Thursday, July 24, 2014

Remote Kodiak Homestead For Sale



John Finley, of Kodiak, Alaska, has written a piece, below, offering his ten acre homestead on the back side of Kodiak Island for sale. To preface that, let me add some comments as a long-time Alaskan myself. I've flown into that same bay on occasion to visit a salmon cannery that the bank I worked for was financing. You have to fly in on a float plane from Kodiak City. Coming over the ridge to drop down into Uganik Bay once, I saw the biggest black-tail deer I've ever seen. And I've seen hundreds in Southeast Alaska. It was only a fork-horn, but bigger by far than any four-point I'd seen. It had the body mass of a Mule deer. Hunters get excited about things like that.




And, of course, Kodiak Island has the largest brown bears in the world. The salmon streams are numerous, so the bears are numerous and well fed. And right across Shelikof Straits is the Alaska Peninsula with it's own large populations of brown bear, moose, caribou, etc., and it's twenty-pound rainbow trout. Now, this is just skimming the surface of the fish and game that inhabit the Gulf of Alaska region. And to get around you need a real skookum run-about. That's why I'm suggesting Pete Crane's custom welded Alaska style cabin cruiser, that he's offering for sale, as the ideal match for this property.
 


With this property, and this high-performance boat, there's not much you couldn't do out there. I'm talking about putting legal trophies on the wall, doing research projects, maintaining a presence for any reason, maintaining a lack of presence, or just for the sake of living in the land there. Any sale will be strictly confidential. A Realtor in Kodiak will be selected to consummate the sale. John, and his son Locke, who is commercial fishing his dad's boat, are available for support of all kinds; hauling supplies, watching boats and the property, helping develop the land, advising on local issues and resources. John has been fishing these waters for forty plus years and has been active in local politics. John and Locke now live on a few acres 17 miles out the road from Kodiak city.



 

I can't describe in a book what it's like to live on, or venture from a property like this: it's much more than owning an island in the South Pacific. I've lived on several remote properties, and even on a remotely anchored ship or two. Every day is a chapter in a book. A single side-band radio will definitely will keep you connected to the outside world. You won't be getting phone calls, that's for sure, unless you have a satellite phone. There is a old salmon cannery with people present at the upper end of the bay, twenty miles distant, a thirty minute run in Pete's boat. There is a machine shop there, a seaplane base, and mail pick-up. I've been over every inch of that cannery.




Most of Kodiak is a National Wildlife Refuge now, so there's that, as John says. Good time to have a strong conservation presence circling the Island. There are issues all along the coast of Alaska, just like anywhere else. Maybe more, given the chance for archaeological work and other original endeavors.




Village Islands Homestead--Kodiak Island
 by John Finley

     About 1945 the property in question was homesteaded by Nan and Daniel Reed whose desire was to spend the rest of their lives living out of town and close to the land.  They had the entire Kodiak Island to chose from. They were familiar with the Kodiak Archipelago and knew that places which might look good to the eye of most people were not suitable for year-round living in the sometimes harsh environment. To live year around and be comfortable and safe there's criteria that need to be met.

     They chose Uganik Bay, basically for the same reason that I chose it 40+ years later. It's on the 'West Side,' or the 'Shelikof Side,' of Kodiak Island, the side that faces the Alaska Peninsula, rather than the 'East Side,' which faces the Gulf of Alaska and  catches most of the rain and the biggest seas out of the Gulf. So there's that, twice the number of sunny days as the Gulf side of Kodiak Island. The only other bay on Kodiak Island that has this qualification is Uyak Bay, farther west down the island.  It's nice also but has a large (for Kodiak) village called Larsen Bay, several canneries, and many people living here and there. It has a general feeling of 'civilized' which doesn't appeal to those who want a bush experience. Uyak Bay is also a lot farther from Kodiak where one has to go occasionally for supplies, not only a lot farther but also a whole lot rougher, out into the Shelikof Strait and around Cape Ugat, a place that catches a lot of bad weather. It's about 65 miles from Kodiak to Uganik but an additional 40 to Uyak. It's an easy passage from Uganik to Kodiak with places to stop along the way, about 8 hours by fishing boat, an hour or 2 by skiff, or 20 minutes by float plane.

     Next they needed their homestead to be close to a harbor where they could keep their boat or skiffs safe and ready for use through the entire year.  I commercial fished Uganik Bay summer and winter for years and I found it amazing that there were so few places to hide from the really big storms. About the best was, you guessed it, right in front of Nan and Dan's place, So, there's that. There's also a year around stream which enters the property at the top; good water. After meandering around the property it flows into the sea by the dock in front of the house.   
                       
     My family got to be good friends with Nan and Dan, sort of adopted actually, they taught us a lot about living in the area. They had first tried cattle and sheep raising but eventually found it was more trouble than it was worth. Domestic animals look like a free lunch to brown bears and besides, after they developed their large gardens, chicken flock, berry orchard, and with all sorts of things to eat from the sea (salmon all summer, cod, halibut and rock-fish year round) plus plentiful deer, clams, etc., they really didn't need that much income. So they just kept busy enjoying life but also always trying new things.  For instance, after many efforts they found an apple tree that would survive and bear, virtually unheard of on Kodiak Island. It had apples the years I checked and the first thing I would do if I was moving down there would be to take starts from those trees and start some more because you can't have too many apples in a country where you can grow no fruit other than berries.

As for the garden, Nan and Dan piled on the mulch over forty years there. That makes that garden the best plot for growing something that I know of on Kodiak Island. The big volcanic eruption a hundred years ago blanketed the island with ash and killed the soil. The new soil is only about an inch or two deep. So, the garden will grow food, providing the deer are kept out.
     Our family moved to Kodiak when it was time for the kids to start school, it's been 10 years since I've even visited the place so I should add that I don't know how the apple trees are doing these days. I'm still in Uganik Bay occasionally but always commercial fishing, so I never feel I can take the time to go ashore.  My son has been there to take pictures for the sale, but my whole family has their new interests now and we've decided to sell the land. I'm so thankful my kids were able to spend some important formative years there. It's a very peaceful place.

     As far as buildings, there is the main house that needs work and a small house in good shape (approximately 24 by 24) to live in while a person is doing it.  There's a large (for Kodiak) barn that's still sound and a few other small buildings that don't amount to much. It's been almost 20 years since anyone has lived there on a permanent basis and it's on the market for the first time since it was homesteaded in 1945. If you'd like more info or pictures of the land please call owner John Finley at 907-486-3849 or John Enge at 541-601-6904. The lat/long of the land is 53 46  and  153 32 if you Google Earth, or I can (I think) email Google Earth pictures showing routes and locations.
 

 

 

Saturday, July 12, 2014

A Great Fisherman Throttles Back

When great Alaskans run into trouble, a lot of the time we take a wait and see attitude instead of being pro-active. In this case I'm talking about long-time Kodiak fisherman and community advocate, John Finley. (Some of the greatest fishermen, in my book anyway, haven't acquired the biggest boats. John is one these.) It was hard for him being a lone, or unaffiliated, advocate. If you want to keep at it, you have to be like a politician and get a paying gig and then hope you can get out what you really want to say in the midst of all the things you don't want to do. In the end, the lone wolf often ends up like Nikola Tesla, alone in a hotel room.

John recently got on Medicare and now is being taken care of in Anchorage at the Hickel House. John has given a lot of his own time to the State and I refuse to wait to write this testament to his life, until later. Besides that, for any Christians reading this, I want to remind that "the fervent, effective prayers of the righteous availeth much." John could use any help at this point in his life.

 
The 'Lindy II with 10,500 pound of Pacific cod aboard

His son Locke is fishing the boat these days for a scrap of halibut quota they have and what Pacific cod he can get. These guys are the ones I was able to find that could ship 'bled' and blast frozen halibut fillets to us here in Oregon. You just don't know halibut until you've had 'bled' halibut, and Locke is a fanatic about it. But it might be too late for them to exercise this passion as the halibut resource plunges deeper and deeper. I'm talking about numbers of fish here, of course. The cod? The jury is still out on them. Locke tried his hand at beach seining, but wild stocks are down: the focus is on ocean ranching in Alaska, since it's too hard to manage all the thousands of individual salmon streams, or so it seems.

Some of his notable accomplishments include authoring the plan to manage the Pacific cod in the Gulf of Alaska. (Even though others took credit for it.) And being the principal advocate for ending the joint ventures that had trawlers delivering cod ends to foreign factory ships after the '200 Mile Limit Law' went into effect. John felt these fish needed to all come to an Alaska community for processing and marketing.

When John first came to Alaska, he wanted to fish halibut, but that iconic cannery-man, Winn Brindel, told him, "we don't buy any halibut." Kodiak was enthralled with it's king crab at that time, earning it's reputation as 'The King Crab Capital of the World,' and it's abundance of wild salmon. Going way back, the Karluk River had sixteen canneries and a beach seine set could net 100,000 sockeye salmon. The very first commercial fishing regulation in Alaska was enacted here by the canneries themselves, providing for turns in setting the seines. There are only memories of commercial fishing the Karluk now and the king crab are all gone. But when John first landed in town, he got a crew chance on the 'Pacific Lady,' owned and operated by that iconic pioneer king crab fisherman, Ole Harder.

John always lived life to the fullest and it wasn't long before he was setting crab pots from his own boat and seining for salmon. He was the first fisherman in Kodiak who gave a woman a chance as a crewmember. I think John was tempered greatly by his mother who was a Registered Nurse and his upbringing in that wide open country called Montana. In fact, he thinks he was the first organic farmer there, starting his first ranch/farm at the ripe old age of nineteen. After some travel that included Europe and Mexico, and trying to start a health resort, the whole wide open North Pacific was urgently calling.

I think John was always outspoken, so it was natural that he started writing letters to the editor of the Kodiak Daily Mirror. He had good friends in many quarters and many didn't like the power politics of the few. He led efforts to stop the privatization of the fish resources. He ran for the State Legislature, without a campaign, and nearly won. Back then, privatization wasn't an accepted fact like it is now. The losers in privatization always go away, never to be heard from again. It works out real nifty for the winners that way.

He had a following of his letters up and down the West Coast, but he was hitting too close to home for some. So in the summer of 2008, someone just bought the Kodiak Daily Mirror and declined to publish any more letters to the editor about fishing. In one of the largest fishing ports in the U.S.! It wasn't like John didn't try work within other groups trying to create more opportunities for the regular family fisherman and get more product into the local communities. It's just that most of the time someone would co-opt the organization for their own gain and throw everyone else under the bus.

Limited Entry has always been the blueprint for success in privatization, albeit not nearly as 'private' a privilege as quota shares. When John took a delegation down to Juneau to oppose it, which was watched state-wide, some of his compatriots just took a permit and flew home, leaving the delegation much reduced. The back-story of the privatization of the Alaska fisheries is the epitome of the saying, 'the devil is in the details.' Maybe if it was more widely known that this wasn't exactly a democratic process, privatization wouldn't be so popular. But then one look at Congress and it's pretty obvious, about democracy, that is.

So, like Nicola Tesla, John met his Thomas Edison in the form of the North Pacific Fisheries Management Council 'family.' That extended organization with roots in the boardrooms of Seattle. But John ultimately bought a Hanson built wood troller/longliner for fishing halibut and P. cod. He was forced back into the three-mile line around Kodiak by regulations for his cod, and his halibut quota has shrunk and shrunk down to a fraction of what he figured was an OK amount for him and his son.

Well, he left for Anchorage this week and the fight of his life, with a new laptop and a box of books. He plans to read 'The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire' for the third time and maybe some more of a favorite historical figure, Frederick the Great. If he had had the resources, I think he would have first gone down to San Diego to his favorite wellness center, staffed by many people who have beat cancer by going there.

This is by no means an eulogy; he has promised to send me starts from his gooseberry bushes, the root stock of that famous gooseberry wine he makes. Nothing better than a shot of it after getting a chill on a cold winters day. And I still need him to guide me through building a chicken enclosure to move around a field of comfrey. He has some of the best ideas. And they have been researched to the max. I know that he was loathe to leave his infra-red warmed mattress in the house he built himself, with solar heating and a foot of sawdust in the walls. And his dried halibut, and gooseberry and home-ground six-grain sourdough pancakes.

John lived on a homestead in Uganik Bay, on the back side of Kodiak Island, for a number of years. His ten acres has a good anchorage, protected by the Village Islets. A lush compound in the midst of wild Alaska. There is a cannery complex at the head of the bay, with mail service and human presence, but other than that he shared the country with only Sitka black-tail deer and the famous Kodiak brown bears, the biggest bears in the world. And now he wants to sell it. Offered to the sturdy of heart only, not to mention the sturdy of pocketbook, because you'd need a good rig to get around on the water. My apple orchardist friend from Eastern Washington has the perfect boat for sale for this type of thing; a high endurance, custom welded aluminum Alaskan cabin cruiser. Think charter cruiser on steroids. Anyone interested in a good 'bug-out' site could contact me for more details. Locke would take care of things, too, if need be.

I've probably lost most readers by now, so I'll wrap it up. John recently send me some bottles of his gooseberry wine in exchange for a e-cigarette outfit. In the bottom of the box was a ten by ten inch piece of three quarter inch plywood from his boat, the 'Lindy II,' installed 90 years ago. Hanson built this boat for himself and put in all the best materials available. The fuel tanks were iron, not steel, aluminum or fiberglass. I could go on and on, but this piece of plywood is still sound and smells just like all the old wooden boats I've been on; hints of fish, oil and rust, combined with salt air and bacon and coffee. I'm thinking of making a men's cologne in the scent. In the least I'll put a brass plaque on it and hang it in my nautical guest room right over the bed so my older Alaska guests will feel right at home.

John doesn't want sympathy cards, just your best thoughts. I don't have his new number yet, and he will be checking his e-mails soon. Thanks for your time.