered from Seattle. The heat exchanger was already waiting for us at the post office.
Photo: Union Machine Shop
By Wednesday evening Steve had ordered everything that needed to be ordered and repaired everything that needed to be repaired. Only the oven, which had failed just north of Shearwater, could not be fixed. The only spare parts were installed in another old stove in our basement and would have to wait until we got home in the fall. I ordered a stovetop oven to be shipped to Juneau. We were ready to go the next morning.
But Thursday morning the wind howled, the boat shook and the rain came down in sheets. Ketccikan's good weather had ended.
"We don't have to leave today," said Steve. We would have our day to enjoy the town and leave the next day.