It all started in Thomas Basin. On a terribly windy, rainy, miserably normal Ketchikan day – before my love/hate relationship with the local weather had taken root – four of us took off in small boat with a badass motor and a 30-rack of Coors. From here it gets wetter, drunker, and generally mo’ betta’.
Where to? Hole-In-The-Wall. Out south approximately 12 miles from downtown and accessible by the water. First week in Ketchikan – I thought every single bar could be accessed by water. Our little speedboat cruised through stinging rain and the east channel chop slightly north of 30mph. (getting that prop out of the water on some of the larger swells in Nichols passage) Being a saltwater virgin, I forgot we were boating on the ocean until our bow dove into a crest forcing me to drink about a gallon of Pacific Punch.
A half hour later we arrived at the bar drenched, parched, and starving. We quickly took care of two-thirds of our problems. When they saw our condition they fed us burgers (gratis), served us drinks (cheap) and replaced my now-unrecognizable matchbook (luckily my cigarettes survived). From here we proceeded to tear up the ping-pong table, pool table, piano, and guitars. (both missing one string… I may be responsible for one of those broken strings) We signed our dollar bill and pinned it to the ceiling. Your four well-lubricated heroes (with striking good looks) jumped back in the boat and set off from the Hole-In-The-Wall with nowhere in mind.
Nowhere soon turned into Annette Island. Unaware that maybe we weren’t “allowed” to go there – PS I’m still unclear on the rules – we motored full-throttle around to the southeast side of Annette and found a semi-protected beach to hop off and explore. ***Be careful beachcombing foreign islands… you may slip on the treacherous rocks and tear your entire palm open on the barnacles***. For the record, that happened to my friend. I’m much more careful than that. We slaughtered the rest of the beers, licked our wounds, and forgot what it was ever like to have been dry.
Heading from Annette to Gravina, precisely in the middle of Nichols passage, the two of us sitting up front decided we weren’t cold or wet enough. With no words and a well-understood nodding of heads, we simultaneously leapt from either side of the craft at full speed into the 47 degree water without any warning to the two sitting in back – lifejackets are encouraged. Somewhere between the shock of the cold water and embracing my best friend in 250ft of Pacific Ocean – I fell in love with this town.
We were quickly retrieved from the water by our surprised compatriots and sped off soaking, freezing and happier than we were down South. About thirty seconds later, the co-pilot (the only one on board with any sense of safety up to this point) followed our lead. She jumped overboard without a word – but with my cell phone in her pocket. LifeProof iPhone cases work as advertised. After we fished her out, it wasn’t long till the captain, feeling slightly left out of The Overboard Club, abandoned the wheel and dove in. While pulling him back into the boat, a stray elbow caught my friend in the nose causing a bloody mess that matched is severely barnacle-sliced hand. It was clearly time to shoot some guns on Gravina.
We pulled into a small cove on the south side of Gravina and found a pretty rundown cabin – clearly abandoned, but most-likely home to a squatter or two or however many squatters make up a pack. It wasn’t hard to find targets for the Colt 1911 our fearless captain had packed in his dry bag. (I was unaware dry bags existed up to this point) The “beach” here is littered with anything you can think of: mutilated boat hulls, rusted steel cables, spent connies, other generalized trash, and sadly a DVD copy of Dances with Wolves. We set up seven rusty cans and the DVD on a drift-log and fired about 100 rounds downrange. If you find a shard of DVD with Costner’s chiseled mug somewhere on Revillagigedo, Gravina, or Pennock, now you know where it came from.
My first off-road experience in Ketchikan set the four of us on a course that has led us to trailblazing Deer Mountain through snow, Blue Lake on empty stomachs, free-diving in the harbor (not recommended), a brief bout with hypothermia (I won), sharing whiskey with strangers at the end of a logging road, trying to match Alaskans shot for shot (also not recommended), and waterskiing behind a float plane…. (not yet).
Written by Guest Writer