10 July 2014
They say those who gaze upon Priest Rock are destined to come to Dutch Harbor again. It is for this reason we were warned by our friend Nic not to look at it. But it was too late. After finishing a celebratory steak dinner aboard, we stood on C-float watching the myriad of bald eagles and fired away our questions at our neighbor John Kelly - the first live person we'd talked to in 25 days. Over dessert aboard, he shared his special reserve of Japanese Suntory whiskey (empty bottles of which we'd seen all over the beaches of the Marshall Islands, but had never tasted) and we talked until 3am before finally realizing it was late; a fine welcome to the land of the midnight sun. Over the next few days we explored the thriving fishing town of Dutch Harbor and old town of Unalaska. As the number one fishing port in the nation, Dutch Harbor handles 800-million pounds of bottom fish and crab per year. I'd planned to cash in on a crab feast or two so we saved our appetites for Sunday brunch at the Grand Aleutian Hotel where amongst other delights, there is a never ending giant bowl of red king crab legs. I love crab, but especially king crab. The feast was delicious and we had earned it crossing 3300 miles to get here. After the second heaping plateful, I was stuffed - this being only the second time in my life to admit I could eat no more crab (Brad West will remember the other.) For the next few days we ogled at the wares in the ship supply store and shopped at the giant Safeway which sports the most amazing display of diverse and fresh produce we've seen in over a year. We had a cheeseburger at the Harbor Bar and walked into Unalaska. Lolo relished in a long hot shower at the community center, while I photographed the historic Russian Orthodox Church and noted the site of the once famous Elbow Room bar. During the hay day of the king crab fishery, fishermen rolling in cash would wait in line to get in, often tipping the waitresses with 100 dollar bills for their drinks. We picked up some groceries for dinner and stopped at the hotel on the way back to relish a pint of fine Alaskan IPA on tap. Good food and good beer. Nobody does it like the good ole USA..even in Dutch Harbor. On the dock, we were greeted by a friend of a friend, Frank Kelty, who asked if we'd seen much of the place and graciously offered to take us on a driving tour the next day. Frank, it turns out, has been in Dutch Harbor since 1973, is a wealth of information and had even been the mayor of Unalaska for a number of years. After picking up a couple more pounds of king crab from Mike's Firehouse, we were sipping Alaskan Amber and preparing for another crab feast when the radio crackled to life with the voices of our friends on Off Tempo. They were still hours away, but would make it in tonight - after 33 days at sea. Later, while chatting and congratulating them on deck, another gentleman named Cooper motored by in his small boat and handed us a couple packs of fresh sockeye salmon. Damn, it's good to be back home and if we find ourselves in Dutch Harbor again, that will be just fine with me.