May 27 – May 30
It was 2006 when we last visited Sitka. Back then we found the town to be a great jumping off point for cruising Southeast Alaska. This time around, the town exceeded our fond memories.
The people are extremely friendly and helpful. There are great marine services and first class sources to provision; the latter being of most interest to us as we have to load enough supplies for five weeks of cruising. In fact, the only items we could not find were Canadian bacon and a broad range of interesting chutneys, two items not critical to the success of our trip.
In usual fashion, Karen found a wonderful place to stay for a couple of days while we waited to board OceanFlyer. The Katlian Street Suites are large, very clean, comfortable, and centrally located. We had our own loft apartment, fully equipped with kitchen, washer/dryer and great views.
We made use of the full kitchen. Because we had a place to store groceries, we could shop before moving aboard OceanFlyer. We also were to do all our vacuum packing in advance of boarding, which took a lot of pressure of the whole process. This year we equipped OceanFlyer with a large Cabela’s commercial vacuum sealer. As soon as OceanFlyer docked in Sitka, we took the vacuum sealer over to our Suite and put it to work. All our protein, breads and even some veggies were bagged and frozen in hopes of greatly extending their useful life.
We split our provisioning between the two grocery stores in town. At Sea Mart, which has great ocean views from the parking lot , we bought so much they gave us free folding “camp chairs”. In fact, this happened again at our second visit, but we gave the chairs to a nice local who was behind us in line. The other grocery, Alaska Commercial Company, Lakeside was well stocked and provided the other half of our supplies. There are liquor stores next to each of the grocery stores and we shopped at both.
For fish, North Pacific Seafoods, also on Katlian Street, is a commercial fish processor that also has a retail operation that sells the local catch. We bought salmon, halibut and ling cod.
For marine supplies, Murray Pacific Supply of Alaska, on Katlian Street again, is well stocked and that’s where I always get my fishing licenses.
When we had enough of grocery stores, we did a little exploring and shopping in town. We did not make it to the Raptor Center, but having visited there in 2006, we would put it on our “must do” recommendations if you visit Sitka. This time we did make it to the Sheldon Jackson Museum which contains the largest collection of artifacts from the many tribes in this area. You’ll find some remarkable examples of native culture, art and artifacts. If you spend any time cruising these waters, you will enjoy exploring the culture of those who came before you.
Lunch at the Larkspur Café was good, but make certain you get there before the cruise ship unloads because they are very close to the cruise ship landing dock. The café shares the building with the local radio station. So as you sit and eat, you can peer into one of the radio station’s studios. We also had dinner there our first night, and heard a local band.
Breakfast at the Back Door Café is where you will run into the locals stopping for coffee and a baked sweet or two. The Homeport Eatery on the main street in town is a cooperative with independent purveyors sharing the same space; little confusing at first until you realize you must pay for each item at the respective station.
Talking about food (a passion of ours!), we did find a new place what we enjoyed very much. The Fly In, Fish Inn is part of a small 10 room “hotel” on Katlian Street. The new executive chef, herself a native of Sitka, arrived only two weeks before our visit, and she is doing great things. I think we ate there three times - about half of all our meals in Sitka!
We made the usual dinner stop at famous Ludvig’s Bistro, but found it did not live up to our memories nor its reputation; except for its reputation as being very expensive. Our friends aboard Telita reported the Channel Club Inn, a few miles out of town, served a great meal.
Our ongoing quest to find native art for the boat was also rewarded as we found an awesome carving of an eagle in flight that now adorns our galley. As with most boats, space for art is scarce, so we have to look hard to find something that we like and that fits in the small and weirdly proportioned spaces. We found our carved eagle at The Fisherman’s Eye on Lincoln street, but there are many nice galleries. We especially enjoyed the Sitka Rose Gallery for its wide range of local artists.
The other resource we count on in Sitka is NorthStar Rent-A-Car. There is a national brand also at the airport, but NorthStar has always done a great job for us.
The docks at Sitka are large and filled with commercial fishing boats. We had quite a walk to our boat. I think we made a dozen trips or more to get all our gear and supplies aboard.
As prevalent as the fishing boats were, dock carts were scarce. Most of the time, we were lucky and did manage to find a dock cart, grocery cart or some wheeled means of transporting the “stuff” to our boat. But we also had many a long walk with multiple bags in hand, weighing us down as we trudged along the docks. We cannot complain because except for our last day, the rain held off. I think we made 90% of our trips in dry weather. That’s a rarity!