Story last updated at 3:56 p.m. Thursday, May 23, 2002

Ferry visit brings happy meals to Chignik
Nick C. Varney
photo: oped
  Photo by Marjanne Schneider
The ferry Tustumena arrives at this dock in Chignik.  
The Tustumena departed Kodiak at 5 p.m. and headed back out into the fog and rain. It was approximately 17 hours to Chignik and because of the inclemency there wasn't much sightseeing to do. I gave it a shot anyway.

I was standing outside bemoaning the fact that I hadn't purchased a set of field glasses with a wiper option when a guy stepped out for a smoke. He immediately started rambling on about how he had made the trip "hundreds of times" and that I was missing some beautiful scenery. That made my day. About the forth time he repeated himself, rather than toss him overboard, I handed him a note pad and asked him to draw it. For some reason, the gentleman never came near me again.

I finally decided to go back inside when the Nikon's lenses iced over and my body core was approaching the room temperature of a root cellar. It was then that Slim caught up to me. We had first met on a Homer Halibut Derby tagging run and he is one of the few Homerites who openly admits knowing me. Slim introduced me to his traveling companions, Gid, Freddie and Marjanne. They, in turn, confessed to being part of the infamous Homer Poop Group Gang that meets each morning in a dark corner of the Burger King. Freddie explained that they had come by the name because they were a bunch of old poops who get together daily to discuss politics or anything else that turns their cranks at any given moment. I figured the fearsome foursome would bear close watching. I was right.

When I finally called it a day and assumed a horizontal position in search of serious sack time, a shipwide announcement warned of rolling seas once we cruised into the Shelikof Strait. I ignored it and sank into oblivion.

Tip: It is not advisable to sleep sideways on a booth bench during agitated seas. Your head continually smashing into the table edge tends to disrupt your sleep, plus the loss of blood disturbs fellow passengers.

We arrived in Chignik around 11:30 a.m. and had 90 minutes to poke around. The main fishing season hadn't kicked in yet so those who went ashore ended up trekking along boardwalks lined with rows of boarded up housing. The most excitement came when someone discovered the Post Office was open.

I thought it was nice that so many of the village inhabitants came out to meet us until I discovered that they were there just for the burgers.

It seems the ferry not only delivers passengers and vehicles, it also serves as kind of a ocean going McD's for the local populace. Now, that's weird! The residents come aboard for some high seas happy-munchies while the tourists wander around town wondering where everyone went.

The rest of the day consisted of a nine hour run to Sandpoint. The ceiling rose and we were able to scan the picturesque shorelines although most of the higher zeniths remained buried in an avalanche of clouds.

It was during this segment that I bumped into Jerry and Jesse who made up a film team from Alaska Magazine TV. Talk about two tough dudes. They were always outside trying to shoot something even when the weather was going sideways. If the ship would have sank, those chaps would have stayed on board just to get a submerged perspective of the rest of us treading water. Since they were quintessential maniacs, we quickly became friends.

The Trusty Tusty arrived in Sandpoint too late for any serious walk 'n' gawk but there was enough activity on the dock to keep things interesting. It looked as though every vehicle in town had come out for the docking. Local kids were selling agates while a couple of Lab "con dogs" tried to sneak their furry butts aboard the vessel. The black mutt would wait patiently until the crewman screening tickets was distracted and then do a "belly slink" behind him and break for the ramp. When that ploy didn't work his blond buddy, who was attempting the same thing at the vehicle access, joined him. They then ganged up on the guy by playing "good pooch, bad pooch" and were finally able to dash aboard only to be quickly captured and made to walk the plank, much to the chagrin of their embarrassed owners. Once the stowaway curs were purged and the legitimate two legged passengers were safely on board, we departed southbound.

<> Coming next: King Cove, Cold Bay, False Pass, onboard entertainment and some drawbacks to communal living in the lounge.