Vital to every community in Southeast Alaska is their harbor. Harbors in Alaska are economic drivers; caring for commercial and charter fishing fleets, acting as transportation hubs, and welcoming independent tourists. Residents depend on harbors to safely launch and moor their personal boats that carry them out fishing to fill the freezer for winter.
Naukati Bay, a community on the northwest side of Prince of Wales Island, had an old dock that was beyond its useful life some time ago. Volunteers, mostly a handful of 'old guys', spent time and their own money making what repairs they could, but the wooden dock was just giving up and parts of it were unsafe.
Our boat was tied to that old dock several years ago when a storm came up. I thought that the dock was coming apart for sure. Planks were scissoring into the air, popping nails left and right, as the dock writhed with the big waves rolling under it. With help from Ernie we cast off to jog into the storm rather than have the weight of our boat add to the stresses on that dock. The old dock held together, but barely.
The community needed someone to push a dock project, and Gregg Parsley took on the job in 2008. It was long and involved. Gregg credits Alaska Department of Transportation and Public Facilities engineer Kirk Miller with the design, and with seeing the project through the estimating phase and to construction.
There were six possible designs to begin with, and Naukati Bay Community Association chose one of the plans in 2012. ADOT&PF had secured part of the funding for construction through the Denali Commission, but the construction estimate showed that the funding was way short. The community once again called on Gregg to write a grant to make the new harbor a reality. Mr. Parsley put his face into the computer for ten days and, with valuable help from his wife, Beverly, and other family members, wrote a grant that would fund the project.
Once that grant application went in to the Alaska State Legislature then Naukati Bay, the Oyster Capital of Southeast Alaska, had to convince the legislators that the project should be funded. Gregg Parsley sent me this account:
"....me and Beverly hand selected 15 dozen absolutely perfect oysters to go to the legislative lounge, they were exactly the same size and shape and looked like they fit a cupcake pan. We hand polished them and boxed them carefully with two oyster knives in case the lounge did not have shucking knives. They were picked up at the airport in Juneau and taken to one of the representative's office's where he opened the box and started doing oyster shooters. Apparently several (most of) the other legislators joined in and started doing shooters with a long line down the hall, to this day I am not sure if any oysters ever made it to the lounge but I will never forget running into Senator Albert Kookesh months later and thanking him for his support, Albert started laughing and said, [you are the first person I know who actually shut down the Alaska Legislature for 4 hours straight, every time I walk down the hall and see the stains in the carpet from the oyster juice I laugh and think of you]."
And the dock project went forward.
Tamico Inc. of Petersburg, Alaska is doing the work. Marc Martinsen of Tamico told me that they couldn't just pound the pilings into place. There is a base of bedrock under the harbor, so they had to drill an eighteen-inch-wide hole ten feet deep for each galvanized steel piling.
See the cement slabs on the right of the photo above? Those are for the new launch ramp!
The new dock has forty foot skiff haul-out. That is a great feature in this rainforest that can sink a skiff in a few days with water from the sky .
Right in front of the skiff haul-out is the airplane float.
Floatplanes are for more than passenger and freight service here; floatplanes are how many of the small communities get their air mail. Floatplanes are often the best method for medivacs, too. The airplane float in Southeast Alaska harbors is very important, and is off limits to boats.
I can't wait to see the new drive-down ramp when it is installed! The ramp that is in place in the photos belongs to the Forest Service, and they will use it in another location.
So if you are cruising on the west side of Prince of Wales Island be sure to stop in to Naukati. There's a nice, sturdy dock there to moor to.
Congratulations on your upgraded harbor Naukati!