Leland E. Hale Enters Prince William Sound

I didn’t expect that we’d be headed to Prince William Sound.

Then again, the Three Sisters was not run like a democracy. No vessel is. The skipper held all the high cards and that was fine with me, as long as he still agreed to go down with the ship. I say this jokingly, as a way of revealing that when we left Cordova for the fishing grounds, I naively thought we would be fishing in the near vicinity. After all, the Copper River fishery in Cordova’s backyard is home to some of the finest Pacific salmon in the world.

Gillnetter w/ salmon, Copper River

That sense was reinforced by the fact that we were having some engine problems. While one of our crewmen grew up on a farm and spent more than a few days in the engine room, getting her tuned, there always seemed to be one more thing. But the kid was resourceful and never more cheerful than when he had a handful of grease, so we headed out just before the first opening.

What I didn’t know was that getting a permit to fish the Copper River was damn near impossible, so that meant our home port was going to be 66 nautical miles north of Cordova. We were in fact sailing to Valdez, at the head of a fjord on the eastern side of Prince William Sound. Yeah, that Valdez. Terminus of the Alaska Pipeline. Home port of the infamous Exxon Valdez, whose tragic encounter with Bligh Reef left decades of upheaval in its wake.

Exxon-Valdez, Valdez, Alaska (1989)

As we headed into Prince William Sound, I familiarized myself with the vessel, particularly the galley. This was going to be my workplace. The Three Sisters was a classic, wooden purse seiner. She had a cooler, but not a refrigerator. Duly noted. Her cook stove ran diesel, just like the engine. Duly noted. There were top burners and an oven. Could be handy. A small counter top. Check. Decent knives. Important. A sink with water from the holding tank. Got it. Though far from a luxury liner, she had everything I’d need.

Cordova to Valdez (courtesy Marine Traffic; illustration, Leland E. Hale)

Copyright Leland E. Hale (2018). All rights reserved.


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