Friday, November 17, 2017


Here, and below: there appear to be quite a lot more bears on the Kodiak road system than there were ten years ago.

So. After ten years of wandering, this is what we've chosen; home.

As I've noted before, from a work perspective it would have made more sense for us to settle down in Juneau, where a strong community of academic and agency biologists would have given us access to the personal interactions and collaborations that make for a successful scientific life.

Alisa and I are prime examples of the willingness of Americans to be rootless. We both moved to Alaska as young adults, and made our lives here, separately and then together, thousands of miles from our families.

But we took the opportunity of our return to take a stand, not quite consciously, against being forever on the move. In the US, home for us could only be Alaska. And in Alaska, the place we are at home is Kodiak.

Eric, moving off of Galactic
Living in a town of about 10,000 people without road access to other towns implies a very different social life than the one we might lead in a more cosmopolitan place. 

In most of the US, we would interact with a much more homogenous group of people. Our friends would tend to have similar levels of education as us, would work at similar jobs and have the same narrow interests and outlooks of our particular slot in the US socio-economic world.

In Kodiak, that is not the case. We have friends from many walks of life. Fifty years ago, when America was more rural, I think this would be pretty unremarkable. But now I think it's fairly unique.

By coming back to this town where we have already lived for seven years, the place where we got married and had our first child, we also avail ourselves of a much deeper social life than we would have in a new place like Juneau. In either Kodiak or Juneau we would have a group of close friends. But in Kodiak we also have a large group of acquaintances, people we know well enough to say hello to at the grocery store. That I think is a powerful antidote to the estrangement that marks so much of modern life.

The boys in our new house, after our household goods arrived from storage in the Lower 48. Most of these boxes were packed when Elias was 9 months old, and before Eric was born.
Ptarmigan hunting.
So that is the upside, as far as I can see it.

On the other side, we are coming back to a world that we do not quite understand at all.

The complete saturation of everyday life into the internet, and the products of the net state, happened in these ten years that we were away. Of course there was internet in Australia and Chile and South Africa, and of course I kept this blog going for the ten years that we were away. So it's not like we were unaware of the existence of the internet.

But the degree to which people actually lead their lives through small interactive screens just completely beggars the imagination of someone who has been more or less on the periphery for the last decade. It all looks quite dystopian to me. Consider the state of right-wing politics, if nothing else, and what computers have done with that. I feel myself settling into something of a self-defined museum of a life, apart from what I see as the mass hysteria of our times, and knowing that I also bypass whatever good might come from participating in this new sort of life.

And then there is the historical moment that we chose for our return.

My boys will come of age, politically, in this world. Where we can see how precious these trappings of democracy might turn out to be that we so blithely cast away.

Tuesday, October 17, 2017


I love this island so much.

It would have made much more sense for our work if we had settled in Juneau when we came back to Alaska. The University and NOAA both have large labs there.

But we never considered it seriously. We were focused on this place. I like to think that in prioritizing a place that we love over other considerations were are acting against the grain of post-war American history in a way that will in retrospect appear wise. Stay tuned on that one.

The funny thing is that I don't really feel all that at home here. Part of that probably has to do with us being away for a decade. But it's also true that Kodiak is neither an easy place nor an obvious one. It feels like the project of a better part of a lifetime to come to terms with this place, on its terms.

The Mothership at rest
Elias casting. There's always hope for one more salmon.
The boys just had a four-day weekend, and the gods of weather malice were off doing their evil deeds somewhere else for a change. So we pointed the barky to the other side of Ouzinkie Narrows - to Sharatin and Kizhuyak Bays, to be precise.

It was great to get away. And great to be reminded all over again how tremendously like nowhere else Kodiak is.

Autumn is well set in up here, just shy of the 58th parallel. Fresh snow fell on the higher summits while we were away.

And it's very deep into metaphorical autumn for this great chapter in our sailing lives. We're still faithfully living on the boat. But we have a house purchase lined out, and the celestial bodies of house finance are moving in their predetermined orbits. Before we know it we'll be living ashore.

The new neighborhood.

At dinner today Alisa and I quickly ran the numbers on how much we could make if we rented the house out and continued to live aboard. Pretty good money from a sailor's perspective, as it turns out.

But we won't make that grand gesture, of course. We are willfully jumping into this new phase of our lives, and really, considering how radically different was everything that's gone on for the last ten years, this new life.

But. Not just yet.

Monday, October 16, 2017


New observation for the Galactics.

We've now seen both the aurora australis and the aurora borealis from the decks of our little ship.

We saw the southern lights in 2013 from the Auckland Islands, in sub-antarctic New Zealand. And, for the last two nights running, we've seen the northern lights from our anchorage in Kizhuyak Bay, Kodiak. It's normally too cloudy to see the lights in Kodiak, but we got lucky.

And, after all these years afloat, a new error.

I've only backed down on the anchor - set it with the engine in reverse - about a thousand times. On our first day out on this trip, I finally made the mistake of backing down on the dinghy painter and sucking it into the prop.

The result: stalled engine, a propeller hopelessly wrapped in the painter, and a captain who got the unexpected joy of snorkeling in Alaska in October.

I suppose it's good to break out of the routine and try something new instead of just making the same mistakes over and over again.

This post was sent via our high-frequency radio as we're far from internet range. Pictures to follow when we reach internet again. We can't respond to comments for now, though we do see them all!

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