Rafted Up in Craig

In 2015, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers prepared a report entitled “Craig Navigation Improvements.” It attempted to address what locals, recreational boaters and their professional counterparts had long known: at certain times of the year — especially spring and summer — mooring a vessel in Craig ranges from difficult to impossible. Sometimes, boats are rafted up [1] to each other in a vague approximation of dock space.

Navigation-related problems at Craig stem from excessive surplus demand for moorage. Craig has multiple existing moorage facilities. However, due to the area’s rich marine resources and natural beauty, there is a high level of demand for moorage for both commercial and recreational vessels. Existing facilities attempt to fill as much demand as possible, but overcrowding leads to increased damages to vessels and harbor facilities and vessel delays.

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Craig Navigation Improvements, Craig, Alaska, Alaska District, Pacific Ocean Division, September 2015

What was a problem in 1982, when the Investor docked in Craig for the last time, is equally true today. A recent visit to Craig during the height of the commercial purse seining season reveals vessel upon vessel, some rafted up four-deep on Craig’s crowded North Cove dock. And make no mistake: Craig’s other moorage facilities notwithstanding, North Cove is where you want to be.

It’s closest to the fishing grounds. Closest to the tenders there to haul your fish. Closest to the E.C. Phillips cold storage facility, where the catch is processed.

E.C. Phillips Cold Storage, Craig, AK (copyright Leland E. Hale)

What Rafted Up Looks Like

The video below, taken in Craig during late August, 2019, focuses on a clutch of purse seiners rafted up at the outermost reaches of North Cove. The vessels are moored hip-to-hip, only their gunnels and a string of boat fenders separating them. You will note in the video that crews are working side-by-side. When vessels are in port during the fishing season, there’s always work to do. Look closely. If you reach out your arm at North Cove, it’s almost across the deck of another fishing boat.

Key Fact: In the summer of 1982, the Investor was the farthest boat out, in the number three position, closest to Bucarelli Bay and the cold storage dock. That’s equivalent to the position of the Arctic Fox (video above), the white purse seiner with her skiff on the deck.

Imagine This

Because the Investor is the farthest boat out, the killer has to cross two other vessels to get to it. Specifically, he has to clamber over the gunnels of the boats closest to the dock and then slip across their rear decks twice in succession. One would think it impossible to perform this maneuver with anything remotely resembling stealth. Somebody had to see him. Didn’t they?

Here’s where we reach the “If” list, courtesy of Bellingham Herald staff writer Trask Tapperson. In a September 11, 1984 piece, the newsman wondered:

  • If the crew of the Decade, to which the Investor was moored the night of the murders, had not gotten drunk, might they have seen who crossed their deck to kill?
  • If the hungover crew had acted next morning when they saw the Investor drifting out to the channel without power, with its lines left on the Decade’s deck… might the killer have been caught red-handed?
  • If Decade skipper Clyde Curry had notified authorities as he left for a fishery opening that he was unable to raise the Investor on radio, might the killer have been caught on shore where he awaited the Investor’s sinking?

Thirty plus years later, these hypotheticals remain frustratingly luminous. There are no answers here. Only questions.

[1] Rafted up: Rather than tied up directly to a dock, vessels are tied up to each other, with only the inside boat attached to the dock.

Copyright 2019. All rights reserved.


Order “What Happened In Craig,” HERE and HERE. True crime from Epicenter Press about Alaska’s Worst Unsolved Mass Murder.

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