After Shellie and Randy departed, Frank and I were alone on Ticket to Ride for the first time in nine weeks. Although a sailboat is a small space, TTR felt a bit cavernous and lonely after having friends on board for so long. At the same time, it was nice to have our floating home to ourselves again and to only consider our own schedules.
The forecasted weather in Petersburg for the next few days ranged from partly cloudy to rain, and we needed to spend time catching up with family, business matters and the news, so internet was required. Fortunately, we had already discovered that Alaska has a fantastic library system; there were libraries everywhere and most of them were equipped with free internet. PLUS, the libraries often had beautiful views, comfortable furniture, pretty decor and they were warm and dry.
Petersburg is definitely a fishing town. The official town slogan is “The town that fish built” because the main industry here is fishing and canning.
Petersburg was founded in the late 1800’s by Norwegian immigrant, Peter Buschman, who built a cannery, sawmill, docks and other early buildings. Three additional canneries were built in Petersburg and all four have operated continuously since opening.
By 1902, Petersburg was incorporated and had attracted so many Scandinavian immigrants that the town became known as “Little Norway.”
The Norwegian influence in Petersburg is easy to see in the buildings, the landscaping and the history; the Sons of Norway Hall, the Petersburg Museum which relates history of the town and early Scandinavian families, traditional dance exhibitions held for visitors, iconic designs on top of old poles, etc. Walking around Petersburg reminded me of traveling in parts of Europe.
The biggest fish producers in Petersburg are the 58-foot seiners that harvest salmon, halibut, black cod, king, tanner crab and herring. In 1980, Gordon Jensen resurrected the Petersburg Vessel Owners Association which works to ensure that all the seafood harvested by the Petersburg fleet is done in a sustainable manner which is consistent with the conservation principles of the Alaskan constitution.
Although I cannot speak to the rules of the Association, we did learn that the Alaska Department of Fish and Game regulates the fishing days for salmon. In 2021, the fishermen were allowed to fish two days on and two days off. Every fisherman had to fish and refrain from fishing on the same schedule to insure that the salmon had two solid days to run uninterrupted. Our understanding is that every year, the Department assesses the salmon population and adjusts the fishing rules according to the health of the salmon population.
While traversing Alaska, we saw all types of fishing vessels and in Petersburg there was a board that explained the types of boats. These signs were helpful as they graphically explained the various types of boats we encountered and how much space their gear covered when working.
Although our visit to Petersburg was only 4 nights, it left a strong mark on our memory. Perhaps it was the quaint buildings, or the cleanliness of the town. Perhaps it was how the town embraced its history but also felt current. Perhaps it was the grandeur of the surrounding mountains and the proximity of the mighty glacier. Or maybe it was because we returned to the Enge’s Deli where we ate the best cinnamon rolls we have ever had!
Alas, we had to keep TTR moving along because August had already arrived and we had many miles to cover and unlimited anchorages to visit before leaving Alaska and hopefully (COVID) entering Canada.