Saturday, June 4, 2011

Alaska Trip 2011: Namu & Ocean Falls, life amongst the ruins

Day 9:  Fitz Hugh Sound & Fisher Channel - Once thriving communities now getting by.  54 miles

Pruth Bay looking east - a gorgeous morning

Like glass.  Last night at anchor was silent, not a whisper of wind.  Just a wonderful night aboard Cinnamon Girl.  The view out the pilothouse window this morning was beautiful.  I highly recommend Pruth Bay.  In hind sight I wish we went strait there after rounding Cape Caution.  Fury Island Cove was great, but we anchored early in the day after an easy rounding.  If we had gone just two more hours we could have watched the sunset at West Beach!  

In reviewing the charts we need to move up Fitz Hugh Sound, which becomes Fisher Channel.  The road to Alaska then takes a jog to the west via Shearwater, which is tomorrows destination.  That leaves today to explore Namu and Ocean Falls, kind of odd as both are trying to avoid becoming ghost towns.  That is correct, we visited both struggling communities in one day...  But there is life in these former towns!

Namu was a fish packing town.  Two-thousand workers in its hay day.  Now there are three.  She is a victim of refrigeration and declining fish runs.  Canned salmon is not as popular as fresh.  The plant closed in the 1980's and maintenance stopped, rainfall and gravity have continued.  Pete & Rene Darwin and their friend Theresa are the caretakers.  They run a guest dock that looks like it is pretty fun.  Namu is 20-miles from Pruth Bay and on the normal "Inside Passage" route.  Click here to see more pictures of Namu.

Namu from the water, the old freighter might get used to haul away the scraps...or become them.

Pete & Rene's guest dock & party barge.  Looks like a good time.   Larry Morrison of the AT-34 "Forever Friday" said it has great sunsets and often the Humpbacks "sing" as they move down the channel. 

Cinnamon Girl on the dock, the building to the left is Rene's gift shop

Rene and Theresa putting some eel grass in the sunken barges "moon pool".  There is life amongst the failing buildings and crumbling piers.   They have planted gardens for flowers and vegetables along the edges of the buildings, and make a life for themselves in a really pretty area.  I will come back again.

That is me at the wheel of Cinnamon Girl - American Tug 41, what a great boat!

Ocean Falls has been on my "must see" list for a long time.  It was a pulp mill town.  It has a good sized concrete dam that supplies power to the region.  In 1980 the mill closed for good and the town went from 5,000 residents to about 40-100 depending on the season.  The large 1947 hotel, the ugly 1964 cast concrete apartment building, the late 60's concrete tilt-up school & gymnasium, and most of the old houses are quickly failing.  But the few who stayed are making a stand.  The church is nicely kept.  The grocery store is now open 6-hours per week!   Martin Valley (a mile away and part of the same community) has very affordable view homes, great fishing & recreation.  Cindy remarked the mountains look like Switzerland.   Ocean Falls is 30-miles beyond Namu, and 20-miles beyond the channel leading to Shearwater and the "Inside Passage".  Click here to see more photos of Ocean Falls.

As you round the corner on Cousin's Inlet you can hear the water roaring over the dam.

Really good docks.  Free wireless, 30-amp power and water for washing the boat.  The infrastructure for visiting boaters is nice.  Ocean Falls is a 40-mile round trip from the normal "Inside Passage" route, but I am glad that we came.   I saw many American Tug owners had signed the guest book. 

They take pride in 169-inches of annual rain fall.  4.5 times as much as Seattle!

Looks like the recreation center is free...  crumbling hotel in background.  This was once a very proud city.

The dam is only a short walk from the docks.  Built 90-years ago.  Link Lake is behind.  

I hope the people of Namu and Ocean Falls make a go of it, and I appreciate them letting me walk around and take pictures.  It must be odd to have tourists come to view what you are slowly losing to nature.  It was a great day of boating; always fun to explore new areas.

Tomorrow we are heading back down Cousin's Inlet and over to Shearwater via Gunboat Passage.  The weather is changing and it looks like a blow is coming through.  We will watch the weather closely.