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Wednesday, June 16, 2010

6/15 Elfin Cove. AKA Shilshole North.

Yesterday we made our way from Glacier Bay to an enchanted little town called Elfin Bay. Elfin Bay can only be reached by sea plane or boat. There are no roads or cars in E.B. and all the "roads" are boardwalks winding through the woods and from islet to islet. The boardwalks in fact were paid for at least in part by Alaska highway funds. The houses and out building's placement is dictated by the natural topography built up over and around tree's, huge roots, boulders and bits of beach.

The year round population ranges from 9 to 22 depending on who you talk to. In summer the place fills with summer home owners, guests at the handful of fishing lodges and cruising boaters like us.

After a walk around town we had a quick lunch at Coho's Bar and Grill where we met the chef at one of the lodges. His name is Collin and he lives in Mount Lake Terrace. There is only one restaurant in E.B but Collin extended an invitation to the lodge for dinner as their latest charter group had left that morning and so he had room for dinner. Afterwards Bill and I were tucking in for a deserved nap when we heard a boat coming in. Looking out the window we recognised Ponderosa from E dock at Shilshole. We have been doggedly trying to catch up with Ponderosa and Panta Rei (F dock friends) since we left home 10days after their two boats departed. Both boats are also headed south to Mexico and on to the South Pacific as are we (Sherry and Bob on Ponderosa and Karen and Larry on Panta Rhei.)

We had a walk through the towns boardwalk with all of them and met an interesting local who regaled us with a one hour+ at times hysterical near monologue/tour of the town. Then thinking fast we tracked down Collin and asked if he had room for 6 instead of 2 for dinner! He happily he opened the doors wider coming up on the fly with a wonderful meal of fresh seafood chowder, a choice of Rib Eye or King Salmon, string beans with blue cheese and red onion, fresh shrimp rice pilaf and warm rolls. We were all in heaven catching up on our travels and travails in the warm dinning room of the big lodge-complete with a stunning view of the cove and the mouth of South Inian Strait. Hopefully the first of many meals together in the miles and months to come.

We knew Karen and Larry pretty well before from F dock but it was really our first chance to sit down with Sherry and Bob. Plus Panta Rhei and Ponderosa have taken an opposite path through Southeast so everyone was able to offer up tidbits on where they had been for those still on their way there. Navigational tips and where the best laundry is and other important cruisers trivia are always priceless commodities.

This morning we crept away from the dock while they were still sleeping (we needed to catch a tide) poked our nose out into the Gulf of Alaska for the first time and headed to Pelican. Pelican is a tiny town trying desperately not to die. Like many cannery towns of BC and Southeast the loss of the main employer has had a huge impact on Pelican. We have visited several of the coastal ghost towns as we moved north.

In Pelican when the fish processing plant closed it left a three distinct groups of people: 1)the locals who are devastated by unemployment, alcoholism and a struggle to build a new economic base, 2) the local natives who are devastated by the loss of employment, the loss of their historical fishery and rampant alcoholism and 3) the new locals with money enough to build their dream home and retire in the beauty of the place. As we walked through town pasted on the front screen door of a native home was a bumper sticker that read "I would rather my daughter be a whore than my son be a fishing guide." The as we walked the boardwalk through town we came upon a couple fighting loudly in the street. The interesting thing was not that they were arguing loudly in the middle of the day in the middle of the boardwalk in the middle of town about things "illegal" and one having "saved the other from a certain prison stay" or the expletive filled references to each others heritage, education and lack of reasoning and intention but, that they referered to each other as A)being a sorry excuse for a mayor and B) not any better for someone who is superintendent of schools." Welcome to Pelican!
Not to make light of it. The town is struggling and in a place where everyone lives along a 3/4 mile boardwalk who's front doors open facing each other in a town with only a post office, a marina, a cafe open till 3pm one fishing lodge/bar/restaurant and one roadhouse bar I suspect personalities rub regularly. We payed our morage at City Hall, were warmly welcomed at the diner and nearly everyone says hi and waves as we passed by.

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