Our Life on Water – an Island Packet, a C-Dory, and fishing

The Sailing Vessel Bandon sits dockside in Seward, Alaska. She’s an Island Packet 350, a boat capable of ocean voyaging.

For the past four years, we’ve been spending part of our summers living in our Lance camper, our C-Dory 22 Angler in tow as we tour Alaska exploring small towns, hiking, fishing, boating, berry picking and nature watching. The balance of the summer we live aboard our sailboat, exploring the breathtaking beauty of Alaska’s seas. These have been the most rewarding summers of our lives.

Although we still don’t know much about boats, we’re learning. Our lives seem to be comprised of a series of seat-of-the-pants-you’ll-figure-it-out-as-you-go adventures (and misadventures). 

For the time being, we will keep the C-Dory. Neither too large nor too small, it is exceptionally fuel efficient, runs quietly, and trolls beautifully. We love fishing for salmon, halibut and rockfish on Resurrection Bay and in the nearby Alaska Gulf, and The Gillie is the boat for the job.

During the winter, we live and teach in Point Hope, Alaska, an Arctic village of about 700 residents, most of whom are Inupiat (Eskimo). It’s cold, to be sure, and the heart of winter is dark. The Arctic winds can be downright terrifying. In November 2011, we had three days of hurricane force blows that sent the windchill  plummeting to negative 80 degrees F. But we have a cozy, well insulated house, and we love living up here. Our students are nice, and at the end of the workday and on weekends the lack of things to do (no movie theaters, nowhere to go, really) lends itself to a lifestyle that suits us. Barbra is working on a master’s degree in technology, and the lack of distractions is perfect. Up here, we are afforded an abundance of that most precious commodity: time. Time to write, to sort through photographs, to cook, to visit with friends, to talk, to plan and dream…

During summers, the focus of our blog will increasingly turn towards sailing, fishing and nature watching. Of course, we’ll continue to cook and bake, and we’ll sample wines, beers, Scotch and bourbon, too, and those subjects will account for some of our posts. But for us, sailing – and everything that will go with sailing – represents a steep learning curve. We want to create a record of that journey for ourselves and for interested readers.

And, this being Alaska, there will probably be photos of bears and whales and puffins… not to mention a few of those impossibly cute sea otters.

Thanks for reading.

Jack & Barbra

32 comments on “Our Life on Water – an Island Packet, a C-Dory, and fishing

  1. We’ve always said that the best two days of owning a boat is the day ya buy it and the day ya sell it :-) I’ve actually liked the days in between the best. Loving your stories of Alaska. Been to Bristol Bay yet? Best Salmon in the world.

  2. How exciting!! My sister is really into sailing and will be so jealous! Looking forward to reading about you adventures….it’s like an escape from daily life! :-)

  3. I live on the Kenai Peninsula, so if you ever need a break, come on over and I’ll meet you for dinner. There is a fabulous brewery/stone oven pizza place in town I cant get enough of. We can swap salmon recipes and Alaskan ocean and fishing stories. :)

  4. This may be an odd question, and I understand if you don’t want to answer this, but do you know much about the culture and daily life of the Inupiat people up there? I am very interested in the culture and have found very little about it, both online and at my local library. I have been to Alaska, but wasn’t there long enough to get a chance to do more research. I would appreciate anything you could let me know, but again, I understand if you don’t want to answer. Thanks.

  5. I guess I should elaborate on that. I’ve found a lot of basics online and in books. Summaries of rituals, culture, and lifestyle. What I’ve found says a little about a lot of things, and I guess I’m more interested in knowing more details about everything. Perhaps I need to visit the museums in Alaska and read books by people who know more, but right now that isn’t an option. Thanks again.

    • I am not an expert on Inupiat culture or daily life, but I really enjoy reading books and talking to people in order to learn as much as I can. I’ve really enjoyed reading Art and Eskimo Power which is the story of Howard Rock’s life. He was born and raised in Point Hope and went on to experience a pretty interesting life. Let me know if there any specific things you would like to learn. I may be able to direct you to some interesting books. Before we moved up here, I had a difficult time finding information as well.

  6. Thanks! I will start by seeing if I can find that book, and some of the others I’ve found online. Right now I am not thinking anything too specific. Mainly I’m looking for more detailed information on anything to do with it. Thanks again.

  7. Looking forward to reading more of your blog, particularly since my wife and I toured Alaska in an RV about 20 years ago. I wrote about it in Catching Wild Salmon in Alaska and Cooking Wild Salmon a Home, at theliteratechef.com

  8. I just checked out your blog, and look forward to exploring it in greater depth at my leisure. Your adventures in Alaska should be interesting, particularly since my wife and I toured there in an RV on two occasions 20 years ago. I wrote about it in Catching Wild Salmon in Alaska and Cooking Wild Salmon a Home

  9. Good afternoon! I love how you guys show your love for Alaska. That amazing place is my home, even when I live elsewhere. I return every summer to Bristol Bay’s commercial salmon fishery for the culture and opportunity it affords. And seeing your blog, I wonder if we met over wordpress, Alaska our common ground, or if we met on the road system somewhere, on some epic driving/hitching adventure? Either way, thank you for living life the way you do, and take care!

  10. Love it! I have never been to Point Hope, but spent 2 years traveling back and forth to Barrow to do outreach there. You have wonderful stories about your off-the-path Alaska living. Thanks for sharing! :)

  11. You make all these wonderful meals and desserts. Are these all prepared from a land based home, or are you creating these in your camper? Does the standard propane oven work well enough, or are you considering upgrading it to meet your culinary skills? (if so, to what make and model).

    Thanks, great site and travels …

    • Thanks for reading, Logan. We cook in all of our kitchens and have made some fairly complex things in our camper. Propane is a terrific cooking fuel. Our camper stove has three burners (two would be sufficient 90% of the time) and although the oven is a bit small, it has not at all been a limiting factor (unless we decided to cook a 20 pound turkey!). The sailboat has a two-burner propane stove and an adequate oven. We also use our trusty Coleman stove on our C-Dory. The real key is to use good cookware. Happy cooking!

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