Story last updated at 2:34 p.m. Thursday, May 30, 2002

Weathering the wet winds of King Cove and beyond
Nick C. Varney
photo: oped
  Photo by Marjanne Schneider
Mountains loom over the docks at False Pass as the ferry Tustumena arrives.  
I'll begin this travel segment with some sage advice for those who select the sheltered observation deck for their evening quarters. Remember to bring earplugs. Not the wussy Styrofoam kind, I mean the professional, block out the blast of a howitzer that's three feet from you, type. I had no idea that some people snore like misfiring, muffler-challenged, dump trucks on a steep downgrade. There was one fella who could have killed small rodents with the shock waves from his throat. Somebody finally woke him up when the windows started to crack and a young child was nearly sucked into the vortex surrounding his bedroll.

We arrived at King Cove around 7 a.m. during weather conditions that a gentle and matronly passenger deemed "seriously sucko." The storm didn't slow down a splinter group from The Poop Group who invaded the fish-processing plant, met the workers, stayed warm and dry, and ended up raiding the company's donut supply (I told you they bore watching). I lacked their basic common sense and stumbled off into the tempest in search of the village center. Swimming in the bay would have been a drier experience. There was a clear and present danger of drowning while walking. Thus, I ended up back in the plant's dining hall where I came across half of Alaska Magazine TV's film crew, Jesse. We mulled over our tourista options and decided to make our way back to the ferry instead of treading water in midair while fighting a wind that was trying to knock us back to Chignik.

Remember my warning about wearing $9.99 Blue Light sneaker specials? Well, I found another reason to turn them into melted goo when I got home. Jesse zooms around in a wheelchair and when we got back to the ship, he required a little push on the wet ramp. I grabbed the handles and up we went until, about four feet into the ascent, I suddenly realized that my feet were burning rubber but we weren't going anywhere. Jesse thought my predicament was a screech, as did a couple of crew members who jumped in and saved me from further socially embarrassing myself with my awesome display of zero traction. Needless to say, being a volunteer ramp assistant was no longer a viable career option.

Cold Bay was a two-hour run and was an interesting stop because the place seemed to be nothing more than an exceptionally elongated dock that resembled a single-lane drag strip. The actual burg was too far away, in the time allowed, for a causal exploratory walk. Besides, the wind was blowing so hard that the local sea ducks had lashed themselves to the pier.

Tip: Bring a bicycle. Then, during such stopovers, you'll have plenty of time to zoom around and visit the villages. As for myself, I think I'll take a Harley. That way I can hit the villes and be back before the other passengers even get down the walkways (depending on the headwinds, of course).

Our final stop of the day was False Pass. Again, many of the residents came out to meet us. Some even offered round-trip rides into town so that the visitors could shop around and explore the area. Kids on four wheelers sold cool looking glass floatation balls which had washed in from the Orient.

I spent most of my time interviewing Robert, the village's sharp-looking and professional village police officer. I initially wanted to warn him about the Poop Group Gang sneaking into town but I got sidetracked while he briefed me about the intriguing VSPO system. Nevertheless, I was later informed that (I have pictures) Marjanne and Slim tried to sleighjack an old dog sled. Fortunately, they were foiled when it turned out there were no available mutts nor discernable snow to ensure a getaway.

After we departed False Pass on the 13-hour voyage to Dutch Harbor, we started spotting some long-anticipated whale spouts. Plus, the birder enthusiasts commenced to load up their cameras in anticipation of catching the sight of a rare avian species they claimed lurked in the area and looked like sea-going bumble bees. Yeah right! I immediately added them to the watch list that included the Poops and Pooperettes.

<> Next: Dutch Harbor, Unalaska, pillboxes, a wet farewell and a quick stop at Akutan.