Montana Wolf

Thursday, August 19, 2010

We departed Icy Strait through a myriad of sea otters. They looked like floating logs from a distance. Mama's floating blissfully on their backs with babes on their stomachs, miles from shore, in the middle of a seemingly nowhere. The depth finder told a different story of thick, rich kelp beds below the surface.

We slipped through a narrow channel and turned south to Elfin Cove, the late afternoon sun still gratefully bright. A trilogy of greetings donned the rock cliffs as we entered the cove. First a huge nautical red cross WARNING for shallower waters and cliffs. About 50 yards beyond was a bright, stuffed child-sized Micky Mouse sitting in an old chair. Beyond that, protruding starkly from rock was a white cross about 3 feet high. I surmised that someone, some time, had missed that first sign. Ron slowed the engine. By now, Teak's queue to get up and sniff for land. She was not to be disappointed.

There were two harbors in the cove, one outside where the sea planes docked momentarily to bring passengers and mail. A second, larger dock was situated around a rocky hill, nestled into the belly of the town. We chose the small outer one, in the company of crusty fishermen. In contrast to our tight quarters, fancy, spacious docks attached to lodges loomed from the steep shore in front of us.

The fog rolled in as we tied up and it began to mist. I debarked and took Teak for a stroll. Elfin Cove was a series of buildings built into cliff side; like a wooden Machu Pichu. Slippery boardwalks snaked around the hill that overlooked EC's water arteries. There was a post office, a small museum and a fish supply store; a tiny gift store packed with generic trinkets, Pam's smoke house and a small grocery store that stocked necessities. You'd be hard put to find a pedicure. Or a cup of espresso. Turns out there wasn't even a place to buy ice. It was too expensive to make, I was told; electricity costs were sky high. There were no cars, of course. The only way in or out was by sea or air. In a recent turn of events, EC had been discovered by the charter industry. Most of the real estate was taken up by new lodges, as folks flew in to stay a few days and catch their trophy fish. The charter industry had found EC with mixed reviews.

I watched as a boat pulled up to their docks and a half dozen fishermen poured out, followed by their bounty. The big one was hung by her gills onto the scales, topping 200 pounds. The man who caught her took his place by the brown flat halibut female as cameras snapped. He looked a little flummoxed. As if he knew that she was a female that carried millions of eggs, the future generations of the species. The pictures taken, he awkwardly stepped away, looked at her and said, "NOW what do I do?" He wouldn't have to worry about it as a crew was there just to clean, fillet, and put her on ice. Yes, the charger lodges had their own ice houses. Then she would be boxed up and sent home with the man.

I'd have to agree with the bumper sticker I saw affixed to the old fishing boat behind us. "Charter Fishing is Organized Crime."

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