From Moose Pass it was about an hour’s drive down the scenic Seward Highway to the small boat harbor at Seward. The road follows the shoreline of the long stretch of water known as Turnagain Arm. (It got its name from Captain Cook’s 3rd voyage in the Pacific in 1790, when he explored the coast of Alaska, hoping to find the “Northwest Passage.” He sailed up Cook Inlet, then sent a crew in a small boat to probe the inlet further. The crew was headed by Master Mate William Bligh, later of Mutiny on the Bounty fame. The boat reached the northernmost point of the inlet, finding only a river emptying into it, but no passage, so they turned back; and Bligh wrote in the ship’s log “We turn again.”)
Arriving in Seward, We parked in the lot adjacent to the harbor and walked directly to the Fish House office, where we bought our non-resident fishing licenses, and also made reservations for a halibut fishing trip the next day. The young lady at the desk booked us on a boat that would be going out with a total party of six fishermen, tourists like ourselves.
“Make sure you’re at the dock by quarter of six tomorrow morning,” she told us. “The name of your boat is The Striker, and it’s brand new.
With that accomplished we drove back to our lodging in Moose Pass for supper and an early bedtime, in order to be up bright and early next morning for the return drive to Seward, and our first day of fishing.
It was hard at first to get to sleep that night because at 11:00 p.m. it didn’t actually get full dark. The sun had set about 10:30, but never got far below the horizon, so there remained a fairly bright twilight. Finally I put a black mask over my eyes and was able to drift off to dreamland.
We were up in the morning at 4:30 for coffee and snacks, then drove off to Seward. At the small boat harbor we walked along the jetty, finally locating The Striker tied up among a host of many small craft. We met our captain and got aboard, We stowed our carry-on thermos bottles of coffee, and our sandwiches for the day. When the captain saw that Nan had a couple of bananas in her lunch, he said she had to dispose of them. He said bananas were bad luck aboard ship. It seems the jinx goes way back in time to some unfortunate episode. So Nan reluctantly took her bananas topside and hid them somewhere on the boardwalk, hoping they would still be there at the end of the day.
As it turned out, two of the scheduled fishermen failed to show up, so there were only four of us, plus the captain. He started the engine and the craft slowly pulled away from the mooring and continued at slow speed until we were out of the small boat harbor. When we were past the breakwater he gave it full throttle and pointed the bow to the wide open Bay of Alaska. The scenery along the shore was spectacular, with the mountains of the Chugach Range rising straight up alongside the bay. The mountain slopes were still streaked with snow in June. We cruised for the better part of three hours over a rolling swell, finally dropping anchor near a small island in 100 feet of water, at a location the captain knew from past experience to be productive of fish.
The captain rigged the fishing rods, baited the hooks, cast each line over the side, and fastened two rods to each side of the afterdeck. It wasn’t long before there was action. First one of the other guys reeled in a rockfish, about five pounds; then Nan got one, then my turn, and then the fourth guy. The captain tossed the rock fish into the fish well.
But we wanted halibut, so after half an hour the captain hauled up the anchor and cruised further out in the bay to anchor at another spot. This proved to be much better. Nan reeled up a halibut, which the captain grabbed with the gaff and lifted aboard. He estimated it would weigh close to 50 pounds. The halibut thrashed around on the floorboards, thumping his tail on the wood, until the captain whacked him with the bat and slid him into the fish well too.
Before long one of the guys had a halibut in the boat also. And finally I hauled one in. Then we headed back to harbor, to weigh our catch, and have the fish filleted and frozen.