September 15, 2019
One thing singlehanding teaches is the beauty of uninterrupted sleep. Even if he wakes naturally a time or two on that first night, once in port, the sailor’s shedding of responsibility and an unmoving bed are the sweetest luxury.
Next day to chores. The fuel truck was called and tanks filled but not jerry cans. Their time is past, and I gave half of them away to other boats. From here on extended calm should be the least of our worries. In the afternoon, a complete oil and filter change by way of a thank you to Big Red. A little shopping (top of the grocery list: pastry and fresh bread). A steak dinner. Alaskan beer.
Then it was time for a brief wander…
The towns of Alaska are unique in ways not found in the Canadian or Greenlandic north, and emblematic of this uniqueness is the great number of reality TV shows that have sprung up along its shores. Dutch Harbor has its “Deadliest Catch;” Homer, “Alaska the Last Frontier.” In Nome, the pay dirt is mining and the show, “Bering Sea Gold.”
Gold is Nome’s claim to fame, but the mining is not done in the nearby creeks and rivers so much as in the wide, shallow and sandy-bottomed bay just to the south. Thus, instead of fishing boats, the harbor is chockablock with dredges of all sorts. Most are small, home-built contraptions that look barely fit enough to sink properly. A few are large, gangly barges that follow the same theme.
One of my first sights (sorry, I was too arrested to take a photo) was a fight along the wharf between a small dredge owner and his wife. It was a screaming match that lasted hours. Take after take with the lone cameraman moving between the dredges and the wharf for clever angles.
Another famous descriptor is that “in Nome you will find more bars than churches.” I did not attempt a count, as such, but I discovered on my hike only three churches whereas on the town’s main drag, a person could stagger from one bar to the other without becoming overly winded.