We depart Wrangell at 0800 and make our way across the sound to enter the infamous 21 mile Wrangell Narrows. The Narrows serves as the main conduit for small recreational vessels, fishing boats and the Alaskan Marine Highway ferries. Marked with 70 navigational markers it’s a narrow and zig-zagging course especially at low tide. We enter the narrows on an ebbing tide, and the water is moving at several knots while it funnels through the channel. We have the M/V Matanuska, one of the passenger ferries due to make her way up the Marine Highway System entering the channel northbound as well, and we keep an eye on her progress as we course our way north.
Along the way we see black-tailed deer and several bald eagles, which seem to enjoy the fishing perches provided by the channel markers. The narrows concentrate the fish with the ebbing tide, from the dozens of small boats with lines cast overboard, presumably the fishing is pretty good. A few boats are loaded with propane tanks – perhaps a quick fishing stop on the way back home after errands in town?
Petersburg remains a fishing town, with the largest halibut fishery in the world and several canneries still in operation. We pull into the harbor full of purse seiners, gill netters and long-liners. Salmon fishing opens on Sunday, and the boats at dock are attended by crews finishing paint jobs, organizing nets and at working on engines. The town’s Norwegian heritage shows through with painted shutters and street names like Eng and Sing. The Sons of Norway building (which the bulletin announces will host Bingo on Friday nights) is just up the docks from the South Dock. Sing Lee Alley hosts an ice cream shop and a wonderful bookstore. There are trails out of town that provide vistas of the peaks to the east. The crew aboard Ajax return from town astonished that there are no restaurants for a good fish dinner. When Darcy inquired about the best place to get some good fish, the response was ‘stick your rod in the water’, indeed a few people are fishing straight off their recreational vessels in the harbor. A couple of the crew from Ajax have arranged a salmon fishing charter out of here tomorrow to take advantage of the lay day. They should have their fish dinner by tomorrow.
As the evening arrives, the light slants through the harbor in that magic way of sunset, brightening up the fishing fleet. It’s summer in Alaska and we have some long, long days to enjoy it.