Alternative Homesteading: Fishing in Alaska

One couple chose to enter the Alaskan fishing industry in their move back to the land - or the ocean.

| July/August 1974

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    The boat was built in 1920 and, at the time of purchase, had sunk to the bottom of the harbor. But with a bit of work, Leslie and Steve made their craft sea-worthy and joined their friends, fishing for salmon in the 'Freak Fleet'.

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Good old Mother Earth is two-thirds water ... and that's where some of us are doin' it.

I playfully call our group the Freak Fleet. Our 24 or so craft — all ages and sizes — work an area of southeast Alaska between Juneau, Sitka and Yakutat. We're of various years, sexes and species (humans, cats, dogs, plants, etc.) but have in common — among many other things — a love for boats, the ocean and its creatures.

It all started for Steve and me when we over-amped on the city scene and began to look elsewhere. Living off the land took more money than we could get together, and we lacked the self-discipline to work a straight job for one, two or five years while we piled up cash enough to do what we really wanted to do. Then we thought of fishing.

That idea didn't just come out of the blue. Some of our friends were already into the Pacific Northwest's large fishing industry ... and as long as we'd known them they'd kept saying, "Come on up to Alaska! It's really far out." So we did.

After a couple of months of hustling we got together $1,500 ... a phenomenally small sum for a fishing boat. Among freaks, however, old craft kept alive solely by their bilge pumps were still around. As a matter of fact, our chosen vessel's pump failed two weeks before we closed the deal, but we decided to go ahead anyway.

There lay our first boat, at the bottom of the harbor under a layer of ice. Steve dived down through the freezing water, tied 50-gallon oil drums to the craft and filled them with air ... thus raising the sunken mass enough to tow it to a sand bar at high tide. What's supposed to happen is: the tide goes out, the hull drains and is pumped dry, the tide comes in and she floats. It worked! The P.I. was waterborne. Steve immediately tried to start the engine ... and she sputted, then purred.


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