The Last Alaska Family Troller – Beached

My recent painting “The Last Alaska Family Troller Heads for the Beach” was nostalgic and emotional for me. Family commercial fishing is disappearing in Alaska. Now that I think about it, I painted this “B.C.”, Before Covid.

How time flies!

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I raised my kids on fishing boats and fishing villages in the southeast Alaska as did my sister. Economies of scale, the breakdown of the family, and even a lack of true grit I suspect, are responsible. Many of the familiar fixtures of old-time Alaska are rapidly fading or already gone. Thus, this blog. I have to write these memories down.

The Last Alaska Family Troller Heads for the Beach, Oil Painting underwayOn canvas, tradition oil paints out of the tube, thick paint (impasto) applied largely wet on wet. This (smaller painting) is the preliminary sketch for the larger piece. And yes, at the time of this posting it is for sale.

Selling the Family Farm

Moving the family off the fishing boat is a lot like selling the family farm. Once it is done, it is done and over. Everything changes, and there is no getting it back. When my sister and her husband moved off the boat and moved to Juneau, life may have become “easier”, but the unique quality was lost. The kids had to learn city ways, school busses and government schools. Activities took the family in various directions. Idle hours were spent with television and computers.

I’m not saying all those changes are bad. But they are sad. Homeschooling, close living, and the built-in work of commercial fishing were lost. Janine got a job working for the State. Jon continued to fish the boat for many years, but had to hire help, friends or strangers, as deck hands, and was separated from the family for weeks at a time.

The Painting

Dominating the foreground is a steel World War II landing craft. The landing craft, with its drop down ramp, is the only way to deliver bulk goods to the many Alaskans living on the shores of remote islands. 

Landing Craft WW2 Public Domain Fixed 960pxThe old fashioned landing craft is a common sight in small Southeast Alaska working harbors like Auke Bay Harbor, near Juneau (officially, Statter Harbor). This harbor has gone through radical redesign and expansion in the last few years… but it is still quaint and a beautiful place to see and walk the docks. Absolutely Beautiful!

Juneau has several small harbors like this. And Yes you can still walk the docks. They aren’t locked up yet as of the date of this post. But the way things are going, it can’t be long before they are.

Trolling Fishery

The other boat is an old hand-built wooden troller. And this Alaska Family is about to be beached for good… they are trading the cramped quarters of a fishing boat for a house or cabin just inside the trees. 

Trolling is an old fashioned hook and line method of fishing. And although it returns a very high quality product, it is nowhere near as efficient as fisheries that use nets. Trollers and trolling are endangered species.

My Story

In similar style, we moved in one late November from our comfortable home in suburban Juneau to the rough-built unfinished cabin on Horse Island. I will be adding to this story from time to time, and in our upcoming book, Remote Possibilities, revised and updated.

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About Me

Alaska Artist Devita Stipek WriterDevita Stipek Writer is an established Alaska landscape painter and muralist. An estimated one million people experience her public work every year. In 1964 she left art school to marry an Alaska fisherman. There followed a life of adventure, tragedy, and triumph.

Note: If you own an original oil painting by Devita that you would like to sell, please contact the artist.