Whether sifting through sand, or scrambling over a rocky shore, it's about finding treasures in every day. 

The Beaver Delivers

Out of the mist a de Havilland Beaver shimmers into view, landing lights flashing.

For those awaiting passengers and mail the rumble of this great, vintage aircraft is sweet music.

The ground crew in this small berg is usually one person. She checks in passengers, handles freight, runs the four-wheeler up and down the dock, and catches the plane as it lands at the float. In all kinds of weather. Well, almost.

She doesn't get to meet the planes in dense fog. If the pilots can't see then the planes don't fly.

Some days the mail and freight are stacked up. Right now it is the season for lots of packages so the planes can arrive pretty full.

By the time the mail gets here it has had truck rides, sometimes a boat ride, a couple of plane rides, and many transfers. Oh, and it gets to ride in a cart pulled by a four-wheeler.

People and packages are transferred as fast as safely possible, and the planes are on their way again.

The pilot pours the power to it and propeller tip vortices spiral over the fuselage.

Then they are off into the wild....yellow....yonder. Hey, its winter. Dawn comes late and the sun angle is low. It makes for some pretty mornings and afternoons on these short days.

The pilots have more towns to take care of and a schedule to keep. They know that we are depending on them.

Here's wishing that all of your goodies arrive on time, and that you have the warmth of a happy season!

Alaska Beachcomber

See more images of the Beaver in Flying in a de Havilland Beaver


Flying in a de Havilland Beaver

Sometimes the indirect route is not only less expensive, it is way more fun. I needed to go from Thorne Bay to Wrangell. Traveling in Southeast Alaska generally involves a plane or boat, and this trip had both.

There it is!

Promech Air's de Havilland Beaver taxiing to the dock in Thorne Bay, Alaska.

Nine cylinder radial engine.

The de Havilland Beaver! My very favorite airplane for getting around this archipelago. There is just nothing like the sound of a Beaver. That rumbling roar greeted me as I stood on the airplane float in Thorne Bay Harbor, and I remembered a lifetime of hearing this workhorse of an aircraft. There are  Beavers operating all over Southeast. That is a testament to their usefulness and good design because the last Beaver was produced by de Havilland in 1967. Production of this aircraft started in 1947.

Yep, I happily climbed into a floatplane that is well over forty years old. Maybe over 60.  It’s okay. Most of the Beavers have been completely rebuilt.

The Beaver is powered by a nine cylinder radial engine. There was one on display at the Seattle Boat Show this year.  Some Beavers have been modified with turboprop engines, but not this one.

Lisa waiting as Mike approaches the dock.

This Pacific Airways Beaver has it's water rudders retracted in the "up" position in flight. See the paddle in a bracket on the float? Click on the photo to enlarge it.

Mike is gliding perfectly up to the dock. This is a trick of professional pilots that I have always admired. There are no brakes. They have to cut power and reduce momentum well before getting close to the dock. The pilot’s foot pedals are attached by cables to small rudders on the rear of the floats, and that is the only steering at slow speeds on the water. I have seen bush pilots size up the wind, waves and current and slide up beside the dock perfectly time after time.  Then they nimbly jump out with one hand on the strut, wrap a line on the dock cleat, and start unloading and loading passengers and freight.

Mike let me sit in the right seat. You couldn’t have peeled the grin off of my face with ViseGrips. Then Lisa told me that the flight had to stop in Craig before going to Ketchikan. Craig is the other way, away from Ketchikan.

Banking around after takeoff.

"Wait!" you say? Wasn’t I going to Wrangell? Well, yeah, but to go direct I would have to charter a boat or plane and it would have been expensive. Seat fare on a scheduled flight is pretty reasonable.

Thorne Bay, Alaska from the air. Hey, isn't that our boat in the harbor?

So back to the detour to Craig…on a nice day it is BEAUTIFUL!

Mountains on the way to Craig.

There are just mountains all over the place.

We picked up four more passengers and two cats in Craig. The cats were going to a shelter in Ketchikan, hopefully to find new and loving homes. Yes, they were in kitty kennels.

Craig, Alaska in early April. The trees will leaf out soon and Craig will be wearing a pretty green coat.

Craig to Ketchikan is a flight between snow capped mountains, over jagged shorelines, across Clarence Strait, and down Tongass Narrows to land at the Ketchikan waterfront. You want to catch the jet? ProMech, Taquan, or Pacific Airways will land at the floatplane dock at the airport, too.

More mountains.

Fearless pilot navigating through rough country. He looks so calm about it.

Seriously, though, bush pilots have been flying me around all of my life. Mike is good at flying this machine.  I would fly with him any time.

Crossing Clarence Strait, looking south to the Pacific Ocean.

Flying over Tongass Narrows with Ketchikan International Airport on Gravina Island to the right and Ketchikan on Revillagigedo Island to the left. In the middle there are a few residents on Pennock Island.

Taxiing up to the Ketchikan waterfront.

Alaska Marine Highways ferry M/V Taku in Wrangell

After landing I grabbed a cab, which dropped me off at the ferry terminal. I boarded the M/V “Taku.” She’s a great old girl, launched in 1963 and still going strong. What is it about the design and workmanship of that era? Can we do it again?

A six hour trip on the ferry put me in to Wrangell.

It is about 55 miles from Thorne Bay to Wrangell as the crow flies.

Thorne Bay -> Craig -> Ketchikan -> Wrangell = 185 miles. That’s just the way it works sometimes. It was a great trip, and cost a total of $132 for the flight and the ferry. I have to take a truck back on the return trip, and that is a lot more expensive. But that is another story.

Happy travels to you, whether it is a walk to the corner store or a world cruise,

Alaska Beachcomber

You can see another Beaver and the M/V Taku here.

Here's the well worn disclosure: I have NOT received any consideration, monetary or otherwise, from any businesses, people, or products shown in this blog post. You're right, I should work on that so that I do.

Fishing at Point Baker (and a salmon recipe)

This has been an amazing summer for good weather, and on one of those sunny, calm days we left Wrangell in the boat and headed west. 

Looking back at Wrangell with a cruise ship in port. 

The Alaska Marine Highways ferry Taku was headed in to Wrangell to join the cruise ship in front of town.  We continued out Sumner Strait.

The ferry Taku headed for Wrangell. 

Standing wheel watch. 

Standing wheel watch. 

Just for a good excuse to get out of town and go play, we had two relatives from the midwest on board. They flew in to Wrangell on Alaska Airlines and then we ran around town to get their fishing licenses and some groceries. After that we whisked them out of town on the boat. Actually we cruised out of town at eight knots, which is about ten miles per hour, which probably doesn't qualify as whisking, does it? 

Once they were trapped on board we merrily put them to work on wheel watch and lookout. They didn't seem too broken up about the duties.

Lookout watch.

Lookout watch.

They were here for vacation, and wanted to do a little fishing while in the area. We hadn't been out fishing for two years, so we rounded up some fishing gear and bait. Not being sure if we have all the right gear, or if it works, just kind of adds to the adventure.  

We poked our nose into St. John's Harbor along the way, but the dock was full, so we continued on to Point Baker. That little touch of fate put us in the right place.  

About six hours out of Wrangell a DeHavilland Beaver floatplane circled overhead and then landed in a narrow entrance ahead of the boat.

The entrance to Point Baker

We turned, and followed the plane into Point Baker.  By the time we idled in there, the Beaver was unloaded and the pilot was taking off again. Two women were handling the mail and freight from Ketchikan. You can see them on the airplane float in the photo below.

The dock at Point Baker. 

This service is a lifeline for Point Baker, a tiny community that has no roads at all.  

The Beaver is a great aircraft - a real workhorse.

DeHavilland Beaver floatplane

Pulling in a halibut

With the boat tied to the dock we took the skiff (the Faithful Steed) out fishing. The first day was shakedown day, bringing in a broken fishing pole, a reel with a buggered-up nest of fishing line, and enough salmon for smiles all around. Hey, what is a great fishing trip without having to improvise? We put stuff back together and plunked our seat-sore butts back into the skiff the next day to try again. We were just getting into the groove when something hit that was heavy enough to silence the "Fish on!" holler. We pulled the other lines in and watched. And waited...and watched.



Um, we were fishing for salmon, with salmon gear, prepared for netting salmon into the boat. This could present a little problem. Big halibut in small skiffs are dangerous, and we didn't have a halibut harpoon to spear it.

After about a half hour of bringing the fish up, having it run down, and repeating the process, we saw the mottled brown flatfish come up. It was a fair sized fish. 

Cue the JAWS music...da-dum...da-dum...

Pacific halibut (Hippoglossus stenolepis)

Bring it around, gaff it, and pull it in. 

Ready, set... 

...and the gaff glanced off! 

...and the gaff glanced off! 


The fish was still hooked, and the blow from the gaff slowed it down. He brought it back up, and then it was gaffed and pulled aboard. 

Halibut in skiff

Which splashed the camera lens and made subsequent photos blurry. Blurrier. Bad.

Silver (coho) salmon and pink (humpy) salmon. The closest silver salmon weighed 13 pounds (6 kg) after it was cleaned.

This halibut was 52 inches  (132 cm) long which makes it 68 pounds (31 kg). We had halibut for dinner. Yum! Burp.

The third day of fishing yielded 7 silver salmon and 10 bright, ocean run, pink salmon. For you Alaskans who are groaning about the pink salmon, try it smoked. Try it sauteed and then made into sandwich spread. Need an idea for fish dinner and lunch the next day? Okay, here we go...

Salmon fillet(s), Italian salad dressing, brown sugar, honey (optional), butter, olive oil.  

Put a little butter and olive oil in a pan on medium to medium-high. Put the fillets in, skin side down. Sprinkle the fillets with Italian salad dressing, brown sugar, honey, and add a few pats of butter. Cook about 3 to 6 minutes (cooking time depends on the thickness of the fillet). When the thin belly portion starts to turn light pink, turn the whole fillet over using two spatulas. Cook another 2 to 4 minutes or so, depending on the thickness. Turn the fillets back over. Use a fork to check if the meat flakes apart. Cook a little longer, if needed, until the meat flakes. Serve immediately.

The next day, while you are wishing that you had made more, pull the pin bones out of the leftovers, remove skin, flake the meat into a bowl, and add mayonnaise and sweet relish to taste. Spread on bread or eat with crackers or slap hands as they dip straight into it with a spoon.

I don't have pretty food pictures for you, just raw goods photos. The fish above? I filleted them. Aren't the silver salmon fillets pretty? Yummy, too.

Silver salmon fillet. 

Silver salmon fillets vacuum packed for freezing. 

Hubby and guests worked together to vacuum pack and freeze the fish.

Vacuum packaging keeps air away from the food, reducing freezer burn.

Our relatives took some fish home, and we tucked some into our freezer for winter. Security in Alaska includes a full freezer.

We had lots more fun around Point Baker, including viewing marine wildlife, visiting Memorial Beach, and walking around Port Protection. I will post about that soon! 

Happy fishing dreams! 

Alaska Beachcomber

The Point Baker page shows you a little bit about the community and surroundings.

More posts about the Point Baker area:

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