Dear Alaska Gold Customer,
Many of you we’ve never spoken a word to. With others, you call in, tell us about your families, your dinners, your recipes, your pets, your favorite musicians, the weather where you live, and many other things. We know some of you pretty well. To some of you, we’re like the local fish monger, who you go chat with while buying fish although, in most cases, we’re far away.
Megan and I will even occasionally have customers on the phone ask us if we’re fishermen, too. The short answer is no. We’re too busy fielding calls, answering emails, making sure fish gets to the right place. We work for the fishermen.
However, I spent some time this summer on a trolling boat with one of our fishermen/owners, Carter Hughes, who fishes on the 36-foot F/V Astrolabe. I did my best as a deckhand, learning the tricks of the trade, seeing the fishing life up close and personal. It’s a lot harder than it looks.
Over the next few months, I’ll share some stories from my journal that details my days out trolling for salmon.
Today, since there’s snow on the ground, I wanted to share a story from my journal about a delicious chowder I had out to sea that warmed my heart. Paul’s Chowder.
We pass Cape Amelia and Sea Lion Rocks, watching sea lions hauling out on the prehistoric-looking coast.
Baranof Island is 90 miles long and Kruzof maybe 25 miles. Kruzof looks so tiny on a map, but it takes hours to make our way to Salisbury Sound, which separates Kruzof from Chichagof Island.
Chichagof and Baranof are two of the ABC islands (Admiralty being the third) the most densely populated areas for coastal brown bears on the planet. Kruzof, though smaller and uninhabited–a few logging roads and forest service cabins here and there—also has plenty of brown bear. It’s a wild coast where the rare Alaskan surfer or hunter might tread a path through the dense wilderness in pursuit of adventure.
“It looks small on a map because Alaska is so huge,” Carter nudges me into an epiphany that repeats itself every time I’m up in the 49th state. Big Country.
By 1:30, we can see the Khaz Peninsula in sight of a cove in which Carter is planning to anchor.
A little before 6, Carter aims the auto-pilot to tack toward the tiny islands surrounding the Khaz Peninsula and Khaz Head, an imposing peak that looks down at us. We continue trolling while Carter cooks dinner, a halibut/salmon chowder, the recipe for which came from Paul Olson, who fishes on the F/V Pacific Flyer, and is an environmental lawyer when he’s not out trolling. In our co-op, fishermen bring a whole range of backgrounds—there are lots of schoolteachers, a few former investment bankers, even a retired astronaut. Carpenters, chemists, poets, lifers (those who represent multiple generations in the fishing business). We have a few fishermen/owners who hail from New York City who gave up that fast-paced life of riches for the rich life of Sitka Sound. A few decades ago, a Swiss banker turned author and his world-touring concert pianist spouse made their way to Sitka to live this unique lifestyle, too–their children continue the fishing tradition.
Fishing is still one of those last refuges where you can be about as close as possible, at least in 2017, to a free and wild existence that truly demands just about everything. Those who seek it out are truly hardy souls, but they’re rewarded with the sights of some beautiful country and working in a profession that means something at the end of the day. We feed people. Which is sacred.
We pull the gear before 8. Fairly slow fishing with no feed in the water that we can see. We were struggling to get out of a dead zone that seemed to be following us. We felt better once we stopped, knowing that tomorrow would be another day.
I’ve been blessed with good weather on this trip, but a slight drizzle mixed with the wind chills my bones.
Paul’s chowder is the perfect tonic to warm me up and I wolf it down. Carter shows me his journal where he had scrawled the recipe.
Halibut (one 8-oz portion)
Bacon (two or three strips)
Easy Salmon—one 1-pound package (Our Easy Salmon can be used in combination or in lieu of the bacon)
1/2 onion, diced
4-6 red potatoes, diced
2 Carrots, diced
4 cups Chicken broth
1 cup cream (milk or half & half will be too thin)
1 Celery stock, diced
Cook bacon pieces separately. Heat 1 to 2 cups chicken broth. At same time saute veggies in olive oil. Add bacon to chicken broth and mix in some thyme, tarragon and dill. When veggies are 2/3 done, add to chicken broth and spike again with chopped seasonings. When veggies are fully cooked spike again with chopped seasonings and add Easy Salmon and halibut. When fish is cooked add cream and simmer for 15 minutes (don’t boil cream!).
Carter is quite a cook and I look forward to sharing more galley recipes and fishing stories from the F/V Astrolabe over the next few months.
Stay warm and stay in touch,