Pelican. Lisianski Inlet, July 12, 2011
18 July 2011 | posted at Sitka
Photo: Inside Rose’s World Famous Bar and Grill.
Four years ago when we were here, Pelican had been bustling. Forklifts darted back and forth carrying crates of fish and groups of fishermen in XtraTuff boots tromped the boardwalk. But this year it was quiet: the cold-storage plant locked tight and the boardwalk almost empty.
I had been reluctant to return. I thought it would be too depressing. The cold-storage plant had gone bankrupt in 2009, had gone into foreclosure and hadn’t reopened. The general store and laundramat, operated by the same company had closed too. But Steve had insisted, “Rose’s is still open and this may be our last chance to see it. And the Lisianski Inlet Café is open too,” he said.
We turned from the cold-storage plant and walked south to Rose’s Bar. In case there was any doubt that this was a famous bar, the full name on a large banner over the door read, “Rose’s World Famous Bar and Grill.”
Inside Rose’s Bar was almost as quiet as the boardwalk. Several men sat at the bar watching “America’s Got Talent” on TV. We watched it for awhile, then Steve said, “This is so bad I can’t stand to watch it.”
I turned my attention to the bar. It was thick wood with almost every inch carved with initials or names of fishboats, then varnished many times over. Above our heads dollar bills hung from the ceiling in-between names written in black magic marker and strings of Christmas lights. A photograph of Rose hung over the bar but Rose herself was not present. “She’s taking a nap,” the bartender told us. “She’ll be down soon.”
The door opened and Fran, Richard and Steve, the three crew members of the sailboat Red of Juneau walked in. We had last seen them a few hours ago in Elfin Cove and soon were talking routes and anchorages with them.
Rose arrived and handed Fran, one of Red’s crew, a magic marker and pointed at the bar. “You can stand there to write your name,” she said. Later, after Fran and then Steve (of Osprey) had autographed the ceiling, Rose told us a little bit of her history. Her father had been killed during World War II in the battle in the Aleutians. “I’m 78,” she told us. “And I’ve been doing this for 40 years.”
As we left the bar a few minutes later, Steve mused about how much longer Rose’s would be open. Without the fishermen, there wouldn’t be enough customers. A few sailboaters like us wouldn’t cut it.
We awoke the next morning to fog and drizzle. It was a good morning for a hot breakfast at the Lisianski Inlet Café. The crew of Red were there ahead of us but that was about it for customers. I remembered the last time we were here it had been difficult to find a table. Now we had our choice.
I might have left discouraged about the town’s future if we hadn’t chatted to Karen and Victo, the owners of the Café after breakfast.
“We’re on the cusp of change,” Karen told us. “Tomorrow we reopen the laundry mat and showers -- totally remodeled. We’re developing the trail to the old Bohemia Mine. And next year three cruise lines with small ships will stop here regularly. The town has foreclosed on the cold-storage plant and made plans to upgrade it.”
We were at marina walking back to the boat when Steve pointed out a worker sweeping the docks.
“When have you ever seen someone sweeping the docks?” he asked.
I suddenly realized we hadn’t seen a scrap of litter anywhere on the boardwalk or the marina. I couldn’t think of better evidence that the town cared and had a good chance to succeed.